Helmut Schoeck

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Helmut Schoeck (Graz, 3 July 1922 – 2 February 1993) was an Austrian-German sociologist and writer, best known for his work Envy: A Theory of Social Behaviour (Der Neid: Eine Theorie der Gesellschaft).


Schoeck, born in Graz, spent his early years in Baden-Württemberg, finishing high school in Ludwigsburg. He then studied medicine, philosophy and psychology at the universities of Munich and Tübingen. With a dissertation on Karl Mannheim, Schoeck would obtain his doctorate under Eduard Spranger.

For fifteen years, starting in 1950, Schoeck would work as a professor at various U.S. universities. In 1953, he taught philosophy at Fairmont State College, followed by a two-year stint at Yale. At Emory University he was awarded a full professorship in sociology. During the 1950s, Schoeck published some works in German, and translated Joachim Wach's Sociology of Religion into German.

In 1965, Schoeck returned to Germany, where he obtained a chair in sociology at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, which he would occupy until his retirement in 1990.

Schoeck, who was also a columnist of the Welt am Sonntag for twenty years, died of cancer in 1993.

Envy: A Theory of Social Behaviour[edit]

Schoeck gained international fame with his book Der Neid: Eine Theorie der Gesellschaft (Envy: A Theory of Social Behaviour), which was published in 1966, with the first English translation appearing in 1969. Written without a great deal of technical jargon, the book would receive widespread appreciation, even outside the academic community. The book became something of a best-seller, and was translated into more than ten languages.[citation needed]

Paul Dumouchel said in the book Schoeck speaks about "the origin of envy,...its cause and function within society" and also "documents the importance of envy in literature, philosophy, and in many social sciences". He went on to say that Shoeck puts forward two propositions - first, that envy has played a large part in forming human society, and that, secondly, the role of envy often remains hidden.[1]

Shoeck also argued that as envy was a natural part of human evolution and could not be suppressed, it was important to channel the emotion. He also suggested that socialism and democracy were put forward as ideas by members of society who were not able "to deal with their own envy",[2] and Karl Marx's idea of communism was "entirely mistaken".[3]

A polemicist against the New Left movements of the 1960s, Schoeck criticized their ideas from a conservative-liberal viewpoint. The egalitarian and anti-capitalist mentality of the leftish generation was the particular target of Schoeck's attacks.

Works (Selected)[edit]

  • Karl Mannheim als Wissenssoziologe, Dissertation, 1948
  • Nietzsches Philosophie des „Menschlich-Allzumenschlichen“. Kritische Darstellung der Aphorismen-Welt der mittleren Schaffenszeit als Versuch einer Neuorientierung des Gesamtbildes, 1948
  • Soziologie. Geschichte ihrer Probleme. 1952. 2., wesentlich überarbeitete und erweiterte Auflage unter dem Titel Die Soziologie und die Gesellschaften. Problemsicht und Problemlösung von Beginn bis zur Gegenwart. 1964. Orbis academicus Band I/3. Verlag Karl Alber, Freiburg / München
  • USA. Motive und Strukturen, 1958
  • Was heißt politisch unmöglich?, 1959
  • Scientism and Values, 1960
  • Relativism and the Study of Man, 1961
  • Financing Medical Care, 1962
  • Psychiatry and Responsibility, 1962
  • Der Neid. Eine Theorie der Gesellschaft. Verlag Karl Alber, Freiburg/München 1966, 2. Auflage 1968 (späterer Titel: Der Neid und die Gesellschaft)
  • Kleines soziologisches Wörterbuch, 1969 (ab 1971: Soziologisches Wörterbuch)
  • Ist Leistung unanständig?, 1971 (mehrmals erweitert)
  • Vorsicht Schreibtischtäter. Politik und Presse in der Bundesrepublik, 1972
  • Entwicklungshilfe. Politische Humanität, 1972
  • Die Lust am schlechten Gewissen, 1973
  • Das Geschäft mit dem Pessimismus, 1975
  • Schülermanipulation, 1976
  • Das Recht auf Ungleichheit, 1979
  • Der Arzt zwischen Politik und Patient, 1983
  • Die zwölf Irrtümer unseres Jahrhunderts, 1985
  • Kinderverstörung. Die mißbrauchte Kindheit - Umschulung auf eine andere Republik, 1989


  1. ^ Dumouchel, Paul (2014). The Ambivalence of Scarcity and Other Essays. MSU Press. ISBN 9781628950007.
  2. ^ Fernandez de la Mora, Gonzalo (2000). Egalitarian Envy. iUniverse. ISBN 9780595002610.
  3. ^ Back Choi, Young (April 1990). "Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior by Helmut Schoeck". Southern Economic Journal. 56 (4): 1140–1142. doi:10.2307/1059904. JSTOR 1059904.