He had studied for the ministry, but started out in journalism as his career. From 1850 to 1860 he was attached to the editorial staff of the Schwäbische Merkur in Stuttgart, and in the latter year accepted a call to the chair of political economy at the University of Tübingen.
From 1862 to 1864 Schäffle was a member of the Württemberg diet, and in 1868 he received a mandate to the German Zollparlament. During this year he was appointed professor of political science at the University of Vienna.
In 1871 Schäffle resigned his professorship to join the cabinet of Count Karl Sigmund von Hohenwart as minister of commerce for Austria. The government fell in that same year, however, and Schäffle took up residence in Stuttgart, where he devoted himself entirely to literary work.
Schäffle's magnum opus, a treatise called Bau und Leben des sozialen Körpers (Construction and Life of the Social Body) was published in four volumes from 1875 to 1878. The work was a grandiose attempt to create a unified system combining the natural and social sciences. Schäffle attempted to show a unity between human social behavior and the biological processes observed by natural science, while retaining a spiritual aspect in the tradition of German idealist philosophy.
In a second edition of this work, published in two volumes in 1896, Schäffle emphasized the vaguely socialist implications of his work, describing the economy of the "rational social state" in fine detail. Although sympathetic to capitalism, Schäffle's later work portrayed collective ownership and planned organization of economic life as a superior form of property holding. Schäffle also attempted to develop the idea of a new monetary system, resembling the labor-based currency advocated earlier by utopian socialist writers Robert Owen and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.
From 1892 to 1901 Schäffle was the sole editor of the Zeitschrift für die gesamte Staatswissenschaft.
Death and legacy
Albert Schäffle died at Stuttgart on December 25, 1903.
- Die nationalökonomische Theorie der ausschliessenden Absatzverhältnisse. 1867.
- Das Gesellschaftliche System der menschlichen Wirthschaft. New edition. 1873.
- Bau und Leben des socialen Körpers (Construction and Life of the Social Body). In 4 volumes. Tübingen: 1875-1878.
- Gesammelte Aufsatze. 1885–1887.
- Quintessenz des Socialismus (Quintessence of Socialism) 1890. "The Quintessence of Socialism"
- Ein Votum gegen den neuesten Zolltarif. Tübingen: 1901.
- Die agrarische Gefahr. Berlin: 1902.
- Aus meinem Leben. Berlin: 1905. —Memoirs.
- Abriss der Soziologie. Karl Bücher (ed.). Tübingen: 1906.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Schäffle, Albert Eberhard Friedrich". Encyclopædia Britannica 24 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 312.
- Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Schäffle, Albert Eberhard Friedrich". Encyclopedia Americana.
- Fritz Karl Mann, "Albert Eberhard Friedrich Schäffle," in Edwin R.A. Seilgman (ed.), Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences: Volume 13. New York: Macmillan, 1937; pp. 562-563.
- Biermann, Schäffle und der Agrarismus (Bonn, 1902)