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succession policy of the Habsburgs in the 16th century, it’s worth recalling that, during this time, society and its political reform, including the organisation of the state, underwent root-and-branch transformation, as documented by The King’s Two Bodies, a masterpiece by one of the last century’s most influential historians, Ernst Kantorowicz. This work was originally published in 1957 and profoundly influenced whole generations of historians, philosophers, and social and political scientists. It was a major inspiration for Michel Foucault in his classic study Discipline and Punish, while the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben proclaimed it “one of the great texts of our age on the techniques of power”. In his book, Kantorowicz discussed the classical theory of the king’s  two bodies by drawing on his study of legal and theological sources from Elizabethan and Jacobean England, in which the “crown-as-corporation” principle prevailed. This means that, in the person of the king, two bodies are indivisibly united – the physical body natural, vulnerable and mortal, and the symbolic body politic, which contains the “office, government and majesty royal” and, as such, is mystically eternal and immortal. In this body politic, the monarch and his subjects are also connected, with the king becoming the head and his subjects making up the rest of the body, which is enduring and, unlike the body natural, cannot die. The king’s body politic also symbolically cleanses any physical defects of the majesty royal and gives it everlasting duration, so the heirs to the throne simply physically enter the eternal body and fulfil legal doctrine stating that the monarch is a special corporation. In itself, this is nothing new, and all legal historians in Britain are familiar with this doctrine. Kantorowicz, though, proved that this English doctrine of the king’s two bodies originated in the medieval jurisprudence of civil and canon law and that, for example, the principle of “the king never dies” evolved from two parallel legal concepts, namely the rules of succession in family dynasties and the immortality of corporations, which is a classic rule of Roman law that also happens to be linked to the principle of the immortality 98 Ukázka elektronické knihy, UID: KOS268797


of the erstwhile populus Romanus. In this context, it is worth remembering that the book’s subtitle is “A Study in Medieval Political Theology” and that Kantorowicz really did show a contemporary connection between theological, legal and political argumentation and symbolism. To this day, there is an entire school of political philosophy contending that modern political terms and symbols have theological provenance. On the other hand, Kantorowicz, cloaked in the completely non-speculative spirit of historical positivism, showed that abbeys – for the sake of example – were treated in medieval papal decrees as corporations offering continuity by adhering to the succession of abbots, who may well die physically, but their dignity remains immortal. Once again, then, we can see legal continuity with the medieval reception of Roman law, a factor that was also reliant on the Aristotelian philosophy of time and nature. What particularly makes the English doctrine of the king’s  two bodies unique is that the king is regarded as a special corporation because of his immortal dignity and on account of the fact that the body politic is part of the institution of parliament, which means that, ultimately, the organic metaphor of the two bodies encompasses specific legal techniques and arguments guaranteeing the functionality, impersonality and continuity of political institutions. And how did everything you have described specifically affect the organisation of power in the Czech Lands? The personification of the state we are familiar with from medieval European and Czech history has increasingly retreated in the modern era, giving way to the functionality of the state instead. Nowadays the device of grand schemes to legitimise Czech statehood through historical speculation, which were typical in the age of national revival, have fallen to the wayside as we grapple, instead, with how general political tendencies, legal arguments, techniques of power and their gradual transformation over time have been manifested in Czech history. In this context, I  would also like to 99 Ukázka elektronické knihy, UID: KOS268797


highlight the fact that Kantorowicz actually found fame back in the late 1920s when he published his monograph on the Roman Emperor, German king and close ally of Ottokar I, Frederick II, a figure we have already briefly touched on. This 600-page treatise on a monarch who wielded cruel methods and pursued lofty ambitions to control the whole of Europe, and on the founder of the “First Reich”, even served as inspiration for the Nazis as they engineered their perverse plans. So what we saw here was a book by a historian of Jewish origin becoming a  bestseller and, paradoxically, progressing in 1936, i.e. at a time when the new economic Nuremberg Laws had been passed, to a fourth edition that Hitler himself was said to be fond of browsing. Another paradox is that whereas The King’s Two Bodies, which Kantorowicz wrote during his Californian exile at Berkeley, analyses political theology, in his monograph on Frederick II, drawn up three decades earlier in the Weimar Republic, Kantorowicz – influenced by Stefan George and his Romantic admiration for mysticism, strong leaders and historical authorities – actually helped to shape that very same political theology. What this primarily means in the context of our discussion on Czech history is we need to realise that, with each narrative on the historical beginnings of Czech statehood or on those powerful Přemyslid sovereigns and their expansionist policies and concentration of power, we keep running the risk of slipping into political allegory and theology in much the same way as the young Kantorowicz and legions of other historians, social scientists and philosophers did in the last century. Pretensions towards power and the personification of the kingdom as a private possession of Ottokar I and his successors should therefore be viewed against the historical backdrop of medieval law and politics, in which Kantorowicz so lucidly laid bare the general workings of power, including its legal and theological legitimisation through doctrines separating the physical body of a mortal from the symbolic body of an immortal corporation, which could be a church institution just as much as the entire body politic of society. And 100 Ukázka elektronické knihy

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In Quest of History On Czech Statehood and Identity (Ukázka, strana 99)  

In Quest of History On Czech Statehood and Identity (Ukázka, strana 99)  

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