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Faculty Fall 2019: Jens-Uwe Guettel

Radical Democracy in Germany, 1871-1918

Associate Professor in History and Religious Studies

Radical Democracy in Germany, 1871-1918

Socialists, anarchists, women, and proponents of gay rights profoundly altered the semiautocratic German Empire (Kaiserreich) even as they were targeted by the country’s authorities. These groups increasingly dominated public political discourse; they brought about the dismissal of high-ranking state representatives; they embarrassed the government in lawsuits and parliamentary proceedings; and they marshalled hundreds of thousands of marchers demanding democratic change and close to a million protesters against war and militarism. The continuous emergence of this profoundly transformative radical-democratic discontent in the Kaiserreich from its founding to the mutinies that helped to end World War I is the focus of Radical Democracy in Germany, 1871-1918, my second book. This book fundamentally reshapes our understanding of the development of democracy in Germany and, conversely, the origins of National Socialism by showing that the opposition to the Kaiserreich’s status quo was not the passive target of government forces. Instead of allowing themselves to be marginalized, the political margins led Germany’s centers of political power by example and counterexample.