“Reaction and Restoration” (Panagiotis Kondylis, Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe, Bd. 5)

[This is a somewhat rough machine-assisted translation of “Reaktion, Restauration” in: Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe, Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland, hsg. v. Otto Brunner, Werner Conze, Reinhart Koselleck, Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1984, 1992.]

[This is one of two entries that Panagiotis Kondylis wrote for the lexicon, the other being Würde (dignity). It’s a dense essay, but it’s marked by an incredible mastery of the sources — there are some 296 footnotes, which aren’t transcribed here — and Kondylis’ seamless ability to switch between conceptual and social history, between the big picture and the particular event, all with unparalleled analytic rigor, and while telling an engaging story all the same. My favorite section is II.5.(c) where Kondylis describes the growing split between liberalism and radical democracy in the Frankfurt National Assembly, and the willingness of liberals to demote the polemical use of “reaction,” and how the fear of anarchy and a “rote Republik” like in Paris was an important liberal concern, thus de facto at least in part rhetorically converging with the aristocratic right. This is another important testimony in favor of differentiating liberalism proper as a historical phenomenon from its unrestrained use as a catchword in the 20th and 21st centuries.]

[I had to omit the 8th chapter due to encountering transcription errors; it is brief and its absence does not detract all that much.]

[My thanks to @hispaniccosmist on Twitter for providing me with the scan. Enjoy.]

I. Introduction. II. 1. The origin of ‘reaction’ and ‘restoration’ and their encounter in the revolutionary period. a) ‘reaction’. b) ‘restoration’. 2. Historical-philosophical background of the restoration efforts and the accusation of reaction. 3. Early use in Germany. 4. The dissolution of the concept of restoration after the July Revolution and the development of the intensified concept of reaction around 1840. 5. The reaction in 1848. a) General remark. b) The counter-revolution’s confrontation with the concept and accusation of reaction. c) The ambiguous attitude of liberals towards the concept of reaction. d) Political and social reaction from a democratic and socialist point of view. 6. Social and constitutional historical positioning of ‘reaction’. 7. ‘Reaction’ in the period from 1849 to 1866. 8. The weakening of the concept of reaction in the period when the German Reich was founded. III. Outlook.

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Review of “Konservativismus: Geschichtlicher Gehalt und Untergang” by Panagiotis Kondylis

My first article (split into two parts) published in J’accuse, Britain’s paper of record. Free of charge. Mate, mate, live off your own blimmin’ demesne lands and don’t gyp me, yeah?

First part.
(covers historical definitions of conservatism, the worldview of pre-modern societas civilis, conservatism and absolutism, conservatism and nationalism)
Second part.
(covers conservatism and the social question/pauperism, conservatism’s dissolution, and its remnants)

Why Post-Liberalism Failed

In 1884, Herbert Spencer, the Victorian intellectual who had become a household name before slipping away into obscurity and posthumous defamation as a “Social Darwinist,” wrote an essay on The New Toryism describing the numerous developments in England from 1860 onward that were turning against his vision of an industrious liberalism and the law of equal freedom. Factories acts, mine inspections, compulsory vaccination boards, restrictions on child labor, stricter medical licensing, bakehouse regulation acts, registration of lodging houses, inspection of cattle sheds, public works, compulsory schooling, nationalization of telegraphy, penalties on hawking without a certificate, train fare subsidies, and much more were instated by parliamentary legislation. “As we have seen, Toryism and Liberalism originally emerged, the one from militancy and the other from industrialism. The one stood for the régime of status and the other for the régime of contract—the one for that system of compulsory cooperation which accompanies the legal inequality of classes, and the other for that voluntary cooperation which accompanies their legal equality; and beyond all question the early acts of the two parties were respectively for the maintenance of agencies which effect this compulsory cooperation, and for the weakening or curbing of them. Manifestly the implication is that, in so far as it has been extending the system of compulsion, what is now called Liberalism is a new form of Toryism,” Spencer lamented.

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Commentaries on Karl Ludwig von Haller: the Restauration der Staatswissenschaft, vol. VI, on republics and free communities

[See also: the commentary on vols. I-IV dealing with patrimonial and military states, and the introductory essay.]

If in the volumes on patrimonial and military states we saw Haller as the defender of the pure private law theory of the state, the unterrified legitimist who doesn’t give an inch to the idea of a societas civilis, here in the sixth and chronologically final volume on republics we see Haller decrying poll taxes as an assault on the principle of equality, bemoaning wealth as a qualification for holding office, criticizing the privatization of the property of the commonwealth as something that “must be attributed only to the upheaval of our social state, to the declared war on all ancient and stable existences, and to the tendency to transform all the goods of the earth into private property, absolute, perpetually mobile and given over to individual egoism,” stating that a legally privileged patriciate “offends the just sentiment of equality and the self-love of other citizens,” and advocating measures against the extreme concentration of wealth (but not by direct expropriation).

A different tune, to be sure, but not a contradiction. It is in this volume that we see clearly the spirit of Haller, the young Bernese patriot and loyal servant of his city, for whom the great political error was confusing the monarchical and republican forms and giving advice and maxims that though appropriate for one form, would be damaging to the other. In his own words to Johann von Mueller in 1808, “as a Swiss, finally, I believe that I have done my subject a great service by thoroughly rescuing the republics and putting them on an equal footing with monarchies, while the sophists otherwise either want to turn everything into monarchies or everything into republics.”

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Commentaries on Karl Ludwig von Haller: the Restauration der Staatswissenschaft, vols. I-IV, on independent territorial lordship, patrimonial states, and military empires

[See also the biographical essay.]

Here it is: the Restoration of Political Science. This is a chapter-by-chapter commentary covering Haller’s critique of the state of public law, his theory on the genesis of enlightened absolutism and revolution, the principles of the patrimonial state, and those of the military state (empire).

I have deliberately chosen to immerse the reader in long quotations of Haller’s own words, not simply because this is my usual style, but because for a thinker as important yet undervalued in the English-speaking world I figured it would be best not only to relay his thoughts as they were, but to dispel various caricatures of his philosophy that have emerged from surface-level summaries.

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Karl Ludwig von Haller: his life and work

[Chapter-by-chapter commentaries on the Restoration: 1. patrimonial states and military empires; 2. republics and free communities.]

Opposed to both these tendencies of liberalism, separated from them by the breadth of the heavens, was Carl Ludwig von Haller, the dreaded “restorer of political science.” The Bernese aristocrat had seen the power of the Swiss patricians collapse amid the storms of the Revolution, and subsequently, as an exile in Austrian service, had constructed the political system which was “to re-establish monarchy upon its true foundations, to overthrow the presumptuous revolutionary science of the godless eighteenth century, and to make the Catholic church shine with renewed effulgence.”

With the proud consciousness of his claim to rank as a universal historian, he announced his doctrine, first of all in Allgemeine Staatskunde (1808), and subsequently, from 1816 onwards, in Restauration der Staatswissenschaft. It seemed to him a wonderful dispensation of Providence that from him in particular, the born republican and Protestant, should proceed the anti-revolutionary doctrine of salvation. And indeed the sledge-hammer dialectical blows of his severe reasoning fell with crushing force upon the imaginative structures of the doctrine of natural rights. It was the incontrovertible demonstrations of this blustering naturalist which first shattered the belief in the state of nature, in the social contract, and in the innate sovereignty of the people, even in those circles of the uninstructed who were unable to follow the ideas of the historical school of law. Yet all that he advanced in place of this obsolete doctrine was a crude popularisation of the principles of patrimonial law upon which had been based the authority of the Bernese aristocracy. Just as in former days the rulers of Berne had treated the conquered subject lands of Aargau and Vaud simply as the property of their glorious republic, so Haller founded the state solely upon the right of the stronger. Land belongs to a prince, a corporation, or a church; upon this property of a suzerain lord, and under his protection, settlers appear; if the people should disappear, the state would still continue to exist in the person of the prince, who can readily find new subjects. Consequently the state resembles any other association based on civil law, differing from others only because it is more powerful and independent, and because its prince is “an owner, a man equipped with absolutely independent rights”; he rules the nation through the instrumentality of his personal servants, is entitled to regard (it is even his duty to regard) himself and his house as the principal aim for which the state exists, but he must resist the dispersion of his own property and must protect his subjects with his own soldiers.

A caricature of the ancient feudal state, which even in the fourteenth century existed nowhere in such crudity as this, was now propounded as the universally valid political ideal, was announced with the same air of infallibility that had characterised the writers who constructed the model imaginary constitutions of the Revolution. The subordination of the citizen, established by constitutional law, became degraded to a state of servitude defined in terms of civil law. In a word, the restorer of political science practically abolished the state.

Nowhere did his doctrine seem more utterly devoid of foundation, nowhere did it seem to conflict more hopelessly with facts, than in Prussia, for nowhere else had the majesty of the state-idea been esteemed so highly as in Prussia, where the princes had always been the first servants of the state. It was precisely upon this that depended Haller’s fierce hatred of Frederick the Great, of that enlightened Prussian absolutism which had discovered the detestable conscription, and of the Allgemeines Landrecht [Prussian System of Common Law promulgated in 1794]. “Except on the title-page,” said Haller, “there is nothing to show that this system of laws may not be intended rather for Japan and China than for the Prussian state.” Yet it was in Prussia that Haller secured numerous and powerful adherents. The crown prince and his romanticist friends considered that in the idea of the state as private property they could rediscover the motley glories of the middle ages. Marwitz and the feudalists among the knighthood of the Mark hailed with delight this resolute thinker who reduced the monarch once more to the ranks of the landowners, who divided society once again into the three castes of teachers, warriors, and manual workers, and assigned such valuable privileges to those “who had the freedom of the land.” The absolutists found it satisfactory that in Haller’s state the prince was above all the people. The ultramontanes were delighted with the praise of theocracy, which the convert had extolled as the freest and best of all political forms. The timid found their own fears confirmed by the complaints of the Bernese fanatic who imagined that the entire world was endangered by the great conspiracy of the freemasons, the illuminati, and the revolutionaries. To all opponents of the Revolution, the victorious polemic against natural rights was welcome. Whereas amid the simpler and wider relationships of French political life, the feudal and clerical party was already the open enemy of bureaucratic absolutism, in Germany all the aspects of the counter-revolution were still indistinguishably confused.

Far less support was secured by the purely ultramontane political doctrine of the skilled sophist, Adam Mueller. The Roman Catholic system could not truly flourish in the homeland of heresy; not one of our clerical authors could go so far as the Savoyard noble Joseph de Maistre, who, glowing with all the ardour and religious fanaticism of the Latin races, demanded, now half jestingly and now again wrathfully, that the sinful world should be subjected to the pope, and who fiercely contested the “bestial” science of “the century of folly.” The able German convert lacked this emotional impulse, this crusadering enthusiasm. Adam Mueller, with clear insight, descried indeed many of the weaknesses of liberalism, especially in respect of its economic doctrines; he showed incisively how inadequate was the system of laissez-faire amid the struggles of social interest, how impossible was the complete international division of labour between independent nations, and prophesied that from the modem economic system would proceed a new plutocratic nobility more contemptible and more dangerous than the old aristocracy of birth. But in his Theologische Grundlegung der Staatswissenschaft we find no more than a repetition of Haller’s doctrines, adorned with some of the frippery of theology and natural philosophy. In a manner even more arbitrary than that of Haller, he artificially effected a “natural” classification of society, sometimes distinguishing the teachers, the warriors, and the manual workers as the respective representatives of faith, love, and hope, and sometimes classifying the population into nobles, burghers, and rulers. Mueller, like Haller, denied the distinction between constitutional law and civil law, and declared that every state must to all eternity be composed of a union of states. His ideal was a rational feudalism; he hoped to solve the contradiction between politics and law by the power of faith, elevated to the rank of law!

Thus everything which German political science had secured during the last century and a half, since Puffendorf had delivered our political thinkers from the yoke of the theologians, was once more put in question, and political doctrine was degraded anew to the level of the theocratic conceptions of the middle ages. Friedrich Schlegel hailed the church as the greatest of all guilds, after whose example all the other corporations of civil society should be reconstituted. [Franz von] Baader spoke of the teaching caste, the warrior caste, and the caste of manual workers, as the three orders of every nation, rejecting the expression “the state” as an impious modern discovery. “Corporation, not association,” was the catchword of the political romanticists, most of whom associated with this term no more than the indefinite conception of a debile state authority, limited by the power of guilds, diets of nobles, and self-governing communes, and in spiritual matters subjected to the control of the church.

— Heinrich von Treitschke’s verdict on Haller, from vol. 5 of History of Germany in the nineteenth century (1894)

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Saint-Bonnet, fire breather of the legitimists

Antoine-Joseph-Elisée-Adolphe Blanc de Saint-Bonnet (1815-1880) was a Lyonnaise legitimist, counterrevolutionary and ultramontane thinker, among the highest calibre of his kind. Combining a vivid Christian anthropology with staunch ultra-royalist views and lapidary, biting prose, he could be described as like Joseph de Maistre but without the fideism, occasionalism and absolutism that taint the latter with a certain heterodoxy. In another sense, he could be compared to Thomas Carlyle, except with a much crisper writing style compared to that of the meandering Scottish sage, and a devout Catholic traditionalist as opposed to an innovative romantic. Saint-Bonnet is extremely quotable, indeed his prose can be smoothly cited like aphorism without at all being aphoristically muddled in its thought. Some of it is intense, and can be felt as though a dagger is being thrust in your heart, twisted, removed, and stabbed right back in. For instance:

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Italia Addio: a counter-history of the Risorgimento

The highest moral virtue in our day is to “amplify marginalized voices.” Consequently, I want to share the story of the Italian legitimists: Parmese and Sicilian neoborbonicos, Modenese filoestenses [loyal to the House of Habsburg-Este], Austro-Lombardian legitimists, Savoyard conservatives who renounced the bogus cause of “Italian unity” so as to retain their own statehood, and of course those brave intransigent Catholic defenders of the temporal power of the Pope.

The Italian Risorgimento is a fascinating period to study since it is the most unambiguous example of how, i) the cause of “national unification” was in fact the first color revolution; ii) said cause served to extinguish the last remnants of the old regime that would not only irrevocably reconfigure world politics, but effectively reduce the political right to a state of unending impotence and mediocrity, detached from the legacy it was robbed of; iii) that there was no such thing as a good and noble “classical liberalism” that was hijacked, but that from the beginning the ideology of liberalism was a centralizing and totalitarian one that employed brutal police repression of those loyal to their deposed sovereigns in the Apennine duchies, and in the Italian South most horrifically reached proportions amounting to an ethnic pogrom that included conditions akin to concentration camps in the Fenestrolle Fort and plans for penal colonies in Argentina and Tunisia, all predating the Anglo-Boer wars; iv) the cause of national unity was an essentially liberal and Masonic elite ideology that led to ruthless wars of aggression and dismemberment of centuries-old states and cultures, and wrought economic impoverishment that spurred massive emigration, all with long-lasting repercussions.

In the first chapter I will give a summary of the ideological origins and practical execution of the Risorgimento, in the second I will discuss the unsung heroes who tried to prevent it, and in the third I will talk about the backward, misgoverned and contentious state that it created, i.e. the Kingdom of Italy.

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Why the Bourbon Restoration failed

The charter of Louis XVIII, the sinister mother of a restoration that restored nothing…

— Carl Ernst Jarcke, 1834

We are born, so to speak, before our own laws which are less the product of our experience than of our errors and our passions. We cannot affirm them on the authority of our fathers because the chain of time no longer exists for us.

— Etienne-Denis Pasquier, 1820

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The counterrevolution betrayed: Count Bismarck and his consequences

The reputation of Otto von Bismarck has fluctuated from the ambivalence of his contemporaries, to his canonization as father of the German nation following his dismissal in 1890 and particularly his death in 1898, to then being scapegoated as the embodiment of ghastly “Prussian militarism” and the predecessor to Hitler after 1945. Other than that, he is known for his handouts and his antagonism toward the Catholic Church. Oh, and unifying Germany, of course.

Few doubt his status as a paradigmatic conservative figure, however. It is a testament to how the world order he helped create (but as I will argue, was not actually that essential to, hence disputing his “Great Man” role) so thoroughly extinguished the legitimist cause that he ended up inheriting their legacy, with none of the substance.

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