Realpolitik and its roles in the unification of Germany and Italy

Berlin.jpgRealpolitik also known as pragmatic nationalism is a political theory primarily based on nationalism and focused on achieving a certain goal through practical means in which it appears to be conservative from time to time. Realpolitik, in the context of 19th century revolutions, has led the unification of Germany and Italy to success through incorporating as much self-interests of interest groups to maximize satisfaction amongst different political party.

Unlike many ideas and political theories created during the 19th century, Realpolitik embodies a very conservative view of politics, from time to time absolutist, which helped the unifiers easily control the execution of policies, creating policies consistent with only one idea. In The Speech to the Frankfurt Assembly, Droysen emphasizes how Germany should value “power” more than “[constitution]”. Also, the author strongly argues that German Unification will occur when a strong ruling house is settled. This statement, to begin with, is not liberal at all since the act of valuing power over constitution is ignoring the popular voice of the legislative body, belittling the right of the mass. Also, the establishment of powerful ruling class is the creating of aristocrats, thus returning the government system to the class based pre-modern government. Additionally, according to Field Marshal Helmuth von Motke, the Austro-Prussian War was fought not because of territorial or economic reasons, but because of “the establishment of power”. He also analyzes the situation of the Austro-Prussian War as Prussia filling in the vacuum of leadership of the German races caused due to the devastation of Austria with the crossing of the Alps. It is true that being conservative, monarchical and even totalitarian may not seem to have any direct effect on the unification. However, those are indeed connected. Looking at Bismarck and his domestic policies, every individual, no matter of their ideals, have a detailed plan which is more effective than when plotted as a group. This was proven by the Frankfurt Parliament in 1848 when they failed miserably to establish a new constitution as well as a government due to diverse interest groups and conflict between them. Thus, the reinvestment of power to an individual has allowed for faster and more efficient execution of policies which not only allowed the individual to carry out his plan undisturbed but also helped the nation as a whole to gain the momentum to carry out the unification.

One of the three main characteristics of Realpolitik is that it distanced people from ideal and abstract views and gave way to practical policies and decisions which increased the general happiness of the nation by corresponding to as much self-interest as it could. This created numerous supporters and eliminated the oppositions despite the fact that the majority of the population during the 19th century was liberal while the unification government was conservative. Firstly, Otto von Bismarck uses pragmatic policies regarding domestic and foreign affairs to unify Germany. Bismarck was a conservative prime minister of Prussia. Despite his conservative identity, he used any means to unify Germany. Bismarck, knowing that oppressing either of the two parties, liberal and conservative, would cause revolts, balanced the favor of the two parties. He established a government based on conservative values of monarchy and institution. However, at the same time, Bismarck granted freedom of press, coalition and even universal suffrage. These liberal policies compensated for conservative institution. Also, in terms of foreign affairs, Bismarck was extremely careful on how and with whom he should form allays. In the excerpt, Bismarck clearly says to “avoid wounding Austria too severely” for it will backstab Germany by allaying with France, which was originally neutral with Germany. Bismarck’s delicate manipulation of international relationship shows how he used decisions based on practical needs more than just ideals to deal with problems which led to the unification of Germany. These situations are also evident in Italy. In the Report of the meeting of Count Cavour with Emperor Napoleon III of France Napoleon has agreed to fight on behalf of Italy if the war. However, since France had a conservative government during the year 1858, Italy had to agree to conservative terms, that the war is of non-revolutionary cause, despite the original purpose of creating a unified liberal government. This allay has led Italy to unify the Norther regions. His choice to use conservative values in order to unify Italy shows practicality more so than ideals. Also, Speech of Vittorio Emanuele I shows pragmatism in politics to create an efficient government. Due to the allays created between France, Rome and Count Cavour, the Italian government created after the unification could not be as liberal as anticipated. However, the Italian people, since the revolution of 1848 were excited about the liberal government. Thus, Victor Emanuele I, the first king of the kingdom of Italy announces that “the opinion of civilized nations is favorable to [the government]; the just and liberal principle”. Also, Emanuele I appeals to the emotion of the audience by humbling himself and saying that “[he takes] pleasure in manifesting to the first Parliament of Italy the joy [he feels] in [his] heart as king and soldier”. One important fact about the document is that it is a speech given in public. These two quotes from the speech show that Emanuele I not only is trying to favor the expected audience of liberal intelligentsias but also appealing to the emotions of the Italian citizen in order to win their favor for the comparatively conservative government. These elaborate speeches of ensuring the public has not only secured the unification but also halted future revolts against the government. The use of white lie as well as emotion is a direct example of maximizing satisfaction by using practical method of establishing government rather than an ideal method.

Also, Pragmatic Nationalism, as its name suggests, contained nationalistic characteristics which motivated the individuals to unite the nation in the first place as well as helped the initiators of unification to justify their conservative actions to the liberal public. Firstly, The Program of Count Cavour describes nationalism as the necessary step in human progress in which one grows into a more moral and intelligent being. Thus, according to the author, national identity is required to create a truly civilized nation. The author takes a step further and analyzes Italy. He mentions that “Nationalism has [kept] all parts of Italy united despite the differences that distinguish them.” (Cavour, 1846). This shows that he had faith in the nationalism of Italian people which motivated him to create a united Italy. Analyzing the date that this document was recorded, the document was made before the revolutions of 1848. This means that the author has not witness of the failed yet the first attempt on the Italian unification. This shows that even before several attempts on unifying Italy, the author was determined to creating a united Italian state. Also The Imperial Proclamation illustrates the role of nationalism within the German context. The article refers to the word “fatherland” several times. In German, “fatherland” translates to Vaterland, another name for Germany. This shows that the idea of nation represented the parent like figure of the individual participants. This provokes brotherhood within the nation, thus nationalism. Analyzing the date of the document, the document is created on the day of the proclamation of the German Unification. Also, this document is the Imperial Proclamation, which is the equivalent of the declaration of independence for America written at the moment of establishing the government. Thus, whatever is written on the document can be regarded as the founding ideas of the government. This shows that the idea of nationalism not only has been prevalent throughout the process of unification but also has resulted in a governmental system based on nationalism.

To conclude, Realpolitik has influenced Germany and Italy in unifying itself. Considering the fact that Realpolitik consists of pragmatic measures and nationalism, manipulating with situations to favor oneself practically as well as using nationalism has allowed Bismarck and Cavour to maximize satisfaction amongst the interest groups so that there is a point of compensation in which an individual based government can quickly and efficiently rule over the mass without revolts.


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