The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 07 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 474 pages of information about The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 07.

Subjective freedom is the principle of the whole modern world—­the principle that all essential aspects of the spiritual totality should develop and attain their right.  From this point of view one can hardly raise the idle question as to which form is the better, monarchy or democracy.  One can but say that the forms of all constitutions are one-sided that are not able to tolerate the principle of free subjectivity and that do not know how to conform to the fully developed reason.

Since spirit is real only in what it knows itself to be, and since the State, as the nation’s spirit, is the law permeating all its affairs, its ethical code, and the consciousness of its individuals, the constitution of a people chiefly depends upon the kind and the character of its self-consciousness.  In it lies both its subjective freedom and the reality of the constitution.

To think of giving a people a constitution a priori, though according to its content a more or less rational one—­such a whim would precisely overlook that element which renders a constitution more than a mere abstract object.  Every nation, therefore, has the constitution which is appropriate to it and belongs to it.

The State must, in its constitution, permeate all situations.  A constitution is not a thing just made; it is the work of centuries, the idea and the consciousness of what is rational, in so far as it is developed in a people.  No constitution, therefore, is merely created by the subjects of the State.  The nation must feel that its constitution embodies its right and its status, otherwise the constitution may exist externally, but has no meaning or value.  The need and the longing for a better constitution may often indeed be present in individuals, but that is quite different from the whole multitude being permeated with such an idea—­that comes much later.  The principle of morality, the inwardness of Socrates originated necessarily in his day, but it took time before it could pass into general self-consciousness.


Because sovereignty contains in ideal all special privileges, the common misconception is quite natural, which takes it to be mere force, empty caprice, and synonymous with despotism.  But despotism means a state of lawlessness, in which the particular will as such, whether that of monarch or people (ochlocracy), is the law, or rather instead of the law.  Sovereignty, on the contrary, constitutes the element of ideality of particular spheres and functions under lawful and constitutional conditions.

The sovereignty of the people, conceived in opposition to the sovereignty residing in the monarch, stands for the common view of democracy, which has come to prevail in modern times.  The idea of the sovereignty of the people, taken in this opposition, belongs to a confused idea of what is commonly and crudely understood by “the people.”  The people without its monarch and without that whole organization necessarily and directly connected with him is a formless mass, which is no longer a State.  In a people, not conceived in a lawless and unorganized condition, but as a self-developed and truly organic totality—­in such a people sovereignty is the personality of the whole, and this is represented in reality by the person of the monarch.

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The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 07 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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