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The State Paperback – October 5, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Franz Oppenheimer presents a strongly libertarian view of the State. He neither defends it nor condemns it, but seeks to understand its nature and development. Oppenheimer appreciates the State's crucial importance, and he emphasizes its distinctiveness. He does this through one of his most important contributions to political philosophy: the distinction between the economic means and the political means. Oppenheimer contends that there are two fundamentally opposed organizing principles of social life. One is essentially peaceful and is what he calls the economic means: the voluntarily exchange the products of one's own labor for those of the labor of others. This is a society based on peaceful existence, equality of opportunity and voluntary exchange. The other is essentially violent and is what he calls the political means: the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others for the benefit of the dominating class. This is a society based on violence and the economic exploitation of the subject class by the ruling class. The State is the organization of the political means; it can have originated in no other way than through conquest and subjugation. But even at the moment the State comes into being, forces begin to operate which will eventually, through the long and bloody course of history, wear it away. Oppenheimer enumerates these forces, traces their impact, and projects a future in which the State will have withered away, leaving only a Freeman's Citizenship; a society without a State. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: BiblioBazaar (October 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1115878689
  • ISBN-13: 978-1115878685
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.7 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,597,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By New Age of Barbarism on October 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
_The State_, republished from volume two of _The System of Sociology_ in English by the anarchist Black Rose Books, written by German sociologist and political economist Franz Oppenheimer is a fascinating sociological exposition of the growth and development of the state from a libertarian (classical liberal) perspective. Franz Oppenheimer (1864 - 1943) was a German sociologist who taught at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt/Main. He was eventually to teach in Palestine and finally emigrate to America. Oppenheimer's views are libertarian and he defined himself as a liberal socialist. He was heavily influenced by such anarchistic thinkers as Proudhon and Kropotkin but also by libertarians such as Henry George and in line with the thinking of Albert Jay Nock. Oppenheimer sees the state as being born in violence and resulting from the oppression of one class by another. However, he does not completely condemn the state, remaining neutral in this book and maintaining the stance of a classical liberal. Oppenheimer's views are also tinted with a belief in progress, democracy, and evolutionism, and as such he believed that the state could eventually be overcome and result in a democratic society of freemen. This is unfortunate in light of the fact of the continued growth of the state and seems naïve as pointed out by C. Hamilton in his 1975 preface to this book. Nevertheless, this book offers an extremely useful and important sociological critique of the role of the state and shows its growth and development through history.

Oppenheimer begins his book with a preface in which he attempts to explain precisely what he means by "the state" and distinguish his understanding of the state (what he calls the "sociological understanding") from that of his critics.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Miguel Faria on February 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
The State by Franz Oppenheimer (1864-1943) was recommended to me by libertarian friends years ago, but now I suspect some of them did not actually read the book, but only passages about it.

They recommended it to me as a Libertarian classic of political science. But in my opinion, Oppenheimer's book, to my consternation, turned out to be a Hegelian-Marxian treatise on the theoretical formation and development of the State based on the subjugation, conquest, and the endless "class contest" of one class of citizens over another.

I have read Our Enemy, the State (1935) by "philosophic anarchist," Albert Jay Nock (1870-1945), a true libertarian classic, which was indeed influenced by Oppenheimer's book, and by The Law (1850) by French Republican statesman, Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850), a true classical liberal thinker, who today would be considered, correctly, a conservative. These two latter books are more concise and apropos to the immediate subject under study, namely the State and how it functions today using coercion and monopoly of force to subjugate the individual to the collective. This is not the gist of the political philosophy I found in Oppenheimer's book. To the contrary, let me continue.

Oppenheimer's The State (1914), allows us to see the political spectrum, as I and others have described it*, as a horseshoe with a very narrow gap with the extremes almost touching between the anarchistic Right (no government to libertarianism and Ayn Rand's Objectivism) and the collectivist Left (i.e., socialism and fascism to communism and the total state). The little gap is the state of Anarchic-tyranny.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mark Watterson on August 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There isn't much else that can be said about "The State" that wasn't covered in the first review. The book is very relavent because it forces the reader to think about the very serious question of how we came to be ruled. People are unaware of the coercive nature of the state, as well as it's predatory appetite. The key to the entire treatise is that it identifies the income tax as the turning point of when the state ceases to be the servant of the people and becomes its master. The book, originaly written in 1914, could possibly have prevented this slavery of the masses if it had been written just two years earlier. But all "civilized" societies succumb to the income tax because they are tricked into it. Think about it, who would support the confiscatory practice of paying taxes, when gov't had already survived so long without it? "The State" is an important read for the serious student of history. It adds that extra level of knowledge that one would otherwise not even think about.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on February 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
Franz Oppenheimer (1864-1943) was a German-Jewish sociologist and political economist, who wrote many other books, but they have not been translated into English. He taught in Palestine in 1934-1935, and emigrated to the U.S. to escape Nazi persecution in 1938.

He wrote in the Author's Preface to this 1907 book (published in English in 1922), "It is not my purpose to develop this historical theme. I am concerned only with tracing the development of the sociologic idea of the State... By the 'State,' I do not mean the human aggregation which may pechance come about to be, or as it properly should be. I mean by it that summation of privileges and dominating positions which are brought into being by extra-economic power."

He argues that the occupation of land must have been "preempted by a ruling class against its subject class, and settlement prevented. Therefore the State... can have originated in no other way than through conquest and subjugation." Oppenheimer calls this the "sociologic idea of the State." (Pg. 8)

He later asserts that "The combination of Caesar and Pope tends in all cases to develop the extreme forms of despotism." And whenever a State has split into a number of territorial (and ostensibly independent) States, "The great State gobbles up the smaller ones, until a new empire has arisen." (Pg. 90) He suggests that the State progresses through the stages of the "primitive robber State," to "developed feudal State," through absolutism, and then to the "modern contitutional State." (Pg.
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