Professor emeritus of Sociology
University of Heidelberg
Uta Gerhardt (born 1938 in Zella-Mehlis/Thüringen) received her academic training in Sociology, History, Philosophy, and Psychology at the University of Frankfurt (Institute of Social Research), the Free University in Berlin, and the University of Konstanz. She studied with Theodor W. Adorno, Ralf Dahrendorf, Dieter Henrich, Max Horkheimer, and Gerhard A. Ritter.
She held academic positions, from 1965 until her retirement in 2003, at the Free University in Berlin, the University of Konstanz, University of London (Bedford College), Justus Liebig University Giessen Medical School, and Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg where she held a Full Professorship in Allgemeine Soziologie (Lehrstuhl für Soziologie II). She was Research Associate/Visiting Professor at the University of Tübingen, University of California San Francisco, University of Wisconsin Madison, New York University, Case Western Reserve University Cleveland OH as well as Harvard University (eight visits, 1986-2003) and the German Historical Institute in Washington (in connection with her work at the National Archives). She now lives in Berlin.
Her main fields of researchand areas of publication have changed over the forty years of her academic work: In the 1970s, she worked on sociological theory that could elucidate role structures as they accomodate Georg Simmel’s theory of sociation and also Alfred Schütz’ phenomenological thinking. From the 1970s to the 1990s, she held a lectureship and a professorship in medical sociology, and she contributed to this field in her empirical studies on coping with chronic illness, using Max Weber’s ideal types as sociological method to understand systematically through qualitative interpretation the successes and failures in patient careers. From the 1990s onward, she focused again on social theory, now with the perspective of explaining the politics in the work of Talcott Parsons, who opposed National Socialismin the 1940s. She also worked on Georg Simmel and Max Weber, emphasizing their geisteswissenschaftlich approach to sociological thinking that has been crucial until today. Over the last decade, she has directed her research interest to the contribution of American military government after World War II to the democratization of Germany. She views this under a perspective derived from Weber’s types of authority as well as Parsons’s understanding of system change. She has also published on the transfer of American sociological thinking to Germany in the early postwar years, and how the new beginning after the miasma of Nazism challenged German social science into a more democracy-prone approach.
Her last three books: A history of German sociology traces six scenarios from the early 20th century to Re-unification and explains how the social changes have been analyzed in theory and research.
Another recent book of hers' gives a full picture of the social thought of Parsons, detailing three phases of his sociology that echo the history of the US between the 1920s and late 1970s, but also Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. The book ends on a long exposition on the use of Parsonian thinking in explaining sociologically the world of today, with a final section targeting the question how Parsons would have analyzed the recent financial crisis.
Her last book, published in 2014, takes the approach of Verstehen, as a method of sociological thinking, to discuss four fields of research (comprising sociology as well as history), epitomizing how Weberian (and Simmelian) analysis enlightens social thought today - sujets that are being tackled range from authoritarianism in the German family, through the idea of charisma but also the miasma of Nazi ideology, to reeducation and postwar empirical sociology.