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The Collapse of Interwar Vienna: Oskar Morgenstern’s Community, 1925 - 1950


  • Robert Leonard



From the perspective of science, art and intellectual life in general, Interwar Vienna was one of the most vibrant communities in modern European history. Within the field of economics, it was home to, amongst others, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich von Hayek, Hans Mayer, Gottfried Haberler, Fritz Machlup, Oskar Morgenstern, Karl Menger and Abraham Wald. The community flourished after the end of World War I, and then began to suffer in the early 1930’s as a result of growing political instability and rising anti-semitism. With the Anschluss of Austria by the Third Reich in March 1938, it collapsed completely, never to recover. Drawing on the personal papers of two key participants, Oskar Morgenstern and Karl Menger, and also on the archives of the Rockefeller Foundation, this paper provides a portrait of that community, chronicling its evolution and dramatic collapse. Particular attention is paid to the milieu surrounding Morgenstern, both as director of the Rockefeller-funded Austrian Institute for Business Cycle Research and as philosophical “dissident”. In collaborating with mathematicians Menger, Wald and, later, John von Neumann, he gradually forsook his Austrian theoretical legacy. The account detailed here shows conflict and tension to have been central to both the life and death of this fabled community.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Leonard, 2010. "The Collapse of Interwar Vienna: Oskar Morgenstern’s Community, 1925 - 1950," ICER Working Papers 04-2010, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:icr:wpicer:04-2010

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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Robert Leonard
      by kevin quinn in EconoSpeak on 2010-06-15 21:16:00

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