Lorenz von Stein
Lorenz von Stein.jpg
Lorenz von Stein
Born(1815-11-18)18 November 1815
Died23 September 1890(1890-09-23) (aged 74)
InstitutionUniversity of Vienna
FieldPolitical economics
Alma materUniversity of Kiel
Other notable studentsCarl Menger
InfluencesMarquis de Condorcet, Benjamin Constant, Robert von Mohl, Charles Fourier, G. W. F. Hegel, Henri de Saint-Simon, Jean de Sismondi
ContributionsWelfare state[1]

Lorenz von Stein (18 November 1815 – 23 September 1890) was a German economist, sociologist, and public administration scholar from Eckernförde. As an advisor to Meiji period Japan, his liberal[2][3][4][5][6][7] political views influenced the wording of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan[8] as well as major constitutional thinkers such as Rudolf von Gneist.[9]

According to Colin Gordon, Stein articulated a "vision of a liberal state as active historic partner in the making of civil society" and called for "a tabling of the question of class formation as part of the state's agenda."[10] Stein advocated a combination of constitutional liberal state with a welfare state,[9] and has been called the "intellectual father of the welfare state.[1] Stein and other Hegelian liberals, such as Robert von Mohl, also had a profound influence on American progressivism.[11]


Stein was born in the seaside town of Borby in Eckernförde in Schleswig-Holstein as Wasmer Jacob Lorentz. He studied philosophy and jurisprudence at the universities of Kiel and Jena from 1835–1839, and at the University of Paris from 1841–1842. Between 1846 and 1851 Stein was an associate professor at the University of Kiel. He participated in the 1848 Revolutions and ran for election as a member of the Frankfurt Parliament.[11] His advocacy of independence for his native Schleswig, then part of Denmark, led to his dismissal in 1852.

In 1848, Stein published a book entitled Socialist and Communist Movements since the Third French Revolution (1848) in which he introduced the term "social movement" into scholarly discussions—depicting actually in this way political movements fighting for the social rights understood as the welfare rights.

This theme was repeated in 1850, when Stein published a book titled History of the French Social Movements from 1789 to the Present (1850). For Stein, the social movement was basically understood as a movement from society to the state, created by the inequalities in the economy, making the proletariat part of politics through representation. The book was translated into the English by Kaethe Mengelberg and published by Bedminster Press in 1964 (Cahman, 1966)

From 1855, until his retirement in 1885, von Stein was a professor of Political economy at the University of Vienna. His work from that period is considered as the basis of the international science of public administration. He also influenced the practice of public finance.

In 1882, Japanese Prime Minister of Japan Itō Hirobumi headed a delegation to Europe to study western governmental systems. The delegation went first to Berlin, where they were instructed by Rudolf von Gneist, and then Vienna, where Stein was lecturing at the University of Vienna. As with Gneist, Stein's message to the Japanese delegation was that universal suffrage and party politics should be avoided. Stein held that the state was above society, and that the purpose of the state was to bring about social reform, which was implemented from the monarchy down to the common people.

However, Stein is best known for the fact that he applied Hegel's dialectic to the area of public administration and the national economy, in order to improve the systematics of these sciences, although he did not neglect the historical aspects.[11]

Stein analyzed the class state of his time and compared it with the welfare state. He outlined an economic interpretation of history that included concepts of the proletariat and of class struggle, but he shared the fear of violent revolution common among middle-class liberals and advocated reformist solutions instead.[5] He gave emphasis to the "Social Question" that the industrial worker in a capitalist country has no chance to acquire property and capital by work, which was to be addressed by a program of welfare state and social administration arranged according to the liberal principle of free and equal individual chances.[6][7]

Despite a similarity of his ideas with those of Marxism, the extent of Stein's influence on Karl Marx is uncertain. However, Marx shows by scattered remarks on von Stein that he was aware of his highly influential book from 1842 on communist thought in France. For instance in The German Ideology (1845–46), Stein is mentioned, but only as the writer of his 1842 book.

Stein died at his home in Hadersdorf-Weidlingau in the Penzing District of Vienna and was buried at the Matzleinsdorf Protestant Cemetery.



  1. ^ a b Stolleis, Michael (2012). Origins of the German Welfare State: Social Policy in Germany to 1945. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 2–3.
  2. ^ Koslowski, Stefan (2017). "Lorenz von Stein as a disciple of Saint-Simon and the French Utopians". Revista europea de historia de las ideas políticas y de las instituciones públicas. 11.
  3. ^ Rosenblatt, Helena (2018). The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century. Princeton University Press. pp. 100–102.
  4. ^ Drozdowicz, Zbigniew (2013). Essays on European Liberalism. LIT Verlag Münster. pp. 100–110.
  5. ^ a b Lerg, Charlotte A.; Tóth, Heléna (2017). Transatlantic Revolutionary Cultures, 1789-1861. BRILL. pp. 246–250.
  6. ^ a b Koslowski, Peter (2012). The Theory of Ethical Economy in the Historical School: Wilhelm Roscher, Lorenz von Stein, Gustav Schmoller, Wilhelm Dilthey and Contemporary Theory. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 43.
  7. ^ a b Cioli, Monica (2003). Pragmatismus und Ideologie. Duncker & Humblot. pp. 23–26.
  8. ^ Spaulding, Robert M. (1967). "Itō and Stein, 1882". Imperial Japan's Higher Civil Service Examinations. Princeton University Press. pp. 43–50. ISBN 9781400876235.
  9. ^ a b MacMillan, Catharine; Smith, Charlotte (2018). Challenges to Authority and the Recognition of Rights: From Magna Carta to Modernity. Cambridge University Press. p. 214.
  10. ^ Gordon, Colin (1991). The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality. University of Chicago Press. pp. 30-31.
  11. ^ a b c Emerson, Blake (2015). "The Democratic Reconstruction of the Hegelian State in American Progressive Political Thought" (PDF). The Review of Politics. 77 (4): 545–574. doi:10.1017/S0034670515000571. S2CID 29295818. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2019.

Further reading