Delegitimation through Corruption: Legal and Administrative Changes in Bavaria and Prussia during the Napoleonic era (1800–1820)
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Th is article examines how corruption and legal changes were interrelated in Bavaria and Prussia around 1800. A number of both legal and administrative reforms occurred across Central Europe during this time period. In the article, it is argued that these reforms were mainly forced and justifi ed by a new type of charges on corruption that had been appeared in public debates since the 1780s. Th e new critics of corruption had denounced the ‘Ancien Régime’ as endemically corrupt and had demanded reforms that bear resemblance with the bureaucracy developed by Max Weber. With the new critics, however, new political actors had appeared in both monarchies and had come into conflict with the entrenched powers – the monarch and the estates. It needed twenty years until the new notions of corruption, common good and government became standard in the public debates. The article consists of three parts: The first part sheds light on the events before the reforms. It shows that a new notion of corruption appeared in the 1780s, but clashed against the older concepts. This section also describes the political confl icts and features an analysis of the interrelation between these confl icts and corruption charges. The second section contains an analysis how the reformers used the new concepts of corruption to delegitimise the old administrative and legal structure. Th ey used corruption charges to justify their own reform proposals within the administration, but even in public communication especially through semi-offi cial journals. The third part focuses on diff erent legal changes that were aff ected by corruption charges either directly or indirectly. It was very diff erent laws that changed due to corruption charges: rules for recruitment and remuneration of officials, house laws of the ruling dynasties and their civil lists, the secret policy of both government and ‘private’ associations. Corruption charges had, thus, a considerable infl uence on the political constitution of the two monarchies. Interestingly, this article shows how changing arguments in the public sphere infl uenced the administrative and legal body in monarchies that did not exhibit a legislative body like a parliament. It also shows how corruption charges were used by political actors to achieve their goals.
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