Edited by Jürgen G. Backhaus
Chapter 27: Otto von Gierke (1841-1921)
Jiirgen G. Backhaus Otto von Gierke was born in Stettin, the son of a Prussian official. He studied law at the University of Berlin and held professorships at the universities of Breslau ( 1872-84), Heidelberg (1884-7) and Berlin (1887 until his death). He is generally described as having formulated, on the basis of the writings of Jacob Grimm (1785-1863), a specific Germanist school of law, as opposed to the Romanists. At the beginning of Gierke’s career, German legal scholarship was dominated by the Romanist school of Savigny; but Gierke began and remained a stong Germanist. The Germanists, like the Romanists, were historically minded; their research, however, did not take them back to the Roman empire, Justinian’s code, and the reception of that code, but followed the path marked out by Jacob Grimm to the law of the ancient German Mark and the Gemeinde (local community) to feudal records, town charters, the rules of guilds in search of ‘truly German’ and legal principles. The first volume of Gierke’s Das deutsche Genossenschaftsrecht(18681913) ... was the first product of his self- imposed task of broadening the foundation for a German theory of associations by a detailed study of successive types of organizations in German history. (Lewis, 1968) From an economic point of view, the emphasis should not be on the specific nationality of the German law. The emphasis of this empirical research is rather on the law as it has developed by itself, instead of the law as it has been imposed by church...
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