Franz Neumann (political scientist)

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Franz Leopold Neumann (born May 23, 1900 in Katowice ; † September 2, 1954 in Visp ) was a German - American political scientist and lawyer .


Neumann came from an assimilated Jewish family from Katowice. As a student he took part in the November Revolution of 1918/19 and joined the SPD . After completing his legal doctorate with Max Ernst Mayer in Frankfurt am Main in 1923, he worked as a teacher at the union's own academy of work from 1925 to 1927 , then as assistant to Hugo Sinzheimer , the founder of German labor law. From 1928 to 1933 he worked in Berlin in partnership with Ernst Fraenkel as a lawyer with a focus on labor law . His clients included the German Building Trade Association and the German Metalworkers Association , whom he represented in litigation up to the Reich Labor Court in Leipzig. From 1928 on he taught at the German University for Politics in Berlin and worked as legal advisor to the board of the SPD.

After the handover of power to the National Socialists, Neumann was threatened and arrested in April 1933, not because he was Jewish, but because of his opposition to National Socialism. In May 1933 he emigrated to England. There he began studying political science and sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science with Harold Laski and Karl Mannheim , from which he completed a second doctorate in 1936. He was one of the first to be expatriated by the new National Socialist Reich government .

In 1936 he moved to New York. He worked alongside Theodor W. Adorno , Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse at the Institute for Social Research , which had been driven there from Frankfurt and which was then affiliated with Columbia University . During these years his main work Behemoth , a structural analysis of National Socialism and at the same time a pioneering publication of Power Structure Research, was created .

Not least because of the institute's financial problems, Neumann moved to Washington in 1942 to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), for which he worked for several years as a Germany expert, and then as head of the scientific branch of the Germany department in the State Department . His work in the OSS consisted primarily of preparing the work of the future military government in Germany. In collaboration with the American federal judge Robert H. Jackson and the American chief prosecutor Telford Taylor , he drafted several indictments for the Nuremberg trials . In 1946 he took part in them for the USA. Ian Buruma judges that Neumann was "the most important person behind denazification " in Germany.

In 1948/50 he was appointed full professor of political science at Columbia University in New York . He also helped found the Free University of Berlin and the Institute for Political Science there (IfPW, later Otto Suhr Institute ). At times he was also a visiting professor at the Free University of Berlin; In 1953 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Philosophical Faculty.

Neumann was killed in a car accident in Switzerland in 1954.

He was the PhD supervisor of the Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg .

Franz Neumann's library was acquired by the University Library of the Free University of Berlin in 1954/55.


Together with Ernst Fraenkel and Karl Loewenstein , Neumann is counted among the founders of political science in the Federal Republic of Germany . His reputation is based not least on his theory of totalitarianism , which he developed around the same time as that of Hannah Arendt , Ernst Fraenkels and Carl J. Friedrich .

Neumann's guiding concept of totalitarian monopoly capitalism was committed to the insights of the Frankfurt School with regard to the general trend towards the bureaucratisation of society (s) . At the same time, he also carried out independent political-sociological and empirical studies: For example, Neumann hoped a systematic analysis of the Nuremberg follow-up trials against the main war criminals would make an important contribution: “ [to] contribute a great deal toward preventing in the future circumventions and violations similar to those which occurred after Versailles . "


The reception of his work has benefited from its assignment to critical theory since the 1980s and was considered the most important political and legal theoretical implementation. Jürgen Habermas was referring to Neumann in the late 1950s. The essay on The functional change of the law in the law of civil society advanced to a classic of materialistic legal theory during the student movement . Ian Kershaw placed a quote from Franz Neumann at the beginning of his biography of Hitler.


  • Legal-philosophical introduction to a treatise on the relationship between state and punishment . Diss. Jur., Frankfurt am Main 1923.
  • Collective bargaining law based on the case law of the Reich Labor Court . Berlin 1931.
  • Freedom of association and the imperial constitution . Berlin 1932.
  • The functional change of the law in the law of civil society . In: Journal for Social Research Vol. 6 Issue 3 (1937), pp. 542–596.
  • Democratic and authoritarian state. Political Theory Studies . Frankfurt am Main 1967.
  • Behemoth. Structure and Practice of National Socialism 1933–1944 , Frankfurt am Main 1984, ISBN 3-596-24306-8 .
  • Economy, state, democracy . Frankfurt am Main 1997, ISBN 3-518-10892-1 .
  • with Karl August Bettermann , Hans Carl Nipperdey : The basic rights . Frankfurt am Main 1966, ISBN 3-428-00544-9 .
  • The rule of law . Frankfurt am Main 1998, ISBN 3-518-57532-5 .


  • Jürgen Bast : Totalitarian Pluralism. On Franz L. Neumann's analyzes of the political and legal structure of Nazi rule . Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 1999, ISBN 3-16-147019-2 (= contributions to the legal history of the 20th century , 22) (also: Frankfurt am Main, Univ., Diploma thesis, 1996).
  • David Bebnowski: Foundations of the New Left. Franz L. Neumann and American German networks in West Berlin. In: The Magic of Theory - History of the New Left in West Germany , special issue of Work - Movement - History 2018, Issue 2, pp. 23–38.
  • Sonja Buckel : Subjectivation and Cohesion. To reconstruct a materialistic theory of law . Velbrück Wissenschaft, Weilerswist 2007, ISBN 978-3-938808-29-0 , pp. 80-94 (Simultaneously: Frankfurt am Main, Univ., Diss., 2005) (on Neumann's legal theory in the context of Marxist legal theory).
  • Andreas Fisahn : A Critical Theory of Law. For the discussion of the state and legal theory of Franz L. Neumann . Shaker Verlag , Aachen 1993, ISBN 978-3-86111-461-1 (= Law series ) (also: Göttingen, Univ., Diss., 1992).
  • Peter Intelmann: On the biography of Franz L. Neumann . In: 1999. Journal for Social History of the 20th and 21st Centuries 5, 1990, ISSN  0930-9977 , pp. 14–52.
  • Raffael Laudani (Ed.): Secret Reports on Nazi Germany. The Frankfurt School Contribution to the War Effort . With further contributions by Herbert Marcuse and Otto Kirchheimer , with a foreword by Raymond Geuss . Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, USA 2013, ISBN 978-0-691134130 .
    • German edition: In the fight against Nazi Germany. The Reports of the Frankfurt School for the American Secret Service 1943–1949 , ed. v. Raffaele Laudani, Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2016, ISBN 978-3-593-50345-5 .
  • Joachim Rückert : Franz Leopold Neumann (1900–1954). A lawyer with principles . In: Marcus Lutter u. a. (Ed.): The influence of German emigrants on the development of the right in the USA and in Germany . Mohr, Tübingen 1993, ISBN 3-16-146080-4 , pp. 437-474.
  • Joachim Rückert:  Neumann, Franz Leopold. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 19, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-428-00200-8 , pp. 145-147 ( digitized version ).
  • Samuel Salzborn (Ed.): Critical Theory of the State. State and law with Franz L. Neumann . Nomos Verlag, Baden-Baden 2009, ISBN 978-3-8329-4523-7 (= understanding of the state , 25).
  • Felix Sassmannshausen: the dual character of democracy. On the topicality of Franz L. Neumann's political theory in the crisis. In: Frank Jacob et al. (Ed.): Series Alternative | Democracies. Studies on the history of social democracy and socialism. Volume 4, Metropol Verlag , Berlin 2020, ISBN 978-3-86331-527-6 .
  • Gert Schäfer: Franz Neumann. In: Hans-Ulrich Wehler : German historians. Vol. VIII. Vandenhoeck u. Ruprecht, Göttingen 1982, ISBN 3-525-33467-2 , pp. 96-113.
  • Alfons Söllner : An (un) German legal life - Franz Neumann on his 80th birthday . In: Kritische Justiz 13, 1980, No. 4, pp. 427–437.
  • Stefan Vogt: Is there a critical concept of totalitarianism? Franz Neumann . In: Jour-Fixe-Initiative Berlin (Ed.): Theory of Fascism - Critique of Society . Unrast, Münster 2000, ISBN 3-89771-401-9 (Vogt deals with the main work Behemoth and compares the concept of the totalitarian in Neumann, Max Horkheimer and Hannah Arendt).
  • Sascha Ziemann: Relativism in times of crisis: Franz L. Neumann's unpublished legal philosophical doctoral thesis from 1923 . In: Zeitschrift für Internationale Strafrechtsdogmatik 2007, Issue 9, ISSN  1863-6470 , pp. 362-370, online (PDF; 128 kB).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Ian Buruma: '45. The world at a turning point. Munich 2014, p. 207.
  2. David Bebnowski: Foundations of the New Left. Franz L. Neumann and American German networks in West Berlin. In: Magic of Theory - History of the New Left in West Germany , special issue of Work - Movement - History , 2018, Issue 2, pp. 23–38.
  3. ^ The War Crimes Trials . In: World Politics , Vol. 1, 1946/49, No. 2, pp. 135-137; in particular he mentions the German tobacco king Reemtsma as highly interesting .
  4. ^ Franz L. Neumann. In: Gisela Riescher (Ed.): Political Theory of the Present in Individual Representations. From Adorno to Young (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 343). Kröner, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-520-34301-0 , p. 347.
  5. Stuttgart 1998, p. 13.