Karl Diehl (economist)

Karl Diehl (March 27, 1864, Frankfurt—May 12, 1943 in Freiburg im Breisgau) was a German economist and professor who taught from 1908 until his death in Freiburg.[1] He taught at the universities of Heidelberg and Freiburg, known for teaching on the subject of Anarchism.[2]

The motivating force behind his scholarship was that academia must counter the idea that "...anarchism represents a criminal sect which lacks any social or political programme..."[3] According to one historian on German reformers, Diehl had acquired a reputation as the "most important authority on socialism, communism, and anarchism," comparable only to Werner Sombart.[4]


His son is Karl Diehl, the German actor.


On Economic History

Joseph Schumpeter, the well-known economist, has praised Karl Diehl for his understanding of the mutualist Pierre Joseph Proudhon, writing "Of the Proudhon literature, I mention only a work of indubitable scholarly quality, though there are several others that come within this category: Karl Diehl's P. J. Proudhon."[5] A reviewer summarized Diehl's opinion of Proudhon with "the chief importance of Proudhon lies in and ends with the influence he exercised on his contemporaries," with more emphasis on his theoretical ideas than on those who tried to implement them with dynamite.[6] The 1899 publication of the Palgrave-macmillan Dictionary of Political Economy lists Diehl second when listing authors who have contributed "critical works on the life and doctrine of Proudhon."[7]

Christian Gehrke lists Karl Diehl first, when listing the main, European adherents of David Ricardo's economics, in the fourth-quarter of nineteenth-century academia.[8]

On the Origin of Anarchism

In 1890, Diehl came to realize that William Godwin was the father of the Anarchist movement and theory,[9] early sparking his interest in this area of thought. This may mean he is the first to attempt to suggest that Anarchism was born out of the coldly-logical, Rights-based political theory in Britain, instead of what was traditionally believed by historians: that Anarchism was an outgrowth of the terrorism and disorder of the hot-blooded, French Revolution.

On the Theory of Price and Value in Germany

Diehl was well-esteemed by economists by his contributions to the development of the Theory of Price and Value in Germany in the nineteenth century, based on his contributions to Festchrift.[10]

On the German, Anarchist Movement

Diehl in well-quoted in Anarchist publications regarding Anarchism in Germany. He is quoted by one editor in a volume on German Anarchism as saying...

Anarchist ideas evoked a certain amount of theoretical interest and discussion. But the anarchist movement in Germany never achieved any significant political activity, nor did the group organizations at any time approach a numerical size which could be considered important.[11]

On Planned Economy

Diehl's theories regarding Socialist planned economy eventually turned out to be useful "to those Soviet economists who dealt actually with the questions of the theory of rent in their own country."[12]


  1. "Definition: Diehl". Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon (Gabler Business Directory).
  2. "Karl Diehl : Anarchist Professor and Theorist in Hitler's Germany". Anarchy Archives.
  3. Mark E. Blum, William T. Smaldone (ed.). "Austro-Marxism: The Ideology of Unity: Austro-Marxist Theory and Strategy. Volume 1". pp. 156–7.
  4. Kevin Repp, ed. (2000). "Reformers, critics, and the paths of German modernity : anti-politics and the search for alternatives, 1890-1914". Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press. p. 253.
  5. Joseph A. Schumpeter. "History of Economic Analysis". p. 457.
  6. Dr. Karl Diehl (1891). "P.J. Proudhon: Seine Lehre und sein Leben". Political Science Quarterly, Volume 6. p. 563.
  7. John Eatwell, ed. (1899). "Palgrave's Dictionary of Political Economy, Volume 1, "A-E"". Palgrave Macmillan. p. 238.
  8. Gilbert Faccarello and Masashi Izumo, eds. (Feb 13, 2014). "The Reception of David Ricardo in Continental Europe and Japan". Routledge.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  9. Von Helene Simon. "William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft". The Nation.
  10. Ian Steedman, ed. (Jan 21, 2016). "Socialism & Marginalism in Economics 1870 - 1930".
  11. Andrew R. Carlson. "Anarchism in Germany (Volume 1: the early movement)". LibCom.org.
  12. "Economic thought in the Soviet Union: Concepts and aspects. A comparative outline". International Centre of Research and Information on the Public, Social and Cooperative Economy.
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