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uni'wissen 01-2014_ENG

the Corsican’s death. “We want to find out how political heroism emerges as it is attributed to a protagonist by a society, beyond that person’s actual biography,” explains Leonhard. The crowning of Napoleon’s nephew Louis Bonaparte as emperor with the name Napoleon III in 1852 creates meaning for the society, because the name refers back to a unique individual. In other words: Everyone can associate something with the figure Napoleon, and he is thus an ideal surface for various projec- tions. The result is interpretational struggles and disputes over a hero’s legacy, fought out in images, books, and political speeches. Charisma, Aura, Personality So what makes up political heroism as personi- fied by Napoleon Bonaparte? “It is a combination of various models,” relates Marquart. It involves a charismatic individual who performs superhuman feats in an elementary crisis and who saves the nation, for instance by means of almost unimagina- ble military triumphs. Napoleon has more than enough to show in both of these categories. He goes down in history as a brilliant military strategist, as the savior of the moderate cause in the French Revolution, who secures liberty, equality, and brotherhood for the people. But what is absolutely essential for a hero is a quality that can neither be measured nor quantified: charisma, aura, person- ality. “A hero is more than a genius or a great man,” stresses Leonhard. “He performs seemingly super- human feats by virtue of his charisma.” At the same time, however, these superhuman feats are a provocation that violates established ideas, traditions, and norms. “That’s why the dispute over a hero tends to last so long,” says the historian. On the subject of charisma: In 1851, immediately after the coup d’état of Prince Louis Bonaparte, Napoleon’s nephew, the philosopher Karl Marx analyzes in a pamphlet how the rise to power can succeed. In the struggle between monarchy, bourgeoisie, and proletariat, he writes, a vacuum of class power has emerged, enabling the individ- ual to establish himself at the head of the execu- tive. The rise to power of a charismatic individual can be effortless – but in the case of Louis Bona- parte it turned into a farce, scoffs Marx. “The prince assumes office with the promise of becoming a new Napoleon,” says Marquart. But he lacks the statesmanlike aura of his prede- cessor: He is no brave military leader, and unlike his uncle he shies away from the battlefield. He is not a good speaker either and is said to have been jeered at now and then during speeches. Even so, the new emperor knows how to make use of his uncle’s legacy. He takes up the hero myth and fills it with new content: “Louis shifts the battle metaphor,” explains Leonhard. “He no longer fights on the battlefield but against the impoverishment of the masses.” He doesn’t stylize himself as a military ruler but as a social ruler and an emperor of peace, as the symbol of a new France that is destined to make an impact in the world and that shows solidarity with its Romance-speaking sister nation Italy. United in the Struggle against Tyrants While the Second French Empire glorifies Napoleon as a hero, the Germans demonize him. “Napoleon is seen as a tyrant who subjects Prussia to his rule and subjugates Germany,” explains Marquart. However, the adversary fulfills an important function: “The struggle against a seemingly superhuman enemy is crucial for the early phase of nation building in Germany,” stresses Leonhard. “The focus on internal na- tionalization requires this strong opposing model. The emperor and his caricature: Napoleon III has to lean on Lady Parliamentarianism for support, the English magazine Vanity Fair jeers in 1869. Sources: both Wikipedia Commons The philosopher Karl Marx analyzes how the rise to power can succeed after the coup d’état of Prince Louis Bonaparte. The rise to power of a charismatic individual can be effort- less, he reasons, but in the case of Louis Bona- parte it turned into a farce. 18