My name is Marc Mulholland. I am a Fellow (lecturer and tutor) in the History Faculty of Oxford University. My College is St Catherine's. I come from Ireland.

This is a blog relating to my book published in 2012 by Oxford University Press, Bourgeois Liberty and the Politics of Fear: From Absolutism to Neo-Conservativism.
Now on sale here and here. If you want 20 per cent off the price, I can arrange that! Send me a message or leave a comment, and I'll tell you how.

The thesis my book is examining was rather pithily summarised by Leon Trotsky in 1939: "Wherever the proletariat appeared as an independent force, the bourgeoisie shifted to the camp of the counter-revolution. The bolder the struggle of the masses, the quicker the reactionary transformation of liberalism." [Context is here]

However, my book isn't a defence of Trotskyism, or indeed any particular ideology. It's a study of an idea that took shape in Left, Right, and Centre variations.

This blog has tid-bits not included in the book, and other thoughts that occur.

You can see book details at the
OUP website.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Prussia and the 'Free Right of Merit'

Between about 1859 and 1864, there was an acute struggle between liberals seeking greater powers for the Prussian parliament, elected on a wealth franchise, and the Crown struggling to consolidate its hold upon the army. With Bismarck's help, the Crown triumphed (more or less).

This was a key turning-point as I discuss it in my book. Rather provocatively, I said it came  "closest to being the most striking example of an archetypal bourgeois revolution".

Partly this claim depends upon my definition of 'bourgeoisie', which is neither as just a disparate rag-bag twixt gentry and labourers, nor a super cohesive class of capitalists. Rather, it is a class category bound by a common interest in what we'd call 'meritocracy'.

There's an interesting section on the dispute in F. L. Carsten's study re-published in his Essays in German History (London: the Hambledon Press, 1985):
The army conflict in Prussia was at the same time a social conflict between a rising middle class and a declining nobility. This was clearly perceived at the time. Thus the historian of the foundation of the German Empire of 1871, Professor von Sybel, said in 1862: 'in internal affairs, the great conflict of our time is not a conflict between Crown and parliament, but one between the excessive privileges of the nobility and the free right of merit.' Another moderate Liberal declared: 'it is a struggle about principles ... a struggle of the burghers versus the Junkers.' ['Bismarck and the Prussian Liberals', p. 239]
It's a nice little paragraph. Too late for the book, but I submit it for your consideration.

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