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  • Author: Peter Becker x
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I have used Joseph Redlich’s witty characterization of the Habsburg monarchy as the »old empire of realized improbabilities« to explore the strained relations between state and society, between public officials and the State resp. the monarch during the First World War. Relying on a close reading of the debates at and decisions of the Austrian Supreme Court, I look at the improbable coexistence of the state of exception and the rule of law, of the codification of service regulations and the solipsistic engagement with them by public servants. I am particularly interested in the role of these ›realized improbabilities‹ for the delegitimization of monarchical rule.


The 1850s were witness to several forms of emotion management in the Habsburg monarchy, among them the prohibition of writing to the authorities in a defamatory manner. The so-called law against defamatory speech was one of many initiatives which contributed to the generation, exploitation, control and containment of emotions towards the state. As this law remains in force today, it provides an excellent starting point for an exploration into continuities and changes concerning ›feeling rules‹ for encounters between subjects and the state. My chapter explores these rules through the lens of the administrative court, where acceptable criticism had to be clearly demarcated from defamatory speech acts. Looking at these proceedings, it is evident that emotional work routines are missing in the public service. Therefore, citizens were and still are required to keep their emotions under control and react to provocative acts by public officials in strictly rational terms.