XIX.12 On the manners and ethos of the despotic state

It is a capi­tal maxim that one must never change ethos and man­ners in the des­po­tic state ; nothing would be more swiftly fol­lo­wed by a revo­lu­tion. That is because in these sta­tes there are, so to speak, no laws ; there are only ethos and man­ners, and if you over­throw those, you over­thros eve­ry­thing.

Laws are esta­bli­shed, ethos is ins­pi­red ; the lat­ter adhe­res more clo­sely to the gene­ral spi­rit, the for­mer more to a par­ti­cu­lar ins­ti­tu­tion ; but it is as dan­ge­rous, and more so, to over­throw the gene­ral spi­rit as to change a par­ti­cu­lar ins­ti­tu­tion.

There is less com­mu­ni­ca­tion in the coun­tries where eve­ryone, both as super­ior and as infe­rior, exer­ci­ses and bears an arbi­trary power, than in those where free­dom rei­gns at all ranks. Therefore there is less change in man­ners and ethos. Manners which are more fixed are more simi­lar to laws. Therefore a prince or a legis­la­tor there must go against the ethos and man­ners less than in any coun­try on earth.

Women there are usually confi­ned and have no tone to set. In other coun­tries where they live along­side men, because of their desire to please, and the desire of others to please them as well, man­ners are conti­nually chan­ging. The two sexes spoil each other, each losing its dis­tinc­tive and essen­tial qua­lity ; an arbi­trary ele­ment comes into what was abso­lute, and man­ners change every day.