Political thinkers – staatsrecht.honikel.de

To content


The development of constitutional law was influenced by many theorists. Here you will find a small selection of these people.



384 – 322 BC, Greek philosopher.

Aristotle was a pupil of Plato and educator of Alexander the Great. He is one of the most influential thinkers of the West and dealt, among many other fields of knowledge, with policy.

Here Aristotle sees the people as social beings (zoon politikon), who need a community for full development. The state as such a community should serve common good and the moral perfection of its citizens.

However, not all residents are citizens. For example, non-Greeks are seen as slaves, to operate for the state.

top of page

Jean Bodin

1529 – 1596, French legal scholar, adviser to kings and princes.

He advocates absolutism, and a monarch with absolute power and the right to rule law, even without to be bound to this law. However, the monarch is bound to natural law and divine justice.

top of page

Thomas Hobbes

1588 – 1679, English philosopher.

Hobbes assumes that the original man in a natural state is an egoist and is seeking his advantage. Therefore, without the state there would be a constant struggle of each other ("homo homini lupus").

The state, which emerges through a partnership agreement, protects the freedom and property of the people. The best-known work of Hobbes about the state is "Leviathan". Hobbes wants a state with absolute power (state absolutism).

top of page

John Locke

1632 – 1704, English philosopher.

Locke calls for the division of the state power in executive and legislature to secure equality and freedom. According to Locke this freedom and equality already exist in the original natural condition.

However, some people tend to limit the freedom of others, for example, if they take their property, a instance is necessary, which will prevent this – the state.

top of page

Niccolo Machiavelli

1469 – 1527, Italian official in the city-state of Florence.

His main work in constitutional law is "The Prince" which was written in 1513 and is about getting power and maintaining power. He writes about the monarchy, in his time the dominant form of government and describes how it is and not how it theoretically could be.

Machiavelli has a pessimistic human picture and does not believe that man is inherently good. A prince as ruler in a monarchy should do in doubt, without moral and legal scruples, what is necessary to conserve power (Machiavellism).

top of page

Karl Marx

1818 – 1883, German philosopher and journalist.

For Marx, the history of the states which are existing at his time is a history of class struggles. The existing form of government is just a tool of the ruling class to suppress other classes. It is only a matter of time before the working class (the proletariat) reached the victory in this class struggles and them establish a communist state.

top of page

John Stuart Mill

1806 – 1873, English jurist, a liberal advocate of civil rights.

For Mill, also in a democracy, where the people rules about itself is is necessary to limit the government by freedom rights, as individuals do not rule themselves, but everyone else rule the individual. Intervention of the state to the freedom of individuals are only allowed to protect other members of society from harm.

top of page

Charles-Louis des Secondat Baron de Montesquieu

1689 – 1755, French jurist and philosopher, advocates the division of state power in three different powers – executive, legislative and jurisdiction (Separation of powers).

For Montesquieu, it is a fact discernible from history that people tend to abuse power. Therefore, with the separation of powers it must be created an instrument for the prevention of abuse of power and therefore the basis of freedom and security.

top of page


427 – 347 BC, Greek philosopher, student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle.

According to Plato the state consists of three classes: the philosophers, the guards (warriors), and the farmers and crafts. The state is lawful, if these three classes live together in harmony.

top of page

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

1712 – 1778, French writer and philosopher.

According to Rousseau people originally lived free and equal. Through language and division of labor this natural state was finished, there are differences in property, power and similar. Through the state, which was formed by the people through a social contract, should freedom and property of the people be protected. A separation of powers does not take place, so that the government can act effectively. The legislation aims directly at meetings held by the people.

top of page