Georg Jellinek

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For the American radio host (1909–2010), see George Jellinek.
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Georg Jellinek
His grave in Heidelberg

Georg Jellinek (16 June 1851, Leipzig – 12 January 1911, Heidelberg) was a German public lawyer, considered of Austrian origin. Along with Hans Kelsen and the Hungarian Félix Somló he belonged to the group of Austrian Legal Positivists and was considered to be "the exponent of public law in Austria“.[1]

From 1867, Jellinek studied law, history of art and philosophy at the University of Vienna. He also studied philosophy, history and law in Heidelberg and Leipzig up until 1872. He was the son of Adolf Jellinek, the then famous preacher in Vienna's Jewish community. In 1872 he completed his Dr. phil. thesis in Leipzig (The Soci-Ethical Meaning of Justice, Injustice and Punishment) and in 1874 also his Dr. jur. in Vienna.

In 1879 he qualified as a professor at the University of Vienna. Jellinek was later visiting professor of legal philosophy in Vienna, in 1881 he was named a member of the commission for state exams and one year later he published his seminal work, The Theory of the Unifications of States (1882). In 1883 he was given the predigious title of Professor of Public Law at the University of Vienna. In 1889 he was duly given a professorship in Basel and left the academic service of Austria-Hungary. From 1891 he was Ordinarius for general Public Law and International Law at the University of Heidelberg. In 1900 he compiled his main work, the General Theory of the State.

He was married to Camilla Jellinek, born in Wertheim (1860–1940), who was persuaded to join the Women's Movement by Marianne Weber in 1900 and became famous there especially for her work with providing women with legal aid and the production of draft reforms of the criminal law. The couple had six children, born between 1884 and 1896, of which just four survived childhood: son Walter, and daughter Dora, who were deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp by the Nazis and youngest son, Otto, who died in 1943 as a result of abuse at the hands of the Gestapo.

Jellinek is best known for his essay The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1895), which argues for a universal theory of rights, as opposed to the culturally and nationally specific arguments then in vogue (particularly that of Émile Boutmy). Jellinek argued that the French Revolution, which was the focal point of 19th century political theory, should not be thought of as arising from a purely French tradition (namely the tradition stemming from Jean-Jacques Rousseau) but as a close analogue of revolutionary movements and ideas in England and the United States.


  1. ^ Schönberger, Christoph (2000). "Ein Liberaler zwischen Staatswille und Volkswille: Georg Jellinek und die Krise des staatsrechtlichen Positivismus um die Jahrhundertwende". In Paulson, Stanley L.; Schulte, Martin. Georg Jellinek: Beiträge zu Leben und Werk. Beiträge zur Rechtsgeschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts 27. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. pp. 3 ff. ISBN 3-16-147377-9. 

Further reading[edit]

Kelly, Duncan (2004). "Revisiting the Rights of Man: Georg Jellinek on Rights and the State". Law and History Review 22 (3). JSTOR