The Institute for Social Research

Since its foundation in 1923 and opening in 1924, the Institute for Social Research (IfS) has been a nationally and internationally important site of critical social theory.

Initially devoted to the theory and history of socialism and the labor movement, its theoretical orientation developed under the direction of Max Horkheimer into a program of social analysis around which a large number of important intellectuals gathered and which is still known today as »Frankfurt School Critical Theory.« Closed down in the early 1933, the IfS successfully relocated—with detours—to Columbia University in New York, where it continued under the title of the »Institute for Social Research.« In 1951, it returned to Frankfurt. Operating as a foundation under civil law, since then its core funding has been provided by the State of Hesse and the City of Frankfurt, which—like Goethe University—are accordingly represented on the Institute’s board of trustees.

Following Axel Honneth’s tenure as Director of the IfS since 2001, Stephan Lessenich took over the cooperative professorship for Social Theory and Social Research at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Goethe University on July 1, 2021, and with it also the directorship of the Institute. The research objectives of the IfS, in a form adapted to the structural dynamics of the present, continue to stand for a critical theory of society that confronts the prevailing social and political conditions with their unrealized possibilities. In its scientific practice, the Institute understands itself as a place of cooperative, public and intervening social research.