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

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From the preceding it should thus have become clear that the true, correct yardstick for assessing parties according to their principle[s] and their characteristic features cannot be something that exists outside of any immediate causal relationship to them, but rather must reside in the relationship in which they place themselves in their aspirations and tendencies toward the "generally human," toward the interests of humanity. This yardstick, precisely because it designates the highest, the general, is alone what can be reasonably applied to the subordinate, to the special; and compared to the whole, individual parties are of a subordinate degree. This yardstick, by the way it puts a stop to the indefiniteness of the prevailing concepts and traces the party labels radical, liberal, conservative, absolutist, juste milieu back to their true meaning, must also expose the nakedness of a theory that rests on playing around arbitrarily with phrases. The radical, when he turns special interests into the ultimate end of his aspirations, has just as little value as the liberal who has lapsed into the same error or the conservative or the absolutist who must also lapse into this error. That yardstick alone is the correct measure for the parties; of radicalism, liberalism, conservatism, absolutism, juste milieu, for it establishes the authenticity of every party, shows the extent to which they are alloyed with false components. That yardstick alone also contains the justification for rule by any individual party. It does not depend on whether it calls itself liberal or conservative, radical or mediating, whether it has a minority or majority on its side, but only on whether it fights for privileges or general human interests, for the advantages of individual classes or the welfare of the whole, for the right of individuals or the right of all individuals. Any party can rule, but only the democratic one can do so lawfully.

Source: Carl von Rotteck and Carl Welcker, eds., Das Staats-Lexikon: Encyklopädie der sämmtlichen Staatswissenschaften für alle Stände [The National-Lexicon: Encyclopedia of the Political Sciences for People of all Stations], 2nd ed., rev. and enl. Altona: Verlag von Johann Friedrich Hammerich, 1845-48, vol. 10, pp. 480, 493-96.

Translation: Jeremiah Riemer

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