Edith Stein: An Investigation
Concerning the State
Translated by Marianne Sawicki
202 pages, paper
Any state exists only for the benefit of human beings. This basic tenet of Edith Stein's political thought rests on her conviction that humanity is fundamentally one community, precious beyond measure. Differences of race, culture, and language offer us means to grasp the values of life uniquely so that we may share them universally, reaching across all such social boundaries.
Stein wrote this treatise in the early days of the Weimar Republic, shortly after the First World War. It sets forth a philosophy of law, government, and administration that is at once idealistic and practical. What is right, Stein argues, does not arise from legislation or litigation or politics. Right relations, as such, are more basic than any institution. Here, too, are Stein's first serious discussions of religious issues such as guilt, expiation, and freedom of conscience. This is the philosophical work that immediately preceded her decision to be baptized, on January 1, 1922
Whether ironically or predictably, Stein was put to death twenty years later by a state that brazenly defied nearly every principle that she had defended in this treatise. In death she bore personal witness to the unity and dignity of the human race. She perished with her people, Jews and Christians alike, at Auschwitz.
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