Is liberalism better than conservatism

Political currents in the Habsburg Empire at the end of the 19th century

The political and ideological currents that developed in the Habsburg Monarchy in the second half of the 19th century were extremely heterogeneous due to the conflicting interests of the individual social classes and individual nationalities. The party landscape was designed accordingly. However, two main lines of development can be distinguished: conservatism and liberalism.


 

The revolution of 1848 was based on the principles of a liberalism that had developed since 1815 with its demand for individual freedom, which was seen to be realized with the drafting of a constitution and the separation of powers. The center of the liberal idea was the emancipated citizen freed from state coercion, who should earn the participation in the political decision-making process about achievements in the field of education or economy. It called for the abolition of censorship, freedom of the press and freedom of speech, and the restriction of state authority. The bourgeoisie, parts of the nobility, high finance and large-scale industry, the intelligentsia and part of the civil service formed the social basis for this.

The liberals were characterized by an anti-clerical stance. They were bitter opponents of the Concordat concluded in 1855 between the Habsburg Monarchy and the Pope, which granted the Catholic Church considerable privileges within the Habsburg Empire, for example in marriage legislation and in education. Austrian liberalism advocated the supremacy of German culture, which is why it was also referred to as German liberalism. Associated with this was a centralistic stance in the constitutional affairs of the multiethnic state.

But the liberals who were critical of the regime did not form a unit. There were various competing political directions among them. While the representatives of notable liberalism (bourgeoisie) adhered to a social model that was hierarchically structured and did not want to involve all sections of the population politically, the Democrats rejected the restriction of the right to vote to the tax-paying groups and demanded universal suffrage.

The question of nationality also divided the liberal camp. Unable to form a movement across Austria, they formed nationally differentiated groups. While the German liberals asserted themselves as centralists and endeavored to strengthen the political powers of the government, the liberals of other nations voted for more federalism and a certain degree of independence.

The representatives of conservative, Catholic, z. Some of the anti-Semitic and federalist maxims turned out to be the most vehement opponents of the liberal idea. Conservatism was sustained by aristocratic landowners, the Catholic Church, state officials loyal to the government and, in some cases, the peasants who tried to defend the dynastic legitimacy. The conservatives disapproved of the liberal principles and the constitutional regime and became advocates of federalism (although the leading large landowning nobility with a federalist outlook wanted to tie in with old-fashioned traditions). A major theoretician of Austrian conservatism was Karl v. Vogelsang, which was their most important press organ between 1875 and 1890 Fatherland directed. In view of the multi-ethnic composition of the Habsburg Empire, however, no unified movement could be established on the part of the conservatives either.

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