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The Politics of Symbols, Semantics, and Sentiments in the Weimar Republic

  • Kathleen Canning (a1)

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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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Peter Fritzsche , “Did Weimar Fail?,” Journal of Modern History 68, no. 3 (September 1996): 629–56, 630–31

Lynn Hunt , ed., The New Cultural History (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1989)

Jeffrey Weeks , “Foucault for Historians,History Workshop Journal 14, no. 1 (1982): 106119

Geoff Eley's masterful overview of the cultural turn in his The Crooked Line: From Cultural History to a History of Society (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2005)

Thomas Childers , “The Social Language of Politics in Germany: The Sociology of Political Discourse in the Weimar Republic,American Historical Review 95, no. 2 (April 1990): 331–58

Wolfgang Hardtwig , ed., Ordnungen in der Krise. Zur politischen Kulturgeschichte Deutschlands (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2007)

Rüdiger Graf , Die Zukunft der Weimarer Republik. Krisen und Zukunftsaneignungen in Deutschland 1918–1933 (Munich: Oldenbourg), 2008

Nadine Rossol , Performing the Nation in Interwar Germany: Sport, Spectacle, and Political Symbolism 1926–36 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)

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Central European History
  • ISSN: 0008-9389
  • EISSN: 1569-1616
  • URL: /core/journals/central-european-history
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