A term associated with Count Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian Chancellor (Prime Minister) who united Germany by absorbing the states into Prussia.

It means the politics of power, disregarding the human consequences, doing whatever is necessary to achieve the ends desired.

Adolf Hitler interpreted it as the policy of signing treaties without any intention of carrying them out. (In 1942 Ribbentrop gave him a birthday present of all the treaties he had ignored.)

It could also be applied to Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger in the negotiations to end the Vietnam war. Saturation bombing of Hanoi was turned on and off in order to compel north Vietnamese agreement. Kissinger received the Nobel Peace prize, which should perhaps be renamed the Realpolitik prize.

Much of modern diplomacy and foreign policy is based on power reasons not at once observable to the onlooker. Often there are reasons for actions which are not admitted publicly.

The original advocate of ignoring personal morality in politics was the Italian writer and sometime official of the Florentine republic, Nicolo Macchiaveli.

Nicolo Machiavelli - the Prince

Der Fürst

Le Prince : Texte intégral, analyse

Last revised 16/12/08


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