The Vienna circles

Cultivating economic knowledge outside academia


  • Erwin Dekker Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands



Austrian school of economics, Vienna circle, interwar Vienna, economic practices


This article examines the intellectual scenery of interwar Vienna. It argues that its central institution was not academia, but rather the circles ('Kreise'). The prominence of these circles can partly account for the creative outburst in the social sciences in interwar Vienna. The article also helps to explain the peculiar character of the knowledge produced in interwar Vienna which is just as much concerned with social and political issues as it is with more traditional scientific issues. The lack of formal institutions and the marginal position of the University of Vienna also had downsides. It caused uncertainty in terms of career prospects and professional identities, although the informal interaction within the circles full of rituals and alternative institutions could partly make up for this. The uncertain future for scholars ultimately contributed to the enormous wave of migration from Vienna, frequently even before the political situation became an acute threat.

Author Biography

Erwin Dekker, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Erwin Dekker is assistant professor in cultural economics at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. He has recently completed his PhD thesis The Viennese students of civilization: humility, culture and economics in interwar Vienna and beyond. He has published in the fields of cultural economics, economic methodology, and intellectual history, and he is currently working on valuation regimes. Previously he has worked as lecturer at the European Studies department at the University of Amsterdam, where he specialized in political economy.




How to Cite

Dekker, E. (2014). The Vienna circles: Cultivating economic knowledge outside academia. Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, 7(2), 30–53.