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Eric Royal Lybeck

Eric Royal Lybeck is an historical sociologist in the Department of Sociology and a member of Girton College at the University of Cambridge.

His dissertation is titled: The Academization Process: Universities, Legal Science, and Social Science in Germany and the United States since 1800

His research focuses on the evolution of the modern research university and its changing role in society since the conferral of the first PhD in Germany 1810. The ‘academization process’ was at least as significant as the democratic and industrial revolutions in establishing the conditions of modern society, responsible for, among other things, the emergence of a middle class. The process retains the contradictions of its origin in Germany during French imperial conquest. The university was institutionalized as part of a conservative political project to avoid revolution while encouraging social reform. Contemporary academics mistakenly believe the university was/is progressive and critical. This misrecognition is due to academic neglect of professional education, particularly the central importance of legal education and juridical management of politics to this day.

In the late nineteenth century, the centre of the academization process moved from Germany to America for conservative reasons similar to those inspired by Kant and the Grimm brothers in Romantic Germany. This was a period of international Teutonism and universities, particularly graduate schools, were founded so that the American national state could become organised on Germanic lines. Eric’s archival research delves deep into the history of this transition, focusing attention on the 1904 World’s Fair and the Roosevelt-Kaiser-Wilhelm Professorship between Columbia University and the University of Berlin in 1906.

Due to the legacies of World War I, the Teutonic origins of the global university system were erased, just as German-Americans at the time renamed their identity ‘old-stock white’. In this sense, the contemporary ‘Americanization’ or ‘neoliberalization’ of higher education is, in fact, the continued and prolonged Germanization of society.

Eric also writes on the history of sociology, including an upcoming volume on ‘Sociological Amnesia’ with Alex Law. His previous research was within the field of war and society.

Eric is the co-convener of the British Sociological Association’s Historical and Comparative Study Group. He served as the Graduate Student Representative for the Council of the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences (CSHSS) from 2012-2014, and is a member of the editorial board for Current Perspectives in Social Theory and the King’s Review. He is the conference organizer for the 2015 meeting of the International Social Theory Consortium.

At Cambridge, he supervises students in Modern Societies (SOC1); Social Theory (SOC2); Global Transformations (SOC3); Modern Britain (SOC5); Political Economy of Capitalism (SOC7); and War, Revolutions and Militarism (SOC9).


Books, chapters and articles:
Sociological Amnesia: Episodes in Disciplinary History, A. Law and E.R. Lybeck eds., Ashgate, July 2015

Geist (Spirit): History of the Concept’ in: James D. Wright (editor-in-chief), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edition, Vol 9. Oxford: Elsevier. pp. 666–670. 2015

‘Conclusion: Barriers and Conduits to Social Justice —Universities in The Twenty-First Century’ (with Harry F. Dahms). in Social Justice and the University. J. Shefner, H. Dahms, R. Jones, and A. Jalata, eds., New York: Palgrave, 2014

‘Discourse Formation in Early American and British Sociology: The Cases of Patrick Geddes and Lester Ward’. History of Human Sciences, vol. 26 (2), pp. 51–69, 2013

‘For Pragmatic Public Sociology: Theory and Practice after the Pragmatic Turn’. Current Perspectives in Social Theory, vol. 29, pp. 169 – 185, 2011

‘Bringing Authoritarianism Back In: Reification, Latent Prejudice, and Economic Threat’ (with Alex Stoner). Logos: A Journal of Modern Society and Culture, vol. 3, 2011

‘The Myth of the Hundred Years' Peace: War in the Nineteenth Century’. in At War for Peace, edited by M. Forough. Oxford, UK: Inter-disciplinary Press. 2010

‘The Critical Theory of Lewis Mumford’. The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Science, vol.5, issue 1, pp. 91-102, 2010


Reconstructing Social Theory, History and Practice - International Social Theory Consortium (ISTC) annual meeting – conference host, Cambridge, UK, June 2015

‘Whither History and Comparison in UK Sociology?’ symposium co-organizer, British Sociological Association (BSA) annual meeting, Glasgow, UK, April 2015

‘Crisis and Social Change: Toward Alternative Horizons – Cambridge sociology department graduate student conference board, panel organizer, September 2014

‘Failed Sociologists and Dead Ends in the History of Sociology’, panel organizer with Christian Fleck, International Sociological Association (ISA) World Congress, Yokohama, Japan, July 2014

‘Professional Academics / Disciplinary Jurisdictions’, panel organizer, Social Science History Association (SSHA) annual meeting, Chicago, IL, Nov 2013

Revaluing the Sociology of Patrick Geddes – symposium organizer with Alex Law, University of Abertay, Dundee, Scotland. June 2013

Social Justice and the University – panel organizer, conference board, Knoxville, TN, April 2011

Invited Papers:
‘The German-American Professorial Exchange and the History of Higher Education Policy’, Centre for Education Policy Analysis, Liverpool Hope University, Feb. 2015.

‘Why Mockingbird and not Gatsby?: Exploring the Common Curriculum Debate in the Abstract and Concrete’, Oxford Student PEN: What's Education for Anyway?: The Curriculum, Gove's Reforms and National Literature, Oxford, UK, Oct. 2014.

‘Universities, Law, Jurisprudence, and Sociology: A History’, American Sociological Association, panel session, New York, NY. Aug. 2013

‘The Ideological Organization of University Systems: A Theoretical Framework’, BSA Early Career Theorists’ Symposium, London UK. April 2013

‘University reform as state-making: the Research Excellence Framework, the Bologna Process, and the “Althoff system”’, BSA Weber Study Group Conference: The University, the Scholar and the Student, Manchester UK, Dec. 2012.

Other Conference Papers:
‘The Coming Crisis of Academic Authority’, Crisis and Social Change: Towards Alternative Horizons, Cambridge, UK, September 2014

‘Federalization and Academization: Stages in the Consolidation of New Class Power’, British Sociological Association, Leeds UK, April 2014

‘Critical Organicism: Systems, Processes, Organisms’, International Social Theory Consortium, Copenhagen, Denmark, June 2013

‘Sociology, Universities and the Ideological Organization of Knowledge-Based-Capitalism’ ISA Research Committee on History of Sociology (RCHS), Dublin, Ireland. June 2012

‘Creative Action and War: The Case of the Nineteenth Century’, Social Science History Association, Chicago, Nov. 2010


Graduate Student Representative, Council of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (CSHSS), University of Cambridge, two terms, 2012 -2014

Undergraduate Admissions Interviewer, Girton College , 2012-present

Editorial Board, Current Perspectives in Social Theory, 2011- present

Convener, Historical and Comparative Study Group, British Sociological Association, 2012-present


Jan 2014 Marguerite and Sidney Cody Studentship, Girton College

Jan 2014 DAAD Research Grant, six months archival

  • E-mail:
  • Address: Department of Sociology, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RQ
  • Supervisor:
  • College: Girton College
  • Thesis Title: The Academization Process: Universities, Legal Science, and Social Science in Germany and the United States since 1800