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114.: Introduction to the History of the Age of Revolution - Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and Historians 
Judgments on History and Historians, ed. Alberto R. Coll (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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Introduction to the History of the Age of Revolution
(I) [November 6, 1867.] The time at which this course of lectures is given modifies it each time, for it is unlike any other course. It concerns itself with the beginning of that which is still active and will continue to be so, with that world age whose further development we do not know as yet. At this very moment events are being shaped, and on the horizon, in the near or distant future, there is a great European war as a consequence of everything that has gone before.
That is why in this case objectivity of presentation is even more dubious than usual. And yet the man who presents this age must give a general account from his vantage point.
The lack of judgment which contents itself with assigning to each individual moment of the revolution its relative raison d’être as an evolutionary stage is shallow and inadequate. For, in the first place, not everything is necessary by any means, but many things are accidental and personal doings, and secondly, the worst judgment is easily substituted for the supposed absence of judgment, namely, the approval of the fait accompli, the succès.
Above all, the revolution has had results which now completely shape us and constitute an integral part of our feeling for justice and our conscience—things, therefore, that we can no longer separate from ourselves.
All previous situations involved states in which the nobility and clergy were organized as class forces only here and there, to be sure, but enjoyed the greatest personal privileges, tax immunity, exclusive eligibility for higher offices, and great real property which was tied up in estates subject to mortmain and entail—states in which industry was exploited by the government and frequently bureaucratized in the most senseless manner, in which state religions with exclusive rights at best tolerated those holding different beliefs, and a show of unity of faith was preserved as far as possible.
On the other hand, these were the results of the revolution:
Complete equality before the law, including more or less equal eligibility for offices, taxation, and inheritance.
Complete or almost complete disposability of real property, with mortmain and entail greatly reduced.
Freedom of industry, theoretical conviction of the harmfulness of any state interference; enormous increase of the science of economics; the necessity of industry’s counsel for the state; enormous increase of material civilization, bound up with rapid exploitation of the earth’s surface.
Equality of religions, no longer merely of the Christian creeds, through the creation of tolerant states with a paid clergy, and state indifference; further, a tendency toward separation of church and state, with complete dominion of the latter over the former.
Beginnings of absolute political equality; the examples of America and Switzerland as more developed democracies; universal suffrage in several places; also, general standardization.
However, it is doubtful whether the world has on the average become happier for all this. The two components of happiness are the conditions themselves and the degree of satisfaction with them.
The chief phenomenon of our days is the sense of the provisional. In addition to the uncertainty of each individual’s fate we are confronted with a colossal problem of existence whose elements must be viewed separately and as new consequences and tendencies arisen from the revolution. These are the following:
THE NEW CONCEPT OF THE STATE
This is not the philosophical concept (Hegel!) which would pass the state off as the realization of morality on earth, something that is not the business of the state but of society, whereas the state is, after all, only a protective shield. Rather, it is here a question of the new concept of the extent of the state’s power.
In the preceding century, sultanic despotism had reigned to the extent that it was able to prevail against privilege. In the crevices there nested all sorts of special existences.
Then came the revolution and unfettered, first, all ideals and aspirations, then all passion and selfishness. It inherited and practiced a despotism which will serve as a model for all despotisms for all eternity. Another essential feature of it was the secularization of the church. Part of this general process was a lawless centralization which had arisen in a time of “danger to the fatherland.” This centralization has existed in complete form even in the monarchies only since the revolution, having been created partly for purposes of defense, partly as an imitation.
The concept of equality is a two-edged one here. It turns into the abdication of the individual, because the more universal any possession is, the fewer individual defenders it finds. Once people have become accustomed to the state as the sole guardian of rights and public welfare, even the will to decentralization no longer helps. Governments no longer entrust their provinces, cities, and other individual forces with any real matters of power, but turn over to them only those trials and tribulations which the governments absolutely can no longer cope with—something that the smaller units hardly desire. In general, despite all the talk about freedom, peoples and governments demand unlimited state power internally.
The Revolution left France in a condition for which at first a cure was sought in world conquest; then, after a deep humiliation, the country was filled with nothing but demands and accusations. Coupled with the complete extinction of the awareness of constitutional and international law, this condition pressed toward periodic revolutions, in consequence of which Europe is again imperiled, up to the sudden shift of 1870. But the others have also learned how to threaten, and governments and peoples agree on the necessity of being powerful toward the outside.
The consequences of this international situation are an immeasurable increase of militarism (since Frederick the Great there have been huge standing armies, usable at home as well as abroad) and also a colossal increase in state debts, which is in striking contrast with the general mania for money-making and the desire for high living. What is perpetrated thereby is then called cabinet and dynastic despotism, but soon also acquires the name of great national necessity.
To what extent are the dynasties still in control, to what extent only the managers and messenger boys of mass movements? They devour or drive out their own kind, their cousins and other relatives, as soon as the moment impels them to! And dispossessed sovereigns then trade their claims for sums of money or pensions. The feeling of divine right has deserted the governments—and how should the belief in it still be present in the feelings of the people! Belief in invisible, immemorial foundations of existence, politico-religious mysticism is gone. The dynasties will come to an end, if only because only special talents will be needed. Would adopting heirs help? Our sympathy for the elective empires of past times is foolish, while all Europe is drifting toward something similar, whether it be special personalities or adoptions or something else, when people will not even be able to vote any longer!
In the end the people believe that if the state power were completely in their hands they could fashion a new existence with it.
But in between occurs long, voluntary servitude under individual leaders and usurpers; people no longer believe in principles, but from time to time they do believe in saviors. A new possibility of long despotism over weary people presents itself again and again.
RELATIONSHIP TO THE NATIONALITIES
The Revolution and its wars first summoned the French, then other nationalities as well, to activity in love and hatred, stirring them out of dismemberment and separate territorial life or at least to keener national consciousness, if the nation was already united.
Reflective thought might reply that common nationality by descent and language was something long since outmoded. The French Enlightenment and later the French Revolution talked very big about “humanity,” and there was also a refined “cosmopolitanism.” Or it might reply that culture, which was European, and the community of experiences, interests, and aspirations were a stronger bond, and that not nationality, but a healthy state was the homeland and lord of the emotions.
However, in unhealthy situations botched by parliaments one falls back on his descent and language as a saving solution of the intolerable, until one finally gets his way, without his being better off for it than before.
Then, too, where power already exists, nationality is used as a further means of agglomeration. (Or a revolutionary party uses the desire for reuniting the nationality as chicanery, like the Italian irredentists.) Princes and peoples are agreed on this. Resistance is hated. Foreign elements already under one’s power are crushed. The imminent eradication of the German element in the Baltic provinces is a popular notion in Russia.
Since the revolution, and despite the interim of thirty-three years, people have become accustomed to every conceivable change in their boundaries.
The crusades and the Reformation are well known as earlier eras in which an intellectual atmosphere dominated an entire people, not just particular classes. But the revolution exerts such a dominance in a far different sense; since the revolution this control has been permanent, and in this there has been a European solidarity. Here the fluctuations are enormous, and they are the more contagious the greater the increase in the rapidity of all communication and in the homogeneity of European culture and the daily press. The latter is by far the predominant—indeed, almost the only—reading matter of entire classes and countries. The great experience of 1789 was that public opinion forms and transforms the world—once the traditional powers were too weak to prevent it and once they started to make deals with individual currents in the stream of public opinion.
In all matters of high significance, division into parties and the corresponding double theory now run through all European peoples. Public opinion, i.e., the passion of entire peoples, is indeed irresistible.
But the real success of the press today lies more in the leveling of views than in its immediate effect. What is recommended and demanded most loudly and most generally is often the last thing to happen. For, at times the press screams so loudly for the very reason that people are no longer listening. Some of the opponents may be people who do not read newspapers anyway. Then there is the public opinion fabricated by those in control and by small parties, a venal press, and the like. The rulers, on the whole, are much less uneasy, let the boldest remarks pass because they are ineffective, and completely forgo censorship in the old style, although they do reserve sudden indirect action. (Since then they have again become much more uneasy. After all, public opinion can descend to the street overnight and turn into an uproar.) Meanwhile, the rulers have discovered the true counterpoise of the press:
BUSINESS AND COMMUNICATION
As soon as the great wars were over, the example of England caught on. Since 1815 a progressive industrialization of the world has been taking place, beside which the great landholdings recede completely. Machine labor has far outdistanced all older techniques; capital is accumulated for the building of factories, human masses for their operation; at the same time credit is enormously expanded. Machines are also used in large-scale farming. The railroads, steamships, and telegraphy place themselves in the service of communication. All goods can travel far; a European adjustment comes about; all local character of production ceases where it is not a question of immediate consumption of the products of the area concerned. Added to this are, finally, commerce, speculation, and, later, gain from stocks and securities. Money becomes and remains the great measure of things, poverty the greatest vice. Money is the successor to birth, but it is more equitable than the latter, because it does not remain long with incompetent heirs.
Intellect and culture are appreciated, to be sure. But literature has unfortunately become an industry as well in most cases. Alongside it, the literature of the eighteenth century appears all to be written with the heart’s blood. Today very few things are still produced out of inner necessity. The raison d’être of the vast majority of creations is the honorarium or the hope for a position. The most famous writer is the one most likely to turn manufacturer. As for scholarship, popularizing for payment overtops even the tremendous amount of research.
Hurry and worry are spoiling life. Through universal competition everything is forced to the greatest speed and struggle for minimal differences.
But at the same time, through the influence of big cities, there arises the mania for getting rich quick, l’amour du million, because this simply is the measure of existence. A naive concession to this may be noticed everywhere. “Respectable living” is jacked up to the point where it is hard to afford; at least the semblance of wealth is required. Cheating of all kinds is inseparable from these phenomena and conditions.
In any time of crisis a lot of card houses collapse. But those who are unable to establish themselves and get rich, as in 1849–1853, lament pitifully [since then the crash of 1873 and its consequences]. If those times had continued, the most terrible crises would now be here because of mere cheating and overproduction; for experience teaches us that people do not restrain themselves. [This subsequently happened in 1871–1872 and was punished in 1873.]
And all this takes place while fermentation from below penetrates over and over again, something that is currently, e.g., terrorizing all of propertied England (and since then other countries as well); while people have no scruples whatever about changes of any kind, something to which the French Revolution has accustomed mankind, particularly the malcontents. At the same time there is utter uncertainty as to the legal limits of majority decisions, while the darkest clouds move up. The great continental war which must destroy all weaker state structures would in any case entail the influx of the great social problem which would appear all by itself with the cessation of industry and credit. [This has happened, but quite differently from what we expected; France went through it with the Commune of 1871; elsewhere the illness remains in the body as a creeping one.]
Here things depend on how well our generation can stand the test. Times of terror and profoundest misery may come. We should like to know on which wave in the ocean we are floating, but we ourselves are the wave.
However, mankind is as yet not destined for downfall, and Nature is creating as graciously as ever.
However, if in misfortune there is to be some fortune as well, it can only be a spiritual one, facing backward to the rescue of the culture of earlier times, facing forward to the serene and unwearied representation of the spirit in a time which could otherwise be given up entirely to things mundane.
(III)* [November 6, 1871.] In regard to the name of this course it may be remarked that actually everything up to our day is fundamentally nothing but an age of revolution, and perhaps we are, relatively speaking, only at the beginning or in the second act. For those three apparently calm decades from 1815 to 1848 have turned out to be a mere entracte in the great drama. But this seems about to become one movement which is antithetical to all the known past of our globe.
To be sure, in those three decades in which we were born and grew up it was possible to believe that the revolution was something completed, which therefore might be described objectively. People also believed—and the high point of these illusions was the spirit of 1830— that they possessed the bridge between the old and the new in the form of the constitutional monarchy. A few “achievements” spread more and more homogeneously throughout Europe, albeit in part only as something sought after, and were regarded as “benefits” of the French Revolution. These were: equality before the law, equality of taxes and division of inheritance, equal eligibility for offices; disposability of real property, reduction of mortmain and entail, as well as a more productive cultivation of the soil, with a quicker exhaustion to a certain extent; freedom of industry, dominance by business and communications; fixed capital overtaken by liquid capital and itself made liquid; equal rights of denominations, something that has become inevitable especially in quite mixed states; in places, state domination of the church, also a tendency toward separation of the two; a great influence of public opinion on all events; widespread currents of public opinion transcending anything national; the modern press.
At that time appeared those books, well written even though not classic, which tried to present a general view of the years 1789 to 1815, as of a completed age—not impartial, to be sure, but trying to be fair and quietly convincing.
Now, however, we know that the very same tempest which has shaken humanity since 1789 bears us onward, too. We can asseverate our impartiality in good faith and yet unconsciously be caught up in extreme partiality.
But in any case, the period 1789 to 1815, with its preliminaries dating from the middle of the eighteenth century (the Enlightenment, the beginnings of reform by governments), constitutes a kind of self-contained whole for practical consideration, with at least the facts and their causes passably well established.
If one wanted to proceed strictly, history itself, from its beginnings, would be only a very dubious source of pure knowledge, because even to its earliest reports sympathies and antipathies of the present can attach themselves every time. Even with ancient Greek and Roman history, with Egypt and Assyria, one can completely lapse into partisanship and interweave jabs at the present.
But let us nevertheless venture the academic presentation of that first period of our present revolutionary world age. A good scholarly justification for this would lie in the facts that so many figures and events of that time have had a typical significance for subsequent developments and that the ritual and imitation of the first French Revolution are an element of the present movement and thus necessary for its understanding, if only historically.
(II) [November 1, 1869.] First we encounter the period of reform from above, with its enlightened rulers and ministers. At that time a public opinion is coming into being, guided by an important literature and poetry, partly negative, partly imaginatively positive, which proceeded from the premise of the goodness of human nature. It is a public opinion which, for the time being, still expects everything to come from above. But a great external event, the liberation of the North American colonies from England, appears as the general prototype of all emancipation. At the same time the important constitutional fights in England itself work in this direction.
But the great despotic reformers are at the same time revolutionaries, to the extent that they are annexers and conquerors; thus Frederick II, Joseph II, and Catherine II. The first great example of the confiscation of an entire country and people is Poland.
Then, on the occasion of a profound financial upheaval, the French crown calls on the already fermenting nation for counsel. All ideals and desires explode in the cahiers which are unique of their kind. This is still the time of visionary hopes, which afterwards returned only for brief moments, and this mood also radiates over Europe.
In the Assembly itself there is a quick turning against the king. Immediately all organs of the old state structure dissolve themselves; anarchie spontanée sets in. Any agreement between the old concept of power with its methods and the new attempt at a people’s government, an agreement from which the establishment of general happiness is demanded and expected, becomes utterly impossible. Human rights are the great moving force which speaks not only for France, but for the world. The two camps must be regarded not as two contending legal parties, but only as two phenomena.
Now there appears the rift in the alleged goodness of human nature. Its engineers are J. P. Marat and suspicion, which was at first directed against the king and the royalists (émigrés), then against all who are not unqualified members of one’s own party. The most dangerous elements of Paris assume the helm of the Revolution. Paris becomes fatally significant, much more so than Rome at the time of the Civil Wars. Rage acts out of fright. The Parisian spirit takes the leadership in the existing state of anarchy; Paris prescribes not only action, but thought as well.
The September massacres may be regarded as the real beginning of the Terror. The foreign war started and waged by France is countered by the Prussian campaign directed at the Champagne and by the subsequent Wars of the Coalition, which keep alive the feeling on which the government of terror subsists. Meanwhile, at home, the government carries out its executions against federalism. The Terror turns from the royalists to the comrades, as it turned in the Spanish Inquisition from the Jews and Moors to the Spaniards.
The Revolution now passes through the characteristic phases with a regularity and rapidity unmatched by any other revolution. It presents by far the most complete picture of a revolution in a very cultured period with all the illustrations one could wish for from the arts and literature.
And since foreign invasion is staved off with relative ease, due to the most vehement internal dissension among the Coalition, France has time during all the Terror to grow a new skin; after Thermidor it is plain to see.
There is a new society, a lot of new property owners who desire no class privileges whatever, in fact, hardly any political rights, and would only be embarrassed by any sort of association; a lot of released manpower is available. All these elements desire only peace and security. The concept of property has outlasted all other principles and values. The difference is that, for the most part, it is in new hands.
The Directory tries to keep the surviving participants of the Revolution in power and honor, without the principles of the Revolution in which hardly anyone believes any longer. Financially it makes shift by founding and plundering so-called daughter republics, and, politically, by reverting to terror in any straits. But in the meantime militarism grows, too. However, since the generals are no longer beheaded, but allowed to become ever more famous and powerful, Napoleon seizes power on the 18th Brumaire.
His is the most instructive type of Caesarism. He is, at the same time, the savior of the new French society and a world conqueror. People would have settled for a much lesser man.
Internally a complete taming takes place. Fourteen years of mute obedience follow; the government and the legislation become national. This Napoleonic state has a great significance as a model for other European states. The Revolution had centralized almost exclusively by destruction. This state added order and a purposeful organism.
Abroad, Napoleon is a terrorist, of the school of 1793–1794. And yet he may be the foremost general of all time. With utter moral unscrupulousness he has at his command the greatest military ability.
It is his mission to trample the peoples down for the time being, but at the same time to awaken in them all their future strength, in part by using and training them, in part by enraging them.
The peace with England, which has scarcely been concluded, he breaks after one year; he gains ground in Italy, Switzerland, and Holland.
He sets up his empire, and, after threatening England, he wages war against the Third Coalition which he encounters for the first time at Austerlitz. Then comes the move against Prussia, which has unhappily remained neutral, and against Russia; the great chapters in this conflict are Jena, Eylau, Friedland, and Tilsit. But henceforth England remains the chief adversary; Napoleon plans a stand-up battle, but after Trafalgar he has to content himself with an indirect one.
It is impossible for Napoleon to pause in this course. The peaceful submission of other states no longer suffices him, because, as long as there is an England, they could still come under its influence; hence the Spanish war. The latter is used by Austria to break away; for this Austria is again crushed, although this time with more difficulty.
The tragedy of Napoleon lies in the fact that the politician carries on in such a way that the military commander can no longer keep pace. Napoleon is incapable of making out of those conquered anything but subjects or vassals, of somehow gaining them as allies through reconciliation. By this he provokes a profound inner revolt of the peoples, who thereby really get to know themselves for the first time and put up with the greatest inner transformations, as, e.g., Prussia after 1808.
The goal which is apparently beckoning from near at hand becomes the overthrow of England, with which he fights for power in such a way that his sphere and the English one are two worlds completely apart. Once he can force Russia to let French customs officers officiate in St. Petersburg, England must give way.
Making his way over the snarling peoples of Europe, with overtaxed resources, he undertakes the Russian campaign and finally there follows the colossal three-year judgment. Its main significance is the fact that a new order of states is brought about, not, perhaps, through the sudden death of Napoleon and an agreement among the governments, but amidst the very greatest national excitement of the peoples, especially in Germany, Russia, Spain, and England. In this way peoples which have been aroused by the French Revolution and the Wars of Liberation never again go to sleep, despite all their need for rest, and henceforth have a different standard for their whole existence and will never be satisfied with the said new political order.
From this there follows as a main consequence the spirit of eternal revision. Napoleon himself had temporarily held this spirit in check: “J’ai conjuré le terrible esprit de nouveauté qui parcourait le monde” [I have mastered the terrible spirit of novelty which was running loose in the world].
(IV) [November 6, 1871.] During the following three relatively peaceful decades the great new storms are clearly getting ready, in accordance with the most profound principle of the revolution, one which differentiates it from all earlier such events: eternal revision, or, rather, revolution.
The decisive new thing that has come into the world through the French Revolution is the permission and the will to change things, with public welfare as the goal. This new thing manifests itself in the equality which here places the decision for change in the hands of universal, or at least very extensive, suffrage. From this there results a change in all forms as soon as a new content makes itself felt.
Therefore state power has since then been present either only qualifiedly, constantly endangered by the desire for revision, or as a despotic reaction with a breaking down of political forms.
Power is theoretically nowhere a hereditary jus quaesitum [sought-after right] any more. Hence, if the moment does require its existence, it is produced temporarily through a coup d’état.
Universal suffrage is the logical antithesis to divine right and the old authority. The revolution proclaimed it and falsified it almost from the beginning. Its limits are indefinite. Created for elections, it can be extended to all matters of state and finally any desired sphere of existence. In the end one would arrive at the communal will of a beehive or an ant heap.
All political freedom before universal suffrage is specifically different from that after it. Even in England it was confined to a limited number of voters. Only political freedom after universal suffrage, based on the theory of equality, possesses or arrogates to itself the authority for eternal revision. Only since then have constitutions constantly been in question and the form of state been subject to constant change.
Equality and participation in the government through universal suffrage have become equivalent ideas (until, perhaps, one day some despotism will show us that there can be equality before it as well).
The driving force in all this is a great optimistic will which has suffused the times since the middle of the eighteenth century. The premise is the goodness of human nature, which, however, is a mixture of good and evil. That optimistic will hopes that changes will bring about an increasing and definitive well-being and in every crisis believes it to be quite close at hand, like a mountain height in a warm, dry wind. One nation, class, level of culture after another has been gripped by it and has believed that once what was desirable for it was achieved, the world could stand still for a while. People did not suspect that their own desiring gave all others, present and future, a right to want things also. People were too ready to forget how far Rousseau had already set the goal with his talk about the “genre humain” which could be made uniformly happy through a return to simple, ideal conditions. But the overwhelming majority of the desires are material in nature, no matter how they may disguise themselves as ideal, for by far the greatest number of people have no other conception of happiness. Yet material desires are in themselves absolutely insatiable, and even if they were continually gratified, then they would be all the more insatiable.
Idealistic minds, to be sure, let their desires and fantasies batten upon a radiant vision of the future in which the spiritual would be reconciled with the material, religion, thought, and life would be one, there would be no dichotomy between duty and inclination, and an epicurean life and morality would be compatible—and all this in the highest sense, with everything being all knowledge and yet simultaneously all beautifully figured. Actually, to date only culture has increased, while human goodness has not, and happiness has certainly not. For happiness depends on two things: the conditions themselves and the degree of satisfaction with them.
It is conceivable that a shifting of that optimism to pessimism may take place, such as already happened at the end of antiquity, and there are isolated indications of this; but the “whether” and the “how soon” remain in doubt.
Schopenhauer adds his voice to the political pro and con and speaks of the misery of this world, which had better not exist at all.
And Darwin’s theory of the struggle for existence in Nature is now applied more and more to human life and history as well. That struggle has always been present, but with the slowness of political, national, and industrial life it has been far less perceptible; now, however, it is terribly alive and is accelerated by national wars and deadly industrial competition.
It is also possible that by this blind will to change (which prevalent optimism superficially terms “progress,” as well as culture, civilization, enlightenment, development, morality, and other things) there is intended something permanent (that is, relatively so), that something stronger and higher is exerting some will in and with us. Some future time, historically surveying this our century of crisis as a whole, may then realize this, while at the same time it may be as blind about its own life and actions as we are about ours.
(It is a moot question how long our planet may still tolerate organic life and how soon its solidification, the exhaustion of carbonic acid and of water, will be coupled with the disappearance of tellurian mankind.)
Our task, in lieu of all wishing, is to free ourselves as much as possible from foolish joys and fears and to apply ourselves above all to the understanding of historical development. To be sure, as stated above, the age of revolution makes this objective understanding the most difficult for us. As soon as we become aware of our position, we find ourselves on a more or less defective ship which is drifting along on one wave among millions. But one could also say that we ourselves are, in part, this wave.
But with some effort a serious interest may be taken.
These are epochs, countries, groups, movements, and individuals in which some specific spirit and a force and passion applied to it manifest themselves eloquently and by turns as instructive and as tempestuously moving. Out of the jumble and confusion we shall win a spiritual possession; in it we want to find not woe, but wealth.
The age of revolution is particularly most instructive, in contrast to everything older and earlier, on account of the rich mutability of things, the multiformity of modern life as compared to earlier life, the strong change in the pulse beat, and, finally, through the great notoriety of everything connected with it.
From this alone we know (certainly not by our own merits) much more about the general life of humanity than did the greatest minds of a hundred years ago. While their ancestors did not undergo much more than wars, the last three generations have experienced an infinitely greater variety of things, namely, the formulation of new principles for existence, numerous new state formations, rapid changes in all mores, culture, and literature. As a shaking up of life, the age of the Reformation and colonization, for example, is a trifle compared to ours. We even have a knowledge of earlier times which is very different from that of our forefathers, because the age of revolution has opened up to us an appreciation of historical driving forces where our ancestors knew only acting individuals. We now see in the history of all epochs to a much larger extent great waves of necessity and regard the individuals as mere tools.
The two greatest changes are the new significance of nationalities and the new concept of the state in connection with new social programs.
The French, as well as all other nationalities, through both resistance and contagion, became much more conscious of their own selves than they had previously been; especially those whose states were dismembered yearned for an end of their isolated territorial existence and for a communal existence and unfolding of their strength. With such prospects Napoleon I tantalized the Poles and Italians, and they believed him beyond his death. There developed the ideal of a national will which might be able to assert itself outside the country as well as in relation to one’s own ruler. To be sure, in this context belong also the subsequent national wars and their character; militarism is their consequence.
THE STATE IN THE NEWER SENSE
The state is to be coterminous with this nationality, i.e., expand until it encompasses all who speak the same language. Nationality is to serve it as a further means of agglomeration, or vice versa. Foreign elements already within the state are crushed; externally the nationalistic state can never be too powerful or can hardly be powerful enough.
But this applies also internally, and here political and social interests write the most extensive programs for the state, with scarcely compatible contents. On the political side these postulates are made: the greatest freedom of all action and movement, universal voting and decision-making; the national will (no matter how it is determined) is to be the master, the ad hoc organs will turn up; all institutions are to be kept provisional and flexible. The origin of this political program is the theory of revolution, not its practice.
On the social side an all-powerful state is postulated throughout. For it is not expected and hoped for that society will of itself realize the desires concerned, which is the way it really ought to be; that is why these tasks are passed on to the state, which has the necessary means of coercion or will create them on behalf of a pretended universal benefit and thus needs an unprecedented wealth of power. The careerists, however, want to take this omnipotent state in hand and guide it. The origin or, rather, the basis of this social program lies in Caesarism.
The French Revolution was social from its very beginning in 1789. In the rural regions the transfer of property was immediately the driving force without which the peasants would not have participated. Moreover, the persecution or destruction of those property owners who had hitherto been at the same time the holders of official power were also effective here. Added to this was the freedom to postulate all sorts of things, as though the world were a tabula rasa (clean slate) and everything could be enforced through well-devised institutions. Those tendencies were represented theoretically by Saint-Just who, as a consistent follower of Rousseau, wanted to leave only swords and plowshares, and, finally, by Babeuf tagging along behind.
The period after 1815 then took up that development and carried it on. Only now, through the peace, were revealed the consequences of a released colossal real property and an industry hitherto really shackled and only relatively free. With England as the model the age of absolute, ruthless acquisition and communication began (Goethe to Zelter: wealth and speed); modern industry came into being. Beside the national wars there appears national competition which is equally murderous, as well as fights along national strata and class lines—beginning with largescale wheat growing by machines, continuing with the crowding out of household industry and handicraft by large industry and the factory system, mainly producing for mass consumption, then for everything. (Hellwald, Machines and Misery, p. 783. n.b. This is true not merely of transitional periods.)
In the most striking contrast with political equality are misery and physiological deterioration (brain formation). To be sure, misery constitutes “a component of every phase of civilization,” but formerly it was not concentrated and yet politically without a voice. Now it makes a noise; it simply wants to be misery no longer, and we are, after all, in the age of eternal revision.
It is under such circumstances that, alongside all the other proclaimed equalities, the only kind of inequality—but the most sensitive of all—is supposed to maintain itself, namely, the inequality of property—and this precisely when it is most strongly on the increase and the entire middle class obviously on the decline.
Thus socialism with its series of systems appears. It strives to gain control of the state, and at the same time the state tries its hand at social experiments.
As factors intensifying the danger there are the dissolution of the smaller units of living, unrestricted settlement and business establishment, as well as overpopulation—and all this with increasing demands made by the state.
Fortunately our consideration of history is not concerned with the future, unlike certain philosophers, e.g., Herr von Hartmann with his two kinds of prophecies. Soothsaying is dead, to be sure, but it is a fact that our time in general provokes calculations and constructions about the future.
One prophecy (Hartmann, Philosophy of the Unconscious, pp. 348, 351 f.) speaks of the breaking up of the world into republics which together will form a republic of states with common legal protection.
In social respects, Hartmann foresees free association, with uniform organization of production and worldwide marketing, by which the riches of the earth would also grow in much faster progression than now, provided (!) that it is not paralyzed or outdistanced here, too, by the increase in the population. (So here even philosophers can see no connection.) The final goal would be for everyone to lead a comfortable life, one worthy of a human being, with a work schedule allowing sufficient leisure for intellectual improvement. (But then who is to load garbage and perform similar chores?) Materially, man would then have the possibility of finally fulfilling his positive, real mission.
Hartmann’s other prophecy (op. cit., p. 337, esp. 341 f.) is as follows. After colossal self-praise of philosophy and philosophers and other pretty speeches there follows (in connection with Darwin) a vision of the future which may harmonize with the above as best it may (p. 343: this is also where he admits that his perspective is horrible from the eudemonic standpoint). It is the struggle for existence. This, he says, takes place among men according to natural laws as inexorable for men as for animals and plants, i.e., eradication of the inferior races of mankind, of the savages as remnants of arrested developmental stages. To be sure, the faster the whole earth is occupied by the most highly developed races, the whites, the more quickly the fight among the various tribes within the races will break out; because these are far more evenly matched, this fight will be much more terrible, bitter, and prolonged, but all the more beneficial to the progressive “development” of the species (yes indeed! into depraved devils!). According to Hartmann, the form of the struggle does not matter, whether it be war or another form of competition, squeezing dry by commerce, or other methods. Thus the earth will become increasingly the exclusive prize of the most highly developed peoples, which will become ever more civilized. Of course, even within these peoples further development will be able to come about only through a grandiose struggle for existence. (And what about the above-mentioned comfortable life, one worthy of a human being?)
We shall do without such historical decorative endpieces. Instead, we have a request to make of fate—a request for a feeling of duty for what lies before us each time, submission to the inevitable, and, when the great problems of existence confront us, a clear, unambiguous statement of these; finally, a request for as much sunshine in the life of an individual as is necessary to keep him alert for the fulfillment of his duty and his contemplation of the world.
[* ]Misnumbering of sections in the original. (Translator’s note.)