Thinking Outside the Circle: The Geistkreis and the Viennese "Kreis Culture" in America

Ohad Reiss-Sorokin
2021 Modern Intellectual History  
Besides their ideas and social networks, émigré intellectuals bring with them practices for engagement with intellectual work. This article focuses on one such practice: the intellectual Kreis [circle]. It focuses on the Geistkreis, an interwar Viennese interdisciplinary intellectual circle. Based on archival research, the article uses a number of case studies to show that the Kreis was employed by the Viennese émigrés as a mental scheme and as a recipe for action. It argues that the émigrés'
more » ... herence to the Kreis structure explains the friction between them and their hosts. By following the attempts of former Geistkreis members to create Kreis-like institutions in America, the article shows that the Kreis was more than mere organizational form. It represented an epistemical commitment to knowledge making as a collective effort, and the preference of general theoretical knowledge over specialized research. It also entailed an intermingling of "work" and "life" that did not conform to American norms.
doi:10.1017/s1479244321000676 fatcat:ug56y3w56ngszjw7grm4k3d2zy