What Counts. On the Reception of Statistics in Early Twentieth Century Prose.
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AbstractThe dissertation is a cultural history of statistics in the first half of the twentieth century in the German-speaking world. It examines how statistical models and data have been employed in literature, architecture, education, and political theory. The first chapter discusses the use of probability theory in Robert Musil's novel The Man Without Qualities. It is argued that the connection between narrative and science is staged in terms of probability theory. The second chapter examines Rudolf Brunngraber's novel Karl und das 20. Jahrhundert and argues that quantitative economic data and a positivist narrator render the text a novel peculiar to the Vienna Circle. In the third chapter, texts by Otto Neurath, Josef Frank and Philipp Frank are examined from the perspective of the law of large numbers. The thesis here is that all three intellectuals were looking for ways to combine collective political goals and individual freedom in order to support the democratic socialism of Austro-Marxism. In the fourth chapter, a novel by Hermann Broch is interpreted as genealogical precursor to his theoretical writings. What Broch claims to be a general anthropology turns out to be literary fiction and therefore calls for a rethink of the foundations of human rights.
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