An early Austro-Marxian contributor to sociolegal thought, Karl Renner alternated for most of his long life between the analytical distance of a scholar and the political commitment of a social-democratic politician. Central to Renner's work was the problem of the relationship between law and social transformation. While scholars today have forgotten many of his publications, Renner's and Otto Bauer's (1881–1938) ideas about the legal protection of cultural minorities are only now beginning to find acceptance and practical application.

Born in Unter-Tannowitz (Moravia), Renner came from an impoverished peasant family. While studying law at Vienna University in 1896, he worked as state librarian. His first publications on socioeconomic questions had to appear under a pseudonym because of his civil service status. He was a member of parliament ...

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