Ihering, Rudolf Von

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Ihering, Rudolf Von


Born Aug. 22, 1818, in Aurich, died Sept. 17, 1892, in Gottingen. German jurist.

Ihering was a professor at the universities of Basel, Rostock, Kiel, Giessen, Vienna, and Gottingen between 1842 and 1892. His works on civil law were widely known; attempts at a sociological approach to the study of law and the state in bourgeois scholarship have been linked to his name.

Ihering’s theory, which he called the realistic theory, was based on an understanding of law as a legally protected interest. He considered interest, purpose, and practical usefulness to be the fundamental elements of the concept of law. According to Ihering, law results from the struggle of individuals and groups. As a form of compulsion, law safeguards the living conditions of a society. Although he studied law as a product of a struggle of human interests, Ihering was still far from adopting a class approach to this struggle. In his book Law as a Means to an End he interprets the struggle as an aspect of social mechanics, motivated and conditioned by egoism. At the same time he sees law as the recognition of the interests of the weak and by the strong and as the self-limitation and moderation imposed by authorities on themselves to establish peace under just conditions among those involved in the struggle. Ihering’s view that the law demands that power and force keep themselves in check appears repeatedly in contemporary bourgeois legal ideology. Elements of the pragmatic criticism of the basic legal doctrines of the 19th century, such as the historical school and the law-of-nature school, can be traced to Ihering’s works.

Russian jurists, including S. A. Muromtsev, Iu. S. Gambarov, and N. M. Korkunov, have attempted to develop those of Ihering’s theses that apply to the conditions of pre-revolutionary Russia. Ihering’s teachings have influenced the development of several 20th-century bourgeois legal doctrines—for example, the jurisprudence of interests in Germany and juridical pragmatism in the United States.


Geist des rbmischen Rechts aufden verschiedenen Stufen seiner Entwicklung, parts 1–2. Leipzig, 1852–54.
Der Kampf urn’s Recht, 2nd. ed. Vienna, 1872.
Der Zweck im Recht, vols. 1–2. Leipzig, 1877–83.
Scherz und Ernst in der Jurisprudenz. Leipzig, 1884.
In Russian translation:
Dukh rimskogo prava na razlichnykh stupeniakh ego razvitiia. St. Petersburg, 1875.
Bor’ba za pravo. Moscow, 1874.
Tsel’vprave. St. Petersburg, 1881.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.