||Franz Oppenheimer (1864–1943), German sociologist and economist, an initiator of cooperative agriculture in Erez Israel. The son of a reform rabbi, Oppenheimer was born in Berlin and studied medicine in Freiburg and Berlin. He started his career as a practicing physician, but after graduating in economics at the University of Kiel (1908), he became Privatdozent at the University of Berlin in 1909 and professor at the University of Frankfort in 1917, where he occupied a newly established chair of sociology from 1919 to 1929. After Hitler's advent to power in 1933, Oppenheimer lectured in Berlin at the Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums. He left Germany for the U.S. in 1938 and died in Los Angeles.
Oppenheimer's sociology is developmental in character, combining in an independent way elements from the theories of Marx, Spencer, Gumplowicz, and also from the instinct theory of McDougall; to these is added a melioristic intention. Oppenheimer considered accumulation of wealth and power, and hence gross inequality among men, as originating from social conflict, exemplified in earliest times chiefly by the subjugation of peaceful farmers, craftsmen, and traders by conquering nomads and pirates. The "economic means" of accumulation through one's own work is thereby replaced by "political means," i.e., force of arms, starting with payment of tribute, then leading to serfdom, feudalism, and finally to the development of antagonistic classes under capitalism. The central evil is the monopolization of land, which forces rural populations into urban areas, and creates what Marx had defined as the "industrial reserve army." Consequently, if the monopolization of land were replaced by an agrarian cooperative system of independent farmers, free competition could be restored and a "liberal socialism" established. Oppenheimer's belief that the removal of evil institutions would do away with the domination of man by man and lead to social harmony has a dogmatic ring.
Oppenheimer's interest in Zionism and Jewish affairs dated from 1902, when Oskar Marmorek and Johann Kremenetzky introduced him to Theodor Herzl. Herzl asked Oppenheimer to elaborate the economic and agricultural parts of the Zionist program, which he did in 1903 at the Sixth Zionist Congress in Basle. In 1911 the Palestine Office of the Zionist Organization in Jaffa established at Merhavyah a cooperative settlement based on Oppenheimer's ideas. Although it did not prove successful and had to be reorganized, the Merhavyah experiment laid the foundation for cooperative agricultural settlement in Erez Israel.
As an opponent of nationalism, Oppenheimer became alienated from the Zionist movement, and in 1913 he withdrew from any official participation. Nevertheless, he maintained his interest in the development of Erez Israel and in Jewish social problems. During World War I he became aware of the misery of the Jewish population in Eastern Europe. In 1934–35 Oppenheimer visited Palestine and explained his concepts to Jewish labor leaders, but his ideas were not enthusiatically received.
On the 100th anniversary of Oppenheimer's birth Ludwig Erhard, chancellor of the German Federal Republic and Oppenheimer's former student, eulogized him, stressing the adoption of his teacher's ideas in his own concept of "social liberalism."
His most important works are Der Staat (1907; The State, 1914) and System der Soziologie (4 vols., 1922–35). Some of his articles on the Merhavyah experiment were included in the books Genossenschaftliche Kolonisation in Palaestina (1915); Merchavia (1914); and Wege zur Gemeinschaft (1924). He also published an autobiography, Erlebtes, Erstrebtes, Erreichtes (1913).