Cooperation, Competition, Complexity: The East-West German Dimensions of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis


The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), founded in 1972 and located in Laxenburg, near Vienna, Austria, was the first major cross-bloc research institute.  IIASA was established in the spirt of détente during the Cold War and was founded by scientific organizations from twelve different countries including the United States and the Soviet Union, East and West Germany. IIASA’s aim was to deal with the problems common to “advanced” industrial societies. One motivation behind the founding of IIASA was the idea that national and bloc-specific analyses and approaches were no longer sufficient in the face of interdependent, increasingly complex problems. Issues such as energy shortages and environmental pollution appeared to be solvable only through cooperation between the East, West, and South.

Political considerations and tensions during the founding period resulted in IIASA not being formed by countries but by scientific organizations (such as the Max Planck Society for the Federal Republic of Germany and the Academy of Sciences for the GDR). Actors from both West and East involved in the sciences or science policy were thus able to cooperate and compete. A variety of approaches and academic cultures also collided at the interdisciplinary IIASA, which continued to cooperate in the face of this increasing “complexity”.

This dissertation project aims to understand the dynamics of interaction in terms of cooperation and competition at IIASA, with a focus on the East-West German dimension. This cooperation was linked to particular controversy in light of the political recognition of the GDR by the Federal Republic, which had only recently come about in 1972, as well as the direct competition of the two systems. The study will look into self-understanding and patterns of self-delineation, varieties of work and the cooperative and competitive practices of West and East German scientists at IIASA. Interactions between politics and research in the context of Cold War policies concerning science and technology, as well as the use of the knowledge obtained in both West and East Germany, round off the project’s areas of focus.

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