Rudolf von Jhering

Caspar Rudolph Ritter von Jhering[1] (also Ihering) (22 August 1818 – 17 September 1892) was a German jurist.[2] He is best known for his 1872 book Der Kampf ums Recht (The Struggle for Law), as a legal scholar, and as the founder of a modern sociological and historical school of law.

Rudolf von Jhering
Caspar Rudolph Ritter von Jhering

(1818-08-22)22 August 1818
Died17 September 1892(1892-09-17) (aged 74)
Spouse(s)Ida Christina Frölich
Era19th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
Main interests
Philosophy of law
Grave of Rudolf von Jhering in Göttingen, Germany.

Life and careerEdit

Jhering was born in Aurich, Kingdom of Hanover. He entered the University of Heidelberg in 1836 and, after the fashion of German students, visited successively Göttingen, Munich, and Berlin. Of all his teachers, only Georg Friedrich Puchta appears to have influenced him.

After graduating as a doctor juris, Jhering established himself in 1844 in Berlin as privatdocent for Roman law, and delivered public lectures on the Geist des römischen Rechts, the theme that may be said to have constituted his life's work. In 1845, he became an ordinary professor at Basel, in 1846 at Rostock, in 1849 at Kiel, and in 1851 at Giessen. He left his mark at each of those seats of learning; beyond any other of his contemporaries he animated the dry bones of Roman law.

In that period the German juristic world was still under the dominating influence of Savigny. The older school looked askance at the young professor, who attempted to build up a system of natural jurisprudence. This is the keynote of his famous work, Geist des römischen Rechts auf den verschiedenen Stufen seiner Entwicklung (1852–1865). Its originality and lucidity placed its author in the forefront of modern Roman jurists.

It is no exaggeration to say that in the second half of the 19th century Jhering's reputation was as high as that of Savigny's in the first half. Their methods were almost diametrically opposed. Savigny and his school represented an historical approach. Jhering's conception of jurisprudence was as a science to be utilized for the further advancement of the moral and social interests of mankind.

In 1868, Jhering accepted the chair of Roman Law at Vienna, where his lecture-room was not only crowded with regular students but men of all professions and even high-ranking officials. In 1872 Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria conferred a title of hereditary nobility upon him.

The social functions of the Austrian metropolis became wearisome, and Jhering gladly exchanged it for the repose of Göttingen, where he became professor in 1872. That year, he had read a lecture in Vienna before an admiring audience, published under the title of Der Kampf ums Recht (1872; Eng. trans., The Struggle for Law, 1879). Its success was extraordinary. Within two years it attained 12 editions, and it has been translated into 26 languages. In this, his most famous work, Jhering based his theory of duty in the maintenance of one's rights, firstly, on the connection between rights and personality; and secondly, on the solidarity of law and rights. The relation of rights to personality is explored. Our rights involve a parcel of our social worth, our honor. Whoever violates our rights, attacks our worth, our honor.

This work was followed five years later by Der Zweck im Recht (2 vols., 1877–1883). These two works reflect Jhering's individuality. The Kampf ums Recht shows the firmness of his character, the strength of his sense of justice, and his juristic method and logic: every responsible person owes a duty to himself to assert his rights. The Zweck im Recht evidences the bent of the author's intellect. But perhaps the happiest combination of all his distinctive characteristics is to be found in his Jurisprudenz des taglichen Lebens (1870; Eng. trans., 1904). A great feature of his lectures was his so-called Praktika, problems in Roman law, and a collection of these with hints for solution was published as early as 1847 under the title Civilrechtsfalle ohne Entscheidungen.

Aside from shorter positions at Leipzig and Heidelberg, Jhering continued to work in Göttingen until his death.

His other works include the following: Beiträge zur Lehre vom Besitz, first published in the Jahrbücher für die Dogmatik des heutigen römischen und deutschen Privatrechts, and then separately; Der Besitzwille, and an article entitled Besitz in the Handwörterbuch der Staatswissenschaften (1891), which aroused much controversy at the time, particularly on account of the opposition manifested to Savigny's conception of the subject.

See also Scherz und Ernst in der Jurisprudenz (1885); Das Schuldmoment im römischen Privat-recht (1867); Das Trinkgeld (1882); and among the papers he left behind him his Vorgeschichte der Indoeuropaer, a fragment, has been published by v. Ehrenberg (1894).

For an account of his life, see also M. de Jonge, Rudolf v. Jhering (1888); and Adolf Merkel, Rudolf von Jhering (1893).

von Jhering was married to Ida Christina (Frölich).[3] His oldest son was the German-Brazilian zoologist Hermann von Ihering (1850–1930). von Jhering was also the great-great-grandfather of Australian singer and actress Olivia Newton-John through his daughter Helene Ehrenberg and her marriage to German jurist Victor Ehrenberg.

In October 2018 Rudolf von Jhering was commemorated by scholars of Roman law from various countries.

Flowers to commemorate Rudolf von Jhering 1818-2018
Plaquette at the birthplace of Rudolf von Jhering in Aurich (Germany)

Selected worksEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-04. Retrieved 2012-06-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ P.A.A. (1911). "JHERING, RUDOLF VON (1818-1892)". The Encyclopaedia Britannica; A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information. XV (ITALY to KYSHTYM) (11th ed.). Cambridge, England: At the University Press. pp. 413-414. Retrieved 25 February 2019 – via Internet Archive.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-04. Retrieved 2012-06-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)


  • Gabor Hamza: Entstehung und Entwicklung der modern Privatrechtsordnungen und die römischrechtliche Tradition, ELTE Eotvos Kiado, Budapest, 2009. pp. 194–196.
  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Jhering, Rudolf von". Encyclopædia Britannica. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 413–414.

External linksEdit