Friday, February 20, 2009

The Metternich System

Prince Metternich , Austrian chancellor and foreign minister, dominated the European political scene after 1815. The architect of the Congress of Vienna he represented and embodied the conservative and autocratic values of the period. He was driven from power in 1848 when a revolution in Vienna forced him to flee the country. The following are two interesting quotes of his which pose an interesting dilemma for those of us who believe in these ideals.

“Two words are enough to create evil, two words which because they are empty of meaning, enchant the dreamers by emptiness. These two words are Liberty & Equality.”

“The people let themselves be duped easily enough, you cannot exaggerate the goodness of the people, I might even say of all people’s, but their ignorance is great, and therefore they must be led.”

What are your opinions? How do these ideas apply to Spain during this period?


Quinn said...

In relation to the first quote, I understand the second part but not the first line. When the quote says that Liberty and Equality are empty words, I would agree because each person has a slightly different mean to each of these. For example, an American might think of equality as being treated the same, no matter race, sex or religion where as a person in a developing world may view equality as being treated the same as other people with the same race, sex or religion, but not necessarily the same as someone from a different group.

I also understand how dreamers can use these two words to enchant because they two words are very real ideas of the time that were being used by the commoners to rise up against their rulers who were limiting liberty and equality. Additionally, since each individual has a different view of the meaning of these two words, it would be easy for dreamers to use these words as a way to an ideal world.

The part of the quote about creating evil, I don’t understand. Perhaps Metternich is stating that evil rulers use these words to get the populace to gain support or that liberty and equality are evil because they challenge the old regime that has the royal family and nobles above the commoners. I think that this second opinion is most likely what he means, but he did leave it very open to interpretation.

Lauren Renee Karsh said...

I feel the opposite way that Quinn does- I can interpret the part of the quote about evil more than the part about the enchanted dreamers. I feel like Metternich is correct in a sense that liberty and equality can create evil. The existence of these two words does not mean that their true meanings will be carried out. Defying liberty and equality can lead to war, disputes, dictatorship, or unequal rights.

It is interesting that Metternich said something like this during the time period because of the Carlist Wars and the split of ideologies among the military class, the liberalists, and the conservatives.Did liberty and equality exist at a time like this? Not quite which obviously led to the civil wars in Spain- which is where I agree with Metternich about evil. The wars and conflicts were the evil that existed because of the lack of liberty and equality.

Ben said...

The first quote represents the monarchical perspective of the time, that there is in fact an inherent, perhaps even biological or spiritual difference between the nobility and the masses. Those in power saw themselves as people of greater worth than the average man. To them liberty and equality of the peasantry was a joke. Prince Metternich and those like him saw these words as meaningless blather used by revolutionaries to inspire uprisings. As we know today liberty and equality are realistic, obtainable goals, but monarchs of this time wished to secure their unwavering power and superiority over others, which would be impossible once ideas like these were introduced into the equation.

The second quote reveals another position adopted by European monarchs of the early nineteenth century, that the masses are incapable of efficiently governing themselves. This quote can basically be interpreted as a strict denunciation of all things democratic. How pompous and arrogant it was of Metternich to believe it was his duty to lead the poor, helpless populace! However, by strengthening institutions like the church and weakening others like the press, the masses were in fact made ignorant, disabling them to self govern.

Erica said...

I agree with both Lauren and Quinn in response to the first quotation. I agree with Lauren’s interpretation because every word in our vocabulary, in retrospect, is an empty verbalization given meaning by society. It is through our efforts to “define” unobtainable concepts that false hopes and dreams are created. Through an idealists vision of what “liberty” and “equality” should be a dreamer may find themselves disappointed in their current situation. Although one does need to look at the big picture when reading this quotation because we are a society that defines and has already defined words so it is too late to go back and change this. Our “evil” has already been created so this is where I find myself agreeing with Quinn, for the opposition of interpretations (Quinn discussed view points) is what causes people to talk, fight, prove points, etc. Opposing viewpoints are what initially spark changes and cause discussion. Spain’s history is filled with series of reforms to make country better. If no one disagreed or strove for idealist ideas society would be unable to progress. So why not let the dreamer dream? Controversy and opposing views are what spark change. Although I find the quotation faulty, I do like how Metternich uses juxtaposition by comparing the concept of evil to two very hopefully words.

Jessica Lamm said...

Sorry my comment's so late, I completely forgot about this blog!! But anyways, I think that everyone had some interesting thoughts on this one. The two quotes are interesting because they are vague and left open to interpretation. Or maybe it just seems that way now and it would have been more clear if you were living in the time. So as far as the first quote about Liberty and Equality, I can see how it seems as though those are empty words that would create evil during that time period. The words are empty because there was nothing to keep them strong with belief. It was such a far off ideal to believe in and although there were many believers and revolutionaries at this time, the actuality of having liberty and freedom for all was probably completely unrealistic for Metternich.
The second quote about the ignorance of the people is very interesting. I like how he said that they must be led, because in a sense that is still true today. Even though we don't like to believe it now, the general public is still ignorant and therefore led by anything and everything. This includes media, other people, what they see in their close surroundings, etc. The ignorant are always led by something, for they do not have the wisdom to be an independent thinker. I feel this is the same in Spain during this time but to a much higher degree. Although Metternich's words seem harsh, there is some truth behind it.