To What Extent Was Germany An Autocratic State? Essay

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Whether Wilhelmine Germany was an autocratic state from 1900-1914 is a subject debated amongst many. An autocracy is often defined as a state where the political power is concentrated in one leader, or a very small élite, who have control over every aspect of policy making; be it social, political, military or economic. It is essentially a dictatorial and undemocratic state. Germany in 1900 is seen as very autocratic, with the Kaiser holding divine power over Germany. However, structuralists have argued that towards the end of this period, and the start of the War in 1914, the Kaisers power was being slowly degraded from mass political movements (particularly socialist,) which would suggest that the authoritarian nature of Germany was not entrenched and subject to change from below. The constitution of the 2nd Reich gave key powers to the Kaiser, allowing him the de jure right to rule in an autocratic nature. The Kaiser was also the King of Prussia. He could also appoint or dismiss the chancellor whenever he pleased, dissolve the Reichstag with consent from the Bundesrat, and had control over foreign and military policies. Weltpolitik or “world policy” was the Kaisers attempt at dominating the political scene worldwide, a policy which is often cited as one of the reasons behind WWI. Despite the obvious flaws in the policy, the Reichstag approved it, indicating that the Kaiser held the ultimate power, making Germany an autocratic state. The second example of the Kaisers domination is his control over Domestic policy. Sammlungspolitik was the Kaisers answer to the threat of socialist uprisings. This policy built up an alliance of conservative interests including the Junkers, élites, industrialists, conservatives and liberals. Despite the fact that the Reichstag was elected, the Kaiser has the ultimate choice to dissolve it or not. This means that he can
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