Natural Law and Human Dignity

From Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought

Natural Law and Human Dignity

By Ernst Bloch

Translated by Dennis J. Schmidt





Ernst Bloch (1885-1977), one of the most original and influential of contemporary European thinkers and a founder of the Frankfurt School, has left his mark on a range of fields from philosophy and social theory to aesthetics and theology. Natural Law and Human Dignity, the first of his major works to appear in English is unique in its attempt to get beyond the usual oppositions between the natural law and social utopian traditions, providing basic insights on the question of human rights in a socialist society. Natural Law and Human Dignity is a sweeping yet synthetic work that critically reviews the great legal philosophies, from Plato to the present, in order to uncover and clarify the normative features of true socialism. Along the way it offers thoughtful reflections on topics as diverse as the abolition of poverty and degradation, the nature of the state, and the installation of freedom and dignity. Taking the idea of natural law as his guiding thread, Bloch argues that revolution and right, rather than being antagonistic, are fundamentally interconnected. With their emphasis on human dignity, the traditions of natural law have an irreplaceable contribution to make to the socialist vision of a more humane society. In his effort to wed the demands of law and right to the agenda of social revolution, Bloch offers a radical restructuring of our understanding of the social world. This rethinking of the fundamental principles of political philosophy is the product of a long personal and philosophical odyssey. Bloch lived as a writer in Munich, Bern, and Berlin until he was forced to emigrate to Czechoslovakia and then to the United States during World War 11. After the war he returned to East Germany, where he held a chair in philosophy at the University of Leipzig. He emigrated to the west as the Berlin Wall was being built (carrying the manuscript of this book under his arm), and he taught at the University of Tübingen until his death. Natural Law and Human Dignity is included in the series Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought, edited by Thomas McCarthy.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262022217 408 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262521291 408 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


Dennis J. Schmidt.


  • Bloch's sweeping and passionate essay on behalf of freedom and human dignity redeems the principle of natural rights and liberty as a revolutionary impulse from the ancients to Marx. In the spirit of Rousseau, Bloch upholds the original ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity - 'a tradition that has not yet become' against all forms of tyranny. Skillfully translated, this work demonstrates the power of Bloch's heretical Marxism and the contemporary relevance of his defense of human rights and social justice.

    Anson Rabinbach

    editor, New German Critique