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  The expression ‘Bonapartism’ has been used in at least two different ways by historians and political scientists. In the liberal tradition, Bonapartism is seen (and criticized) as a system of government with a particular agenda. It owes its name to the rule of France by Napoleon Bonaparte during his Consulate and Empire (1799-1815). The perceived traits of Bonapartism are an active system of government dominated by the military; an authoritarian executive pursuing an aggressive, expansionist foreign policy; a domestic policy emphasizing ceremonial functions while practising enlightened despotism; and a centralized, meritocratic administration. French governmental institutions are still frequently accused of exhibiting Bonapartist tendencies, especially the degree of executive power maintained by the president, the large, bureaucratic administration, and the importance of monumental legacies maintained and constructed during each republic. However, the parliamentary republics and the non-expansionist, though independent, foreign policy of modern France would probably make Napoleon turn in his tomb in the Invalides.

In the Marxist tradition, Bonapartism similarly refers to a régime in which the executive part of the state, under the rule of one individual, achieves dictatorial power over all other parts of the social system. However, Marxists explain Bonapartism as the consequence of intense and evenly matched class struggle in capitalist societies: no class is sufficiently powerful to rule on its own and therefore an arbiter can impose himself on society and the state can acquire ‘relative autonomy’. Marx thought that the régimes of Napoleon III and Bismarck\'s Germany exhibited common Bonapartist traits; later Marxists have applied his analysis to fascist régimes and Third World military dictatorships. BO\'L

Further reading Hal Draper, Karl Marx\'s Theory of Revolution: Volume 1: State and Revolution; , Pieter Geyl, Napoleon: For and Against (1949).



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