Sociology Index

Alfred Schutz

Alfred Schutz was born in Austria, but emigrated to the United States in 1939 where he taught and wrote part-time, only taking a full-time academic post in 1952. His main publications are: Collected Papers (1971); The Phenomenology of the Social World (1972); and, with T. Luckman, The Structures of the Life- World (1974). Alfred Schutz was a major influence in the development of phenomenological sociology in the English-speaking world. In a dispute with Talcott Parsons, Alfred Schutz did much to advance and clarify the problems of action theory and Verstehen. His posthumous works included an analysis of the role of relevance in structuring the life-world (Schutz, 1970).

Alfred Schutz was primarily interested in three problems: he wanted to construct an adequate theory of social action, partly based on a critique of M. Weber; he carried out a series of investigations into the constitution of the life-world; he tried to investigate the manner in which a sociology which took human action as important could be scientific. Alfred Schutz was one among distinguished sociologists.

It was Husserl's theory of intentionality and his notions of intersubjectivity and of the Lebenswelt which were to guide his thought and to give it its specific character. 'Experiencing Multiple Realities: Alfred Schutz’s Sociology of the Finite Provinces of Meaning' offers a theoretical investigation into the general problem of reality as a multiplicity of ‘finite provinces of meaning’, as developed in the work of Alfred Schutz. A critical introduction to Schutz’s sociology of multiple realities as well as a sympathetic re-reading and reconstruction of his project.

Alfred Schutz (Vienna 1899 - New York1959) studied law and the social sciences in Vienna under such famous scholars as Ludwig von Mises, Othmar Spann, Hans Kelsen, Friedrich von Wiesser. After twelve years of research he published his main work In 1932: Der sinnhafte Aufbau der sozialen Welt: Eine Einleitung in die verstehende (verstehen) Soziologie. In this work he undertook to trace the origin of categories peculiar to the social sciences in the fundamental facts of the life of consciousness, thus establishing a connection between Weber's verstehende Soziologie and Husserl's transcendental phenomenology.

The methodological aspects of the sciences of man which were familiar to him were circumscribed by the critique of naturalism, the reflection of conscious life on itself, the understanding of significations, ideation. Soon it became his aim to establish a rigorous philosophical foundation for these aspects and he pursued this ideal throughout his life.

On Husserl's invitation, Alfred Schutz went to Freiburg to join in investigations with a group of phenomenologists in whose work the founder of phenomenological sociology placed much hope. Husserl appreciated the collaboration of the young philosopher and asked him to become his assistant.

Alfred Schutz had to decline this offer, yet he continued to pay frequent visits to Freiburg and corresponded with Husserl until the latter's death. It was always a matter of retracing the original constitution of the fundamental skeleton of the life-world which man takes for granted in the natural attitude and which the social scientist rarely makes thematic.