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Friedrich Meinecke: Panentheism and the Crisis of Historicism

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Friedrich Meinecke’s Die Idee der Staatsräson (1924) is generally seen as the study in which he replaced his monistic-idealistic philosophy of history ‐ as articulated in Weltbürgertum und Nationalstaat ‐ by a dualistic worldview. In this article I will argue against this view. I will do so on the basis of a brief analysis of Meinecke’s Staatsräson-study. I will show that Meinecke succeeded in combining his monism and his dualism within a so-called (harmonious) ‘panentheistic’ philosophy.

Next, when discussing Meinecke’s position in the crisis of historicism, critics generally refer to Meinecke’s Die Entstehung des Historismus (1936) or his essays from around the 1920s, but refer rarely to Die Idee der Staatsräson. Yet it is precisely this study ‐ dealing with the theory and practice of statesmanship ‐ that gives us a good grasp of Meinecke’s reponse to the crisis of historicism, since it is in the state where idea and reality collide most brutally. Questions of ethical relativism, of the relationship between power and ethics, and of that between politics and history are nowhere more pressing than in the practice of statesmanship. It will become clear that, according to Meinecke, the statesman’s (or the historian’s) conscience moves him to a sphere of panentheistic harmony enabling him (and the historian) to overcome the aporias of historicism.

Affiliations: 1: University of Groningen, Email:


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