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German Cosmopolitan Social Thought and the Idea of the West
Voices from Weimar


  • Date Published: May 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107110915

£ 104.00

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About the Authors
  • There has been considerable interest in recent years in German social thinkers of the Weimar era. Generally, this has focused on reactionary and nationalist figures such as Schmitt and Heidegger. In this book, Austin Harrington offers a broader account of the German intellectual legacy of the period. He explores the ideas of a circle of left-liberal cosmopolitan thinkers (Troeltsch, Scheler, Tönnies, Max Weber, Alfred Weber, Mannheim, Jaspers, Curtius, and Simmel) who responded to Germany's crisis by rejecting the popular appeal of nationalism. Instead, they promoted pan-European reconciliation based on notions of a shared European heritage between East and West. Harrington examines their concepts of nationhood, religion, and 'civilization' in the context of their time and in their bearing on subsequent debates about European identity and the place of the modern West in global social change. The result is a groundbreaking contribution to current questions in social, cultural and historical theory.

    • Questions some dominant assumptions about European intellectual life in the inter-war period
    • Brings to light some neglected sources in classical European sociology, with direct contemporary relevance
    • Offers a novel contribution to current debate about 'Eurocentrism'
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This is a significant book that questions the received view about classical social theory. With considerable erudition and a careful reading of a wide range of the most important thinkers in early twentieth-century Germany, Harrington shows that these theorists had already anticipated some of the ideas that are more commonly associated with contemporary thought. He also demonstrates that the traditional view of the decline of cosmopolitanism needs to be revisited.' Gerard Delanty, University of Sussex

    'Germany and the West remains an important topic, although fortunately the time of confrontation is over. This book, by re-evaluating the writings of liberal German social theorists, recalibrates the image of German intellectual history before Nazism, and teaches us the contemporary relevance of their attempts to combine universality and particularity in an appropriate manner.' Hans Joas, Humboldt University, Berlin, and University of Chicago

    'A masterful reinterpretation of universalist moral visions expressed during Germany's Weimar Republic. Harrington is unapologetic in his championing of cosmopolitanism against its stalwart sceptics and is unflinching in his defence of this vision's viability in the face of its well-meaning but pessimistic doubters. The book will take an important place in the study of Weimar culture and its legacies, and in contemporary debates over the normative dimensions of globalization.' John P. McCormick, University of Chicago

    'Harrington's book is a learned analysis of a particular branch of German liberal thought that emerged between the end of WWI and the beginning of the Third Reich. Concentrating on nine German thinkers - among them Georg Simmel, Karl Mannheim, and Max Weber - Harrington (sociology, Univ. of Leeds, UK) skillfully demonstrates that a sophisticated, European (although not Eurocentrist), non-Marxist alternative to National Socialism existed in the years before Adolf Hitler came to power.' R. W. Lemmons, CHOICE

    'It might seem as if everything about the Weimar Republic and its intellectual friends and enemies had already been written. But in the run-up to the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the first German democracy, the deck has been reshuffled. The new study by Austin Harrington, a sociologist and philosopher at the University of Leeds, is among those offering new perspectives.' Gangolf Hübinger, Max Weber Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2016
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107110915
    • length: 450 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 25 mm
    • weight: 0.77kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Social theory and the West
    2. Europa in Weimar
    3. Liberal social theorists in Germany, 1914–33
    4. European nationhood after the Great War
    5. A Romano-Germanic nexus
    6. Universal history
    7. Humanism and Europe
    8. European nihilism?
    9. Protesting the West: yesterday and today.

  • Author

    Austin Harrington, University of Leeds
    Austin Harrington is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Leeds. His other publications include Modern Social Theory: An Introduction (2005), Art and Social Theory (2004) and Hermeneutic Dialogue and Social Science: A Critique of Gadamer and Habermas (2001).

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