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Leo Löwenthal: biographical data

Leo Löwenthal

Leo Löwenthal was born in Frankfurt am Main in November 1900. He grew up in his parents’ home which separated itself from the Jewish tradition and his first intellectual experiences were embossed by strong materialistic and scientific tendencies.

The experiences of the First World War and the Revolution mean a break for Leo Löwenthal with the bourgeois optimism of his father who is a practising doctor in the poorer quarters of the city of Frankfurt. Under the auspices of the charismatic, talented Frankfurt rabbi Nobel he seeks a Jewish way of life which fulfils the balance between socialistic ideal and religious obligation. He led a strictly Jewish household with his wife Golda, who came from a very pious family in Königsberg.

Löwenthal studied in Gießen, Frankfurt and Heidelberg focussing on philosophy. In Frankfurt he entered school service in 1927 and taught at the Frankfurt adult education centre from 1928. From 1925 he was working part-time at the Institut für Sozialforschung. Since 1930 he is firmly tied to the fate of the institute. After a short interim stay in Switzerland the Institute takes up its activities in New York soon after seizure of power by the National Socialists in Germany. As in Frankfurt, Löwenthal's oeuvre was the Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, which appeared in German until 1938 and then under a new title in the English language.

In 1949 Löwenthal becomes the director of the department of research for the renowned channel Voice of America; since 1955 he is at the University of Berkeley in California where he lived until his death in 1993.

Löwenthal's scientific importance lies in the young discipline of literary sociology. He researched earlier on the social relativity of the reception of certain authors, the ideological positions of individual writers and the social mobility in the history of individual literary genre. After the second World War he turned to mass communication as a result of experiences with the multi-media in the 20th century.

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