The status of the humanities and social sciences at ETH Zurich has undergone a significant change. The emphasis is no longer on complementarity, but on integration.
Department XII (Humanities and Social Sciences)
When the Swiss Federal Polytechnic was founded in 1855, the new university already had a department of elective subjects that complemented the students’ education. Subjects such as language and literature studies, history, philosophy, and law and economics have been part of ETH Zurich since its beginnings. Until well into the 1980s, they constituted the core of Department XII (Humanities and Social Sciences).
Diversification and integration with other disciplines
In the 1980s and 1990s, Department XII was expanded and diversified: New professorships of Science Studies, Development Cooperation, Sociology, Conflict Research, History of Technology, and Social Psychology and Research on Higher Education were added. At the same time, the fundamental role of the humanities and the social and political sciences at ETH Zurich was transformed: While the humanities were intended as a supplement to the other disciplines until well into the 1970s, today the emphasis lies on integration with other disciplines. The aim is to link up complementary views in order to develop common problem statements.
Amalgamation into D-GESS
The Executive Board of ETH Zurich identified this change at an early stage. In 1999, the university administration decided to amalgamate the two departments of Social Sciences and of Law and Economics as well as Department XI (Military Science) into a new unit − D-GESS − and to expand it by adding the Faculty of Political Science.
Restructuring into topical areas Behavior, Governance, Knowledge, and Law & Economics
D-GESS has undergone a reorientation in recent years. The individual professorships, which had previously operated largely autonomously, were arranged into four topical areas that cooperate closely in research, teaching, and graduate education: Behavior (behavioral science), Governance (political science), Knowledge (humanities), and Law & Economics. Closer cooperation is supported spatially by bringing together the professorships in the CLU, IFW, and RZ buildings at the ETH Zentrum campus.