The Machine of State in Germany - The Case of Johann Heinrich Gottlob von Justi (1717-1771)
Title: The Machine of State in Germany - The Case of Johann Heinrich Gottlob von Justi (1717-1771)
Author: NOKKALA, Ere Pertti
Citation: Contributions to the History of Concepts, 2009, 5, 1, 71-93.
ISSN: 1807-9326 (print version); 1874-656X (online version)
The aim of this article is to explore the different uses of the state-machine metaphor in Germany during the 1750s and 1760s. It focuses on the debate around the ideal state and especially on the views of one central writer, Johann Heinrich Gottlob von Justi (1717-1771). It has been argued that in this debate the functionality of the state was measured according to the efficiency and simplicity of the machine and that the best form of state was that which provided the fastest and most precise implementation of the final cause (happiness) and encountered the fewest obstacles on its way. At the time, unlimited monarchy arose as the form of government that best fitted this description, with Fredrick II and Justi being usually referred to as the ideologues of this mechanical authoritarian order, often described as “enlightened absolutism.” However, the author argues that Justi's position in this debate must be reconsidered since his writings show that he never denied the possibility of constructing a complex state-machine based on the separation and balance of powers. In fact, he was an admirer of England's mixed government as described by Montesquieu. Ironically, then, the author who most contributed to the dissemination of the state-machine metaphor in Germany was also the one whose usage of it was most exceptional.
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