No theory forbids me to say "Ah!" or "Ugh!", but it forbids me the bogus theorization of my "Ah!" and "Ugh!" - the value judgments. - Theodor Julius Geiger (1960)

Theodor Geiger

- picture published by Luchterhand (1963), enhanced by Jos Villevoye (2023).

Geiger inspires my work in safety management, by:

  1. Emphasizing the importance of practical and empirical research to inform organizational decision-making, while avoiding purely theoretical thinking.
  2. Encouraging a critical approach to problem-solving and avoiding ideologies (e.g. BBS, Zero-harm) in organizational practices.
  3. Recognizing the impact of societal systems on work and advocating for a more equitable economic system.
  4. Studying the influence of mass psychology and the need for individual empowerment and emancipation from society.
  5. Promoting intellectual self-discipline and critical thinking through education to counteract the dangers of irrationalism.
  6. Strictly avoiding the concept of awareness, and instead studying the local rationality of behavior.

The life and work of Theodor Geiger (1891-1952) reflect the tumultuous times in which he lived. Born into a modest, Catholic Bavarian family, Geiger's early years were marked by his dedication to his homeland and a strong sense of social justice.

After being wounded at the Russian Front in World War I, he joined the Social Democratic Party, where he became actively involved in political activities and adult education. His early works were deeply influenced by Marxist traditions, and in his 1925 book, "Die Masse und ihre Aktion," he advocated for the transformative power within the working class.

In his works, such as "Zur Theorie des Klassenbegriffs und der proletarischen Klasse" (1930) and "Die soziale Schichtung des deutschen Volks" (1932), Geiger continued to defend the Marxist model of social class structure, emphasizing the division between oweners and workers based on control over the means of production. He argued that the presence of a large middle class in Germany during the 1930s was a temporary phenomenon, representing remnants of pre-industrial society.

Geiger was a contemporary of prominent figures like Hans Freyer and Carl Schmitt, who chose to stay in Germany during the rise of Nazism, and Georg Lukács and Karl Mannheim, who emigrated to Russia and England, respectively. Geiger, found himself in opposition to the growing Nazi ideology and became a vocal critic of it in publications such as "Die Arbeit," ultimately leading to his exile to Denmark and later Sweden.

Geiger's exile marked a transformative period in his life. He found inspiration in Scandinavian democracies, where social classes worked together for income redistribution and political influence without advocating for radical societal transformation based on ideology. His collaboration with the Uppsala school of neopositivism, particularly Hägerström's critique of ideologies as false propositions, influenced his works on sociology of law and ideology. He believed that ideologies often resulted in social instability by transposing motives and sentiments suitable for primary groups into political institutions.

Geiger's sociology program was characterized by his critique of power, emphasizing the role of sociologically critical intelligence in opposing the concentration of power in functionally differentiated societies. He believed that power was a universal force shaping social structures.

Throughout his career, Geiger stayed devoted to using real-world evidence and practical methods in sociology, advocating for an evidence-based approach and the use of official social statistics while acknowledging their limitations. He saw sociology as a critical problem-solving discipline and rejected the influence of ideologies, instead promoting a rational and scientific approach to social critique.

His book, "Society between Pathos and Sobriety," encapsulated his ideas of intellectual self-discipline and the importance of education in fostering critical thinking.

Tragically, Theodor Geiger's life was cut short when he unexpectedly passed away at sea, after his time as a visiting professor in Toronto.

The legacy of Theodor Geiger lives on in his pioneering work on social stratification, the critique of power, and the importance of empirical research in sociology. His dedication to the pursuit of knowledge and his commitment to defending the principles of social justice continue to inspire scholars and researchers in the field of sociology today.


Geiger, T. (1955), Sociology and Democracy, in: Acta Sociologica, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 10-13.

Geiger, T. (1955), Der Intellektuelle in der europäischen Gesellschaft von Heute, in: ACTA Sociologica, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 62-74.

Geiger, T. (1955), Die Legende von der Massengesellschaft, in: Acta Sociologica, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 75-79.

Geiger, T. (1960), Die Gesellschaft zwischen Pathos und Nüchternheit, Aarhus: Universitetsforlaget.

Geiger, T. (1970), Saggi sulla società industriale - A cura di Pallo Farneti, Turin: Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese nella collana Classici della sociologia.

Heinemeyer, W.F. (1953), Theodor Geiger (1891-1952), in: Sociologische Gids Vol. 1, Nr. 2.

Holzhauser, N. (2015), Konkurrenz als Erklärungsansatz im Werk Theodor Geigers - Untersucht am Beispiel der sozialen und wirtschaftlichen Konkurrenz als Triebfelder des Strukturwandels der Öffentlichkeit, in: Zyklos 1, pp. 195-222.

Meyer, T. (2001), Die Soziologie Theodor Geigers - Emanzipation von der Ideologie, Wiesbaden: Westdeutscher Verlag.

By clicking the buttons below, you can read summaries of some of Geiger's articles and books, and a biography.