Was the collapse of the Habsburg Empire an inevitable one? Was the downfall of such a once great state actually pre-determined by a culmination of factors? Or was the sole cause of the demise of Austria-Hungary simply a war too great for the empire to sustain (that of the first world war)? These are questions which really can be argued either way. In his article, "The Healthy Invalid: How Doomed the Habsburg Empire?", Joachim Remak maintains the position that in fact it was merely World War one which managed to destroy Austria-Hungary.
One of the first of many convincing points put forth by Remak addresses the complexity of the Austro-Hungarian system. Fundamentally a paradox, the government of the Habsburg Empire was one built on a series of conflicts and compromises. With an officially liberal constitution, Austria-Hungary instituted a clerical system of government. Aside from the legislative contrast, the Austrian system was one plagued with inconsistencies and corruption.
For example, all citizens were considered equal, but not all people were considered citizens (Remak, 129).
Aside from the governmental problems they faced, the Austro-Hungarians faced the obstacle of containing the nationalist wave that was sweeping through the state. The nationalities within Austria-Hungary were many and very diverse. With this came for some a natural feeling of superiority over other races within the state, which in turn led to class conflicts and discrimination (Remak, 133-135).
These conflicts were never really dealt with in the sense that laws or policies were implemented to address the problem, but rather "the political feelings of the very great majority of the empire's nationalities occupied the scale between passive acceptance and happy co-operation" (Remak, 136).
Why would citizens be content to live in a state in which they felt unwelcome? Why would so many different nationalities be...