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When do states choose to adopt a penitent stance towards the past? When do they choose to offer apologies for historical misdeeds, offer compensation for their victims, and incorporate the darker sides of history into their textbooks, public monuments, and museums? When do they choose not to do so? And what are the political consequences of how states portray the past? This book pursues these questions by examining how governments in post-1945 Austria, Germany, and Japan have wrestled with the difficult legacy of the Second World War and the impact of their policies on regional politics in Europe and Asia. The book argues that states can reconcile over historical issues, but to do so requires greater political will and imposes greater costs than is commonly realized. At the same time, in an increasingly interdependent world, failure to do so can have a profoundly disruptive effect on regional relations and feed dangerous geopolitical tensions.Read more
- Provides an in-depth comparison of the development of the politics of historical memory in Europe and Asia
- Makes the case for a realistic approach to the problem of reconciliation over historical issues, one that recognizes both the powerful forces that place the past on the political agenda and makes dealing with it so difficult
- Offers an interdisciplinary theoretical framework for understanding the forces that shape state policies on history
Reviews & endorsements
"This is an outstanding comparative study of the process of wrestling with the legacy of the Second World War in Europe and Asia. Thomas Berger chronicles decades of pitched battles over historical interpretations in three societies while never losing sight of the broad dynamics in postwar international politics that shaped the politics of memory in each society. His book provides a model for those looking to uncover the political stakes of traumatic pasts."
David Art, Associate Professor of Political Science, Tufts UniversitySee more reviews
"Thomas Berger has read widely in the now extensive English, German, and Japanese scholarship and produced a thoughtful synthesis about how the governments and peoples of West Germany and then unified Germany, Austria, and Japan have both faced and avoided facing the crimes of Nazism and the Japanese Imperial government during World War II. Berger's balanced assessments and astute analytical efforts should interest historians who have focused on each of these national histories. The work comprises a welcome addition to interpretive, comparative, and historical social science regarding the way official as well as public, collective memory of past crime influences ongoing policy."
Jeffrey Herf, Professor of Modern European History, University of Maryland, College Park
"Thomas Berger’s War, Guilt, and World Politics after World War II is a masterful comprehensive account explaining Germany, Austria, and Japan’s different responses to the suffering they inflicted during WWII. Fluent in Japanese and German, Berger is thoroughly at home in dealing with history, politics, and psychology. An impressive work of scholarship."
Ezra F. Vogel, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences Emeritus, Harvard University
"Berger shows the interests of the 'aggressors' and 'victims' of WWII, and how they shaped the ability of the multiple factions on each side to dominate the fashioning of historical memory and postconflict policies … The discussion of sometimes surprising cross-party alliances is excellent, as is the sensitive treatment of popular attitudes. Summing up: recommended."
M. Tétreault, Choice
"For over half a century, Germany and Japan have struggled to put World War II behind them. Berger has produced one of the most sophisticated and sensitive treatments yet about how these two countries have contended with their troubled histories."
G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs
"Berger’s study focuses on one particular aspect of war guilt, namely the construction of an official narrative by the state in Germany, Austria and Japan to deal with economic, political, security and moral issues that arose as a consequence of their role in WWII. Berger proposes a methodological approach that makes use of historical determinism, instrumentalism and culturalist explanations in an eclectic manner … Berger’s comparative approach forms a valuable contribution that may also trigger further new research on the issues of war, guilt and penitence by other countries and in other parts of the world."
Kurt W. Radtke, The Sungkyun Review
"… [an] exceptionally thoughtful and useful book …"
Wilfred M. McClay, Books and Culture
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- Date Published: July 2012
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781107674950
- length: 268 pages
- dimensions: 234 x 156 x 15 mm
- weight: 0.42kg
- contains: 2 b/w illus. 3 tables
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
1. Politics and memory in an age of apology
2. Germany: the model penitent
3. Austria: the prodigal penitent
4. Japan: the model impenitent?
5. Asia: the geopolitics of remembering and forgetting: towards an expanded model
6. Conclusions: the varieties of penitence.
Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses
- Human Rights in Europe
- Northeast Asia
- U.S. Foreign Policy
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