Georg Jellinek (16 June 1851 – 12 January 1911) was a
public lawyer, considered of Austrian origin. Along with
Hans Kelsen and the
Félix Somló he belonged to the group of Austrian
legal positivists and was considered to be "the exponent of public law in Austria“.
From 1867, Jellinek studied law,
history of art and
philosophy at the
University of Vienna. He also studied
history and law in
Leipzig up until 1872. He was the son of
Adolf Jellinek, the then famous preacher in Vienna's Jewish community. In 1872 he completed his Dr. phil. thesis in Leipzig (The Soci-Ethical Meaning of Justice, Injustice and Punishment) and in 1874 also his Dr. jur. in Vienna.
In 1879 he qualified as a professor at the University of
Vienna. Jellinek was later visiting professor of legal philosophy in Vienna, in 1881 he was named a member of the commission for state exams and one year later he published his seminal work, The Theory of the Unifications of States (1882). In 1883 he was given the prestigious title of Professor of
Public Law at the
University of Vienna. In 1889 he was duly given a professorship in
Basel and left the academic service of
Austria-Hungary. From 1891 he was
Ordinarius for general Public Law and
International Law at the
University of Heidelberg. In 1900 he compiled his main work, the General Theory of the State.
He was married to Camilla Jellinek, born in Wertheim (1860–1940), who was persuaded to join the
Women's Movement by
Marianne Weber in 1900 and became famous there especially for her work with providing women with legal aid and the production of draft reforms of the criminal law. The couple had six children, born between 1884 and 1896, of which just four survived childhood: son Walter, and daughter Dora, who were deported to the
Theresienstadt concentration camp by the
Nazis and youngest son, Otto, who died in 1943 as a result of abuse at the hands of the
Jellinek is best known for his essay The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1895), which argues for a universal theory of rights, as opposed to the culturally and nationally specific arguments then in vogue (particularly that of
Émile Boutmy). Jellinek argued that the
French Revolution, which was the focal point of 19th-century
political theory, should not be thought of as arising from a purely French tradition (namely the tradition stemming from
Jean-Jacques Rousseau) but as a close analogue of revolutionary movements and ideas in England and the United States.