Hans Kelsen and Eric Voegelin
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pure theory of law
New Science of Politics

How to Cite

Hans Kelsen and Eric Voegelin: The History of a Divergence. (2023). The Political Science Reviewer, 47(1), 61-91. https://politicalsciencereviewer.wisc.edu/index.php/psr/article/view/730


Sociologist Othmar Spann and jurist Hans Kelsen were the dissertation supervisors of Eric Voegelin. During the 1920s and 1930s Voegelin was identified with Kelsen’s Vienna School of jurisprudence. This was not entirely misleading but was not entirely accurate either. This essay traces how Voegelin moved away from Kelsen’s Pure Theory of Law, starting with his earliest publications. The “history of their divergence” continued throughout the 1930s and 1940s. By the time Voegelin published The New Science of Politics in 1952 it was clear to Kelsen that Voegelin had repudiated the Pure Theory of Law. He wrote a review of The New Science, which he revised over the years but never published. Meanwhile Voegelin had put Kelsen’s approach far behind him by working his way from what he came to see as Kelsen’s dogmas. This essay describes Voegelin’s steps along the way.

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