(C2-14) Pious Princes. Differentiation and De-Differentiation of Functional Systems and Agency Roles in the Confessional Era

The confessional era is a really experimental ground for processes of differentiation and de-differentiation. In the Holy Roman Empire, the Peace of Augsburg created a system that both differentiated politics and religion – on the imperial level – and launched a confessionalisation process on the territorial level that aimed at de-differentiating politics and religion. Confessionalisation research has described this conflict situation as a primarily systemic problem: as, for example, a de-differentiation with paradox differentiation effects or side-effects. For the actors’ level, however, it is always to be stated that the boundary at which politics and religion could be differentiated and de-differentiated was in itself controversial. If it is at all possible to speak of functional differentiation, it must at least be brought to account that it was controversial, theoretically only insufficiently justified and highly unclear for the scope of the functional systems.

Moreover, it is unclear as to what extent this assumed functional differentiation parallels a differentiation of roles on the part of the acting players, the princes for instance. There is a rising number of observations, however, that not only the systemic but also the personal interconnection of religion and politics, of political action and personal piety was playing an increasingly important role for the German princes around 1600. The personal motivation and religiousness of pre-modern rulers might indeed be an unanswered issue; differentiation and de-differentiation still must also be asked for with a focus on the actors, at least at the legitimation resources/self-stylisation level and at the role differentiation level (that is, between “praying” and “reading records”) – and so must be the reasons for the princes’ “pietisation” around 1600. So the “pious princes” take centre stage, as does the question regarding the role that religion/religious practice played for the early modern rulers in terms of legitimation and self-stylisation, but also in the context of their every-day practice and their daily routine: for example, attending services and devotions, supporting processions and saints’ days, which was probably especially pronounced in the case of Maximilian of Bavaria (prayers lasting for hours, his “Mary vows” etc., the proximity of the Altötting monastery); the commitment of some princes as “lay theologians” (Frederick III and Frederick V) or the role of the politico-religious advisors and father confessors.

In doing so, three consecutive steps will be taken: in the first step, the historical and sociological literature on the topic of differentiation and de-differentiation in the confessional era will be sifted through and surveyed as to what it actually is that is “differentiated” and “de-differentiated”, how that is done and whether these terms are adequate. In step two, the relationship of functional differentiation and role differentiation will be traced using some early modern Princes of the Holy Roman Empire as examples (Maximilian, the Palatinate Fredericks, maybe also a leading imperial councillor such as Bishop Khlesl). Thirdly, in a cautious comparative approach and primarily via edited sources and Anglo-American literature, it will be attempted to check the problem of functional differentiation versus role differentiation also for the Ottoman sultans around 1600: recent research suggests that the relationship of religion and politics in the Ottoman Empire produced problem constellations very similar to those in the European states. In this respect, too, it would at least be appropriate to attempt an increased integration of Ottoman history into European history.

The Project is part of interconnecting platform E Differentiation and De-Differentiation.