Lukas Held

Dissertationsprojekt: Modern Origins of Will Psychology, the Politics of Motivation during the Cold War, and the Making of Capitalist Democrats, 1880-1975

I explore the emergence of will psychology in fin de siècle Germany and its transformation to motivation psychology during the cold war era. The project attempts to show how the philosophically charged concept of will was gradually transformed into an object of empirical research. It asks what this shift meant for our understanding of human nature and questions its implications for democratic politics. By linking the scientification of will to well researched discourses of fatigue, alienation, degeneration and wholeness, the project aims to situate „will talk“ around 1900 in a broader cultural context during high modernity just as it tries to link „motivation talk“ since the 1950s to cold war worries over economic dominance, systemic competition and cultural pluralism. While mainly focusing on experimental psychology, the project also takes into account voices in the human sciences more broadly, particularly from philosophers, sociologists, and philosophical anthropologists.


  • August 2016 - Februar 2017 Forschungsaufenthalt an der George Washington University in Washington, D.C. bei Jamie Cohen-Cole
  • seit Juli 2013 Dissertation bei Prof. Dr. Philipp Sarasin, gefördert durch den Forschungskredit der Universität Zürich und den Schweizer Nationalfonds
  • September 2012 - Juli 2013 Research Assistant bei Prof. Dr. Veronika Lipphardt am Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin
  • 2005 - 2011 Studium der Neueren und Neuesten Geschichte und Literaturwissenschaft an der Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, University of Leicester
  • Magisterarbeit zum Thema: „Die Außenkulturpolitik der BRD und DDR, 1960er und 1970er Jahre. Eine Fallstudie am Beispiel des Goethe-Instituts in Kalkutta“

Forschungs- und Interessengebiete

Geschichte der Willens- und Motivationspsychologie, Geschichte des Kalten Krieges, Geschichte der USA und Deutschlands im 20. Jahrhundert, Geschichte des Neoliberalismus