Thomas Luckmann


Thomas Luckmann was a prominent sociologist specializing in the sociology of communication, sociology of knowledge, and sociology of religion. While he spent the majority of his long academic career at the University of Konstanz, Luckmann both studied and taught at the New School for Social Research in the 1960s.

Luckmann was born in Jesenice, Slovenia to an Austrian father and Slovenian mother. In 1943 he moved with his mother to Vienna where he was drafted for the German army. In 1945, Luckmann became a prisoner of war but escaped after three months. He settled in Vienna where he studied philosophy and linguistics at the University of Vienna and later at the University of Innsbruck.

In 1950, Luckmann relocated to the United States with his wife, Benita Petkevic. They both studied at the New School for Social Research. Luckmann studied under Alfred Schütz, Dorion Cairns, Albert Salomon, and Carl Mayer. Schütz was an important intellectual influence on Luckmann. Indeed, he continued Schütz’s work drawing on his notes and unfinished manuscripts to complete Structures of the Life-World, published – posthumously for Schütz – in 1982. [1] Luckmann’s doctoral thesis on the sociology of religion was conferred in 1956.

Following his doctoral studies, Luckmann taught at Hobart College in upstate New York. In 1960, he returned to the New School as faculty, succeeding his teacher, Schutz, on his death. Luckmann taught at the New School until 1965 when he was granted a professorship at the University of Frankfurt. In 1970, he moved to the University of Konstanz, where he remained until his retirement in 1994

Luckmann is perhaps best known for his collaborative work with New School colleague Peter Berger. In 1966, Berger and Luckmann published The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. The book develops a theory of how concepts and ideas about the world become habitualized and institutionalized over time by people interacting in a social system. It is heavily influenced by Schütz’s phenomenological sociology. The Social Construction of Reality has since become a classic in the discipline of sociology and remains influential. To this day, it features on the syllabus of Contemporary Sociological Theory taught by the New School’s Sociology Department.

Luckmann died in Austria in 2016.

[1] Endreß, Martin. 2016. “Thomas Luckmann.” Human Studies, vol 39, p. 487.

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