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EPILOGUE The Decline of Theory
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Ernst Forsthoff

Originally appeared in Ernst Forsthoff, Der Totale Staat (Hamburg: Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt, 1933), 30–32, 37–39.

Every order of domination [Herrschaftsordnung] is based on the distinction between leadership and being led, ruler and ruled. Every order of domination is therefore necessarily undemocratic, for democracy is the form of state essentially determined by making rulers and ruled identical. This identity must necessarily eliminate the authority of the government that can only be an authority vis-à-vis the ruled. Authority cannot develop out of the immanence of democratic functionalism. A government that rules only because it has a mandate from the people is not an authoritarian government. Authority is possible only from transcendence. Authority assumes a rank that takes hold against the people because the people does not grant it, but respects it.

During the final years of the demise of the Weimar Constitution, the governments attempted with increasing distinctness to claim an authoritarian character for themselves. This occurred, in general, through reference to the fact that the president had appointed the government and that the government had largely detached itself from the interplay of parliamentary forces; the claim of authority occurred mainly for the purpose of establishing the government's independence of parliament. The government had only minor real authority among the people. The people proved keenly sensitive to the fact that simple detachment from an ineffective parliament does not ground authority, because it does not prove rank.


Every order of domination is an order of rank; because rank is not a visible fact but a spiritual and political phenomenon, this assumes an intellectual constitution that is receptive to the nature of rank. The distinction between the leader and the led as a principle of state order can only be accomplished metaphysically. A Freikorps leader, the leader of a youth group, can gather a flock of devoted people around him and hold them together through the force of his superior will. Such a community is based purely on the dynamic of a personal leader-follower relationship, and fails because of personal failure, a crucial disruption of this dynamic. Here the claim to leadership can exist and maintain itself non-metaphysically, based purely on personal qualities. In the sphere of history, this does not apply to the state. For an authoritarian government with an historical mandate, such a claim to leadership, legitimized by the purely personal, is not a sufficient foundation. Certainly, Adolf Hitler owes his position as Führer to incomparable personal qualities, and his leadership of the National Socialist movement is justified by these qualities. Undoubtedly it is enormously significant that the immense power concentrated in the hands of the Führer of such a movement has now become state power. But through this, through Adolf Hitler's becoming the Führer of the Reich, he became subject to a new law. State and movement cannot be identified with each other. The movement can be consumed by the person of its leader; the state cannot. As strong as the element of personal leadership may be, the state is more than a context for personal leadership. The community of personal leadership [Führungsge meinschaft] dies with the person of the Führer and is thus temporally limited. The state must not die; it is the form of the political existence of the people, and the people must not perish politically. The state is linked to tradition, law, and order.

Authoritarian government requires a justification that goes beyond the personal. This justification must be metaphysical; it must legitimate authority in addition to leadership. Therefore the state, in its current form, needs a coordinate Weltanschauung, with Weltanschauung understood here in a broad sense to encompass religion. History teaches us that Weltanschauung s of various kinds have served as foundations of rank and authority. Christian faith was able to found and establish the rank of Christian government [christliche Obrigkeit]; but a secular Weltanschauung—such as historical metaphysics of a Hegelian stamp—can also make clear the special dignity of statehood and government. And because Weltanschauung s cannot be bred but must grow, it is also impossible to describe which particular Weltanschauung matches today's state. …

The future structure of the state will be determined by the following requirements. Mass social welfare [Massenfürsorge], the necessity of maintaining an orderly social life in an overpopulated country, and satisfaction of the administrative needs of cities of millions make a professional civil service—

a predictable and precisely functioning bureaucracy—indispensable. Authority and totality, however, require personal, imperative command. Bureaucratic and imperative administration therefore must—in accordance with the tasks of the state—be formed, balanced, and kept in rational connection so that the unity of the entire administration is assured.

This also clarifies at which places, and in which form, the new leadership class is to participate in responsible political guidance. It is to be entrusted with those tasks that require provisional execution. For what counts here is the decisive and firm political will, which must also show the ability to act in moderation; here the ability to command is indispensable and must be complemented by a readiness to subject oneself to the will of the Führer. Here the statute on the Reich's governors in the states [Reichstatthalter-Gesetz] can serve as a model, and it is thoroughly consistent and in accord with the inherent laws of life of the new state that the Reichsstatthalter is appointed from the new ranks of the most trustworthy leader of the movement. Other commissary practices are also a clear confirmation of the general developmental tendencies shown here. A decree recently issued in Prussia points in the same direction; it instructs the administrative chiefs of the provinces to maintain a constant working relationship with the National Socialist leaders within the provinces [Gauleiters] and to solicit their opinions on more general and important questions of administrative leadership.

The order of domination of the total state must thus have a dual structure. It will remain predictable and bureaucratic in some important areas, but the rest will have to be organized hierarchically, imperatively, in the forms of personal rule. For only a state in which even the lower levels have personal rule, tamed by unlimited responsibility and carried by an initiative that is in principle free but obligated to the will of the Führer, is truly authoritarian and conceivable as a total state. Only such a state can extend its claim to rule to areas that resist all schematization and calculable regimentation. But such a state may legitimately claim to be a state of art, science, and culture in general.

The Weimar state was a state without a people. It was at most a state of those eligible to vote. But the sum of those eligible to vote in elections and referendums is as little the people as the sum of votes cast in isolated, secret ballots can be equated with the will of the people.

Volk is a community based on a homogeneity within life and species [seins mäßigen, artmäßigen Gleichartigkeit]. The homogeneity arises from the sameness of race and national destiny [volkliches Schicksal]. The political people forms in the final unity of will that grows from the awareness of homogeneity within life. The awareness of homogeneity within species and national identity [volkliche Zuzammengehörigkeit] becomes actual in the ability to recognize the difference of species and distinguish friend from enemy. The issue is recognizing difference of species when it is not automatically visible

through membership in a foreign nation, for example in the Jew, who successfully attempted to create the illusion of homogeneity within species and of national solidarity by participating in the cultural and economic life. The rebirth of a politically German people had to end this illusion and to take away the Jew's last hope of living in Germany other than in the consciousness of being a Jew.

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