New Books Network

David Kettler and Thomas Wheatland

Learning From Franz L. Neumann

Law, Theory and the Brute Facts of Political Life

Anthem Press 2019

New Books in BiographyNew Books in German StudiesNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in LawNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Political ScienceNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network April 22, 2020 Marshall Poe

Franz Neumann was a member of a generation that saw the end of the Kaiserreich and the beginnings of a democratic republic carried by...

Franz Neumann was a member of a generation that saw the end of the Kaiserreich and the beginnings of a democratic republic carried by the labor movement. In Neumann’s case, this involved a practical and professional commitment, first, to the trade union movement and, second, to the Social Democratic Party that gave it political articulation. For Neumann, to be a labor lawyer in the sense developed by his mentor, Hugo Sinzheimer, was to engage in a project to displace the law of property as the basic frame of human relations. The defeat of Weimar and the years of exile called many things into question for Neumann, but not the conjunction between a practical democratic project to establish social rights and an effort to find a rational strategy to explain the failures, and to orient a new course of conduct.

David Kettler and Thomas Wheatland‘s new book Learning from Franz L. Neumann: Law, Theory and the Brute Facts of Political Life (Anthem Press, 2019) pays special attention to Neumann’s efforts to break down the conventional divide between political theory and the empirical discipline of political science. Neumann was a remarkably effective teacher in the last years of his life, but he was also a gifted learner, whose negotiations with a series of forceful thinkers enabled him to work toward a promising intellectual strategy in political thinking.


Marshall Poe is the editor of the New Books Network. He can be reached at marshallpoe@newbooksnetwork.com.