Infinite Boundaries: Order, Disorder, and Reorder in Early Modern German Culture

Infinite Boundaries: Order, Disorder, and Reorder in Early Modern German Culture

Infinite Boundaries: Order, Disorder, and Reorder in Early Modern German Culture

Infinite Boundaries: Order, Disorder, and Reorder in Early Modern German Culture

Excerpt

Boundaries are as impermanent as they are inevitable. No one knows and fears the impermanence of boundaries more than the claim jumper. Individuals, groups, institutions that have shaken, transgressed, appropriated, or otherwise risen upon the ruins of recognized boundaries labor, if in vain, to construct new and this time impregnable defenses against future assaults. Boundaries signify ownership; but ownership stirs rivalries; rivalries provoke conflicts; and conflicts change boundaries. Would it not therefore be an honorable task to neutralize the provocation of boundaries for the sake of peace? Having grown weary by the mid-sixteenth century of the struggle over religiopolitical boundaries, the Germans thought to do just that by legislating permanence to borders: in principle, cuius regio eius religio would absolutize borders into discrete units of sovereignty and thereby remove hostile competition. But a century of religious wars followed. A later idea was to co-opt the necessity of boundaries. By twisting the Tacitean-Lipsian doctrine of prudentia in the direction of "good government at home," namely, by focusing on domestic issues and ignoring border maintenance, one could perhaps eliminate the expansionist instinct, as an apothegm by the Heidelberg Calvinist Julius Wilhelm Zincgref suggests; but the subsequent sad history of Palatinate borders illustrates the fallacy in that. The fact is, one's boundaries define one's home; ignore them and someone else will be . . .

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