Tuesday, February 22, 2011

History Continues to be a Discipline

Matthew Yglesias spared us a full bore attempt at comparing 1848 to 2011 but he did take the time to be wrong:
She’s referring to the fact that most of the 1848 revolutions “failed.” But many of the things failed revolutionaries wanted in Germany wound up happening.
The 1848 revolutions in German-speaking Europe and points east failed because they failed to achieve the Revolutionaries' goals.  Liberals wanted to create a Liberal constitution order which embodied their interests and preferences; what they got was a Conservative constitutional order that embodied Conservatives' interests and preferences given to them by the monarch.  Liberals in Germany spent much of the rest of the 19th century failing to overcome Conservative dominance and, by 1871, they accepted the Conservative order of things and continued their struggle against the Socialists. I suppose that from the appropriate level of abstraction or ignorance one constitution order looks much like any other even if they are, in fact, totally different.

 Prussian Conservative Constitutional Order

Unless, of course, by "wound up happening" he meant all of those struggles plus the Revolution of 1918 out of which came the Weimar Republic.None of which "happened" but was caused by the efforts of actual existing men and women working to create a world that looked, more or less, how they wanted to to look until, of course, the Conservatives and Reactionaries made common cause with the Nazis and destroyed it.

It is also helpful to remind everyone that one of the big reasons the Revolutions failed was Liberals' refusal to make common cause with the Radicals. No one knows what might have happened had the Liberals and the Radicals come together, unfortunately. But if you're looking for life lessons from the pages of history, 1848 provides a nice example of the benefits of working with people who share some of your goals but not others instead of hoping that people who share nearly none of them will be reasonable and accept, what the king called, crown from the gutter.

The circle of ignorance is complete. Sullivan, who has beating the 1848/2011 drum the loudest, cites Applebaum, who Yglesias used for his chance to be wrong about the past, and Yglesias for "context" about 1848 and an imagined irony of history. It's not just Fox News spreading ignorance through the land.

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