Dec 17 2022

Lorenz von Stein

Lorenz von Stein adalah “bapak adm. negara”, kalau dapat disebut seperti itu. Juga “bapak reformasi (bukan revolusi) sosial” dan “bapak negara sosial (bukan sosialis)”. Ini percik pemikiran saya 22 tahun lalu, kalau tidak salah ditulis untuk seminar ISTECS di Paris th 2000. Ditemukan hari ini di web.archive. Lebih banyak tentang ilmuwan ini, lihat wikipedia.


Samodra Wibawa

Deutsche Hochschule für Verwaltungswissenschaften Speyer, Germany


Abstract. The 19th century Europe was characterised by the rapid technological and economical development and –as its consequent– the strong tendency of social revolution. In a such socio-psychological situation many social movements have developed, in search for a social regime on their own interests. Each movement created its own ideology or social theory, such as liberalism or communism, that functions as a working instrument to conduct the movement. The german scholar Lorenz von Stein developed his idea of social-state as a middle way between the Marx-Engels’ law of dialectical social development, the Spencers’ organic social system and the non-interventionist liberalism. He was pro the parliamentary, constitutional monarchy and suggested that the state (and its upper social class) should, in order to stop the revolutionary tendency of the lower, worker class, promote an appropriate living standard of the poor. Although Stein was contra the idea of republic because of its less practicability, he found that civil society is the most developed form the human society. The author find the similarity of Steins with a new, a century later in the other side of the globe growing ideology: the developmentalism of the thirty years Suhartos administration.

Keywords: political idea, social state, administration, bureaucracy.


Comparing to the passive, watch-dog state model, the european countries can be categorised as social, welfare state. They are involved actively in the public service delivery, especially to those of economically poor. One of the scholars who formulate such a model is a man, who is in Indonesia almost never heard, named Lorenz von Stein. His ideas are here highlighted, to contribute partly to the recent indonesian political discussions on the communism, and than it is argued whether his ideas are still practicable.

The Stein’s social background

Lorenz von Stein was born in 1815 in North Germany and died 1890 in Wine. In the century before him there were many technological innovations, which lead to the industrial and then political revolution. This social development continued in the 19th century, in which the societal life was full of social-political crashes and movements that had never existed before. Every movement organisation tried to conduct the society on their own interests, and each had developed their own political ideas and theories. As the civil society had emerged, there were a strong link between the socio-political movement and its theory(Lieber 1993: 270). Such a development was not excluded from the Germany, where there was citizen emancipation movements, especially those of the worker class (Blasius/Pankoke 1977: 46).

In such a world Stein lived. He was a man, who had promoted with 24 years old on the dennis jurisdiction history, but not so succeed in his political life. He stayed in Paris (1843-6) to look after the french socialist movement, became professor in Kiel, and failed to enter the National Congress in Frankfurt 1848. He went to and then became a professor in Wine (1855) but failed again to be an appointed parliament member. He stayed there until his death after being the government advisor on the japanese politics. He wrote thousands of essays and books in a huge areas, range from philosophy, law, economics, politics, administration to the history. His monumental works were the three bands on the socialist movement in French (1850) and his latest work was a handbook on the interdependence between administration and the societal life (1888). It was his work on socialism and communism in French (1842) that made these ideas popular in Germany (Meyers 1978: 496).

The Stein’s idea of social state

The idea of social state emerged from his concern to avoid the high tendency of revolution in the european society in that time. To his scholars habitat he introduced “the science of society” (die Wissenschaft der Gesellschaft), and to the political areas he provoked the state (i.e. the monarchy) to reform his self (Blasius 1992: 12). His concept of “the social monarchy” (das soziale Königtum) is the only political idea of the 19th century which try to give sociological legitimation to the compromise concept of constitutional monarchy that had developed before. Stein argued, that only the state that monarchical and opened constitute could develop social compromise and execute them –an important capacity of the state to cope with the existing political power of the industrial society (Blasius: 12-13).

Stein found his epoch as the era of “consciousness on the existence of the social order”. Earlier as Karl Marx (1818-1883) he said: “The consciousness of this era start…to realise that the state power is a tool to improve the society, as a gun in the social struggle, and as an instrument to provide freedom to the society.” The society is not anymore a single unit that is dependence on the state and politics, is not an unorganic mass that created accidentally, but rather “a kind of human life that is autonome and has right to own.” In a such art of life every individual try to develop themselves and thus to fulfil their own interests through their work. At this point there would emerge the conflicts between capitals and works, and this would determine the social conflicts that crystallise and in turn split the societal order to be “a dependency order from those that are loose to those that occupy” (Stammen et al. 1997: 475).

The splited human society means or produces injustice and unfairness throughout the lawmaking processes and their administration, because or as long as the occupying social class pursue to take the state power, to maintain their position and to keep the occupied class being always dependent on them and having no freedom. Of course in the social dynamic the dependent class won’t to be dependent on and repressed by the ruling class. They struggle to alter the state laws on their interests through, firstly, reforming the law and, then, reconstructing the state through a revolution –something that is “rational and natural” (Stammen et al.: 476).

The revolution does provide the possibility to create a new political and social order, however it creates also a new conflict in the mid of the society between the new ruling class and the former one that is now to be the ruled class. In other words: revolution creates a new classed society. It means that through revolution the internal contradiction between capitals and works in the classed society is not demanished and even spitzing, although there are maybe already the so called proletariat government. “When a social struggle exploded in the society, there come always a dictator,” wrote Stein in his work on greek politics (Uhl 1977:174). This satanic circle could be broke down, according to Stein, through a social reformation initiated by the state to improve the lower class’ life quality, that is by contrary conducted also on behalf of the state’s interests. A such social reformation leads to a relative balance position between the upper and the lower class, and this can avoid the revolution tendency of the lower one (Stammen et al.: 476). This is what he said as “the social process of the climbing class-movement” (der soziale Prozeß der aufsteigenden Klassenbewegung), in which the state takes the responsibility (Blasius 1992: 17). It means that the state should stay above all conflicting classes, he should being a “social monarchy” with educated beamten (Lieber 1993: 320-1).

Stein rejected the idea of the traditional liberal theory, that the many social differences would develop itself to a social balance, but he also rejected its opposite idea, that the state is a kind of exploitation of one class to the other. He found that the state should be “the public” or “the totality” (das Allgemein), so that the state should not be influenced or even cooptated by any social interests on one hand (Uhl 1977: 174-5) and, on the other hand, should satisfy all parties without make loose to anyone (Blasius/Pankoke 1977:74). The consequence of such idea is, that the state should lead and motivate the social reformation (Stammen et al. 1997: 477). “Is that not our highest and absolute duty of our epoch to take the lower class off to a more human and make sense material conditions?” wrote Stein in 1842 (Blasius 1970:47). This “absolute duty” should be taken by a well educated, neutral and effective administration of the social monarchy. So the “socially administration system” works for “the state that develop his society” in a huge range of tasks: city and housing, poorness and food, health, social insurance and security, etc. (Blasius/Pankoke 1977:74). To conduct these all duties Stein found that the constitutional monarchy is the fittest legal form. Commenting the french Revolution of 1848 he said that the republic, in which the citizen makes law sovereignty, is not practicable and could never been realised (Blasius/Pankoke 1977:52-3, 121).

Theoretically, the idea of social administration above is a principal socio-political alternative to the liberalism of the legal state that, based on its perception on the political homogeneity and social harmony, pays no attention on the complex problems of political legitimacy and social integration (Pankoke quoted in Uhl 1977:178). Stein’s could also be seen as an alternative to the often criticised Marx’ idea of revolution (Fahrenbach in ibid.) or at least a kind of “middle way” between Karl Marx’ and Friedrich Engels’ teaching on the dialectical energy of societal development and the Herbert Spencers’ on the organic social system and non-interventionist liberalism, or between the pessimistic and the optimistic ones (Klages in ibid.). Practically, the idea of social state was absorbed in Germany as a policy by Otto von Bismarck in 1880s in form of the social law, that cope with some areas: health, accident and disabled, and pension. These social insurance was formulated actually to manage the in that time sharpening labours movement, but in the future it was expanded to the areas of widow and orphan (1911), unemployment (1923) and pension for the farmers (1957), and such policies spread out to many other countries (Fakta 1995: 352-9).

The social state in Indonesia

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Dutch Indie the idea of social state had also an echo, together with liberalism and communism. The government was provoked to have a “moral responsibility” to improve the worsening life standard of the population after the long tanampaksa and kerjapaksa, so that they introduced the so called “ethical policies” in the areas of: education and health, money lending, irrigation, and transmigration (Dusik 1991: 92). This policy had of course not improved significantly the social welfare (comparing to the dutch exploitation long before), but the access to the education system had enlighten the native young people and made them keeping in touch with nationalism idea and having the organising capacity. They became then the leaders of the independence movement, with different ideological schools: communist versus Moslems, nationalist-chauvinist versus internationalist-humanist, socialist versus liberalist, or something else which is mixed in between.

A part of these independence organisation’s, well educated top leaders entered the BPUPKI/PPKI, a kind of small, limited parliament, that was built by the japanese military government in mid the 1945, to make a constitution for the will be independent Indonesia. They were lawyer/-scientist, economist, engineer, doctor, kiai, philosopher, historicer, literaturist or autodidactic. One topics of the meetings that leaded to hot debates was the construction of state power, which splited the member into two groups: those who suggested the liberal, american democracy (with its representative Hatta and Yamin), and those who propose an “indigenous, harmonic” democracy (Soepomo and Soekarno). Although Soepomo had never mentioned the name of Stein but Spinoza, Muller, Hegel and many other european scholars (Bahar 1993:27-8 and many other places), his presented idea of integralistic state has similarities with those of Stein’s concept of the state as das Allgemein (see above). But he, like Stein, believed so strong that the man who sit in the power would and should always be a good man, neutral and has no interests. But he, also like Stein, has no suggestion how to assure that the state leaders will be always good and never be a bad dictator or corrupter. It is Hatta’s concept of liberal democracy that does it unconsciously, and, ironically, it was also Hatta that suggested that the state should take care to the poor and that the co-operation should be the core mode of indonesian economy (Art. 33 UUD 1945).

In praxis, the idea of social state can be seen in the late Soekarno era in form of “guided democracy” and also in the Soeharto administration in form of political “stability” and developmentalism. Both assumed that they (the government) are neutral, ready to serve all parties, and try to exploit all state resources for all people especially those that economically powerless. They were, unfortunately, failed because they did not success manage the other, most important aspect of the state: politics. Soekarno and Soeharto had failed to realise that the people demands not only physical wealthy but also to certain degree active political participation. Moreover, they were both, like Stein, unconscious about the cost of social state: without money it does not work. The “social state” Germany was bankrupt as there was malaise in the 1920s, and the “social state” Soeharto experienced the same thing as they had to pay their uncontrolled loan-mountain.


The core idea of the social state is that the state is a neutral organ that has effective bureaucracy to fulfil the citizen’s need. This idea is a sterile thinking about the state, it disregards the very characteristics of the state: politics, and it is only possible when the state has “enough” resources to be distributed to the people.


  1. Bahar, Saafroedin et al. (eds.), Risalah Sidang BPUPKI – PPKI, Jakarta: Sekretariat Negara RI, ed. II, cet. IV, 1993
  2. Blasius, Dirk, Lorenz von Stein, Grundlagen und Struktur seiner politischen Ideenwelt, Inauguraldissertation, Köln 1970
  3. Blasius, Dirk, “Lorenz von Stein und die Geschichte der sozialen Bewegung in Deutschland”, dalam: Albert von Mutius (Hrsg.), Lorenz von Stein 1890 – 1990, Akademischer Festakt zum 100. Todestag, Heidelberg: Decker, 1992
  4. Blasius, Dirk/Pankoke, Eckart, Lorenz von Stein, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1977
  5. Cribb, Robert Bridson, Gejolak Revolusi di Jakarta 1945-1949, Pergulatan antara Otonomi dan Hegemoni, Jakarta: Grafiti, 1990
  6. Dusik, Roland, Indonesien, Köln: DuMont Buchverlag, 3. Auflage, 1991
  7. Fakta mengenai Jerman, Jakarta: Kedutaan Besar Republik Federal Jerman, 1995
  8. Lieber, Hans-Joachim (Hrsg.), Politischen Theorien von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, Bonn: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 1993
  9. Meyers Enzyklopädisches Lexikon, Band 22, Mannheim 1978
  10. Stammen, Theo/Riescher, Gisela/Hofmann, Wilhelm (Hrsg.), Hauptwerke der politischen Theory, Stuttgart: Kröner, 1997
  11. Uhl, Herbert, Lorenz von Stein und Karl Marx, Zur Grundlegung von Gesellschaftsanalyse und politischer Theory 1842 – 1850, Dissertation, Tübingen 1977

File: ste-eng, sended on 31.07.2000 to ISSM.

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