A History of the Economic Institutions of Modern Europe: An Introduction of der Moderne Kapitalismus of Werner Sombart

By Frederick L. Nussbaum | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE NEW MERCANTILISM AND THE NEW IMPERIALISM

THE state became the servant and instrument of economic society capitalistically organized, rather than its master and director as it had been in the period of early capitalism. Regardless of variations and changes in the political forms, from the democracy of England to the czarism of Russia, in all the countries of Europe, the same general policy was followed, the same laws were established to protect and further the institutions of capitalism.

The nineteenth century state contained in itself two mutually contradictory principles. On the one hand, it pursued a power policy, much after the manner of earlier capitalistic states à la Machiavelli, the object of which was "prestige," "a place in the sun," "manifest destiny"--expressions that only modernize Machiavelli's "glory of the Prince." On the other hand, at the same time, in domestic affairs its avowed purpose was the promotion of "progress and prosperity." The contradiction between these two aspects of the state was not, of course, fully visible until the World War, but even in 1914 many people, with perfectly sound logic, declared that the financiers and the industrialists would not permit war. That they were mistaken only illustrates the profundity of the contradiction.

The state had become purely secular, independent of any external sanction, completely sovereign, and therefore indifferent to religious divisions, although state churches survived as relics of an earlier time. It had become thoroughly individualist. Citizenship had become purely citizenship in the state, free of any connection with local or personal bonds. The community solidarity

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