Karl Wolfgang Deutsch (1912–1992) was a Czech social and political scientist from a German-speaking family. His work focused on the study of war and peace, nationalism, co-operation and communication. He is also well known for his interest in introducing quantitative methods and formal system analysis and model-thinking into the field of political and social sciences, and is one of the best known social scientists of the 20th century.
Born in Prague on July 21, 1912 when the city was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Deutsch became a citizen of Czechoslovakia after World War I. His mother Maria Leopoldina Scharf Deutsch was a Social Democrat, and the first woman to be elected to the Czechoslovak parliament (1918) where she became known for her resistance to Nazism. His father Martin Morritz Deutsch owned an optical shop on Pragues' Wenceslas Square, and was also active in the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Worker's Party. His uncle Julius Deutsch was an important political leader in the Social Democratic Party of Austria.
Karl studied Law at the German University at Prague, where he graduated in 1934. He discontinued further studies as his overt anti-Nazi stance caused opposition by pro-Nazi students. Karl married his wife Ruth Slonitz in 1936, and after spending two years in England, returned to Prague where due to his former Anti-Nazi activities, he could not return to the German University. He instead joined its Czech counterpart, the Charles University, where he obtained a law degree in international and canon law PhD in Political Sciences in 1938. That same year, which saw the Munich Agreement allowing German troops to enter the Sudetenland, he and his wife did not return from a trip to the United States. In 1939 Deutsch obtained a scholarship to carry out advanced studies at Harvard University where he received a second PhD in political science in 1951.
During World War II he worked for the Office of Strategic Services, and participated as a graduate student in the San Francisco conference that resulted in the creation of the United Nations in 1945. Deutsch taught at several universities; first at MIT from 1943 to 1956; then at Yale University until 1967; and again at Harvard until 1982. He served as Stanfield Professor of International Peace at Harvard, a position he held until his death.
Deutsch worked extensively on cybernetics, on the application of simulation and system dynamics models to the study of social, political, and economic problems, known as wicked problems. He built upon earlier efforts at world modeling such as those advanced and advocated by authors of the Club of Rome such as Limits to Growth by Donella Meadows, et al. (1972). He introduced new concepts such as security community to the literature.
He held several other prestigious positions; he was a member of the board of World Society Foundation in Zürich, Switzerland from 1984 onwards. He was also elected President of the American Political Science Association in 1969, of the International Political Science Association in 1976, and of the Society for General Systems Research in 1983. From 1977 to 1987, he was Director of the Social Science Research Center Berlin (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung, WZB) in Berlin.
He died in Cambridge, Massachusetts on November 1, 1992. He has two daughters, Mary D. Edsall, a writer (wife of Thomas Edsall), and Margaret D. Carroll, an art historian, and three grandchildren, Alexandra Edsall, Sophia Carroll, and Samuel Carroll.
- Security community
- Karl Deutsch Award by International Political Science Association
- Karl Deutsch Award by International Studies Association
- Nationalism and Social Communication ISBN 0-262-04002-6, 1953, 1966 — from a dissertation at Harvard
- The Nerves of Government: Models of Political Communication and Control ISBN 0-02-907280-8
- Arms Control and the Atlantic Alliance ISBN 0B0006D7HXO
- The Analysis of International Relations ISBN 0-13-033225-9
- Nationalism and its Alternatives ISBN 0-394-43763-2
- Politics and Government ISBN 0-395-17840-1
- Tides Among Nations ISBN 0-02-907300-6
- Voyage of the Mind, 1930–1980 an autobiographical sketch.
- Politik mit wachen Sinnen betreiben! Eine Erinnerung an Karl W. Deutsch (1912–1992). mit Beiträgen von Volker Hauff, Dieter Senghaas und Charles L. Taylor WZB-Vorlesungen 4. (pdf) 2003, Berlin. WZB-Mitteilungen 99 · März 2003.
- Back cover of book Problemas para el modelo del mundo (Spanish edition, 1990, of Karl W. Deutsch (editor). 1977. Problems of world modelling). Universidad Externado de Colombia, Fondo Cultural CEREC, 1990. Bogotá, Colombia.
- Merritt, Richard L.; Russett, Bruce M.; Dahl, Robert A. Karl Wolfgang Deutsch. July 21, 1912 – November 1, 1992. Biographical Memoirs. National Academy of Sciences.
- Kristof, Nicholas D. "The Best Political Scientist in the World Goes on Half-Time, Still an Optimist". The Harvard Crimson, May 23, 1979.
- Karl W. Deutsch special section in the Czech Sociological Review Articles on K.W. Deutsch by Miroslav Hroch, Andrei S. Markovits, Dieter Senghaas, Charles L. Taylor and Peter J. Katzenstein in the Czech Sociological Review 6 / 2012 on the occasion of the centenary of his birth.