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Metternich, Jefferson and the Enlightenment: Statecraft and Political Theory in the Early Nineteenth Century

Metternich, Jefferson and the Enlightenment: Statecraft and Political Theory in the Early Nineteenth Century
Metternich, Jefferson and the Enlightenment: Statecraft and Political Theory in the Early Nineteenth Century

James F. Sofka

Affiliation: Federal Executive Institute (Charlottesville, Estados Unidos)

Biography: James R. Sofka es Ph.D. en Política por la Universidad de Virginia desde 1995, donde también cursó el M.A. en 1991. En 1989 culminó el B.A. with Honors en el Franklin and Marshall College. Entre 1998 y 2006 ha sido profesor en el Departamento de Política de la Universidad de Virginia, donde también fue Dean of the undergraduate honors program en el College of Arts and Sciences. Desde 2007 es profesor en el Federal Executive Institute e imparte conferencias sobre la política de Thomas Jefferson en el Brookings Institution con regularidad. Ha publicado y disertado ampliamente sobre las relaciones internacionales en los siglos XVIII y XIX, en especial sobre la política exterior de la naciente república americana. Ha disfrutado dos becas de investigación, y ha presentado contribuciones a numerosos simposios bajo los auspicios del Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies de Monticello. Su trabajo más reciente es un volumen de ensayos sobre la participación americana en la región mediterránea en los siglos XVIII y XIX que ha coeditado con Silvia Marzagalli y con John McCusker.

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James F. Sofka

About the authors 

Publication year: 2011

Language: English

Subjects: Social Sciences, History and Historiography


This study offers a comparative analysis of the foreign and domestic policies of Prince Clemens Metternich of Austria and Thomas Jefferson of the United States. Their statecraft is examined from the perspective of the philosophy of the Enlightenment, which both claimed provided a prescriptive agenda for their initiatives. The objective of this research is to trace what impact, if any, these ideas had on the actual political conduct of these representative statesmen of the early nineteenth century. Conventional treatments of Jefferson emphasize his archetypically “Enlightenment” political philosophy. Metternich, on the other hand, is commonly considered a reactionary or, at best, a callous Realpolitiker. After a careful examination of their political theories, the historical record, and the documentary sources, the study concludes that these assessments should be radically revised. Jefferson, it is argued, defined American interests largely in the material terms of a balance of power and followed a traditional and conservative approach to social policy. Metternich, conversely, was strongly attached to the Kantian idea of European federation, strove to create a legal foundation for a “cooperative” European states-system, and attempted a series of innovative and enlightened domestic reform projects. The “traditional” reading of their statecraft is a result of late nineteenth century nationalist historiography which interpreted their policies in a manner best suited for advancing particular ideological arguments. Both historical and theoretical sources are deployed to advance and defend the proposition that the ideas of the Enlightenment achieved political expression in the statecraft of Metternich, but were virtually ignored in practice by the more pragmatic Jefferson.

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Bibliographic information

Physical Description : 336 p. ; 24 cm

ISBN: 978-84-00-09376-1

eISBN: 978-84-00-09377-8

Publication: Madrid : Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, 2011

Reference CSIC: 11937

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This book was added to our online catalog on Monday 09 January, 2012.