Thursday, 26 May 2016

Wilhelm II (EIE): Personality Type Analysis

Wilhelm II was King of Prussia and German Emperor (Kaiser) from 1888 to 1918, when he abdicated and fled into exile in the Netherlands,  at the end of the First World War. He has been considered one of the individuals with the most responsibility for the outbreak of that conflict; however, in contrast to Adolf Hitler’s (EIE) role in WWII, the Kaiser’s historical responsibility in WWI and his broader historical role, as well as judgments of his character, remain a source of controversy among historians, in Germany and elsewhere.

Wilhelm II can be regarded as the first, or only, 'true' German Emperor in the context of the German Empire as recreated by Otto von Bismarck in 1871, since his grandfather Wilhelm I showed little interest in exploring the potential and significance of that role, preferring to remain in essence a King of Prussia, and his father Friedrich III only reigned for 3 months, during which he was already dying of throat cancer. It is largely because of this that Wilhelm II is often referred to as simply “the Kaiser”, both in German and in English.

The historical controversy regarding the Kaiser’s role in WWI can be explained by two factors that lead to ambiguous interpretations: (1) the uniqueness of the imperial constitution of 1871 and (2) the nature of the Kaiser’s personality and character, which reinforced the confusion caused by (1).  The 1871 constitution was designed by Bismarck – the chancellor (prime minister) – to fit the precise circumstances of his relationship with Wilhelm I: the chancellor was the head of government, but could be appointed or dismissed only by the Kaiser, with no direct accountability to the elected Reichstag, the parliament. Yet legislation and the budget needed to be approved by the Reichstag. That meant that if on the one hand the Kaiser’s personal power was severely limited by his need to govern through a Chancellor, and with some cooperation from the Reichstag, it also meant that the Chancellor’s independence was severely curtailed by the fact that the Kaiser could dismiss him, in principle, whenever he wished. Still, the Kaiser could hardly appoint as chancellor non-entities that would just do his bidding as they would have difficulty getting legislation approved. To make the situation still more complicated, the Kaiser himself was the supreme commander of the armed forces, without needing the Chancellor, but the military budget needed the Reichstag’s approval. The Kaiser’s somewhat confusing constitutional position is not directly related to Socionics but it helps to explain his actions in the context of his Socionics type.

One of the Kaiser’s most visible personal characteristics was the inclination to give bombastic, off-the-cuff speeches (especially to the army) where he used extravagant warmongering language (“take no prisoners!” etc), and at least one interview (the “Daily Telegraph affair”) where he made seemingly outlandish, and definitely tactless, claims (such as to have personally designed the British military strategy plan in the Boer War, and that his increasing maritime power was aimed at containing Japan rather than Britain, although Germany was in peace with Japan, etc). Likewise, his surviving annotations on letters, reports etc are equally bombastic . In isolation, such traits show a person inclined to make aggressive,  extravagant and boastful remarks based on his emotions of the moment – especially since with the Kaiser, there was an immense distance between his words and his actions (but also because the latter were limited by the nature of his constitutional position).  Often his remarks were so over-the-top that they made others question his seriousness or even his sanity, as in when he addressed Tsar Alexander III as “the admiral of the Pacific” and himself as “the admiral of the Atlantic”, which only led the Tsar to think that Wilhelm II was nuts. Yet, by all accounts, the Kaiser could be charming, approachable and genial in his dealings with individuals, especially those of clearly inferior position in the social hierarchy, whom he tried to put at ease. This is clearly visible in the many surviving film recordings of his public appearances, on occasions such as visiting an orphanage or as a good-humoured old gentleman in his Dutch exile. Also, the Kaiser was perhaps the first major public figure in the world to grasp the value, even the necessity, of exploiting the then-novel medium of cinema as a way to project and control his public image, alternating between an approachable “politician” and a formal, dignified monarch, according to the occasion. All of the above traits point to a man with a prime emphasis on E. This is further confirmed by his daughter, who said that he had the gift of “making each of his children to think they were his personal favourite”.

His two predecessors as Kaiser, his grandfather and his father, were contented to abide by the spirit of the 1871 constitution and let the chancellor- Bismarck – run the government with nearly as much independence  as a modern prime minister. By contrast, Wilhelm II, upon ascending the throne in 1888, quickly started clashing with Bismarck as to who 'was really in charge', partly due to policy disagreements, but mostly due to the question of status (ie whether Wilhelm II could meet ministers individually without Bismarck’s presence). This led to Bismarck resigning and the Kaiser accepting. Immediately afterwards Wilhelm II had two short-lived chancellors who were neither as strong-willed as Bismarck nor as accommodating as the Kaiser would have wished, until he found his seemingly perfect match in Bernhard von Bülow, his longest-serving chancellor (9 years). Von Bülow was a master in running the government as he pleased while never challenging the Kaiser’s formal superior position. The above traits suggest that Wilhelm II was mostly concerned with confirming his superior status in political hierarchy rather than insisting on implementing specific programs of government. This further confirms the Kaiser’s higher focus on E rather than on P but also points to highly Valued F, as also the nature of his spontaneous bombastic remarks. All of that is even further confirmed by the Kaiser’s vast expansion and modernization of the German military navy: that was done through the Kaiser’s personal involvement, and was one of the reasons for the background to WWI, with Britain fearing that Germany aimed at challenging British naval supremacy even to the point of eventually being able to attack Britain directly. Yet, by all accounts, the Kaiser’s true motivations can be summed up simply as “Germany can’t lag behind Britain” rather than as part of a detailed plan or specific policy goals, which further confirm his higher focus on F than on P.

The above traits – a dominant focus on Valued E and F, less emphasis on P – already put Wilhelm II squarely in the Beta quadra. The consensus among all those who observed him in describing the Kaiser as rather hyperactive and energetic, besides extremely talkative, strongly indicate that he was an energiser/extravert, so EIE or SLE.

The Kaiser was known for being much better in getting policies started than making sure they were completed, except in some very specific cases such as the build-up of the navy, about which he felt particularly strongly. He was noted for showing strong interests in a variety of subjects, including technological innovation and archaeology, about which he would gladly engage in informal conversation. Most notably, he involved himself in promoting scientific research, technological development and education in Germany, sponsoring the creation of the hugely prestigious Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut (today the Max-Planck-Institut) and pushing for education reform in Prussian universities so they would emphasize what today are called “STEM” fields. Those traits, although not ruling out SLE as a type for Wilhelm II, do suggest a very strong and spontaneous focus on I, suggesting that that was more likely I8 (as in EIE) rather than I3 (as in SLE).

The Kaiser’s use of F was directly connected to his use of his position as Kaiser. Yet, when truly challenged, he could  find himself in situations  where he was not sure how to exercise personal volitional pressure.  Thus he found himself into a nearly-powerless position during WWI, with generals von Hindenburg and Ludendorff effectively running the war effort; and despite the Kaiser’s foreign policy initiatives having helped set up the background for WWI, in reality he found himself unable to stop it from escalating at the last moment. Finally, he was rather easily pushed into abdication and exile at the end of WWI, feeling depressed, by von Hindenburg. This suggests a much weaker F than in a SLE.

A Beta energiser with quite visible I, extremely visible E, and valued but not-so-strong F: that is perfectly consistent with E1, I8 and F6. Further, besides a vague belief in the divine right of monarchs, it is difficult to see in Wilhelm consistent worldviews or ideologies, showing weak and/or subdued L. All the evidence makes EIE as more likely as Wilhelm II’s type than any other.

Sources: my first views of the Kaiser were shaped by Robert K Massie’s book “Dreadnought”, then further by Christopher Clark’s biography “Kaiser Wilhelm II: A Life in Power”.

To learn more about EIE, click here.

If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.

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