Sport, social research and a clothing campaign

From 12 September 2013 until 1 May 2014, the special exhibition 'The Unemployed from Marienthal / The Red Vienna' at the Karl-Marx-Hof in Vienna provides insights into Austria during the 1920s/30s and social political efforts of community-building which included sport activities or a clothing campaign supported by results from social research; even when the efforts were stopped in the late 1930s, the ideas and developments lived further.

The main theme of the exhibition is the groundbreaking study 'Marienthal' by the social research group around Paul Felix Lazarsfeld and his wife psychologist Marie Jahoda. The importance of the study is caused by the new combination of various empirical quantitative and qualitative methods. The sociologists, psychologists and professionals from the fields law and medicine explored how long-lasting unemployment changes people over the years by using interview methods like structured questionaires, observation of behaviour such as reports about the speed of walking or the duration for standing on streets, content analysis of written text, official statistical household data, etc and combined them with action research which were the basis for girls' gymnastic courses or a clothing project (view the chart of the used methods at the published book, page XV).

fig. original: Five female members of the handball team in short sleeve t-shirts, short trousers and dark stockings, 1926. Photo: (C) Reinhard Müller, Mythos Marienthal. The special exhibition 'The Unemployed from Marienthal' (12 September 2013 until 1 May 2014) at the permanent installation 'The Red Vienna' at the Karl-Marx-Hof in Vienna provides insights into the daily life of Austrians in the 1920s/30s and the Marienthal social research.

fig. original: Postcard showing a woman in traditional Austrian tracht-dress with feathered hat in front of the textile factory in Marienthal, 1915. Photo: (C) Waschsalon Karl-Marx-Hof, Reinhard Müller. In 1930, 1.300 workers lost their jobs in Marienthal, nearby Vienna. The project team around Paul Felix Lazarsfeld and Marie Jahoda began their field research concerning the impact of unemployment in 1931 and published the results 1933.

At the end of the study, the scientists found out that there are four different types of unemployed - three groups turned through the years into a 'hopeless' status which was summarized by Marie Jahoda with the words "Unemployment leads to resignation, not to revolution". Only one group - the 'Unbroken', looked further positively into the future and had plans.

Marie Jahoda, who participated during her studies the life of Marienthal citizens, came back after two years and founded a self-help initiative. The University of Graz publishes insights into the Marienthal study and how the scientists used their academic instruments for practical community strategies such as a clothing campaign (chapter 'Significant Points - IV.').

fig. original: Portrait Marie Jahoda. Photo: (C) Waschsalon Karl-Marx-Hof, AGSÖ (Archiv für die Geschichte der Soziologie in Österreich, Uni Graz). Marie Jahoda summarized the results of the Marienthal study later with the words "Unemployment leads to resignation, not to revolution".

Source: Original article with images on


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