Keywords: Social Sciences, German Exile, Historiography, Democracy, Fordism
This article offers a new perspective on the relationship between history and social sciences in the XX century. The cultural and political success of empirical sociology during most of the century is here related to the diffusion of the industrialized and standardized forms of mass production (Fordism and transformation of working conditions), which began in the U.S. and then spread all over continental Europe. The well known influence on American social sciences of German and Austrian émigrés is here examined by focusing on the social democratic wing of this emigration and its important emphasis on the need for sociology in a welfare-oriented society. The growing presence of a mass industry in Italy in the decades following WWII might explain a similar conversion in Italian sociology beginning from the 1950s. Coherently, recent indications of a decreasing relevance of sociology are here related to crisis of Fordism in the 1970s and its effect on the welfare state.