Max Weber and the avatars of Caesarism

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Abstract

In Western political thought Caesarism, whether associated with, or subsumed under, its various cognate concepts such as tyranny, dictatorship, and Bonapartism, has had a durable and contradictory history. From the perspective of the history of ideas, the emergence and development of the bundle of ideas described by the term Caesarism is more than an intellectual attempt to formulate categories capable of capturing and characterizing it as a political and historical phenomenon. Theories of dictatorship and tyranny are also ideological constructions with normative and moral content, and thus political. It is only since the French Revolution and its aftermath, however, that Caesarism and its various interpretations have assumed both political and intellectual importance. It is the emergence of modern forms of politics, and the undermining of traditional norms and institutions, that has fueled debates over the nature and role of Caesarism. Thus, in the nineteenth century, ideological and theoretical battles reflected and expressed political alignments and social conflicts among liberals and conservatives (in the classical European sense), monarchists and Bonapartists, classical Marxists and republicans. In the twentieth century, the political struggle among liberal democrats, socialists, communists, and Fascists was expressed in part by ideological polemics over the nature and meaning of such terms as totalitarian dictatorship and totalitarian democracy.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDictatorship in history and theory : Bonapartism, Caesarism, and totalitarianism
EditorsPeter BAEHR, Melvin RICHTER
PublisherGerman Historical Institute and Cambridge University Press
Pages155-174
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781139052429
ISBN (Print)9780521825634, 9780521532709
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2004

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