Bismarck and the Creation of the Second Reich

1st Edition

Friedrich Darmstaedter

Routledge
Published August 15, 2008
Reference - 464 Pages
ISBN 9781412807838 - CAT# Y347724

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Summary

Chancellor Otto Bismarck's "greatness" lay in what he created, the German Reich of 1871. This Reich was the product of his genius, and in it his genius took complete shape. In less than a decade German chaos was brought to an end and in its place a homogeneous state began to arise. The structure of this state left no room for opposing political forces, but rather made ready a roof under which these forces might rally, support each other, and gain strength. Bismarck and the Creation of the Second Reich begins as a biography but continues as a description of his political life and the ideas that led to the birth of an authoritarian political culture.The community from which Bismarck formed his conception of the state was first the family and clan, then the landlord caste, and finally the people. These communities found their unifying force in the Kaiser, who as their patriarchal head enjoyed divine honors as ruler by the grace of God. The existence of the state was justified as the framework within which these communities existed, and it had thus a biological as well as a religious content. This idea of the state as the supreme moral command of religion was too powerful a driving force to be dropped in favor of the rational view of the state as a potential war machine. Bismarck reconciled the two concepts by use of the concept of a "people in arms," an idea which had originated in German history as a means of defense, but which was changed into one of aggression. In order to become a means of aggression it was changed into a moral precept commanded by religion, and indeed into the supreme precept.Through the unfolding of the political life of Bismarck, we find the roots of the Nazi Third Reich--the inability of the people to educate themselves about politics enough to effect any change or satisfy their own political needs. In this loss of control, the authoritarian regime grew stronger. Though Bismarck's work led to the creation and implementation of the Second Reich, "it is in the Third Reich that we find the devilish distortion that was its fruit." This volume is an essential tool for understanding twentieth-century German history.

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