A Quote II — Kraft im Recht

The other day I was reading a review of a new biography of Klemens von Metternich, and I’d like to quote a passage from the review, which I believe expresses not a political program or ideology, but a way of looking at political/social issues that is worth considering.

« Whether Metternich was a reactionary or not used to be a staple exam question in European History papers. Siemann does not believe he ran a police state, not least because Austrian cities, towns, and villages had no police forces. He prefers to consider what relevance Metternich has today, especially as a strategist and visionary. He rightly recalls how Metternich “judged political constitutions according to their suitability to the state in question,” and was therefore not a champion of any particular system but would support any that guaranteed the outcome demanded by his family’s coat of arms, “Strength in law.”

This was not to be enforced by a powerful army and federal police force—though Metternich believed in having those too—so much as a shared public ethos that valued tradition and order, the better to allow the individual to develop according to his own lights. Siemann thus presents Metternich as a classic conservative rather than a reactionary. Metternich distrusted the radical intelligentsia of the 1820s and 1830s, especially for their belief in extending the franchise down to a largely illiterate peasantry. He certainly opposed extremism and fanaticism wherever he found them, as one might expect of so sophisticated, frequently cynical, cosmopolitan, and intelligent a statesman. »

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