Dr. Nikolaus Buschmann


Motives of Docility. On the historical Semantics of Loyalty in German History


Whenever communal cohesion is threatened, the ways in which sovereignty and loyalty concur in such a community become apparent. Wars belong to the most extreme challenges a political community of action could face. In order to lead such a war, the state attempts to mobilise its subjects' “docility” (Max Weber), which they have trained in times of peace. In the event of war, the military's docility is required – symbolised by an oath of allegiance. But concepts of loyalty go beyond the military sphere: they contribute to guaranteeing the citizens' loyalty to the state as well as their subserviency in times of war. In the process, an inner dimension, i.e. obedience's self-commitment to conscience, is added to the outer subjugation of the subject to the state.

When nationalism emerged as the most influential integrative ideology in Europe around 1800, “loyalty to the fatherland” became the pivotal point for political mobilisation and military disciplination of society. The research project follows the loyalty discourse's semantic ramifications and inquires about its usage in social practice. Interlocking techniques of sovereignty and practices of subjectivation are at the centre of this project. It aims at fathoming the concepts of docility's significance for the production of political and military loyalty in German history between Napoleonic reign and the epoch of the world wars.

(Changed: 19 Dec 2022)  |