The jurist as manager of emotions. German debates on »Rechtsgefühl« in the late 19th and early 20th century as sites of negotiating the juristic treatment of emotions


  • Sandra Schnädelbach



During the late 19th and early 20th century, a variety of jurisprudential texts that focus on the role of Rechtsgefühl in law and legal practice were published. This article first inquires into the meanings of this term, asking whether it denoted an innate sense of justice, a common feeling for the law, or a trained juristic intuition. In turn, this opens up the question of how the relation between law and emotions was conceived and how this conception was related to the practice of jurisprudence. As I will show, the juristic debate on the Rechtsgefühl mirrored the influence of changing interpretive patterns for the definition of law as well as that of emotion, patterns which were adapted from the newly developing natural sciences. They shaped not only how Rechtsgefühl was defined, but also the function attributed to it in juridical practice. I argue that the ideas and rules of bourgeois culture strongly defined the way the jurist was required to treat his Rechtsgefühl and his emotions in general. Not only his professional success, but also his quality of character and his bourgeois masculinity were to be proven by his success as a »manager of emotions.«