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The attempt to reconcile the working class to the state was carried as far as the ruling forces dared; further efforts in this directions would have ment abandoning the very foundation on which the empire rested – the semi-absolutistic and bureaucratic principles of the regime.

Source: Franz L. Neumann: Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism, p. 3.

What is the exact meaning of the phrase "as far as the ruling forces dared"? I mean that the excerpt tells that the incorporating of the workers into German Reich was primarily possible due to willingness of the ruling class and therefore it was limited. But how would you rewrite or paraphrase "as far as the ruling forces dared"?

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Is the comparison with distance and magnitude causing confusion?

If not, please forgive the over-explanation.

If so, I hope it's a helpful explanation!

English often compares degree and distance. For example "he mocked her voice and kept doing it more and more until he thought she was going to cry" could also be stated "he mocked her voice and pushed it as far as he could until he thought she was going to cry." Sometimes the comparison has other colorful references, such as "go the whole nine yards" meaning "do something completely and with full commitment", or "push past the breaking point" meaning "put stress on a person or situation until a crisis occurs", or "this is where I get off the bus," meaning "the situation has become so extreme that I withdraw my support."

Each variation has its own shade of meaning, but in each case a comparison is being made between the amount a thing is done and a distance travelled.

So in your reference, "carried as far as the ruling classes dared" does not refer to any literal carrying, or any literal distance. It means "they did as much as they could do without causing fear in the ruling classes".

Please forgive me if this is all obvious stuff that missed the point of your question!

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  • I think you are right about their source of confusion; this is a good answer. However, in this sentence, the ruling forces are the ones performing the action. It could be re-written as, "The ruling forces attempted to reconcile the working class to the state; this attempt was carried as far as they dared." – Keiki Apr 27 '15 at 21:26
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"As far as they dared" means, approximately, "as far as they were willing to go," out of fear of possible consequences.

For another example, "He did not dare go any further." -> "He did not want to go any further, fearing what might happen."

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