The Strategic Determinants of Repression Costs: Structure and Agency in Bismarck’s ‘Second Founding’ of the German Empire
Studies in Comparative International Development 50(1): 73-97 DOI 10.1007/s12116-014-9159-x
Posted: 14 Jul 2012 Last revised: 13 Oct 2016
Date Written: 2012
Canonical works and recent studies suggest that authoritarian repression, such as that of Social Democrats during the ‘Second Founding’ of the German Empire, depends on structural factors such as religious cleavages and landholding inequality. I use an original dataset covering the whole German Empire to show that the role of these variables during this critical episode of reactionary reform was significantly more complex than that presented in the ‘grand sweep’ of German history. Liberal support for the Antisocialist Law of 1878 was not a simple function of socioeconomic structures, but rather the result of a complex interaction between the strategy of an unconstrained executive and structures in society at large. The conservative government 'flipped' liberal rejection of repression of Social Democrats into support for this repression despite structural trends strengthening liberal parties. It did so through a political strategy which interacted with high levels of landholding inequality to produce a repressive majority in the Reichstag. This first step in the ‘Second Founding’ of the Empire marked an important move away from liberal governance which precluded democratic reform in Imperial Germany.
Keywords: democratization, authoritarianism, germany, social democratic party
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