Modern Intellectual History

Forum: Intellectual History in and of the Federal Republic of Germany

FORUM: INTELLECTUAL HISTORY IN AND OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY  *

A. DIRK MOSES

European University Institute, Florence/University of Sydney E-mail: dirk.moses@eui.eu

Abstract

What can one say about the state of the art in the Federal Republic? A number of aspects are discernible, not only in the practices and various traditions of intellectual history there, but also in its politics: the stark dichotomy between Marxists and anti-Marxists; the ever-present metahistorical question of which (sub)discipline, field, or method would set the political agenda; and the position of Jewish émigrés. These issues raise still more basic ones: how to understand the Nazi experience, which remained living memory for most West Germans; how to confront the gradually congealing image of the Holocaust in private and public life; and the related matters of German intellectual traditions and the new order's foundations. Had the Nazi experience discredited those traditions and had the personal and institutional continuities from the Nazi to Federal Republican polities delegitimated the latter? These were questions with which intellectuals wrestled while they wrangled about historical method. In this introduction, I give a brief overview of these and other innovations in the field, before highlighting some of its characteristics today.

Footnotes

*  My thanks are extended to Sean Forner, Christina von Hodenberg, Stefan-Ludwig Hoffman, Daniel Morat, Marcus Payk, and Natasha Wheatley for helpful comments on previous drafts, though this is not to suggest that they agree with all my assessments.