Max Planck Institute for European Legal History Research Paper Series
- 2012, 02
Power and law in enlightened absolutism : Carl Gottlieb Svarez' theoretical and practical approach
- The term Enlightened Absolutism reflects a certain tension between its two components. This tension is in a way a continuation of the dichotomy between power on one hand and law on the other. The present paper shall provide an analysis of these two concepts from the perspective of Carl Gottlieb Svarez, who, in his position as a high-ranking Prussian civil servant and legal reformist, has had unparalleled influence on the legislative history of the
Prussian states towards the end of the 18th century. Working side-by-side with Johann Heinrich Casimir von Carmer, who held the post of Prussian minister of justice from 1779 to 1798, Svarez was able to make use of his talent for reforming and legislating. From 1780 to 1794 he was primarily responsible for the elaboration of the codification of the Prussian private law – the “Allgemeines Landrecht für die Preußischen Staaten” in 1794. In the present paper, Svarez’ approach to the relation between law and power shall be analysed on two different levels. Firstly, on a theoretical level, the reformist’s thoughts and reflections as laid down in his numerous works, papers and memorandums, shall be discussed. Secondly, on a practical level, the question of the extent to which he implemented his ideas in Prussian legal reality shall be explored.