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Helmut Kohl's Quest for Normality: His Representation of the German Nation and Himself

Christian Wicke
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Helmut Kohl's Quest for Normality
    Book Description:

    During his political career, Helmut Kohl used his own life story to promote a normalization of German nationalism and to overcome the stigma of the Nazi period. In the context of the cold war and the memory of the fascist past, he was able to exploit the combination of his religious, generational, regional, and educational (he has a PhD in History) experiences by connecting nationalist ideas to particular biographical narratives. Kohl presented himself as the embodiment of "normality": a de-radicalized German nationalism which was intended to eclipse any anti-Western and post-national peculiarities. This book takes a biographical approach to the study of nationalism by examining its manifestation in Helmut Kohl and the way he historicized Germany's past.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-574-5
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    Nationalism has become normal in the contemporary world. Despite changes in international relations and notions of sovereignty, nation-states have continued to mushroom over the past two centuries. And despite efforts to write transnational histories, the public is fundamentally organized along national lines, inasmuch as its nationalized representation of the past has supplied nation-states with legitimacy. In 1989, Richard J. Evans wrote that there was ‘no fundamental reason why a linguistic or cultural group such as the Germans should need to be united under a single state, any more than the same principle should be applied to other linguistic or cultural...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Approaching Nationalism: Conceptual Frameworks
    (pp. 16-62)

    Nationalism, as something normal in daily life, strongly affects the self-images, emotions and worldviews of billions of our contemporaries, whose thoughts and actions contribute in turn to the strength and persistence of nationalism. This chapter supplies some theoretical equipment to accompany the reader for the rest of this case study of the personal nationalism of Helmut Kohl. I shall first clarify that nationalism is treated here as a contemporary, mainstream phenomenon, one that is often internalized reflexively. I will also point to its ability to be highly malleable. This last feature has made a particular contribution to the force of...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Kohl as Catholic Nationalist
    (pp. 63-96)

    This chapter studies Kohl as a Catholic nationalist. Kohl’s personal nationalism was shaped by his Catholic socialization, and his notion of Germany contained religious content. This religiosity endowed him with a characteristic authenticity as he attempted to personify normality to his stigmatized nation and the world. His background was an asset in mobilizing an (auto) biographical image of the guiltless German, whom he saw as predestined to lead the nation towards its just place within a Europe of self-determined peoples bound together by their shared Christian heritage, which Kohl philosophized as underpinning their common liberal values.

    The first part looks...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Kohl as Liberal Nationalist
    (pp. 97-135)

    This chapter treats Helmut Kohl as a liberal nationalist. His synthesis of liberal and nationalist traditions was based on the assumption that functioning liberal societies were still reliant on nationalist ideals that merely needed domesticating under the hegemony of liberal values. This characteristic was most fundamental to his representation of a benign, trustful, Western nationalism in Germany during his quest to correct its old and new Sonderweg.

    The first part of the chapter will deal with Kohl’s liberal nationalist socialization. Like his Catholic upbringing, Kohl’s specific generational belonging – his generationalism – endowed him with a powerful biographical identity from which to...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Kohl as Romantic Nationalist
    (pp. 136-169)

    This chapter looks at Kohl as a romantic nationalist who articulated his concept of nation in cultural and ethnic terms detached from the idea of the nation-state. This kind of nationalism has often been portrayed as something typically German and ultimately – as part of the cultural Sonderweg and in opposition to the nationalism of the West – dangerous.¹ However, Kohl exemplified a romantic nationalism that was reconciled with, and eventually subordinated to, his liberal nationalism and belief in the primacy of the West, as outlined in chapter 3. Romantic nationalism, as part of Kohl’s personification of the new German normality, did...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Kohl as Nationalist Historian
    (pp. 170-206)

    This chapter looks at Kohl as a nationalist historian who used history to legitimize his personal nationalism and political ideology, and actively sought to shape his nation’s historical culture by putting a particular historical consciousness into political practice.¹ ‘History’ played a crucial, continuous role in his political rhetoric. He presented himself as understanding grand politics primarily in terms of historical processes, with the German nation as the principal category of interpretation. In Kohl’s world view, the nation was a fixed entity in the stream of history; any degradation of this unit was an ahistorical, unnatural aberration from the universal norm...

  11. Conclusion. A Synthesis of Kohl’s Personal Nationalism
    (pp. 207-216)

    Nationalism, thanks to its ideological flexibility in response to structural changes and its susceptibility to the influence of individual ideas in diverse societies, has manifested itself as a very important determinant in contemporary world views. Despite its internal elasticity, nationalism’s conceptual shell has remained stable at the universal level, again reinforcing the personal stratum: the world is perceived as a conglomerate of nations, and being nationalist means being normal. Each nation offers a distinctive, shared, changing repertoire to which the nationalist can resort. The cultural material offered, however, can be apportioned differently among the mindsets of co-nationals of the same...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 217-244)
  13. Index
    (pp. 245-250)