Ludwig Gumplowicz
Polish: Ludwik Gumplowicz

March 9, 1838
Died19 August 1909
Alma materUniversity of Graz University of Vienna, Austria
Known forSocial Darwinism


Division of labor

Ludwig Gumplowicz (March 9, 1838 – August 19, 1909), was a Polish sociologist, jurist, historian, and political scientist, who taught constitutional and administrative law at the University of Graz.[1] His contributions to establishing Sociology as a social science is critcial to his success. Gumplowicz was the first great scholar to perceive the circumstances that seem to constitute the essence of the state's origin and development as arising with the utmost precision and systemic exactness. Gumplowicz saw a discipline that could be dedicated solely to the study of the collective ties between social groups and classes as the pinnacle of social science theory, or even pure history. Beginning with this premise, he dedicated himself to the study and investigation of social progress with the high intellectual impartiality of a truth seeker.

His contributions to the fields of social science, political science, and Jurisprudence allowed these fields to expand under the lens of Gumplowicz's applications of sociological generalizations. In all three areas, he was a straightforward and vivacious writer who excelled on controversy. He was well-known for his skepticism of the permanence of social progress and his belief that the state emerges from inevitable confrontation rather than unity or divine inspiration.

Personal life

Early Life and Heritage

As a child of a Polish family of Jewish origin, Gumplowicz grew up in a family that was part of a progressive Jewish group that advocated for a comprehensive social assimilation program for all Jews. Before the outbreak of the January Insurrection of 1863, the Gumplowicz family's home was one of the outposts of conspiracy, and during the Insurrection, it had become not only a lodging place for vulnerable youth, but also a refuge for the wounded. Ludwik's father, Abraham, assisted in the insurgency's planning, and his two older brothers fought alongside him.[2] Ludwik Gumplowicz and his wife both converted to Calvinism to escape prevailing antisemitism.

Educational life

He then went on to study at the universities of Kraków and Vienna and became professor of public law at the University of Graz in 1875. He and his wife, Franciska, had two sons. In 1875, Gumplowicz began studying law at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. For a year he then went to study in Vienna returning to Kraków to receive a doctoral degree in law.[3] He was culminated in the foundation of the first Sociological Society in Graz. In 1860, he began his journalistic career. From 1869-1874 he edited his own magazine the Kraj (the Country). Then in 1875, at the age of thirty-seven, he entered the University of Graz as a lecturer in the science of administration and Austrian administrative law.[4] In 1882, he became an associate professor, and in 1893 a full professor.[5] Gumplowicz then retired from academia in 1908.[4]

As a Polish intellectual, he felt a sense of imminent doom in their homeland, the strangeness of a foreign world, and then nostalgia for their homeland, and gradually became appreciated in their adopted country, though largely going unnoticed by their own compatriots.[2] By rejecting orthodox jurisprudence in favor of establishing Sociology which had yet to be widely accepted in Austria and Germany, he remained an outsider and at odds with university circles after his years of studying and teaching his beliefs.[3] He would frequently stress his Polish and Jewish roots, further isolating him from university circles.



Ludwig Gumplowicz's first sociological work was Race and State(1875) which was later changed to The Sociological Idea of the State(1881), then changed to General State Law ("Allgemeines Staats- recht") (1907).[4] His other works include the Outlines of Sociology, Austrian State Law, The Race Struggle, Sociological Essays, Sociology and Politics, and others, and have been translated into other foreign languages. Gumplowicz left a huge literary legacy, with 190 works to his name, not to mention the scores of papers and reviews he wrote in Polish. His works, in general, demonstrate a certain grasp of perspective as well as a self-awareness of his own work.


Sociology of Conflict

Gumplowicz became interested in the problem of suppressed ethnic groups very early, being from a Jewish family and coming from Kraków, a city of the former Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, which was first partitioned and later as the Free City of Kraków annexed by Austria-Hungary.[6] He was a lifelong advocate of minorities in the Habsburg Empire, in particular, the Slavic speakers.[1]

Gumplowicz soon became interested in the later form of sociology of conflict, starting out from the idea of the group (then known as race). He understood race as a social and cultural, rather than a biological phenomenon. He stressed in every way the immeasurably small role of biological heredity and the decisive role of the social environment in the determination of human behavior. While attaching a positive significance to the mixing of races, he noted that pure races had already ceased to exist.[7]: 85


He saw the state as an institution which served various controlling elites at different times. In analysis, he leaned towards macrosociology, predicting that if the minorities of a state became socially integrated, they would break out in war. In his 1909 publication, Der Rassenkampf (Struggle of the Races), he foresaw world war. According to Gumplowicz, a state that overlapped in scope with a country and was associated with the nation in people's imagination started to take on the role of a social agent.[2]

Social Darwinist

During his life, he was considered a Social Darwinist, mainly because of his approach to society as an aggregate of groups struggling ruthlessly among themselves for domination.[7]: 83 Nevertheless, he did not deduce his conceptions directly from evolutionary theory and criticized those sociologists (Comte, Spencer, Lilienfeld) who employed biological analogies as an explanatory principle. At the same time, he shared the naturalistic conception of history and considered humanity a particle of the universe and nature, a particle governed by the same eternal laws as the whole.[1]


Human beings, according to Gumplowicz, have an inherent propensity to form communities and create a sense of unity. He called this syngenism (syngenetic). Syngenism is a term used to describe a society with a distinct culture that develops a sense of belonging as a whole, as well as a sense of brotherhood in the sense that they are of the same species.[2]


His political beliefs and his polemic character attracted many Polish and Italian students, making his theories important in Poland, Italy, and other crown states (today Croatia, Czech Republic). But the fact that he published his works in German meant that he was also an important figure in German-speaking countries. Gustav Ratzenhofer was the most prominent of those influenced by him. Gustav Ratzenhofer was the sociologist which Gumplowicz thought most highly of.[4]

Gumplowicz had another disciple in Manuel González Prada. Prada lived in Peru and found Grumplowicz’s theories on ethnic conflict useful for understanding not only the Spanish conquest of Quechua peoples during the sixteenth century but also how the descendants of the Spanish (and other European immigrants) continued to subordinate the indigenous peoples. Most striking in this regard is González Prada’s essay "Our Indians" included in his Horas de lucha after 1924.[8] Brazilian essayist Euclides da Cunha also acknowledges Gumplowicz's influence in the preliminary note to his influential study Os Sertões (1902), an in-depth analysis of the 1895-1989 War of Canudos between Brazil's Republican government and the residents of Canudos in the backlands of Bahia.[9]

Referenced work

In his publication, The Outlines on Sociology (1899), Gumplowicz reviews the works of Comte, Spencer, Bastian, and Lippert. He also reviews the relations of economics, politics, the comparative study of law, the philosophy oh history and the history of civilization to the science of society. Many of Gumplowicz's major works are written in German.[10]

Sociologists influenced by him were Gustav Ratzenhofer, Albion W. Small, Franz Oppenheimer. The social scientists Émile Durkheim, León Duguit, Harold J. Laski, and others elaborated Gumplowicz's view of political parties as interest groups.[11] Also influenced Erazm Majewski and Mieczyslaw Szerer.[3] His theories were also highly influential among the first conflict theorists and inspired early theoretical work on the governance on multiethnic states.[12]


A criticism of Gumplowicz's work is that he presents a rather narrow interpretation of the nature of social phenomena. He placed a large emphasis on social groups as well as the sociological investigation of their conflict as a unit. In doing so, Gumplowicz minimized the importance of the individual and magnified the coercion and determination that is excepted by the group to the individual. This was further than other sociologists, such as Durkheim, Sighele, LeBon, or Trotter went.[13]

Critical authors like Jerzy Szacki have stated that Gumplowicz's influence was undoubtedly aided by the fact that his scholarly work took place outside of the time's major intellectual centers, as well as the fact that his more intriguing theories about his sociological method were more thoroughly developed by other theorists, such as sociologism by Durkheim and conflict theory by Marx.[2]


On August 19 of 1909, Ludwig Gumplowicz and his wife, Franciska, both commited suicide by poison.[14] Gumplowicz was diagnosed with cancer at the end of 1907, and his health was failing, as was Franciska's health. In a letter, he wrote he "we are both thinking more of the other side (an's Jenseits denizen), and life is a burden to us." As such, they both ended their life together, ending the pain of Gumplowicz' cancer.[4]

Most Famous Publications


  1. ^ a b c Torrance, John (1976). "The Emergence of Sociology in Austria: 1885-1935". European Journal of Sociology / Archives Européennes de Sociologie / Europäisches Archiv für Soziologie. 17 (2): 185–219. doi:10.1017/S0003975600007359. ISSN 0003-9756. JSTOR 23998748.
  2. ^ a b c d e Adamek, Wojciech; Radwan-Pragłowski, Janusz (November 2006). "Ludwik Gumplowicz: A Forgotten Classic of European Sociology". Journal of Classical Sociology. 6 (3): 381–398. doi:10.1177/1468795X06069685. ISSN 1468-795X. S2CID 144007868.
  3. ^ a b c Adamek, Wojciech; Radwan-Pragłowski, Janusz (2016-07-24). "Ludwik Gumplowicz: A Forgotten Classic of European Sociology". Journal of Classical Sociology. doi:10.1177/1468795X06069685. S2CID 144007868.
  4. ^ a b c d e Kochanowski, I. (1909). "Ludwig Gumplowicz". American Journal of Sociology. 15 (3): 405–409. doi:10.1086/211789. ISSN 0002-9602. S2CID 222429153.
  5. ^ William M. Johnston, The Austrian Mind: An Intellectual and Social History, 1848–1938 (University of California Press, 1983), p. 175
  6. ^ "Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria", Wikipedia, 2019-09-21, retrieved 2019-10-08
  7. ^ a b A History of Classical Sociology. Ed. by Igor Kon. Moscow, 1989. ISBN 5-01-001102-6
  8. ^ "Manuel Gonzalez Prada, "Our Indians"". Retrieved 2019-10-08.
  9. ^ Os Sertões, Euclides da Cunha (2010). Retrieved 2020-08-17.
  10. ^ Moore, Frederick; Gumplowicz, Ludwig (1975). The Outlines of Sociology. Arno Press.
  11. ^ "Ludwig Gumplowicz | Austrian scholar". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-10-08.
  12. ^ Konieczny, Matthew J. (2015), "Gumplowicz, Ludwig (1838–1909)", The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism, American Cancer Society, pp. 1–2, doi:10.1002/9781118663202.wberen065, ISBN 9781118663202
  13. ^ Barnes, Harry E. (1919). "The Struggle of Races and Social Groups as a Factor in the Development of Political and Social Institutions: An Exposition and Critique of the Sociological System of Ludwig Gumplowicz". The Journal of Race Development. 9 (4): 394–419. doi:10.2307/29738318. ISSN 1068-3380. JSTOR 29738318.
  14. ^ Ward, Lester F. (1909). "Ludwig Gumplowicz". American Journal of Sociology. 15 (3): 410–413. doi:10.1086/211790. ISSN 0002-9602. S2CID 222430255.