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The State Paperback – October 5, 2009
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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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This s a historically important work in that writers for a few decades relied on this book and it's author to keep the flame of liberty alive. It is short but not an easy read. Read morePublished 16 months ago by James C. Casterline
Cannot believe the State has allowed this book to remain in print. All humans should read this book. especially AmericansPublished 24 months ago by R. Heuermann