Bernd Rüthers

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Walter Reist , Lothar Späth and Bernd Rüthers in the Lilienberg Entrepreneur Forum

Bernd Rüthers (born July 12, 1930 in Dortmund ) is a German legal scholar .


Bernd Rüthers studied economics and law in Münster with a focus on labor law, legal philosophy and legal methodology. He passed his two legal state and in 1958 at the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Muenster with a thesis on strike and constitutional doctorate . From 1961 to 1963 he was assistant director at Daimler-Benz AG in Stuttgart. In 1968 he completed his habilitation with Hans Brox on the "unlimited interpretation " of private law during the Nazi era . The book was published in eight editions.

From 1967 to 1971 Rüthers was professor at the Free University of Berlin (FU Berlin) and director of the Institute for Legal Sociology and Legal Fact Research. He was a founding member of the emergency community for a free university and a member of the board of trustees of the Free University of Berlin (1968–1971). This was followed by a professorship for civil law and legal theory at the University of Konstanz . He also received calls to Darmstadt , Bielefeld , Augsburg , Trier and twice in Münster . He stayed in Konstanz until his retirement in 1998, and continued to hold interdisciplinary seminars and lectures on the subject of legal philosophy until 2010.

From 1967 to 1972 Rüthers was a member of the labor law advisory group at the federal board of the DGB . From 1970 to 1977 he was a member of the Federal Government's Labor Code Commission . From 1976 to 1989 he was also a judge at the Stuttgart Higher Regional Court. In addition, he taught legal philosophy as a guest for eight years at the commercial college, later at the University of St. Gallen . From 1986 to 1998 Rüthers was a member of the permanent deputation of the German Juristentage , 1986/87 and 1998 he was a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin . From 1991 to 1996 he was rector of the University of Konstanz. Multiple member of university and state evaluation commissions (University of Bern, University of Vienna, State of Saxony, Max Planck Society). From 2000 to 2006 he was chairman of the university council of the Weingarten University of Education . From 1996 to 2014 he was a board member of the Allensbach Demoskopie Foundation . He has been retired since 1998.

Since 1962 Rüthers has been married to the Rhaeto-Romanic poet Tresa Rüthers-Seeli . Their daughter, Monica Rüthers, teaches Eastern European history at the University of Hamburg.


Rüthers' main interests in research and teaching are labor law, legal philosophy , legal methodology, recent legal history , the comparison of the legal structures of political, in particular totalitarian systems, law and worldview as well as economic control functions of law. For this purpose he wrote 50 monographs and around 400 articles. His outline for "Legal Theory with Legal Methodology" (Rüthers / Fischer / Birk) was published in 2018 in the 10th edition; the 11th edition is planned for April 2020.

Rüthers became known with his habilitation thesis "The unlimited interpretation - on the change in the private legal system under National Socialism" , the first methodical analysis of the application of law in the Third Reich , which was published in eight editions. Later he dealt in particular with the biographies of well-known Nazi and GDR lawyers. In the course of his collaboration on a legal comparison between the FRG and the GDR in the materials on the state of the nation in 1972 , he expanded his research area to the subject of law and lawyers in the change of political systems . Based on the experience of the reinterpretation of entire legal systems in the Nazi state and the SED state, Rüthers critically examines the interpretation theory and practice of justice and jurisprudence in the recent German past and present (BAG, BGH, BVerfG). This led to a lively discussion of methods, particularly about his thesis “Questions of method are constitutional questions”. He concludes from this a creeping change, a “secret revolution” of the Federal Republic from a constitutional state to a “judicial state”. In his opinion, the highest sources of law are in practice no longer the constitution and the laws, but the final decisions of the supreme courts. For his services ('leadership') in this area, he was made an honorary member of the American Society for Legal History. Rüthers participated in the evaluation of the six legal Max Planck Institutes, the legal faculties in Bern and Vienna and in the government commission of the state of Saxony for the expansion of the state universities.

From 1984 to 2015, Rüthers gave twice a year lectures at the German judges' association in Trier / Wustrau. His topics were “Law and lawyers in the alternation of totalitarian political systems” and “Did the legal permissions in the two German dictatorships have a face? - Legal organizers of ideological legal reinterpretations ”.

Rüthers 'students include Martin Henssler , President of the German Lawyers' Conference in Cologne, Karl-Georg Loritz , Professor of Civil and Tax Law in Bayreuth, Christian Fischer , Professor of Civil Law, Labor Law, Civil Procedure Law and Legal Theory in Jena and Clemens Höpfner , Professor of Civil law, labor law, corporate law and legal theory in Münster.

honors and awards

Fonts (selection)

  • Strike and constitution. Bund-Verlag, Cologne 1960.
  • The unlimited interpretation. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 1968; 8th edition 2017 with an afterword.
  • Labor Law and Political System. Athenaeum, Frankfurt am Main 1972; 2nd edition 1973.
  • Bargaining autonomy in transition? Employers' Association of the Metal Industry, Cologne 1977.
  • University and Society - Theses on Alienation. University Press Konstanz, Konstanz 1980.
  • We are rethinking the legal terms. Interfrom, Zurich 1985, ISBN 3-7201-5199-9 .
  • Legal system and value system. On ethics and ideology in law. University Press Konstanz, Konstanz 1986.
  • Degenerate law. Legal teachings and crown lawyers in the Third Reich. Beck, Munich 1989, 3rd edition: DTV, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-423-04630-9 . Romanian edition: Dreptul Degenerat, translated and edited. by Dr. Marius Balan, Editutara Universatii Iasi, 2nd edition 2016, ISBN 978-606-714-229-7 . Spanish edition: Drecho Degenerado, translated and introduced by Juan Antonio Garcia Amado, CATEDRA DE CULTURA JURIDICA, Marcial Pons, Madrid / Barcelona / Buenos Aires / Sao Paulo / 2016, ISBN 978-84-9123-068-7 .
  • Carl Schmitt in the Third Reich. Beck, Munich 1989; 2nd edition 1990, ISBN 3-406-34701-0 .; Japanese translation: Fukosha Publishers Limited by Orion Literary Agency Tokyo 1997; Spanish translation, Universidad Externado de Colombia, 2004.
  • The injustice of justice. Interfrom, Zurich 1991; 3rd edition: Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2009.
  • Ideology and law in a system change. A contribution to the ideological susceptibility of intellectual professions. Beck, Munich 1992; 2nd edition: The Wende experts. Beck, Munich 1995.
  • Employment crisis and labor law. Frankfurt Institute / Market Economy and Politics Foundation, Bad Homburg 1996, ISBN 3-89015-054-3 .
  • Zeitgeist and law. Bachem, Cologne 1997.
  • Hans Brox : Labor Law. 13th, revised edition (continued by Bernd Rüthers). Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1997; 18th edition (continued by Bernd Rüthers and Martin Henssler ) 2011.
  • Legal theory: concept, validity and application of law. Beck, Munich 1999; 10th edition (with Christian Fischer, Axel Birk): Legal theory with legal methodology. Beck, Munich 2018, ISBN 978-3-406-60126-2 ; Chinese translation: Law Press, Beijing 2003, 2013.
  • The working society in upheaval. Bachem, Cologne 2000.
  • Beautiful stories - gentle biographies. Socialization cohorts in Wendel literature. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2001; 2nd edition 2015, expanded to include an afterword.
  • Tolerance in a society in transition. University Press Konstanz, Konstanz 2005.
  • Traitor, chance hero or conscience of the nation? Facets of the resistance in Germany. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2008, ISBN 978-3-16-149751-3 .
  • The lonely outsiders. German resistance in the light of the changing zeitgeist. University Press Konstanz, Konstanz 2010.
  • The secret revolution from the rule of law to the state of judges. Constitution and Methods. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2014; 2nd edition 2016; Italian edition: diretta da Agostino Carrino e Aljs Vignudelli 7, Modena 2012, ISBN 978-88-7000-776-3 .
  • Questions of method as constitutional questions , in: Rechtstheorie 40 (2009), Heft 3, pp. 253–283.
  • over 400 essays, 50 judgment notes, 110 book reviews


  • Axel Birk: The critical rationalism and the jurisprudence. Bernd Rüthers and Karl-Heinz Fezer - one starting point, different conclusions. In: Rechtsstheorie 48 (2017), pp. 43–75.
  • Eric Hilgendorf : Law and Weltanschauung - Bernd Rüthers as a legal theorist . (= Konstanz University Speeches, Volume 208). Constance 2001.
  • Thomas Hoeren: Civil law discoverers . Munich 2001, pp. 317-373.
  • Matthias Jestaedt: Bernd Rüthers on his 90th birthday . In: JuristenZeitung (JZ) . tape 75 , no. 14 , 2020, ISSN  0022-6882 , p. 742-743 , doi : 10.1628 / jz-2020-0243 ( ).
  • Thomas Pierson: Method and civil law with Bernd Rüthers . In: Joachim Rückert , Ralf Seinecke (ed.): Methodology of civil law - from Savigny to Teubner . 2nd edition, Baden-Baden 2012, pp. 326–349.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. AAS 93 (2001), n.9, p. 568.