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Bauer Leonhard

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An obituary

em.o.Univ.Prof. Dr. Leonhard Bauer

em.o.Univ.Prof. Dr. Leonhard Bauer (1940-2020) † was an extraordinary man. He was an extensively educated, highly competent conversationalist, an original thinker, and an unorthodox economist in the best sense of the word.

For those who had the privilege of studying with him or working with him, his courses, his contributions to various university committees, his scholarly works, but above all, he will always be best remembered as a human being and a trenchant economist. He taught us to leave the well-trodden paths of science, even at the risk of having to pay more attention to orientation in impassable terrain.

Leonhard Bauer, a Burgenländer by origin, was in a sense also a Scot. This not only in his appreciation of the economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith, but also as a graduate of the Schottengymnasium in Vienna.

Leonhard Bauer was an extraordinary man. He was an extensively educated, highly competent conversationalist, an original thinker, and an unorthodox economist in the best sense of the word.

When a serious traffic accident radically changed his life, it was due to his iron discipline, will and drive that he was able to contain the health consequences through training and perseverance.

Already an unconventional thinker before, this tremendous break led him to pursue alternative paths, theories and approaches in economics as well, since 1976 as a professor of economics at WU Vienna. For example, that it is not necessary to postulate the unlimited freedom of the maximizing homo oeconomicus, but rather to find concrete requirements and power relations, historically and socially mediated conditions in which the various economically active groups are integrated.

For him, science was - in his words - only "exciting" when it was able to understand immanent contradictions and to place them in a framework, in a field of tension, which made scientific knowledge possible in the first place.

The monumental study "Birth of the Modern Era", co-authored with Herbert Matis, can probably be considered his greatest work. The transformation from the agrarian Middle Ages to capitalist market economies, to the modern era, is shown in all its facets and shifts of interpretation. An equally historical perspective was pursued by those projects that traced the history of the development of economic science from political to 'pure' economics. He - who began his career as an econometrician - considered it highly reductionist and dangerous that the latter tries to come ever closer to the ideal of the natural sciences (even when the natural sciences are already moving away from it again).

A long-time friend and colleague once said about Leonhard Bauer that he knew how to unite the Protestant and the Catholic in an ideal-typical way: to combine his Protestant work ethic with a Catholic, one might almost say, 'baroque' lust for life. His scholarly engagement with the dialectic of economics and religion was also multifaceted: the fixation of man on an egocentric, asocial (infant) behavior, the disregard of important passages from Adam Smith's works that were virtually constitutive of Bauer's oeuvre (to focus on the 'sideshow' of the invisible hand) - all of these were religion-like dogmas. Most massively and strikingly, however: the assumptions of this mainstream economics are to be believed in, because they are not scientifically provable.

Feminist-conscious students were often taken aback when they first encountered Professor Bauer: A 'kiss on the hand', perfectly courteous, yet antiquated manners, sometimes even taken to an extreme in a mannerist way, characterized him. These manners, however, were in contrast to his professional activities, in which Professor Bauer represented, vehemently justified and demanded a clearly pro-women, equal opportunity policy position in a large number of commissions, but also in his role as a superior.

Many things cannot be mentioned here; for example, that Leonhard Bauer learned a foreign language almost perfectly at an advanced age, as well as that he was actively involved in situations of political upheaval in Central America.

The fact that he, who acted with particular prudence during this Corona period, has now died of Covid 19 at the age of 80 may be seen as a special irony of fate. Our deepest sympathy goes to his wife Veronika and his daughter Vanna at this difficult time.