A pioneering historical analysis of the state from a sociological perspective which focuses on the changing nature of political power and the groups who wielded this power. One of his key insights is the distinction between the economic and the political means of acquiring wealth.
This is the 1914 book that started it all in the 20th century, the book that kicked off a century of anti-state, pro-property writing. This was the prototype for Nock's writing, for Chodorov's work, and even the theoretical edifice that later became Rothbardianism.
Indeed, Franz Oppenheimer wrote what remains one of the most bracing and stimulating volumes in the history of political philosophy. The author sought to overthrow centuries of fallacious thinking on the subject of the state's origin, nature, and purpose, put its it place a view of the state that constitutes a foundational attack on the structure of modern society.
He utterly demolishes the social-contract view of the state as it had been advanced by most thinkers since the Enlightenment. He seeks to replace that view with a realistic assessment of the state, one that can only make anyone with statist leanings squirm: he sees the state as composed of a victorious group of bandits who rule over the defeated group with the purpose of domination and exploitation. It achieves its status through a form of conquest, secures its power through relentless aggression, and sees its main function is to secure its status and power.
Consider that when this book was written such views were a scandal, especially in Germany. Oppenheimer, who was a medical doctor who became a professor of sociology, suffered terribly for his libertarian views. Then this book appeared, which stunned even his most vociferous critics with its analytical rigor, historical sweep, and steely resolve. The book has since appeared in more than a dozen languages. In a world that cared about ideas, this would be required reading in political philosophy.
From an economic point view, his analysis holds up even where his language about capitalism and socialism can be somewhat confused. In fact, it was Rothbard's own work that took Oppenheimer's theory and fit it into a free-market framework. But to fully understand the state theory behind modern Austro-libertarian thinking, this work is indispensable.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER I - Theories of The State
The Sociological Idea of The State
CHAPTER II - The Genesis of The State
(A) Political and Economic Means
(B) Peoples Without a State: Huntsmen and Grubbers
(C) Peoples Preceding The State: Herdsmen and Vikings
(D) The Genesis of The State
CHAPTER III - The Primitive Feudal State
(A) The Form of Dominion
(B) The Integration
(C) The Differentiation: Group Theories snd Group Psychology
(D) The Primitive Feudal State of Higher Grade
CHAPTER IV - The Maritime State
(A) Traffic in Prehistoric Times
(B) Trade and the Primitive State
(C) The Genesis of the Maritime State
(D) Essence and Issue of the Maritime States
CHAPTER V - The Development of the Feudal State
(A) The Genesis of Landed Property
(B) The Central Power in the Primitive Feudal State
(C) The Political and Social Disintegration of the Primitive Feudal State
(D) The Ethnic Amalgamation
(E) The Developed Feudal State
CHAPTER VI - Concerning Some Old Foes Under New Faces
(A) The Emancipation of the Peasantry
(B) The Genesis of the Industrial State
(C) The Influences of Money Economy
(D) The Modern Constitutional State
CHAPTER VII - The Tendency of the Development of the State
Franz Oppenheimer (March 30, 1864 – September 30, 1943) was a German sociologist and political economist, who published also in the area of the fundamental sociology of the state.
After studying medicine in Freiburg and Berlin, Oppenheimer practiced as a physician in Berlin from 1886 to 1895. From 1890 onwards, he began to concern himself with sociopolitical questions and social economics. After his activity as a physician, he was editor-in-chief of the magazine Welt am Morgen, where he became acquainted with Friedrich Naumann, who was, at the time, working door-to-door for different daily papers.
In 1909, Oppenheimer earned a PhD in Kiel with a thesis about economist David Ricardo. From 1909 to 1917, Oppenheimer was Privatdozent in Berlin, then for two years Titularprofessor. In 1914 he was one of co-founders of the German Committee for Freeing of Russian Jews. In 1919, he accepted a call to serve as Chair for Sociology and Theoretical Political Economy at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt/Main. This was the first chair dedicated to Sociology in Germany.
A co-operative farm, the so-called "Co-operative in Merhavia", was founded in 1911 by Jewish immigrants to Palestine using a plan for agricultural cooperation written by Oppenheimer. The project eventually failed and Merhavia was transformed in 1922 into a moshav, a different form of communal settlement.
From 1934 to 1935, Oppenheimer taught in Palestine. In 1936 he was appointed an honorary member of the American Sociological Association. In 1938, fleeing Nazi persecution, he emigrated via Tokyo and Shanghai to Los Angeles. In 1941 he became a founding member of The American Journal of Economics and Sociology.
Oppenheimer's son was Hillel Oppenheimer, a professor of botany at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and an Israel Prize recipient.
Oppenheimer created an extensive oeuvre of approximately 40 books and 400 essays which contain writings on sociology, economics, and the political questions of his time. One of the most renowned was Der Staat (The State).