Race and State is the second of five books that Eric Voegehn wrote before his emigration to the United States from Austria in 1938. First published in Germany in 1933, the year Hitler came to power, the study was prompted in part by the rise of national socialism during the preceding year. Yet Voegelin neither descended to the level of contemporary debates on race nor dismissed these debates by way of value judgments. Although still young when he wrote this book, Voegelin already demonstrates his singular analytical capacity as well as his ability to put political phenomena into a new perspective.
In Part I Voegelin analyzes contemporary race theories by placing the question of race in the context of the more comprehensive philoiophical problem of the interrelationships of body, mind, and soul. He demonstrates the intellectual shortcomings and theoretical fallacies of current theories; more important, he contributes to the development of a modern philosophical anthropology that aims, as Helmuth Plessner put it in a review of Race and State, "at a concept of the human being that does justice to its multilayered existence as a physical, vital, psychic, and intellectual being, without making one of these layers the measure and explanatory basis for the others."
In Part II Voegelin deals with race ideas, which he distinguishes from race theories. Race ideas, like other political ideas, form a part of political reality itself, contributing to the formation of social groups and societies. Voegelin shows that the modern race idea is just one "body ideal" among others, such as the tribal state and the Kingdom of Christ, each offering a different symbolic image of community. He traces the rise of the modem race idea, analyzes its function to structure community, and offers an answer to the question of why race ideas became successful in Germany.
Voegelin's meticulous sifting of all the Nazi race literature finally arrives at this blunt statement regarding its overall validity: "In order to preclude even the slightest possibility of a misunderstanding, let us again point out emphatically that the contrasting descriptions of the Semitic and the Aryan, the Jewish and the German character . . . contain little that is true about the nature of Jewishness."