Date

4-28-2020

Description

Questions of national identity have characterized German public discourse since long before unification in 1871. German Romantics such as Johann Gottfried Herder and Johann Gottlieb Fichte were among the first to conceptualize the "Volk" in an abstract form by appealing to notions of common ancestry, language, and culture. In the post-WWII era, German scholars re-conceptualized what it means to be a German. Thinkers like Dolf Sternberger and Jürgen Habermas posited theories of post-nationalism and cosmopolitanism that asserted that the end of the Nazi epoch marked a new era wherein Europeans were to share a common regional identity that transcended traditional nationalisms based on cultural artifacts or ethnic background. A regional identity of the post-nationalist variety was to be predicated on shared ideals of liberal democracy and the institutions that enabled liberal democratic systems to function. However, they were wrong. The German public-at-large has not, since either the end of WWII or the collapse of the Soviet Union, adopted a post-nationalist conception of collective identity. Rather, I argue that the German public perceives the nation as having a form similar to those postulated by Herder and Fichte--ethnic background, language, and cultural artifacts (e.g. the works of Goethe) remain core components of German collective identity. Using polling data and research conducted by other scholars, I analyze the concept of "German guilt" in the post-WWII era, what it means to be a German, and how immigrant populations (in particular, Turkish immigrants) have been accommodated in Germany.

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Apr 28th, 12:00 AM

The People's Fury: A Question of Collective Identity in Contemporary Germany

Questions of national identity have characterized German public discourse since long before unification in 1871. German Romantics such as Johann Gottfried Herder and Johann Gottlieb Fichte were among the first to conceptualize the "Volk" in an abstract form by appealing to notions of common ancestry, language, and culture. In the post-WWII era, German scholars re-conceptualized what it means to be a German. Thinkers like Dolf Sternberger and Jürgen Habermas posited theories of post-nationalism and cosmopolitanism that asserted that the end of the Nazi epoch marked a new era wherein Europeans were to share a common regional identity that transcended traditional nationalisms based on cultural artifacts or ethnic background. A regional identity of the post-nationalist variety was to be predicated on shared ideals of liberal democracy and the institutions that enabled liberal democratic systems to function. However, they were wrong. The German public-at-large has not, since either the end of WWII or the collapse of the Soviet Union, adopted a post-nationalist conception of collective identity. Rather, I argue that the German public perceives the nation as having a form similar to those postulated by Herder and Fichte--ethnic background, language, and cultural artifacts (e.g. the works of Goethe) remain core components of German collective identity. Using polling data and research conducted by other scholars, I analyze the concept of "German guilt" in the post-WWII era, what it means to be a German, and how immigrant populations (in particular, Turkish immigrants) have been accommodated in Germany.