Gumplowicz, Ludwig 1838-1909

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GUMPLOWICZ, Ludwig 1838-1909

PERSONAL: Born March 9, 1838, in Krakow, Poland; committed suicide August 19, 1909. Education: Attended the University of Krakow and the University of Vienna, Austria. Religion: Jewish.

CAREER: Sociologist, economist, and journalist. University of Graz, professor of public law, 1875-1909.


Race und Staat, Manz (Vienna, Austria), 1875.

Das Recht der Nationalität und Sprachen in Österreich-Ungarn, Wagner (Innsbruck, Austria), 1879.

Rechtsstät und Socialismus, Wagner (Innsbruck, Austria), 1881.

Verwaltungslehre, Wagner (Innsbruck, Austria), 1882.

Der Rassenkamf: Sociologische Untersuchungen, Wagner (Innsbruck, Austria), 1883.

Gundriss der Soziologie, Manz (Vienna, Austria), 1885, translated as Outlines of Sociology, edited with an introduction and notes by Irvin Louis Horowitz, Transaction Books (New Brunswick, NJ), 1980.

Das Österreichische Stätsrecht, Universitäts-Buchhandlung (Vienna, Austria), 1891.

Die Sociologische Stätsidee, Leuschner & Lubensky (Graz, Austria), 1892.

Österreichische Reichsgeschichte, C. Heymann (Berlin, Germany, 1896.

Allegemeines Stätsrecht, Wagner (Innsbruck, Austria), 1897.

Soziologische Essays, Wagner (Innsbruck, Austria), 1899.

Geschichte der Stätstheorien, Wagner (Innsbruck, Austria), 1905.

Urzeitklänge und Wetterleuchten Geschcichte. Gesetze in den Ereignissen der Gegenwart, Wagner (Innsbruck, Austria), 1910.

The Letters of Ludwig Gumplowicz to Lester F. Ward, C. Hirschfield (Leipzig, Germany), 1933.

Die Soziologische Stätsidee, Wagner (Innsbruck, Austria), 1902, reprinted, Scientia (Aalen, Germany), 1969.

Sozialphilosophie im Umriss, Scientia (Aalen, Germany), 1969.

The Ward-Gumplowicz Correspondence: 1897-1909, translated and edited with an introduction by Aleksander Gella, Essay Press (New York, NY), 1971.

Ausgewählte Werke, Sciencia Verlag (Aalen, Germany), 1973-1978.

Gumplowicz's works have also been translated into French, Spanish, and Polish.

SIDELIGHTS: Polish sociologist and political theorist Ludwig Gumplowicz was the most prominent of the Austrian school of sociologists, which consisted of influential proponents of social Darwinism. He is considered one of the more significant "conflict" theorists in the development of sociology.

Born in Krakow on March 9, 1838, Gumplowicz was the son of prominent Polish Jews. Educated at the universities of Krakow and Vienna, Gumplowicz entered journalism as his early career. However, in 1875 he became a professor of public law at the University of Graz, Austria, where he remained until shortly before his death. "Gumplowicz viewed sociology as the study of groups in conflict," wrote a biographer in Encyclopedia of World Biography. Gumplowicz and others refined theories of social Darwinism into the sociological system known as conflict theory. "The theory, now considered to be somewhat dated, exercised an extraordinary influence in political, social, and legal studies, an influence which continues to this day," the Encyclopedia of World Biography writer remarked.

Gumplowicz is also known for "his disbelief in the permanence of social progress and for his assertion that the state originates through inevitable conflict, not through cooperation or divine inspiration," wrote a biographer in World of Sociology. "The individual, he said, never functions as such, only as a member of a group. It is the group's influence that determines the individual's behavior. Therefore, history and social change are products of social groups." Gumplowicz called the human tendency to form groups and develop a sense of unity "syngenism."

In Gumplowicz's theory, "the state originates in conflict among races, which in turn are simply primitive groups," stated the Encyclopedia of World Biography writer. In this conflict, one of the primitive group wins and dominates the other, and forms a state consisting of winners and losers. States then engage in similar conflict on a larger scale. "Eventually, a division of labor is formed within a state, which produces social classes," the World of Sociology biographer wrote. "These classes engage in conflict. The laws that result in a state are determined by these class struggles, not by some sense of abstract justice. Higher civilizations are created through warfare. The defeated warriors are not killed, but forced to work for the victors. This leads to class distinctions since the winners gain prosperity, which produces culture. The victors now have time for leisure, creating the appearance of an upper class who live their lives from the work of others." It is from this leisure class that art, science, and literature develops. Neither welfare programs or social planning will stop the inevitable collapse of societies, Gumplowicz maintained.

Gumplowicz also believed that states behave much as groups do, that their natural tendency is toward continual increase of power and territory. This behavior is inevitable, Gumplowicz maintained, and both rulers and citizens are helpless to resist it.

To Gumplowicz, each primitive group was alien and barely human, and it was therefore not morally evil to destroy the enemy. This belief, and his work in the book Race Struggle, are thought to be important influences on the development of Adolph Hitler and the rise of the Nazis—a particular irony, since Gumplowicz was Jewish.

Gumplowicz died on August 19, 1909 when, stricken with cancer, he and his invalid wife committed suicide together.



Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.

Palmisano, Joseph M., editor, World of Sociology, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.


History of the Human Sciences, August, 1995, M. J. Hawkins, "The Struggle for Existence in Nineteenth-Century Social Theory: Three Case Studies," p. 47.*