Machiavellism: The Doctrine of Raison D'Aetat and Its Place in Modern History

Machiavellism: The Doctrine of Raison D'Aetat and Its Place in Modern History

Machiavellism: The Doctrine of Raison D'Aetat and Its Place in Modern History

Machiavellism: The Doctrine of Raison D'Aetat and Its Place in Modern History

Excerpt

Friedrich Meinecke's was a long life. When he was born, in 1862, his German fatherland had not yet found its long-sought unity in a common Reich; indeed, the fateful battles of Sadowa and Sedan, which were to determine the extent and the political character of that Reich, had not yet been fought. When he died ninety-two years later in 1954, the Reich had run through a whole cycle of existence. It had lived through a brief morning glory under Bismarck; it had experienced a sultry noon-tide under the Kaiser; it had emerged from the ordeal of war and revolution into the declining day of the Weimar Republic when the shadows were constantly lengthening, to fall ultimately into the twilight of despotism and to be dismembered and extinguished in the crushing defeat of 1945. Meinecke saw all these developments and they affected him deeply -- not only because he was a good German, but even more because he was a good historian. This may sound paradoxical, but it is essentially the sober truth. To be a historian did not mean for Meinecke to live in the past, or to have one's mind turned towards the past: it meant first and foremost to take one's place squarely in the life of one's own period, to feel its driftwinds and to stand its storms. Deeply influenced by the intellectual movement called, in an untranslatable term, Lebensphilosophie, and standing close to such thinkers as Wilhelm Dilthey, Meinecke regarded the study of history less as an exercise of the human intellect than as an experience of the whole personality -- as an understanding participation in the struggles, hopes, fears, frustrations and achievements of the men of other days. The historian can, in his conviction, enter the realm of the past only by the gateway of the present: only a wholehearted entry into the reality of the present can give his mind that heightened awareness of what really matters which he will need when he tries to come to grips with the reality of the past. Anyone acting otherwise, anyone going to the sources with the mental habits of the bookworm, will fail to establish true contact with the living forces of the ages, will miss what is and was most essential -- indeed, will be a dead man handling dead things. An attitude such as this lays on the scholar a heavy burden, a cross few have cared to assume. It takes him out of the quiet class-room and the sheltered library . . .

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