Lazarsfeld's Legacy| Paul Lazarsfeld: Living in Circles and Talking Around Tables
This paper draws upon a series of interviews conducted with Paul Lazarsfeld and others who knew him, especially those who knew him as a young man in Vienna, the purpose of which is to demonstrate that his interest in mathematics and quantification is not as often assumed. The paper maintains that he never had a philosophical position on quantification, nor did he extol quantification at the expense of other approaches to social research. To this end, the paper examines his early life in Vienna growing up amid the intellectual circles of the city and the influence that they had on him, especially his interest in mathematics. His fascination with quantification, which offered a sense of order, is best understood through attention to his personal life and in terms of his “fractured life”—not least, as he expressed, a life destroyed by his mother.