Political Sociology: A Reader

By S. N. Eisenstadt | Go to book overview
peoples. All the peoples should aid and assist each other in putting an end to it.
19. Humanity will only be truly constituted when all the peoples of which it is composed have acquired the free exercise of their sovereignty, and shall be associated in a Republican Confederation, governed and directed by a common Declaration of Principles and a common Pact, towards the common aim—the discovery and fulfilment of the Universal Moral Law.

71
The German Idea of Freedom

Ernst Troeltsch

The German idea of freedom possesses its own characteristic traits. Undoubtedly it has been affected by French and English ideas of liberty. Locke and Rousseau have influenced theory, whereas the English constitution and self-government and the French Revolution have been of tremendous practical impact. However, these ideas have been thoroughly transformed in the real core of German development, in the institutions which go back to Baron von Stein, Scharnhorst and Boyen, and in the philosophical, idealistic interpretation of state and history from Kant, Fichte and Hegel to the contemporary philosophical idealists. Here, too, liberty is the key word, but this liberty has its own meaning, determined by German history and the German spirit.

Liberty as creative participation in the formation of state authority means to us, not the bringing forth of governmental will out of individual wills, not control of the mandatory by the principal, but the free, conscious and dutiful dedication of oneself to the whole, as it has been molded by history, state and nation. The whole as the expression and incarnation of collectivity is to be willed freely and always re‐ created anew in personal activity. Thus, prince and officials consider themselves as the first servants of the state, and citizens think of themselves as members of the state. They are all organs of the one sovereign whole which they bring forth anew in ceaseless self‐

devotion. Liberty consists more in duties than in rights, or, rather, in rights which are simultaneously duties. The individuals do not compose the whole, but identify themselves with it. Liberty is not equality, but service of the individual in his station organically due to him. In this, lie the dignity and active participation of the individual, but also his restraint, and all modern achievements of national unity, equality before the law, parliaments and universal military service, are molded by this spirit. This is the "state mysticism" (Staatsmystik) which our great thinkers and historians have felt in common with Plato. It has been rejected as philosophically meaningless by Bishop Welldon and his English nominalism, and it has been defined as immoral by the English ideal of independence. But Hegel saw in it the philosophy of freedom, and it has become evident, more or less consciously, more or less coherently, in all great German creations of the century. As everything in this world, this "state mysticism" has its dangers, and can obviously degenerate in face of fear of responsibility and bureaucratic rule of officials. But where its most characteristic nerve is alive in autonomous, dutiful, self‐ dedication and participation combined with vigilance and responsibility, it leads to a joining of initiative with devotion, pride with discipline, creative energy with public spiritedness and sacrifice. This spirit has created all that is great in the past German century, it characterizes two expressions of life so contrary to one another as the German army and the socialist party. It has also absorbed, and digested, Bismarck's realism.

____________________
From Ernst Troeltsch, "The German Idea of Freedom," in William Ebenstein, ed., Man and the State (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Co., 1947), pp. 256-257. Reprinted by permission of J. C. B. Mohr, Tiibingen, copyright holders of the article which first appeared in Deutscher Geist und Westeuropa, 1925.

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