Ralf Dahrendorf

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Dahrendorf, Ralf


Born May 1, 1929. in Hamburg. German sociologist (West Germany).

Under Nazism, Dahrendorf was imprisoned (1944–45) in a concentration camp for his antifascist activity. In 1958 he became a professor of sociology at Hamburg, subsequently moving to Tubingen and then to Konstanz. Since 1968, Dahrendorf has been a member of the Free Democratic Party. He is the author of works on theoretical sociology and also on the current problems of development in West Germany (including Social Classes and Class Conflict in Industrial Society, 1957; Society and Democracy in Germany, 1965; and others).

Dahrendorf lays claim to the creation of a theory of classes and class conflict which he contrasts with both Marxism and with theories of class harmony. According to Dahrendorf, the principal criterion of class formation is not property relations but rather the relations of domination and subordination; economic domination does not necessarily lead to political domination. Dahrendorf asserts that dominant and subordinate classes exist in every society and that conflict between them is inevitable. He sets forth the ideal of a “liberal” and “modern” society, in which social conflicts are acknowledged and regulated. There would exist an equality of initial chances for everybody, individual competition, and a high degree of social mobility. Dahrendorf criticizes West German society from a liberal bourgeois point of view, noting the existence of social inequality and the privileges of a minority with regard to obtaining an education.


Gesellschaft und Freiheit. Munich, 1961.
Homo Sociologicus, 3rd ed. Cologne, 1961.
Industrie-und Betriebssoziologie, 4th ed. Berlin, 1967.
Pfade aus Utopia. Berlin, 1967.
Für eine Erneuerung der Demokratie in der Bundesrepublik. Munich, 1968.
Die angewandte Aufklärung: Gesellschaft und Soziologie in Ameri-ka, 2nd ed. Frankfurt am Main, 1968.


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