Nineteenth Century Europe: Autonomy and Responsibility
In the nineteenth century, many changes were occurring throughout Europe. Many of these changes focused on the individual, which was an important aspect of European society. However, many changes also focused on the individuals responsibility to the nation. During this time, many individuals demonstrated their right to self-government through political systems such as liberalism, while also showing their loyalty to the nation through movements of nationalism and imperialism.
During the time when Europeans became focused on the self, rather than society as a whole, liberals began to surface. Liberals promoted a limited government and desired to protect the rights of the individual. Liberalism was an autonomous political system, meaning the people believed they had the right or power of self-government. Liberals favored equality before the law for all citizens, religious toleration, and freedom of the press.1 During this period it was more important that the rights and duties of the people were acknowledged by the government, rather than the government focusing solely on gaining money and power.
Many advancements were made during the nineteenth century that improved the self governing system that Europe desired. The Second Industrial Revolution occurred during which the agricultural and industrial world developed, improving the standard of living. Many Europeans began migrating to cities with the hopes of finding better jobs and better lives. The standard of living greatly improved and the autonomous system of liberalism prospered. As more and more individuals began focusing on their rights and duties as individuals, they also began focusing on their responsibilities to their nation.
Gradually, as European society improved, a shift could be seen in the lives of the people. More individuals began to want to improve their country as a whole. This spawned the development of nationalism. Nationalism required a large devotion to the state in order to be successful. Governments began to become involved in the lives of the individuals in order to better the state. Public schools were built and students had the concepts of loyalty and responsibility to the nation instilled in them. Citizens were taught it was their duty to be loyal to the government if they wanted their individual rights upheld. Two European countries that developed extreme nationalism were Germany and Italy.
After Germany built strong individuals, it turned its focus to the nation. Because Germany was surrounded by powerful nations they found themselves in a weakened state. Otto Von Bismarck, Prime Minister of Prussia, was a leading advocate in uniting Germany. In his speech to the Reichstag, Bismarck inspired the responsibility in the German people. We must, to put it briefly, be as strong in these times as we possibly can be, and we can be stronger than any other nation of equal numbers...