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4th Gerald Stourzh Lecture on the History of Human Rights and Democracy

Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger
Rituale des Konsenses?
Ständische Partizipation im frühneuzeitlichen Europa

9 May 2012

Kindly supported by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Vienna

Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger is Professor of Early Modern History and spokesperson of the cluster of excellence "Religion and Politics" at the University of Münster in Germany. She received the Gottfried-Wilhelm-Leibniz Award of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft  in 2005 and is a member of the executive board of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Numerous other awards and memberships.

Selected publications: Der Staat als Maschine. Zur politischen Metaphorik des absoluten Fürstenstaats (Historische Forschungen 30, Berlin 1986); Vormünder des Volkes? Konzepte landständischer Repräsentation in der Spätphase des Alten Reiches (Historische Forschungen 64, Berlin 1999); Das Heilige Römische Reich Deutscher Nation vom Spätmittelalter bis 1806 (Munich 2006, 4th ed. 2009). Des Kaisers alte Kleider. Verfassungsgeschichte und Symbolsprache des Alten Reiches (Munich 2008); ed. Was heißt Kulturgeschichte des Politischen? (Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung, Beiheft 35, Berlin 2005).

Homepage Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger


"Symbolic politics" is a derogatory term nowadays. It is difficult to designate parliamentary sessions as ritual performances in view of the self-image of modern parliamentary democracies. Rituals are rather considered to be pre-modern and pre-democratic affairs: We are reminded of coronation masses or ceremonies of homage, but not of consultative meetings where decisions are made. This lecture, however, argues that both modern and pre-modern assemblies of estates always have a symbolic and ritual dimension. Nevertheless, they also differ from each other in a significant way. As an ideal type the meetings of the early modern Estates can be described as rituals of consensus, which offered - unlike modern parliaments - little room for institutionalized conflict resolution.

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