Department of Sociology

General Characteristics of the Department

The Department of Sociology is accredited to offer Bachelor’s, Master’s and doctoral study programmes. On the first two levels, the department only offers full-time programmes; doctoral studies are offered as both full-time and part-time courses.

In the area of academic research, the department’s teachers are mostly involved in research projects funded by various grant schemes and focused on systematic sociology and the theory of sociology, methods of sociological research and work with data, history of sociology, research of social issues, and expert reports.

History of the Department of Sociology

The beginnings of sociology at the Faculty of Arts date back to 1924 when – propelled by such renowned personalities of Slovak political and cultural life as Anton Štefánek and Milan Hodža – a school of sociology was established. The school’s initial development was significantly influenced by Czech teachers, in particular by Prof. Josef Král who worked there until 1932. The other core personality working in the field of sociology at the faculty was Josef Tvrdý who came in 1927 as an Associate Professor and in 1930 was appointed Professor. He was forced to leave Slovakia and the faculty for political reasons in 1939. In December 1941 he was arrested by the Gestapo because he was openly against the Nazi regime. Soon after that he died in the Mauthausen concentration camp. The first teacher to receive his assistant professorship in sociology from the Faculty of Arts was Otakar Machotka in 1935. He stayed at the faculty until 1938. In the same year Anton Štefánek became Professor of Applied Sociology and, because of the forced departures of the Czech professors in 1939, he was entrusted with leading the schools of philosophy, sociology, pedagogy and aesthetics. In the winter semester of the 1939/1940 academic year, sociological methods were taught by Assoc. Prof. Antonín Obrdlík.

Despite difficult times and tough personal experience during the wartime Slovak state, in particular after the beginning of the Slovak National Uprising, Prof. Štefánek assembled a group of students whom he wanted to educate in empirical methods of sociological research. The sociography of Slovakia became his lifelong subject, a passion he enthusiastically passed on to the next generations of sociologists. Owing to his determination and perseverance, sociology as an academic discipline survived the entire war period without being discredited. In the years of post-war reconstruction, sociology continued to be part of the best European academic tradition. After World War II, Alexander Hirner was the first teacher to become Assistant Professor in the field of general sociology. He was followed in 1948 by the last of Prof. Štefánek’s students, Andrej Sirácky.

In February 1948, sociology became a competitor of the Marxist view preferring historical materialism. In the Soviet Union, sociology was named a “bourgeois pseudo-science”. The 1948/1949 academic year turned out to be the last in which sociology was taught at the Faculty of Arts. Symbolically enough, it was also the last year for Prof. Štefánek who was forced to retire. Prof. Sirácky became director of the School of Sociology. He closed the school down in 1950. Sociology students had to choose from related subjects: history, ethnology, philosophy, economics, etc. It was assumed that such political and research disciplines as Marxist philosophy, historical materialism and scientific communism were to replace sociology at the university for good.

The first half of the 1960s brought a softening in the political dictatorship in Czechoslovakia. This, in turn, also meant more opportunities for social sciences and humanities. It became important to support empirical research with the aim to produce more plausible knowledge about the social conditions. In this respect, the decision was made to establish the Department of Sociology at the Faculty of Arts in 1964. Jozef Karásek became department head and, in the 1965/1966 academic year, sociology was once again taught as a separate study programme. At the newly established department, Andrej Sirácky was formally the greatest academic authority. In 1964, he changed his opinion and used his clout in the highest structures of the communist political power to support the reconstruction of academic sociology. Besides himself, the department was made up of teachers trained in philosophy and history who were interested in empirical research of social life, e.g. Jozef Karásek and Marcel Sloboda. Step by step, the teachers worked on their education in sociology. Only Bohumila Majdová took some of the courses in sociology before 1950. Soon the department hired more teachers, most notably Dilbar Aliyeva, a graduate from Moscow State University, and later also Alexander Hirner, Ján Pichňa, and Vojtech Wagner, among others.

The standing of the department suffered a hard blow in the mid-1980s, after the Ministry of Education prohibited any enrolment in sociology in 1982 and 1983. This was a result of an ongoing controversy about whether sociology had a place among social studies and whether there was any meaning to it. The controversy was sparked by worsening economic conditions in the country and by the effort to save funds in the area of “social development” which was back then thought to be synonymous with sociology. Besides, the political elites were worried about the increasingly critical information produced by public opinion polls.

In its twenty years of existence, the department produced nearly 300 sociology graduates. Several of the department’s graduates from this period initiated the creation and affected the development of related disciplines at the faculty, in particular political science (S. Szomolányi and I. Radičová), as well as social work at the Faculty of Education (Š. Kőverová), or public administration at the Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences (Ľ. Malíková). Graduates from the department later founded other departments of sociology – at Trnava University (J. Matulník) and at Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra (P. Ondrejkovič).

The restoration of democratic conditions in the society that took place in November 1989 directed the department back to its universally recognized academic path and mission. In 1994, Juraj Schenk became the second Professor of Sociology after Prof. Štefánek and the department’s long-term focus was shifted to sociological theory and general sociology, methods applied in sociological and social research, history of sociology and social thought. These three core areas were later gradually supplemented by the examination of social issues. An international evaluation in 1998, in which the Department of Sociology represented the entire Faculty of Arts, confirmed the department’s full compatibility with the standards set by universities in Western Europe. The department’s goal was to raise the level of its human resources, quality of study and merit of research projects. In 2008, Ján Sopóci became the department’s third inaugurated Professor of Sociology. Associate professorships were awarded to Ján Bunčák (2001), Gabriela Lubelcová (2003) and Adela Kvasničková (2008).