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


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. Being aware of 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.


Theodor Geiger (1891-1952) was a German sociologist known for his work on the analytical division of society into social strata and groups based on characteristics such as education, occupation, standard of living, class consciousness, social status, denomination, political opinions, and membership in clubs and organizations. He was a pioneer in the sociology of law, where he viewed the law as a social regulatory instrument susceptible to ideological manipulation. Geiger believed in the concept of social competition and saw communication as a political and economic tool of power and domination. He also believed in intellectual humanism as a way of protection against manipulation and suggestion. His book, "Society between Pathos and Sobriety" summarized his ideas of intellectual self-discipline and the importance of education in promoting critical thinking. Geiger died unexpectedly during his time as a visiting professor in Toronto. His works were translated after his death, with several articles published in the first issue of Acta Sociologica.

The practical empiricist

Theodor Geiger was a pioneer in advocating for a scientifically rigorous and evidence-based approach to understanding society. He was known for his emphasis on practical and empirical research, as well as his criticism of purely theoretical and constructivist thinking. He was a key figure in the "realistic turn" in sociology and viewed the use of official social statistics as an essential source of information for understanding society, but also recognized their limitations.

The criticaster of ideologies

Geiger saw sociology as a critical problem-solving discipline and believed that it should be free from ideologies. He viewed the role of sociology as revealing reality-detached utopias as fiction and opposing any concentration of power. He made significant contributions to the field of education and was the first German professor to focus on the sociology of education. He was against cultural criticism and advocated for a more rational and scientific approach to social critique.

Geiger's Critique of Power

Geiger's sociology program is characterized by his Critique of Power, which he saw as a natural opponent to intelligence in human history. He believed that power is a universal phenomenon that permeates all social orders and that the distribution of power is decisive for social structure. He considered it the role of "sociologically critical intelligence" to oppose any concentration of power in a functionally differentiated society.

Work depends on the societal system

Geiger's paper "Zur Soziologie der Industriearbeit und des Betriebs" examines the impact of the capitalist economic system on businesses and industrial work. He argues that efforts to improve working conditions and increase job satisfaction through technical means are limited without a fundamental change in the societal system and advocates for a more equitable economic system, such as socialism.

The Mass and its Action

Geiger was also engaged with mass criticism, a central aspect of cultural pessimism that dominated public and scientific discussions in Germany. He addressed the topic twice, first in the 1920s and 1930s, focusing on the critical distinction between mass psychology and the development of an explicitly sociological concept of mass, and later in the 1940s and 1950s, with more interest in social theoretical questions. In his work "The Mass and its Action," Geiger aimed to overcome the half-truths and untenable concept of the masses presented by Gustave Le Bon. He viewed the masses as a special type of social group or association, where the individual's mental and spiritual unity is dependent on belonging to certain groups. He criticized the idea of "community mania" prevalent among the elite of his time and advocated for the "emancipation of man from society."


Theodor Geiger was a visionary sociologist who made significant contributions to the field of sociology through his advocacy for a scientifically rigorous and evidence-based approach to understanding society. He was ahead of his time in recognizing the dangers of political irrationalism and was a key figure in the "realistic turn" in sociology. His work continues to be relevant today and serves as a testament to his commitment to advancing the scientific study of society.


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.

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.