Social Institute of Czechoslovakia

The idea of establishing a scientific institute to address social issues and for the study of social sciences emerged as early as before the First World War; however, the idea became reality only after the war in 1919 when the then Minister of Social Welfare, Lev Winter, established the Social Institute of Czechoslovakia.

According to the statutes of the institute, it was to be a scientific organisation focusing on the study of social sciences employing the best qualified experts in the socio-political field. The institute also functioned as an advisory body for the Ministry of Social Welfare with respect to legislative and administrative issues. In addition, the institute was also active in the field of the promotion of its work and actively publicised its scientific knowledge on social issues and perceptions in the public sphere.

The Social Institute drew on the expertise of both theoretical experts and employees and employers experienced in the world of work. The organisational and financial aspects of the institute were managed by the Ministry of Social Welfare.

Of the original five sections into which the activities of the institute were divided, 3 departments were created over the years. The first comprised the Department for Theoretical Research, which addressed sociological and socio-philosophical problems and national economic theories, especially socialism. The second was the Department for the Protection of workers, Social Insurance and Socialisation, which addressed issues surrounding worker protection legislation, trade unions, strikes and lockouts, remuneration mediation, collective agreements, unemployment, job mediation, emigration and social insurance. This also included “co-operatives, worker participation in management and profits, internal agricultural colonisation and communal socialism, and socialisation in general”. A number of special commissions were created within this department, namely the Commission for the Study of Population Issues, the Commission for the Study of the Special Consequences of Industrial Rationalisation and the Commission for the Study of the History of the Labour Movement and Social History Issues. The third was the Technical-medical, Educational and Humanitarian Department, which addressed issues concerning the organisation of work, especially psychotechnics, protective equipment, occupational and social health, eugenics, housing and housing reform. The department also covered the “self-educational and artistic efforts of employees, family life, care for mothers and children, young people and war victims, public poverty and social-humanitarian facilities.”

One of the most important activities of the Social Institute concerned lecturing and publishing activities devoted to currently important topics. The institute even launched competitions, which resulted in the compilation of theses that addressed a range of socio-political issues; the aim was “to create independent scientific literature in the field of social policy”. Research work was also conducted on the initiative of, and with financial support from, the Rockefeller Foundation, managed by the Research Section of the Social Institute. A further important activity comprised the establishment and management of a social archive for the collection and registration of documentation related to the social movement and social care in Czechoslovakia.

The lecturing and publication activities of the Social Institute were terminated in 1938. Its activities completely ceased two years later and the institute was abolished in March 1941.

Sources: NEČAS, Jaromír, 1938. 20 years of social care in Czechoslovakia. Prague: Ministry of Social Welfare; NEŠPOR, Zdeněk R., 2007. Institutional background of Czech sociology before the rise of Marxism. Sociological Studies 07:2. Prague: Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.