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The German Right, 1860?1920

The German Right, 1860?1920: Political Limits of the Authoritarian Imagination

James Retallack
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    The German Right, 1860?1920
    Book Description:

    Written with clear, persuasive prose, this wide-ranging analysis draws together threads of reasoning from German and Anglo-American scholars over the past 30 years and points the way for future research into unexplored areas.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5741-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Tables and Figures
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-32)

    In Heinrich Mann’s 1918 novelThe Loyal Subject,¹ the middle-class protagonist Diederich Heßling finds himself in a ‘private and confidential conclave’ with a ‘real feudal aristocrat,’ Herr von Barnim. Von Barnim’s political ideal entails ‘a permanent system of popular representation as in the happy Middle Ages: knights, clergy, craftsmen and artisans.’ For such a system Diederich expresses warm approval: these ideas ‘fully corresponded with his desire, as a member of a profession and a gentleman, to take his stand in life collectively rather than individually.’ Diederich also agrees with Herr von Barnim that the Jews are ‘the root of all...


    • 1 Habitus and Hubris
      (pp. 35-75)

      Questions about political fairness and personal honour have always intertwined in the German authoritarian imagination. To begin the discussion of how this intertwining shaped the political agendas of the German Right in the nineteenth century, we might consider ‘the ancient opinions and rules of life,’ whose imminent demise pained the English conservative Edmund Burke more than two hundred years ago. This discussion in turn argues for a narrowing of focus, to take in not the German Right as a whole but those social and political groups to which Burke principally directed his message: aristocrats and conservatives.

      It has been said...

    • 2 ‘Fishing for Popularity’
      (pp. 76-107)

      ‘To demagogue.’ (v.) This awkward verb came suddenly into fashion during the U.S. presidential campaign of 1992. In that campaign the Democratic ‘outsider,’ Bill Clinton, defeated the wealthy Republican incumbent, George H.W. Bush. Significantly, this verb ‘to demagogue’ was used only occasionally – and then mainly by the electronic media – to describe the political tactics of the ‘populist billionaire’ from Texas, Ross Perot. Perot was unpretentious and had the ‘common touch.’ No one cared whether he belonged to the Left or the Right. Even though (or because) he said next to nothing about his policies, Perot was seen as someone who...

    • 3 Meanings of Stasis
      (pp. 108-134)

      Whole books could be filled citing Germans who felt that every dimension of their personal, communal, and political existence was in flux between 1890 and 1914. With the possible exceptions of the Nazi era or the 1990s, there is hardly another period in which German society, culture, and politics were allegedly more ‘turbulent,’ ‘tumultuous,’ or ‘disorienting.’ Thus many historians argue that Germany in these years was undergoing its transition to ‘modernity.’ Nevertheless, debates about the nature of these changes continue to exercise scholars, as do disagreements about their magnitude and trajectory.² Hence there exists an opportunity to take stock of...


    • 4 Culture/Power/Territoriality
      (pp. 137-167)

      This chapter explores sites – conceptual and actual sites – where culture and power intersect in Germany history. It does so by examining a collection of political visions drawn from the experience of conservatives and liberals in the nineteenth century. Although the focus of this chapter is not on party politics, it addresses issues that conditioned the possibilities for political renewal on the Right. Such issues included attempts by bourgeois Germans to carve out political space between working-class and aristocratic competitors, efforts to revitalize the authoritarian state, middle-class fears of revolution, ambivalence towards democracy, and the collision of individual rights and group...

    • 5 Governmentality in Transition
      (pp. 168-191)

      In world history the 1860s was a decade of political renewal. It was dominated by reformist conservatives who sought to sidestep the revolutionary aspects of political modernization.¹ If we think initially of Bismarck in Prussia and Cavour in Italy, we are soon prompted to consider Napoleon III in France, Disraeli in England, Lincoln in America, John A. Macdonald in Canada, and the oligarchs behind the Meiji Restoration in Japan. Even in the calmer corners of central Europe – in the cantons of Switzerland,² in Vienna,³ in Württemberg⁴ – we find transitions to more democratic forms that involved the fundamental realignment of parliamentary...

    • 6 Citadels against Democracy
      (pp. 192-222)

      This chapter examines municipal politics, philanthropy, and local efforts to recast the electoral rules of the game.¹ The Germans who appear to be in the driver’s seat in this chapter cannot easily be fixed on the German Right; most of them would probably have described themselves as liberals. Few of them, however, would willingly have accepted the label ‘democrat.’ Indeed, not unlike Herr von Barnim, who was cited in this volume’s introduction, the struggle against Social Democracy was often at the forefront of their thinking.

      This discussion of power and privilege focuses on efforts to reform municipal voting rights in...


    • 7 Publicity and Partisanship
      (pp. 225-272)

      In 1980 a historian of the German Right noted that scholars faced a ‘massive problem’ in integrating analyses of the imperial German state and its political culture with ‘the history of mass communications ... and the relation of propaganda to ideology.’² Other historians have since called for ‘a social history of reading, writing, and publishing’ in nineteenth-century Germany³ and for a social history of professionalism (Beruf).⁴ The challenge of integrating the histories of mass communication and right-wing politics still confronts historians of Germany, regardless whether they focus on the late Enlightenment or the early twentieth century. This chapter begins by...

    • 8 Building a People’s Party
      (pp. 273-324)

      Charges of failing to understand the mood of the people were hurled back and forth between Conservatives and antisemites in almost all German states. Yet ‘authoritarian’ and ‘demagogic’ solutions to the ‘Jewish question’ were not defined the same way everywhere. This chapter considers how regional environments affected the willingness and ability of Conservatives and antisemites to work together to win a mass following.

      In contrast to the situation just a decade ago, we now have many excellent studies of regional antisemitic movements.¹ To be sure, much work remains to be done on the micro- and macro-planes too. Neither the ‘everydayness’...

    • 9 Conservatives contra Chancellor
      (pp. 325-369)

      One of two equations that determined the Right’s intermediate position in German political society was the relationship between the Conservative Party and the Kaiser’s government. Hans-Jürgen Puhle long ago pointed to the estrangement between the agrarian-Conservative community and the government that followed the founding of the Agrarian League in 1893. Yet he did not define the actual nature of this estrangement more precisely than to say that it was ‘quasi-oppositional’ and that the agrarians and Conservatives ‘hovered’ between the extremes of governmentalism and opposition.² A 1983 Festschrift devoted to German conservatism gave Puhle’s thesis a twist. Now the Conservatives ‘oscillated...

    • 10 The Road to Philippi
      (pp. 370-406)

      Shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, fundamental changes were underway in the structure, style, and orientation of politics on the German Right. Most historians who have studied these changes have concentrated their attention on the leading nationalist and economic pressure groups.¹ Along the way they have neglected the three right-wing parties in Imperial Germany: the German Conservative Party, the Imperial and Free Conservative Party, and the National Liberal Party.² Hence these parties have not been integrated into the larger community of the Right, whose members were eager to safeguard their own interests, define the cultural symbols of...

  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 407-412)
  11. Index
    (pp. 413-430)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 431-431)