Thomas Luckmann

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Thomas Luckmann
Tomaž Luckmann

14 October 1927
Died10 May 2016
Spouse(s)Benita Petkevic (m. 1950; died 1987)
Children3 daughters
Academic background
EducationUniversity of Vienna and University of Innsbruck
Alma materThe New School for Social Research
InfluencesAlfred Schütz, Carl Mayer [de]
Academic work
DisciplineSociology, Philosophy
Sub-disciplinePhenomenology, sociology of knowledge, sociology of religion
InstitutionsUniversity of Konstanz, The New School for Social Research
Main interestsLinguistics, history, and philosophy
Notable worksThe Social Construction of Reality, The Invisible Religion, and The Structures of the Life-World

Thomas Luckmann (/ˈlʌkmən/; October 14, 1927 – May 10, 2016) was an American-Austrian sociologist of German and Slovene origin who taught mainly in Germany. Born in Jesenice, Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Luckmann studied philosophy and linguistics at the University of Vienna and the University of Innsbruck. He married Benita Petkevic in 1950. His contributions were central to studies in sociology of communication, sociology of knowledge, sociology of religion, and the philosophy of science. His best-known titles are the 1966 book, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (co-authored with Peter L. Berger), The Invisible Religion (1967), and The Structures of the Life-World (1973) (co-authored with Alfred Schütz).


Early life and background[edit]

Luckmann was born in Jesenice, which at the time was part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. His father was an Austrian industrialist, while his mother was from a Slovene family from Ljubljana.[1] On his mother's side, he was the cousin of the Slovene poet Božo Vodušek [sl]. He grew up in a bilingual environment.[2] In the family, they spoke both Slovene and German, and he attended Slovene-language schools in Jesenice until 1941, until he attended high school in Austria after the occupation of Slovenia during World War II.

After the murder of his father and several deaths of his relatives during World War II, in 1943, he and his mother moved to Vienna.[2] Living in Austria during this period automatically granted him German citizenship, and in 1944 he was drafted for the army,[3] joining the Luftwaffe where he served as a Luftwaffenhelfer.[4] In 1945 he became a prisoner of war, and escaping after three months. He then settled in Vienna.[3]


Luckmann attended high school in Klagenfurt, after he and his family fled Italian occupation in Ljubljana in 1941. After escaping being a prisoner of war, Luckmann began studying philosophy and linguistics at the University of Vienna and Innsbruck.[3] In 1950 he married Benita Petkevic, with whom he moved to the United States, where he studied at The New School in New York City.[1] The couple had three daughters.[2]

It was his time at The New College, did Luckmann begin to discern his career as a sociologist. He was introduced to the sociological discipline, was familiarized with Alfred Schütz’s work on sociological phenomenology, and met Peter Berger, where he would later go on to co-author The Social Construction of Reality. Together, him and his colleagues produced some of the most influential sociological works of the 20th century.

Luckmann never intended to become a sociologist. His initial academic interests resided in linguistics, history and philosophy. At The New School, Luckmann primarily studied philosophy and chose to sociology as a second subject after admiring how his teachers specialized in these dual subjects.[5] For example, Luckmann was introduced to the sociology of religion when his teacher at the time, Carl Meyer, asked him to do field work about churches in Germany after World War II. Captivated by his experience in Germany, Luckmann used his fieldwork to pursue a Ph.D in sociology.[6]

He obtained his first academic position at Hobart College, in Geneva, New York, before returning to teach at The New School after the death of Alfred Schütz. Luckmann was eventually granted a professorship position at The University of Frankfurt in 1965. After publishing two books in 1963 and 1966, and several successful essays, Luckmann worked as a professor of Sociology at the University of Konstanz in Germany from 1970 to his retirement,[7] and later professor emeritus.[8] It is noted that his time in at Konstanz was marked as an intense period of interdisciplinary work, in which he wrote multiple essays concerning communication, linguistics, literature and history.


In 1950, Luckmann married Benita Petkevic, who was a Lativan-born social scientist who taught in Austria, Germany.


On May 10th 2016, Luckmann died of cancer at the age of 88 at his home in Austria.[3]

Personal life[edit]


Luckmann and Benita Petkevic had three children together.


Philosophy and social thought[edit]

Luckmann was a follower of the phenomenologically oriented school of sociology, established by the Austrian-American scholar Alfred Schütz. He contributed to the foundation of phenomenological sociology, the sociology of religion in modern societies, and the sociology of knowledge and communication.[3] The interdisciplinary nature of his work remains relevant in sociology and other disciplines today.[9]

Social constructionism[edit]

In several of his works, he developed the theory of social constructionism, which argues that all knowledge, including the most basic common sense knowledge of everyday reality, is derived from and maintained by social interactions. Together with Peter L. Berger, he wrote the book The Social Construction of Reality in 1966. The book was an important part of the move in sociology, and particularly the sociology of religion, away from the view of religion and religious values as central to the social order, arguing that social order is socially constructed by individuals and/or groups of individuals.[10] Since publication, the book has been translated into thirteen different languages and serves as a cornerstone in sociological literature.[6]

Sociology of religion[edit]

Following his field work in Germany and the completion of his dissertation, Luckmann was asked to complete several reviews on the surrounding sociological literature concerning religion. Disappointed by the positivistic, unauthentic views of a Church-backed sociology of religion, Luckmann was compelled to write The Invisible Religion in 1963.[6] The book was then translated into English in 1967. Drawing from Durkheim, Luckmann developed a functional perspective in his theoretical objectives. Rather than reverting to popular explanations of secularization, Luckmann explained the emergence of a new kind of religion in the 20th century: private religion[8] He explains the diffusion of world views and institutional de-specialization of religion led to a privatization, rather than a retreat, from religion.[5] Though Luckmann initially received harsh criticisms, The Invisible Religion became a pivotal move within the sociology of religion in the 20th century, especially in conjunction with The Social Construction of Reality.

Sociology of knowledge and communication[edit]

Luckmann’s contribution to the sociology of knowledge and communication is based on his careful analysis of the link between socio-cultural linguistic practices, and the construction of social reality.[5] Based on his empirical research of conversational analysis, Luckmann explains his theory of “communicative genres” in which linguistic types, such as, gossip, proverbs, or jokes, all serve as forms of social knowledge, and act as tools for the formation of social structure.[5] His ethnography of speaking, modeled a social interactional code that gave a dissimilar approach to sources of social constraint.[5]

Social action[edit]

Luckmann continued this analysis of social action, and in 1982 he continued the work of Alfred Schütz, drawing on Schütz's notes and unfinished manuscripts to complete Structures of the Life-World, published (posthumously for Schütz) in 1982.[3] Luckmann then built upon Schütz's analysis and published, Theory of Social Action in 1992.[3]

Together with Richard Grathoff and Walter M. Sprondel, Luckmann founded the Social Science Archive Konstanz (also known as the Alfred Schütz Memorial Archives).[3] What became the official archive of the German Sociological Association, Luckmann and his colleagues gathered research accounts of German social science.[5]

In 1998 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).[11]

In 2004 Luckmann became an honorary member of the Slovenian Sociological Association.[7] The German Sociological Association awarded him a prize for his outstanding lifetime contribution to sociology at its 2002 Congress, and Luckmann became an honorary member in 2016.[3]

The original Thomas Luckmann Papers are deposited in the Social Science Archive Konstanz.


Luckmann's ideas have had a huge impact on the world and intellectual thought.

Essential bibliography[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Novotný, Lukáš (2016). "Sociální a komunikativní konstrukce reality – vzpomínka na Thomase Luckmanna" [Social and communicative construction of reality - memory of Thomas Luckmann]. Sociologický časopis (in Czech). 52 (4): 581–589. JSTOR 43920836. ProQuest 1836869345.
  2. ^ a b c "Nachrichten und Mitteilungen". KZFSS Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie. 68 (4): 757–767. December 2016. doi:10.1007/s11577-016-0396-z. S2CID 189793824.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Endreß, Martin (November 2016). "Thomas Luckmann (October 14, 1927–May 10, 2016)". Human Studies. 39 (4): 487–491. doi:10.1007/s10746-016-9416-2. S2CID 151719771.
  4. ^ Thomas Luckmann: „Teilweise zufällig, teilweise, weil es doch Spaß macht“. In: Monika Wohlrab-Sahr (Hrsg.): Kultusoziologie: Paradigmen – Methoden – Fragestellungen. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2010, p. 88.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Estruch, Joan (December 2008). "A Conversation with Thomas Luckmann". Social Compass. 55 (4): 532–540. doi:10.1177/0037768608097237. S2CID 144043334.
  6. ^ a b c Dreher, Jochen; Göttlich, Andreas (March 2016). "Structures of a Life-Work: A Reconstruction of the Oeuvre of Thomas Luckmann". Human Studies. 39 (1): 27–49. doi:10.1007/s10746-016-9392-6. S2CID 147459455.
  7. ^ a b Adam, F; Čas, B (2004). "Utemeljitev za imenovanje dr. Tomaža Luckmanna, profesorja emeritusa, za častnega člana Slovenskega sociološkega društva". Druzboslovne Razprave (in Slovenian). 20: 87–89.
  8. ^ a b "In memoriam Thomas Luckmann (14. Oktober 1927 - 10. Mai 2016)". Soziologie (in German). 45: 335–341. 2016.
  9. ^ Sica, Alan (March 2016). "Social Construction as Fantasy: Reconsidering Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann's The Social Construction of Reality after 50 Years". Cultural Sociology. 10 (1): 37–52. doi:10.1177/1749975515614869. S2CID 147527965.
  10. ^ Encyclopedia of global religion. Juergensmeyer, Mark., Roof, Wade Clark. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications. 2012. ISBN 9781452266565. OCLC 767737455.CS1 maint: others (link)
  11. ^ "Honorary Doctors". Retrieved 2018-08-30.

Further reading[edit]

  • Davie, Grace, "Luckmann, Thomas" in Encyclopedia of Religion and Society edited by, William H. Swatos, Jr. 1998.
  • Estruch, Joan (December 2008). "A Conversation with Thomas Luckmann". Social Compass. 55 (4): 532–540. doi:10.1177/0037768608097237. S2CID 144043334.
  • Mata, Sérgio da (30 June 2014). "O escândalo da religião à luz da protosociologia de Thomas Luckmann" [The school of religion in the light of protosociology by Thomas Luckmann]. Sæculum (in Portuguese). 30: 191–204.
  • Berger, Peter and Luckmann, Thomas. The Social Construction of Reality, 1967. Penguin Books, London.
  • Endreß, Martin (November 2016). "Thomas Luckmann (October 14, 1927–May 10, 2016)". Human Studies. 39 (4): 487–491. doi:10.1007/s10746-016-9416-2. S2CID 151719771.
  • Sica, Alan (March 2016). "Social Construction as Fantasy: Reconsidering Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann's The Social Construction of Reality after 50 Years". Cultural Sociology. 10 (1): 37–52. doi:10.1177/1749975515614869. S2CID 147527965.
  • Frane Adam, "Tomaž Luckmann" in Thomas Luckmann, Družba, komunikacija, smisel, transcendenca (Ljubljana: Študentska založba, 2007)
  • Patricija Maličev, "Thomas Luckmann. Človek s posebnostmi" in Delo, Sobotna priloga (April 12, 2008), 25-27
  • Bernt Schnettler, "Thomas Luckmann", UVK, Konstanz 2007 (in German, 158 pages)
  • Marcin K. Zwierżdżynski, "Where is Religion? The Five Dichotomies of Thomas Luckmann", Nomos, Cracow 2009 (in Polish, 288 pages, with summary in English)

External links[edit]