Realpolitik For Dummies

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The classic 1872 edition.

Realpolitik For Dummies is the first of a series of instructional publications designed to assist newcomers in learning about various subjects. Later publishers went to great lengths to ensure that readers did not feel they were being treated as real dummies. However, this volume’s primary authorOtto von Bismarck — truly did believe other people were sub-intelligent.

“On the whole, I feel there is no great threat in the publishment of this little volume. The French are too internally fractured to take notice; the Russians too kulturally backward to understand it; the Austrians hopeless; the English self-absorbed; and the Americans, they need it not, having contrived to be surrounded on two sides by weak neighbors—and on the other two sides, by fish!
~ Otto von Bismarck, from the Dedication.

First printed in 1872, REALPOLITIK FOR DUMMIES followed a decade of Bismarck’s supposed success as Minister-President of Prussia and appointment to the new position of Chancellor of Germany. The text drew heavily upon the author’s experience in several accidental wars defeating and taking land from neighboring states; the unexpected unification of Germany and establishment of the Empire; Bismarck’s trapeze-artist machinations to remain in power when mistrusted by and unpopular with the House of Deputies; and his ill-conceived political partnership with Albrecht von Roon and Helmuth von Moltke as the leading figures unifying Germany under Prussian leadership through the 1860s.

edit Content

Sticking with the central concept that "Politics is the Art of the Possible", Bismarck covers a range of real-world situations as examples in achieving practical ends. REALPOLITIK advocates no ideological theme, but rather demonstrates the means by which to gain and preserve power.

Selected Excerpts

"Lumbering giants exist in all places; in your world, such a person--who could crush, but is instead rather in the mood of shoving a nice roast duck into his mouth for lunch without stopping to wipe his fingers--can be found and dealt with. So the secret of politics? Make a good treaty with Russia. After that, you can laugh anything off."


The author proves that once you're on top, you can wear whatever fashion accessories you like.

“I should have also had the nerve to tell him his shirt looked like a woman's hat; yet I had already exclaimed that his revolver couldn't harm a flea. And I was correct: my body experienced no serious injury, and his shirt was hopelessly encumbered by ruffles.”
~ Otto von Bismarck on Being Shot Five Times by Radical Student Ferdinand Cohen-Blind on May 7, 1866

"Not by speeches and majority votes are the great questions of the day decided...but by blood and iron...which is in blood. Hmmm."

"Be not afraid of your neighbor; feel not that they are your better. I have seen three emperors in their nakedness, and the sight was not inspiring."

edit 1943 'Third Reich' Edition Update

Faced with a morale-damaging crisis in the failure of the winter Battle of Stalingrad, NAZI Propaganda Minister Dr. Josef Goebbels commissioned a new edition to instruct younger readers. This 'Third Reich' edition added two additional chapters (with Teutonic efficiency, numbered in sequential order; eleven and twelve), as well as a Hitler Youth section featuring modified forms of popular stories. These included:

“Ze mole had been verking very hard all ze morning! Zis is because Obergruppenführer Schaltz would be arriving to inspect ze gas chambers at 1630 zat afternoon!...”


"There vus vuns unt velveteen rabbit! Unt in ze beginning he vus really splendid! He vus trim unt well-musculed, as a rabbit should be! His coat vus schpotted black unt gold! He had real thread viskers! Unt his ears vere lined with red zateen! On Krismaz morning, ven he zat vedged in ze top of ze Boy's ztocking, vith a National Socialist armband betveen his paws, ze effect vus charming!"

These chapters were removed after 1945.

edit 125th Anniversary Edition Audiobook

In 1997, for the 125th Anniversary Edition, REALPOLITIK FOR DUMMIES was developed for release as an audiobook. Bismarck’s text would be read by Jurgen Prochnow. However, as described in a Newsweek article, the publishers were unanimously disappointed at the first hearing.

“We were very pleased to have Mr. Prochnow attached to the project,” said a senior For Dummies source who asked not to be named. “His voice is forceful and matches what readers expect from Otto von Bismarck. However, Mr. Prochnow’s rushing delivery and constant over-enunciation tended to grind on a bit. So that’s when we thought to bring in Lil John.”

Known for his dramatic ability to energize otherwise dull songs with snappy interjections, rapper Lil John is credited for making REALPOLITIK FOR DUMMIES accessible to an eighth generation of scholars. His rough voice complimented Prochnow’s charging delivery throughout the recording. Part of the audiobook transcript follows:

Jurgen prochnow

Audiobook narrarator Jurgen Prochnow maintained this expression through the entire recording.

Jurgen Prochnow (JP):	To create fear in the HEARTS of your neighbors, you must cultivate the
impression of EFFICIENCY and RUTHLESSNESS in the spirit of your armed forces!

Lil John (LJ):	HEEYY!  Jur-PROW!

JP:	What?  This is Otto von Bismarck!

LJ:	O.B.?!  O.B. makin’ me think ’a Obie Trice.

JP:	[pause]  It is necessary to churn out a constant river of STATISTICS, 
REPORTS and DELIVERABLES for publication, so that your neighbors are exceedingly aware of the
capabilities and prowess of your army!  Once over-awed by this methodology, your weakest 
neighbor can be easily forced to capitulate some property of IMPORTANCE.  When the others 
witness the swiftness of their fellow’s defeat, they too will wish to bring to a rapid and 
bloodless conclusion any issue you place on the table!  And should fighting be necessary, the 
minds of their soldiers will already be panicked by the atmosphere of UBER-UNBEATABLENESS 
that surrounds your battalions.

Lil Jon

"LADIES!!!" Lil Jon provides much-needed Realpolitik emphasis.


JP:  Huh?

LJ:  LADIES!  Can ya feeeeel it for yer man?  Out there on the battlefield?  Scared and 
ready to die even before a cap’s blasted?!

JP:  What the hell are you talking about?!



The audiobook was an astonishing commercial success, selling more than seven million copies.

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