Contests over the term politics, over the boundaries that distinguished politics from non-politics, were one of the distinguishing features of the Weimar Republic. Not only did the disciplines of history, philosophy, law, sociology, and pedagogy each define this boundary in different terms, but participants in the debate also distinguished between ideal and real politics, politics at the level of state, and the dissemination of politics through society and citizenry. The fact that Weimar began with a revolution, the abdication of the Kaiser, and military defeat meant an eruption of politicization in 1918–19, whereby political organs of state and civil society sought in unprecedented fashion to draw Germans into parties and parliaments, associations, and activist societies. “The German people would still consist of ninety percent unpolitical people, if Social Democracy had not become a political school for the people,” Otto Braun claimed in Vorwärts in 1925. Politics and politicization generated not only political acts—votes, strikes, and vocal demonstrations—but also cultural milieus of Socialists and Communists, Catholics and liberal Democrats, nationalists, and eventually Nazis. In Weimar Germany there was little room for the “unpolitical” citizen of the prewar era, held up as a model in a famous tract of 1918 by Thomas Mann.
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