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The Bonapartism , even Napoleonism is an authoritarian form of rule and this form of rule legitimating ideology of the 19th century , which, in contrast to both the ancien régime and the bourgeois parliamentary system was. The Bonapartists campaigned for Napoleon I's system of government and for the Bonaparte family's claims to the throne . They contributed significantly to the rise of Napoleon III. and had a great influence on the military and civil servants even after his fall. Only in the 1880s did Bonapartism lose its importance.



The History defines the Bonapartism as a political system that is characterized by a "special, folk-oriented and constantly recurring on the popular will form the dictatorship in monarchical distinguished robe" and the so-called "democratic Caesarism " counted "as such. Partly already practiced by the first Napoleon or also ascribed to him by the later Napoleon legend ”.


The Marxist pattern of interpretation of Bonapartism is the most prominent. According to the Marxist reading, Bonapartism is characterized by the fact that it secured the liberation of economic forces for the bourgeoisie against an increasingly growing industrial workforce , but withheld the actual political power, which remained concentrated in the hands of the Bonapartist statesman.

Without using the term, Karl Marx describes the appearance of Bonapartism in his book The Eighteenth Brumaire by Louis Bonaparte (1852). He sees it as the bourgeoisie's renunciation of direct political rule and political representation in favor of an authoritarian rule that favors them and supports their “social rule”. The prerequisite for this is a balance of power between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat , a quasi stalemate in the class struggle . The Bonapartist ruler relies on sociological Declassified all classes, eg. B. the lumpen proletariat or the mass of the apolitical small peasants , whereby he achieves a relative independence from the bourgeoisie in the executive .

Lenin defined Bonapartism as follows: "The power based on the military clique maneuvers between the two hostile classes and forces that are more or less in balance with one another."

The threefold confirmation of the position of power is also typical:

  1. Election of the emperor by the senate
  2. plebiscitary elements, referendum, ie emperors by the will of the nation, imperialist foreign policy aimed at prestige to mobilize the masses
  3. Blessing from the Pope - in return, Napoleon I concluded a Concordat and Napoleon III. saved the Papal State from the Italian Revolution.

Even after the fall of the Second Empire , there was a strong Bonapartist movement in France, the so-called “Hope for the Boulanger Putsch ”. Even after the First World War , a Bonapartist faction still existed in the French parliament .

During the October Revolution , Lenin applied the term to the Kerensky government; later, in the Trotskyist environment, many European governments of the interwar period were described as Bonapartist.

How far the authoritarian and fascist forms of government of the 20th century can be associated with Bonapartism is controversial among Marxist theorists. August Thalheimer regarded Bonapartism as a forerunner of fascism .

In analogy to Napoleon's example, the person of the Roman dictator Gaius Julius Caesar is sometimes placed, which is why there are only minor differences between Caesarism and Bonapartism. After his military victory over his domestic political opponents, Caesar, too, apparently had the people gradually propose ever higher honors.

See also


  • Martin Beck, Ingo Stützle (ed.): The new Bonapartists. Understand the rise of Trump & Co. with Marx. Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-320-02348-5 .
  • Michael's legacy : Napoleon III. 1848 / 52-1870. In: Peter C. Hartmann (Ed.): French Kings of the Modern Age. From Louis XII. until Napoleon III. 1498-1870. Munich 1994, pp. 422-452.
  • Heinz Gollwitzer: The Caesarism of Napoleon III. In: Historical magazine. No. 173 (1952), pp. 23-75.
  • Dieter Groh: Caesarism, Napoleonism, Bonapartism, leader, boss, imperialism. In: Otto Brunner, Werner Conze, Reinhart Koselleck (eds.): Basic historical concepts. Historical lexicon on political and social language in Germany. Volume 1, Stuttgart 1972, pp. 726-767.
  • Karl Hammer, Peter Claus Hartmann (ed.): The Bonapartism. Historical phenomenon and political myth. 13th Franco-German historians' colloquium of the German Historical Institute in Paris in Augsburg from September 26th to 30th, 1975 . (Supplement to the Francia , 6). Artemis, Munich and Zurich 1977, ISBN 3-7608-4656-4 ( online at )
  • Jörn Leonhard : A Bonapartist model? The French regime changes in 1799, 1851 and 1940 in comparison. In: Helmut Knüppel (Ed.): Ways and Traces: Connections between education, culture, history and politics; Festschrift for Joachim-Felix Leonhard. Berlin 2007, pp. 277-294.
  • Werner Mackenbach: Bonapartism , in: Historical-Critical Dictionary of Marxism , Vol. 2, Argument-Verlag, Hamburg, 1995, Sp. 283-290.
  • Karl Marx : The eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. First edition 1852, In: MEW. Vol. 8, pp. 111-207.
  • Thomas Wagner : Direct democracy as a sham package. Germany's gentle path to Bonapartism , Cologne 2011
  • Wolfgang Wippermann : The theory of Bonapartism by Marx and Engels , Klett-Cotta , Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-12-912220-6 (= History and Theory of Politics , A, Volume 6, also habilitation thesis FU Berlin ).
  • Manfred Wüstenmeyer: Democratic dictatorship. On the political system of Bonapartism in the Second Empire. Cologne / Vienna 1986.
  • Theodore Zeldin: The political System of Napoleon III. London 1958.

Web links

Wiktionary: Bonapartism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. ^ "Bonapartism" in "Introductions to the Economic and Social History of the 19th and 20th Centuries" at the University of Münster
  2. Michael Erbe: Napoleon III. 1848 / 52-1870. In: Peter C. Hartmann (Ed.): French Kings of the Modern Age. From Louis XII. until Napoleon III. 1498-1870. Munich 1994, p. 439.