Hermann Heller (legal scholar)

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Hermann Heller
Born (1891-07-17)17 July 1891
Teschen, Silesia, Austria-Hungary
Died 5 November 1933(1933-11-05) (aged 42)
Madrid, Spain
Nationality German
Occupation Jurist
Partner(s) Elisabeth Langgässer
Children Cordelia Heller (b. 1929)

Hermann Heller (17 July 1891 – 5 November 1933) was a German legal scholar and philosopher of Jewish descent.[1] He was active in the non-Marxist wing of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) during the Weimar Republic. He attempted to formulate the theoretical foundations of the social-democratic relations to the state, and nationalism. He was politically active in the relatively conservative Hofgeismarer Kreis of the SPD and is believed to have authored the group's statement of principles.

Heller was born in Teschen, Austrian Silesia. In World War I he volunteered for the army, served in an Austro-Hungarian artillery regiment and got a heart disease at the front. In 1928 Heller had a short time relationship with Elisabeth Langgässer. Their daughter, Cordelia, was born in 1929.

In his short life, he was involved in a number of political debates and controversies, most notably with Hans Kelsen, Carl Schmitt and Max Adler. In short, Heller's theories are both a reinterpretation of Hegelian social theory and an emendation of Bernstein's revisionism. Heller calls for the integration of the working class in the social, cultural and political structures of the nation-state. Against Carl Schmitt he argued that it is not so much the state of emergency, but rather the state of social and political stability which defines the sovereign. He is generally perceived to have been a major influence on Carlo Schmid who, in turn, drafted most of the German Constitution and was the main force behind the reform of the SPD.

Heller was forced to go into exile in 1933 and died in Madrid in the same year, leaving his Magnum Opus, the Staatslehre, unfinished. His collected works, in three volumes, have been published by the Mohr Verlag of Tübingen.

Recently, there is a renewed interest in Heller's work, especially in Germany. Some of his work has been translated in English. His views have been influential in both Japan and the Spanish-speaking world.


  1. ^ Jacobson, Arthur J.; Bernhard Schlink; Belinda Cooper; et al. (2002). Weimar: A Jurisprudence of Crisis. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. p. 249. ISBN 0-520-23681-5. 

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