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A History of Modern Germany since 1815

Frank Tipton (Author)

Available in North America

Paperback, 752 pages
ISBN: 9780520240490
August 2003
Germany has fascinated its own people as well as onlookers in the twentieth century because, unlike the history of other European states, its very being has been posed as a question. Why was there no unified German state until late in the nineteenth century? How did Germany become an industrial power? What responsibility does Germany bear for the two world wars? This accessible but authoritative study attempts to answer these and other fundamental questions by looking at the economic, social, political and cultural forces that have created modern Germany.

The 1848 revolutions ushered in an age of Realism that saw rapid economic development and the creation of the Bismarckian empire. However, by the early twentieth century Germany's economic expansion and position as a world power began to fracture and growing internal, economic, social, and political contradictions led it, with disastrous results, into the First World War and the subsequent Weimar Republic. Hitler and the Nazi movement proposed a "revolution" and the creation of a "German style" and the Second World War/Holocaust is, arguably, the defining event of the twentieth century. The Americanization of the German economy and society, the "economic miracle" and euphoria of reunification have in recent years rapidly given way to disillusionment as the major political parties have failed to master outstanding social and environmental problems. The "German question"—Germany's place within the European Union—continues to be unanswered even within an EU where it is the dominant economic power.
Frank B. Tipton is Professor in the School of Economics and Political Science, University of Sydney.
"Tipton's book will prove a godsend to teachers and students of Modern German History; not only does it provide a fresh and compelling account of the whole period from 1815 right up to the present, it achieves a rare synthesis of social, political, economic and cultural history. You get the equivalent of about six (good) books for the price of one!!"—John Milfull, University of New South Wales

"A comprehensive, balanced, up-to-date, and fair synthesis that will be extremely valuable to undergraduate students…. The writing is superior and the approach is sound…. This study will challenge student readers to make the sorts of connections that are demanded of them in too few of the competing texts."—James Retallack, University of Toronto

Chapter 1

Introduction: From Generation to Generation

In 1993, visitors to the Venice Biennale confronted a work by Hans Haacke entitled Germania. The marble floor of a large room had been jackhammered into fragments, and the fragments left piled randomly on top of one another. At the far side of the room was a blank wall with a gently curved section in the middle, receding slightly from the viewer. On the curved section were inscribed in precise capitals the letters GERMANIA. Visitors had to walk gingerly because the shattered pieces of flooring did not provide a secure footing. As they moved about, microphones picked up sounds of the shifting pieces, and speakers set above the wall sent the amplified noises reverberating through the room. One critic described the effect of the random echoes as "mournful."1

Art and politics have intersected across the generations of modern Germany's history. Haacke was born in 1936, three years after Hitler came to power. He was nine when the war ended, in his teens when the economic miracle began, and thirty-two in 1968, the year of the student revolts against the West German establishment. In the 1970s, he produced posters contrasting the luxurious goods of contemporary consumer society in the affluent industrialized countries with the impoverished conditions of the workers who produced them in the underdeveloped world. In the 1990s he turned his attention back to Germany. For Haacke, for other Germans, and for students of German history, Germania is the embodiment of Germany. Usually a female figure, she has taken many forms, and her forms have reflected the concerns of each succeeding generation. Four years after reunification, Haacke saw Germany as bodenlos, without foundations, a broken land, a land of rubble, a land without a floor to stand on securely. We might read the work as saying that Germany's foundations have been destroyed, that they are being rebuilt, that new foundations are under construction, or possibly that Germany has no foundation. In any case, the empty space of Germania/Germany is filled only with the mournful noise created by the viewers themselves, as they unsteadily pass through.

The "German question"

What is special about Germany? Haacke's ironic and deliberately ambiguous work focuses our attention. Unlike the history or national existence of other European states, Germany's very being has been posed as a question. And one of the most recalcitrant aspects of the "German question" is the deceptively simple question of what "Germany" is. For much of our period, "Germany" did not exist. Many historians of Germany have considered the history of the region of central Europe that roughly corresponds to the area of the pre-1914 German Empire—the Bismarckian empire—but this approach presupposes simple answers to some very complex questions. Why was there no unified German state until late in the nineteenth century? How did Germany become an industrial power? What did this mean for German women and for German men? What responsibility does Germany bear for two world wars? For the barbarism of the Third Reich? In attempting to answer such questions, many observers focused on Germany's difference from other nations, on the Sonderweg, or "special path," of German development. At some point, they argued, Germany diverged from the normal course of modern history, with tragic results. Germany was either a land without foundation or a land that had destroyed its foundations.

Who are the "Germans"? The answer is as difficult as the definition of Germany itself. The present German government attempts to solve the problem by granting citizenship to anyone of "German blood," and by placing severe restrictions on citizenship for those not of German blood. The legal definition of citizenship, as we will see, is racial and based on a law passed shortly before the First World War. Membership in the German community is taken to mean the inheritance of language, that is, descent from German-speaking people. But this is really no solution. Over the centuries language has been no guide, for many of the subjects of the Hohenzollern ruler spoke Polish, and the subjects of the Hapsburg realms spoke over a dozen different languages. In the late eighteenth century, the habitual language of many of the upper classes was French. And many of the "Germans" by "blood" scattered across Eastern Europe and the former territories of the Soviet Union today do not speak German, but rather are descended from people who may have spoken a sort of German centuries ago. Could anyone be a German who has passed through Germany, leaving a mournful echo?

What and where is "Germany"? In the eighteenth century, "Germany" meant the "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation." It included nearly two thousand separate entitles, among which were the several dozen separate territories ruled by the Hohenzollern prince, who in turn had several different titles. He was subject to the emperor in the western part of his domains, and subject to the King of Poland in the east. The "King" of Prussia until the early nineteenth century was "King in Prussia." that is, he was a king in only part of his domains. The empire also included many of the territories of the Hapsburg monarch, who like the Prussian bore many different titles in addition to ruling as emperor or empress. There was also a "third Germany" of medium-sized and small states, outside of the Hohenzollern and Hapsburg realms, ranging from the Imperial Free Knights who might rule over a single landed estate, Church territories, and free cities of varying size, to substantial powers such as Saxony and Bavaria.

The wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon resulted in the end of the old empire and the creation of a new "German Confederation" of thirty-nine separate states. The Vienna settlement resulted in a substantial extension of Hohenzollern territory in the west, and the period from 1815 to 1866 was marked by the conflict Hohenzollern Prussia and Hapsburg Austria for domination of this new version of Germany. The smaller states played Prussia and Austria off against one another as best they could, and all the surviving states concentrated on organizing and integrating territories they had gained during the wars. The question of whether there was or should be a single "Germany" was one of the most contentious political issues over this entire half century. The broken pieces of Haacke's Germania recall the dilemma of which pieces of Germany should be united, and how.

Bismarck, of course, insisted that the empire he created in 1871 was "Germany," but this Germany contained substantial non-German minorities and sizable irredenta. No one ever convinced the Polish speakers in eastern Germany that they were German, and many in the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine remained stubbornly French. Additionally, many of the Germans who were included in the new empire—in Hanover, Hesse, or Bavaria, for instance—had no desire to belong to Bismarck's creation. And, of course, a very large number of Germans living in Austria and the other Hapsburg realms were not included in this version of Germany.

Nor was being "German" merely a matter of one's native tongue, even within the new empire. Women found their claims to citizenship challenged and undermined by political, legal, and economic codes. Catholics and Jews found their loyalty to the nation questioned, as did workers, who were accused by Emperor Wilhelm II of being "fellows without a fatherland." Many have argued that this failure to define the national community was one of the forces propelling Germany into the First World War.

The Bismarckian empire died in 1918, and the problems engendered by that defeat led to the greater defeat of 1945. Among those problems was the definition of what was Germany and who was a German. In the Polish Corridor, in Silesia, and in Austria, there were violent conflicts over whether or not these territories were to form part of Germany or not. Austria, the remnant of the western portion of the Hapsburg Empire, voted to join Germany in 1919, but was forbiddened to do so by the victorious Allies despite their professed adherence to the principle of national self-determination. In 1937, a now very reluctant Austria was forcibly annexed by a new Nazi Germany as part of an attempt to create a "Greater German Empire."

Weimar Germany also proved unable to create a definition of the national community that could comfortably include women, workers, or religious minorities. The national community envisaged by the Nazi leadership, though supposedly including all Germans, in fact excluded many persons who considered themselves to be German—in particular the German Jews, defined in Nazi racial theory as something less than human. The Holocaust—the attempt by the Nazi regime to exterminate the Jewish people—because it seems so monstrous and so incomprehensible, is the event that has led to the impassioned debate over the special path of German history. Haacke's brokened floor here could stand for the victims of Nazism, and the echoes of the feet of the visitors in the present for the voices of those who cannot speak for themselves.

The Nazi version of Germany collapse in 1945 into heaps of broken stone and concrete that were cleared by "rubble-women" (Trümmerfrauen), and Haacke's work evokes those memories as well. From 1945 to 1989 there were two Germanies and an Austria, as well as substantial German minorities in other countries. Then suddenly "Germany" was "reunited." But this new version of Germany did not include the Germans of Austria and other countries, and it was far from including all the territories that had been included in previous versions of Germany—the western third of Poland was consisted of territories that had been ruled by the Hohenzollerns since the mid-eighteenth century. Again, a more optimistic reading of Germania might see the rubble as the prelude to the construction of more lasting foundations, but a more ominous interpretation could view these as pieces of some new version of a greater Germany waiting to be forced together once again.

The broader significance of the "German question": modernization, industrialization, and nationalism

The problem of defining the Germans, and the problem of defining Germany, reflects the fact that the most important questions of modern history have been directly affected by what has happened in this region of central Europe. German history has had an obvious impact on the shaping of the modern world. The rise of Prussia and the decline of Austria reflected competition among national groups and the rise of new national states. The instability resulting from the creation of the Bismarckian empire was one of the contributing causes of the outbreak of the First World War, and the outcome of the First World War in turn paved the way for the outbreak of the Second World War. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the "German question" played a central role in the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union, and in the emergence of the European Union.

On a deeper level, however, the world historical impact of the German history can also be read as an exemplification of the main social problems of the past two centuries, problems that continue to affect us today. These can be grouped under three broad headings: modernization, industrialization, and nationalism. Cutting across all three headings are the linked questions of gender, class, and ethnic relations, and the creation of personal identity in a modern and in a postmodern world. In all of these areas and across these linking axes, Germany has been seen as a paradoxical combination of success and failure. Sometimes Germany has been portrayed as a link between "Western" and "Eastern" European patterns of development, and sometimes as a curious amalgam of "backward" and "modern," but in any case German history has been read as going along a separate and distinctive path, a Sonderweg.

There are many aspects of Germany that can be seen as forming a middle way between Western European "democratic" traditions and Eastern European "autocratic" traditions. Germany can be seen as somewhere in the middle of a scale of modern nationalisms. Germany also has been seen as an important example of the use of nationalism and state power as a means to achieve modernization and industrialization, for instance in the work of many economic historians such as W.O. Henderson.

Historians' concern with modernization, sometimes portrayed as "Westernization" or more narrowly as "Americanization," emerged from the sociological conceptions of Talcott Parsons. Drawing on Parsons, in the 1960s sociologists, political scientists, and historians argued that societies moved toward a standard pattern that included industrialization and urbanization, greater political participation, and a tendency to evaluate persons on the basis of individual merit rather than birth. The process of modernization, these scholars held, created greater class mobility and eliminated bars based upon race, religion, or ethnicity. From the perspective of gender relations, this included an expectation that sex segregation and discrimination in all its forms would decline.2

When social scientists and historians look at Germany, however, the country was frequently regarded as having achieved only incomplete modernization, as combining some aspects of modernity with persistent habits inherited from a pre-modern past. In a comparative framework, they argued, this might simply reflect the dangers and tensions inherent in the modernization process, but because of the centrality of Germany in modern history, Germany's failure to modernize completely took on truly tragic overtones. The works of the émigré historian Hans Rosenberg argued along these lines. Produced during his exile in the United States, they influenced a generation of British and American historians in the 1950s, and then a new generation of West German historians in the 1960s.3 Political scientists reached broadly similar conclusions and remained pessimistic about the chances for true democratization in West Germany.4 From the 1970s, specialists in women's history also noted the persistence of gender-linked attitudes in German society and politics.5

The "German question," intellectual history, and the history of history

Concern for the German question also reflects the position of Germany at the center of European intellectual history. Discussion by German thinkers has deeply influenced the course of development of the entire range of intellectual disciplines. Their very sophisticated discussion underlies the multiplicity of analyses of what it is to be German and what this means. Germans can draw on a tradition of philosophical analysis from Immanuel Kant in the late eighteenth century, through G.W.F. Hegel and Friedrich Nietzsche in the nineteenth century, to Karl Heiddiger and Edmund Husserl in the twentieth century. In the nineteenth century, German scholars pioneered social scientific disciplines such as philology, archaeology, and jurisprudence. Karl Marx and the generations of Socialist scholars following his lead drew on this tradition. So, too, did the founding father of sociology, Max Weber, from which modern bureaucracies operate. In the interwar years, the "Frankfurt School" attempted to combine the insights of Marx and Weber with those of Sigmund Freud, a Jew from Vienna who considered himself German. Exiled by the Nazis, members of the school such as Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse exerted a powerful influence on American social scientists, including Talcott Parsons, and younger adherents such as Jürgen Habermas have played a central role in the discussion of social theory over the past thirty years.6

Historians of Germany can look back on an inheritance of six or seven generations of scholarship; German scholars indeed created the historical profession as it exists today. For a half century from the 1830s to his death in 1886. Leopold von Ranke trained young historians in the critical analysis of historical sources in his "seminar" at the University of Berlin. Ranke aimed to reconstruct history "as it really happened" without injecting the spirit of the present into former times. Equally influential have been the ideas of Wilhelm Dilthey, who advocated an empathetic but disciplined "understanding" of the past. Both drew on the German philosophical tradition in seeking patterns and explanations in history, not mere recitations of factual information, and these remain the defining concerns of modern professional historians.7

The intellectual and historical concerns of German thinkers were not isolated. They reflected on and engaged in the continuing struggles over the definition of Germany and the German question, and in particular the definition of the German national community. During the Wars of Liberation against the French, the philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte called on Germans to surrender themselves to "the devouring flame of a higher patriotism." During the ensuing period of "restoration," there were repeated calls for the creation of a new national state, and the repression of those demands was one of the factors in the revolutionary upheavals of 1848.

Bismarck's success in overcoming both external and internal opponents converted many doubters, in particular the historian Heinrich von Treitschke, who wielded immense influence in propagating the notion that Bismarck's version of Germany was the only answer to the German question. Treitschke reinterpreted the German past to show the Bismarckian empire as the inevitable result of all previous historical development. He and his contemporaries viewed Germany as distinctive and superior, lying between the chronic instability of Western European democracy and the repressive backwardness of Eastern European autocracy.8

The shock of defeat in 1918 called the complacent certainties of the pre-1914 generation into question. This led to new interpretations of the German past. Eckart Kehr analyzed the role of key interest groups in determining the policies of imperial Germany, but his was not a popular message, and his works gained influence only after 1945.9 Scholarship polarized, with Marxists arguing that the war had resulted from the development of the capitalist system, and right-wing thinkers such as Oswald Spengler insisting that Western culture itself had entered its period of decline. Most Germans were incensed that the "war guilt" clause of the Treaty of Versailles made them responsible for the war and by extension implied that there was something "wrong" with "Germany." That anger helped Hitler and the Nazis to power.

The aftermath of 1945 led to another reevaluation of the German past. In 1946, Friedrich Meinecke, Germany's greatest historian after Ranke, published The German Catastrophe.10 This book established a trend of seeking a decisive point at which German history had taken the wrong turn, and identifying the groups or individuals responsible for the subsequent tragedy. Meinecke saw this point in the failure of the reformers he had considered in his earlier work to complete their task in the 1820s. Others such as Lewis Namier and A.J.P. Taylor saw the defeat if the 1848 revolution as the point where German history had failed to turn, where Germany had gone wrong.11 Marxists also concentrated on 1848. They blamed a weak and cowardly middle class for failing to complete its task, to carry through a revolution against the feudal aristocracy. The resulting peculiar combination of rapid industrial growth and continued aristocratic privilege defined the Sonderweg.12 Other scholars took a more short term view and blamed the leaders who had taken Germany into the First World War, or the leaders who had failed to defend Weimar democracy against the Nazis.13

Scholars such as Hans Kohn and Leonard Krieger exhaustively reexamined German national consciousness in the light of the war and the Holocaust.14 They sought to explain what had gone wrong with "German" nationalism, to the extent that the German nation could have been led down the path of Nazism, and they looked back toward the beginning of the nineteenth century, if not before. Leah Greenfield has also argued that the early nineteenth century is the place to look. Greenfield concludes that the German national identity was locked in place during the Napoleonic wars. Violent, racist, and anti-Semitic, the German identity did not by itself cause the Holocaust, but, without it, Greenfield says the Holocaust is inconceivable.15

Opinion had reversed itself. Rather than Treitschke's stable synthesis of Western democracy and Eastern autocracy, Germany was now seen as an unhealthy and explosive combination of dangerous and essentially incompatible elements. Within Germany this view was not popular. A storm of controversy greeted the publication of Fritz Fischer's study of German war aims in the First World War, which argued that German leaders had caused the war in order to preserve the conservative aristocratic establishment.16 However, the younger generation of scholars, influenced by Rosenberg and by American social science and especially Parson's structural-functional sociology, argued that Fischer's fundamental point was correct, that Germany had deviated from the normal course of modernization. Ralf Dahrendorf's Society and Democracy in Germany suggested that inherited social structures would make it difficult for Germans ever to achieve a modern democratic political system, and Hans-Ulrich Wehler's history of imperial Germany identified internal contradictions that he believed marked the special path of Germany's modernization and led to the First World War.17

More recently many historians have become wary of believing we know what the "normal" course of history ought to be. Specialized studies have shown that many of the things that seem to be special about Germany have parallels in other nations' histories. As we will see in the following chapters, the idea that "Germany was not alone" recurs repeatedly. David Blackbourn and Geoff Eley have emphasized the many positive and stable aspects of pre-1914 German society. Germany looks quite modern in many respects. Especially interesting is their emphasis on the power and influence of the German middle classes, whom many other authors had dismissed as weak or cowardly. They also question the historical basis of the modernization model, in particular its oversimplified view of British history, something to which they as British historians have been particularly sensitive.18

In addition, two further problems presented themselves. First was the very easy and unproblematic integration of first West Germany and then reunified Germany into the developing structures of the European Union. This did not fit with the essentially tragic terms of the analyses of the German question developed after the Second World War. Second was the rise of postmodernist, post-colonial, and feminist analytical points of view, which called the entire intellectual framework of modernization theory into question. If modernization had only benefited a small group of males, and if it had been achieved at the direct expense of women and subaltern groups, how could this be presented as "progress"? Even more broadly, if economic development was leading toward ecological disaster, as argued for instance by some members of the West German Greens, then how could it represent progress? It no longer seemed so certain that all societies would or should follow a single path of development, and this lack of certainty seemed to indicate a need to rethink the German question once again.

The "German question" and social history

How can we approach the German question and the related problem of Germany's distinctiveness? In their examinations of the German past, many historians have focused on individual statesmen, political institutions, or intellectual and cultural traditions. These indeed represent important aspects of the German past, but in addition we need to examine that past through the lens of social history. Social history demands that historians pay attention to the lives of the many as well as the few, to the multiple histories rather than to overarching "grand narratives." Social history demands that we study the poor, the oppressed, and their issues and organizations as well as those of elites. It asks that we examine "private" life as well as events in the "public" sphere, and indeed asks that we question the very basis on which private and public have been defined. This approach insists that in order to do justice to cultural and political issues, the historian must begin from an understanding of the social cleavages in Germany, from an analysis of power relations, not only in the political sphere but also in the broader context of economic, social and family structures.19

The concern with the modernization of German society had the important consequence that scholars began to think in terms of social structures. Social historians are therefore concerned to locate and study social groupings in a society, and the power relations within and among those groups. This had led to studies of the class divisions in Germany and the development of workers' movements and then of workers' culture, of the nature of social and economic elites and the bases of their power, and of the relationship between the state and those groups. Moving beyond class analyses, other historians have explored the regrouping of previously cohesive communities into separate "milieus," of German Catholics, of German Jews, of the Protestant middle classes, and of the aristocracy. They have built on a long tradition of German scholarship, from the first systematic observers of social structure such as Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl in the 1850s through Ferdinand Tönnies in the 1880s, whose distinction between Gemeinschaft (community) and Gesellschaft (society) remains influential today.

These were gendered processes. Gender theories of social interaction begin with the assumption that whatever men and women do in their daily lives, their choices are constrained by roles that are socially constructed around the division between the sexes. In Joan W. Scott's words, "gender is a constitutive element of social relationships based on perceived differences between the sexes, and gender is a primary way of signifying relationships of power."20 Women's historians have studied the socio-economic and ideological placing of women, and their political choices as well as their political constraints. What it meant or should mean to be a German woman was a question as hotly contested as any other aspect of the German question.21 As women came to be coded as consumers, debates over how consumption could or should be regulated linked to these other areas of contentions as well.22

Changes in social structures and in the relative power of social groups over the past two centuries can often be traced to the process of industrialization. Industrialization is related to, but not the same as, modernization. Indeed, in the case of Germany a rapid and successful industrialization on the one hand is often contrasted with a halting and incomplete modernization on the other. Still, it is clear that industrial growth, the application of modern science to technological processes, the creation of new machinery, and the emergence of new large-scale enterprises would be impossible in a fully traditional society. Germany repeated many of the patterns of early industrial development, but then took the lead in the later movement from steam to electricity, in the direct application of scientific knowledge to industrial processes, and in the creation of new forms of industrial organization. From this perspective German industrialization exemplified German modernity, and the Germans again reflected on the meaning of what was happening. The Conservative Robert Liefmann produced a theory of economic organization centered on German cartels, and the Marxist Rudolf Hilferding developed a theory of finance capital based on the German experience.

At the same time, Germany also experienced the problems associated with industrial growth, the decline of agriculture as the main source of employment, urbanization, the creation of an industrial working class, substantial changes in the position of women, and severe strains placed on the natural environment. The responses of German individuals, groups, and governments to these problems reflected both the very difficult nature of the problems themselves and the intertwining of the problems of industrialization with those of modernization. It is also the case that the response by the German government, beginning with Bismarck, to the "social question" that arose from rapid industrialization, was a modern response. Germany created some of the earliest welfare systems in the world, with health, accident, and aged insurance for workers established in the 1880s.

Again, those responses indicate the importance if social history, for people responded as members of class, gender, ethnic, and religious groups. At the same time, the very problems themselves were often perceived and discussed in social terms. Urbanization, for example, could be linked to the "Catholic question" as part of the debate over the alleged economic backwardness of Catholics, to the "workers' question" regarding poverty and the working class, to the "woman question" focusing on female paid employment, childcare, and morality, to the "youth question" and the danger that undisciplined young people posed, or to the "Jewish question" whereby Jews and cities became a metaphor for the threatening changes of modern life.

Nationalism and questions of ethnicity and race have played a central role in the German question as well, both because of their obvious importance in defining Germany and the Germans, but also because they were related to the problems of modernization and industrialization. A nation today is commonly defined as a contiguous, unified territory inhabited by a people of common culture speaking the same language. It is less commonly realized that this definition itself is largely the product of disputes over the German identity that emerged out of the Napoleonic wars. As seen above, the history of Nazism and the Holocaust led many to see something "wrong" with the German national identity. However, there have been many other cases of state building and of nationalism since. Germany may have differed from Western Europeans in the nineteenth century owing to the lack of a unitary state before 1871, but more than a half century after the Second World War, it is perhaps clearer that Germany was not uniquely pathological, but shared many of the problems inherent in the creation of a national state.23

Although nationalism has usually been examined within the frameworks of intellectual or political history, social historians have brought new approaches to bear. Visions from the mid-nineteenth century of what the German national state might be have been linked to the rise of middle-class groups in German society, and the importance of women in emphasizing the ideals of the national community has been noted. Similarly, the transformation of nationalism at the end of the century into an expansionist and racist doctrine has been linked to interests of particular socio-economic groups, ranging from the aristocratic elite to men of the lower middle class. The changing fortunes of social groups reflected changes in the economy, and this raises the question of how the German economy developed.

Introduction continues for an additional 12 pages, with the following sub-sections:

The economic context of the "German Question"

The social and cultural context of the "German Question"

The political context of the "German Question"

From generation to generation: ruptures and shared experience

The last two paragraphs of the introduction lay out the structure of the book:

The chapters that follow are defined by the ruptures that opened and closed generations, and they are focused on the experience of each generation as lived, thought, and felt by contemporaries. The sources of economic development and changes in economic structures make up the economic context. Social groups and their interaction make up the social context. Interwoven with social patterns are the cultural products, particularly literature and art, that helped each generation define itself for itself. Political organization and action, both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary, make up the political context. Politics includes foreign policy as well, and this in turn frequently interacts with the development of the international economy. Ruptures could arise from any of the broad fields of action. In the event, again politics does matter, and a majority of the defining ruptures did in fact result from the actions of political leaders.

Each chapter opens with a work that expresses the sense of contemporary belongingness. The selection and interpretation depend on our reading of the text today, and the same point applies to our analysis of economics, society, and politics. The forces driving economic development often framed a generation's understanding of itself, but our analysis of economic growth exists in a tension between the ways contemporaries understood their economy, and our understanding of the way we now believe their economy functioned. Similarly with the social and cultural contexts. Contemporaries struggled to make sense of social change based on their selective appropriation of their own past and their imperfect knowledge of their own present. Our view is conditioned by what we now know of their past, their present, and, most importantly, their unknown future. Writers and artists also responded to their past, present, and frequently to a hoped-for future. Critical, involved, and individually creative, they often provided insights into social reality that escaped the view of contemporary social theorists or policy-makers. Finally, as argued above, politics depended on economic, social, and cultural developments, but did not simply reflect them. Several of the generations indeed are defined precisely by the divergence between the desires of political elites and the thrust of development, and our interpretation of their politics reflects our understanding of the unknown future consequences of their actions.


1. Hans, Haacke, Germania, 1993. Marble floor tiles, dimensions unknown. Installed at the Venice Biennale. Reproduced in Twentieth Century Art (New York and London: Phaidon). See Bussman and Matzer 1993.
2. Parsons 1951; Parsons and Smelser 1956.

3. Rosenberg 1943; 1958; 1967.

4. Dahrendorf 1967.

5. Roseman 1995; Abrams and Harvey 1996.

6. Jay 1973; Held 1980.

7. Rickman 1988; Iggers and Powell 1990; see Fulbrook 2000.

8. Dorpalen 1957.

9. Kehr 1970.

10. Meinecke 1946.

11. Namier 1946; Taylor 1946.

12. Engels 1851-52; Kuczinski 1961ff., Vols. 3 and 4

13. Eyck 1956-57; Fischer 1961.

14. Krieger 1957; Kohn 1960.

15. Greenfield 1992.

16. Moses 1957.

17. Dahrendorf 1967; Wehler 1973.

18. Blackbourn and Eley 1984; see Hamerow 1983.

19. See Greyer and Jarausch 1989; Breuilly 2001.

20. Scott 1998, p. 42.

21. Roseman 1995; Abrams and Harvey 1996.

22. Confino and Koshar 2001.

23. Tipton 1998b, Chs. 5,8.

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