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Problematic Feelings about Parties: Excerpts from the Staats-Lexikon: "Parties" (1845-1848)

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The common characteristic of these parties is therefore the representation of interests that are opposed to the interests of the community, the use of the community as a means for purposes alien to it. They are distinguished only by the methods they use to achieve their aims. The representatives of political absolutism coerce directly by using various higher-level methods of force. The representatives of the "church" achieve their aims by a peculiar cultivation of human emotion, and the representatives of capital use the general medium of commerce, money, in order to get the non-propertied to serve their interest. These parties are all conservative in nature, i.e. they seek with all the means [at their disposal] to maintain the status quo condition corresponding to their interests, which they either found or created. Therefore they seek at any price to prevent the whole, the people, from achieving a position in which it destroys privileges and gives society a form corresponding to the interest of the whole of the people. These parties are unconditionally conservative, i.e. they seek to maintain the status quo, even when it is absurd, corrupt, and unnatural, contradicting the interests of the community. For them it is not the reasonableness, usefulness, the essence, or the core that is decisive for the maintenance of the status quo, but alone the fact that something exists, that it has come into being, in other words the empty form, the superficiality, emptiness, i.e. they "reduce," as Rohmer says, "principles by way of history and law," they make a cult of form, of the formal, of positive law, into the highest purpose.

Confronting these parties, the representatives of privileges, is the party that represents general interests. This is the democratic party, since – because it wants to look after each individual's right – it seeks to put the whole [totality] of these individuals, the people, into a position to adjust the form of the state to its interests, i.e. the popular interests, the interests of the whole. Just as the parties of privileges are essentially conservative in nature, the democratic party may be characterized as reformist, creative. The former lack productivity, the capacity for education; their interests operate in complete, self-contained forms; their activity is thus restricted to the maintenance of these forms as their living conditions. The latter, the democratic party, represents the organic development from old to new, from what has become unusable to what is better, for its interests are those of humanity, but humanity finds itself in a permanent process of rejuvenation that involves shedding forms which have become obsolete. The parties of privileges are stable, their movement is only apparent, mechanical, ever restricted to the same circle that contains once existing forms. The democratic party is progressive, developing from within, forming itself organically, lively. The former defend evident infirmities in public life, even when they are disadvantageous to the general interest, if they promote privileges. The latter recognizes as its highest purpose only the welfare of all individuals, and destroys whatever is opposed to that, even if it has been sanctioned and affirmed by a thousand-year existence, by the thickest rust of centuries. By contrast, that which accords with the highest purpose is respected by the democratic party. It is therefore likewise conservative, but not unconditionally, but rather critically, thoughtfully, scrutinizing. It conserves only the good, the true, that which serves the general purpose, but not the bad, the erroneous, the unusable; it conserves, in a word, not because something exists, but rather because it is reasonable and good, it views not merely the form, but the essence, the core, the content.

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