Even though lectures on political theory at the University of Leipzig can be traced back to the year 1410, today's institute of Political Science is a result and gain of the "Wendezeit", or “turning point”. During this period, the relationship of politics to philosophy, history, jurisprudence and economics was repeatedly renegotiated. For example, a strong attachment to national economics was advanced in the 19th century. A break with the scientific systems of the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century then occurred with the founding of the institute in 1993.
As early as 1410, the first lecture dedicated to the subject of politics was held at the University of Leipzig. Since then, the academic study of politics has been a tradition at the university. In 1745, Georg Heinrich Zincke, professor of cameral sciences at the University of Leipzig, used the term "political science" for the first time. Scholars in the disciplines of statistics, history, sociology, national economics, and constitutional law explored political contexts and strove to rationalize politics. During the political upheavals of the 19th century, a number of university professors were already teaching scientific politics in Leipzig. However, an independent subject did not emerge until later.
The Zeitschrift für Politik, or “Journal for Politics”, founded in Leipzig in 1907, was an important catalyst for the development of political science. But political interests also promoted the establishment of the subject. The application of Richard Schmidt, the dean of the law faculty, to found an institute for political foreign studies was followed by the Saxony Ministry of Culture and Public Education in 1923. At the beginning of the 20th century, a network of scholars established itself in Leipzig who developed the idea of a social-scientific political science. Hermann Heller, who is considered one of the founders of political science in Germany, was particularly important for this concept and later disseminated this concept nationwide, among others, at the German School of Politics in Berlin.
The development of political science as an independent academic discipline was shaped by changing political influences from outside. From an early stage, the development of political science was characterized by a conflict of goals between supporters of an emancipated science that observes independently and those who sought a practice-oriented proximity to politics. This conflict of goals persisted. Scholars and students themselves actively contributed not only to the establishment of the discipline of political science, but also to the establishment and existence of different political systems - a circumstance that obliges critical reflection on the own role of academia and the university. This concerns, for example, the work of Richard Schmidt at the University of Leipzig,during the period of National Socialism and the GDR.
The Institute of Political Science at the University of Leipzig in its present form was founded on December 3rd, 1993. Chairman of the founding commission was Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schluchter (University of Heidelberg), whom the University of Leipzig honored with the Caspar-Borner-Medal in 1993.
- Dieter Koop: Politikwissenschaft, in: Ulrich von Hehl/Uwe John/Mandfred Rudersdorf: Geschichte der Universität Leipzig 1409 – 2009, Band 4, Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag 2010, S. 826 – 845.
- Dieter Koop: Wissenschaft und Politikverständnis im Wissenschaftlichen Kommunismus, in: Michael Th. Greven und Dieter Koop (Hrsg.): War der Wissenschaftliche Kommunismus eine Wissenschaft? Vom Wissenschaftlichen Kommunismus zur Politikwissenschaft, Opladen: Leske und Budrich 1993, S. 35 – 48.