Ludwig Gumplowicz

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Ludwig Gumplowicz.

Ludwig Gumplowicz (March 9, 1838, Kraków – August 20, 1909, Graz, Austria-Hungary), was a Polish sociologist, one of the founders of European sociology. He was also a jurist and political scientist who taught constitutional and administrative law at the University of Graz.


Gumplowicz studied law in Kraków, then became a lawyer and publicist there. In 1875, he began teaching administration in Graz; in 1882 he became an associate professor, and in 1893 a full professor. In 1909, after he had become ill with cancer, he and his wife committed suicide by taking poison.[1]

Works and influence[edit]

Gumplowicz became interested in the problem of suppressed ethnic groups very early, being from a Jewish family and coming from Kraków, a city of the former Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth which was first partitioned and later as the Free City of Kraków annexed by Austria-Hungary. He was a lifelong advocate of minorities in the Habsburg Empire, in particular the Slavic speakers.

Gumplowicz soon became interested in the later form of sociology of conflict, starting out from the idea of the group (then known as race). He understood race as a social and cultural, rather than a biological phenomenon. He stressed in every way the immeasurably small role of biological heredity and the decisive role of the social environment in the determination of human behaviour. While attaching a positive significance to the mixing of races, he noted that pure races had already ceased to exist.[2]:85

He saw the state as an institution which served various controlling elites at different times. In analysis, he leaned towards macrosociology, predicting that if the minorities of a state became socially integrated, they would break out in war. In his 1909 publication, Der Rassenkampf (Struggle of the Races) he foresaw world war. During his life he was considered a Social Darwinist, mainly because of his approach to society as an aggregate of groups struggling ruthlessly among themselves for domination.[2]:83 Nevertheless, he did not deduce his conceptions directly from evolutionary theory and criticised those sociologists (Comte, Spencer, Lilienfeld) who employed biological analogies as an explanatory principle. At the same time he shared the naturalistic conception of history and considered humanity a particle of the universe and nature, a particle governed by the same eternal laws as the whole.

His political beliefs and his polemic character attracted many Polish and Italian students, making his theories important in Poland, Italy and other crown states (today Croatia, Czech Republic). But the fact that he published his works in German meant that he was also an important figure in German-speaking countries. Gustav Ratzenhofer was the most prominent of those influenced by him.

Gumplowicz had another disciple in Manuel González Prada. Prada lived in Peru and found Grumplowicz’s theories on ethnic conflict useful for understanding not only the Spanish conquest of Quechua peoples during the sixteenth century but also how the descendents of the Spanish (and other European immigrants) continued to subordinate the indigenous peoples. Most striking in this regard is González Prada’s essay "Our Indians" included in his Horas de lucha after 1924.


  • Grundriss Der Sociologie / The Outlines of Sociology. (1899) Translated by Frederick W. Moore. 1975, Arno Press.
  • Der Rassenkampf / The Race Struggle. (1883)


  1. ^ William M. Johnston, The Austrian Mind: An Intellectual and Social History, 1848-1938 (University of California Press, 1983), p. 175
  2. ^ a b A History of Classical Sociology. Ed. by Igor Kon. Moscow, 1989. ISBN 5-01-001102-6

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