Otto Kirchheimer

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Otto Kirchheimer (German: [ˈkɪʁçˌhaɪmɐ]; 11 November 1905, Heilbronn – 22 November 1965, New York City) was a German jurist of Jewish ancestry and political scientist of the Frankfurt School whose work essentially covered the state and its constitution.[1]

Kirchheimer worked as a research analyst at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA, starting in World War II and continuing to 1952.[2]


He is father of the concept of a "catch-all party (Allerweltspartei)". Otto Kirchheimer's conception of the catch-all party was part of his more comprehensive theory of party transformation, encompassing four interrelated political processes. By tracing the development of the catch-all thesis and placing it within the wider context of Kirchheimer's complete work, it is possible to reconstruct a more precise understanding of what Kirchheimer meant by the catch-all concept, which itself remains highly contested. Kirchheimer's anxiety about modern democracy originated with what he saw as the vanishing of principled opposition within parliament and society, and the reduction of politics to the mere management of the state. This leads to collusion of political parties and the state, severing of the societal links of party organisations, and erosion of the classic separation of powers. Vanishing opposition, cartelisation and professionalisation of politics pits citizens against a powerful state, which increases political cynicism and apathy. Kirchheimer's comprehensive approach remains relevant to much of the contemporary debate about the transformation of Western political systems.[3]

The German Research Fund (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) is funding the research and editorial work for an edition in five volumes of the Gesammelte Schriften (Collected Writings) of Otto Kirchheimer. The project began in late 2015 at Greifswald University and is scheduled to take about three years.[4]



  1. ^ Arzt, Donna E. (1993). "Otto Kirchheimer: Critic of the Administration of Justice". In Lutter, Marcus (ed.). Der Einfluß deutscher Emigranten auf die Rechtsentwicklung in den USA und in Deutschland. Tübingen: Mohr. pp. 33–56. ISBN 978-3-16-146080-7.
  2. ^ "Secret Reports on Nazi Germany: The Frankfurt School Contribution to the War Effort". Princeton University Press. Retrieved September 3, 2013.
  3. ^ Krouwel, André (2003). "Otto Kirchheimer and the Catch-all Party" (PDF). West European Politics. 26 (2): 23. doi:10.1080/01402380512331341091. hdl:1871/33745.
  4. ^ "Prof. Dr. Hubertus Buchstein". Greifswald University. Retrieved 17 August 2018.