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New Thoughts on German Nationalism

Author(s): Robert M. Berdahl

Source: The American Historical Review, Vol. 77, No. 1 (Feb., 1972), pp. 65-80
Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Historical Association
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on German


THIS ESSAY IS WRITTEN with the mannerin

out of a senseof dissatisfaction
whichhistorianshave dealt with the problemof German nationalism.Its
purposeis not to provideanswersbut to raise questions.It will attemptto
point up some of the weaknessesof the conceptual frameworkthat has
long dominatedthedescriptions of Germannationalismand to suggestsome
new avenuesintowhichstudentsof theproblemmightprofitably turn.

ANYONE WHO EXAMINES the literaturedealing withGermannationalismin

the nineteenthcenturywill quicklybe struckby the pervasiveinfluenceof
FriedrichMeinecke'sclassicstudy,Weltbiirgertum und Nationalstaat,
firstappeared in 1907 and wentthroughseveneditions.To an uncommon
degree Meinecke's analysisof the past was touched by the eventsof his
own time; thisaccountsforhis satisfaction at the culminationof German
nationalismin the Bismarckianempire.It also accountsforthe factthatthe
disasterof World War I soon forcedhim to revisesome of his favorable
judgmentsabout Germandevelopment.In the prefaceto the seventhedi-
tion (1927) he affirmed that he still held to the "high values" of "state,
nation,and humanity";whereas,however,he had earlierseen thesevalues
clearlymanifested in nineteenth-century Germany,he saw themnow "indis-
tinctly,as in the mists."These limitationsnotwithstanding, the book has
remaineda seminaltreatment of the growthof Germannationalconscious-
ness. Its continuingimportanceis confirmedby the fact that it has just
recentlyappearedin an Englishtranslation.'
In Weltbiirgertum und NationalstaatMeinecke reflectedthe two domi-

An earlier versionof this paper was presentedat the annual meetingof the Pacific Coast Branch
of the American Historical Association at Portland, Oregon, on September 5, 1970. I would
like to express my thanks to ProfessorsOtto Pflanze and Val R. Lorwin, who subsequently
read the paper and made helpful suggestions.A grant fromthe American Philosophical Society
made possible some of the work reflectedin this paper.
1 Friedrich Meinecke, Weltbiirgertumund Nationalstaat (Munich, 1908) (the book appeared
at the end of 1907, but the publication date is always given as 1908). My citations are from
the English translation,Cosmopolitanismand the National State, tr. Robert B. Kimber (Prince-
ton, 1970),which is based on the seventhedition (1927).


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66 Robert M. Berdahl

nant traditionsof the German historicalcraft:historicismand idealism.2

The historicistin him soughtout those unique featuresof the German
past. "Under close scrutiny,"he wrote,"everynation proves to have its
unique individualaspects.If the social sciencestryto penetrateas deeply
as possibleinto the typicaland generalcharacteristics of nations,the true
historianwill concentratemore on observingthe particularfeaturesof an
individualnationas faithfully and preciselyas possible."Germandevelop-
ment,he tellsus, was unique; it was different fromthatof Franceor mostof
the Western European nations because it sprangfroma different source.
West of the Rhine political unificationpreceded the developmentof na-
tional consciousness,the stateprecededthe nation.In France,forexample,
national consciousnessderivedfrom"the spiritof 1789, fromthe idea of
the self-determination and sovereignty of the nation."3Germany,by con-
trast,had no commonpoliticalexperience;Germannational consciousness
grewfromitscommonculturaland ethnicheritage.4Germannationalcon-
sciousnesswas shaped by the unique and changingfeaturesof German
culture."The stateis not and does not become national throughthe will
of the people or those who governit but throughthe same means that
language,customns, and faithare national and become national-through
thequiet workingsof thenationalspirit."Againstthedictumof theFrench-
man ErnestRenan-"The existenceof a nation is a plebisciteof all the
people everyday"-Meinecke offeredthe Germanexperience:"The princi-
ple is not: Whoeverwantsto be a nationis a nation.It is just the opposite:
A nationsimplyis,whetherthe individualsof whichit is composedwantto
belong to thatnation or not. A nation is not based on self-determination
but on pre-determination."5
Because cultureformedthe basis of Germannational consciousness,for
Meinecke the active agent in the processof German unificationwas idea.
It was a living idea, one that enabled, as he put it, "the captivelimbs of
the stateand nationto be freedfromtheirshackles."6 The studyof nation-
alism thusfellwithinthe provinceof intellectualand politicalhistory.The
idea of the national state was not born of the confluenceof impersonal
social and economiccurrentsin the century,nor was it the resultof the
popular will of the "sluggishmass"; it grewfromthe thoughtsof individ-
ual poets and writers.The idea of the nation was conceived in modern
formin Germanyat the end of the eighteenthcentury,implantedin the
womb of cosmopolitanism. For Herder and Wilhelm von Humboldt,and
2 For a critical discussion of these traditionsand Meinecke's place in them, see Carlo Antoni,

From History to Sociology,tr. Hayden V. White (Detroit, 1959), 86-i18; W. Stark,introd. to his
edition of Friedrich Meinecke, Machiavellism: The Doctrine of Raison d'Etat and Its Place in
Modern History,tr.Douglas Scott (New York, 1965),xxi-xxvi.
3 Meinecke,Cosmopolitanismand the National State, 10, 12.
4 Meinecke did not define the nation in racial terms; however, when he wrote "A natural
core based on blood relationshipmust be presentin a nation," he acknowledgedthe importance
of the ethnic definitionof the nation. Ibid., 9.
5 Ibid., i8, 205.
6 Ibid., 196.

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New Thoughtson German Nationalism 67

to a lesserextentforFichteand Novalis, the nation was purelya cultural,

not a political phenomenon.These men were nationalistsbecause they
were also cosmopolitans;forthem the nation became the vehicle through
whichhumanityrealizeditsuniquenessand variety,throughwhichit mani-
festedthe "true richnessand range of human nature." Only gradually,
Meineckeargued,did the idea of thenationseparateitselffromthisuniver-
salism and "firstbecome usable for the purposesof the state."7Political
romanticssuch as Adam Muller and Karl Ludwig von Haller contributed
to the growthof the idea of the nation state because theydeveloped an
appreciationforthe individualstateas a politicalinstitution,but theyhad
littleregardfor the nation. Their followers-theGerlachsand the band
who surroundedFrederickWilliani IV of Prussia-valued the traditional
Germany,divided into separatestatesand linked throughthe Habsburg
monarchyto the whole of Central Europe. Accordingto Meinecke, this
mixtureof cosmopolitanism, humanitariannationalism,and state power
was given realisticformby the three great "liberators"of the German
national idea: Hegel, Ranke, and Bismarck.The German national state
in the nineteenthcenturydeveloped fromthese diverseintellectualtradi-
tions; the Bismarckianempire was thus a healthyblend of Meinecke's
idealsofstate,nation,and humanity.
Meinecke'streatmentof German nationalism,as I have suggested,has
exerciseda profoundinfluenceover the subsequentdiscussionsof the prob-
lem. Historianswho have rejectedMeinecke'sconclusionsabout the virtues
of the Bismarckianempireand who are much furtherremovedfromthe
historicistand idealistschoolsof historiographyhave neverthelessaccepted
his thesisthatGermannationalismsprangfromunique culturalroots,quite
different fromthe politicaloriginsof nationalismin WesternEurope. Hans
Kohn, who devoted his life to the study of nationalism,distinguished
betweenthe"subjective"conceptofnationalism-a commonwill and politi-
cal self-determination, as expressedin the French Revolution-and the
"objective"concept-blood, language,and cultureas the commondenom-
inatorof the German experience.8This is largelya restatement of Mein-
ecke'scategories.Kohn readilyacknowledgestherole of social and economic
factorsin theriseofnationalism,but as his recentbook-Prelude to Nation
7 Ibid., 39, 44.
8 "Nationalism in the West arose in an effortto build a nation in the
political realityand the
struggles of the present without too much sentimental regard for the past; nationalists in
Central and Eastern Europe created often,out of the mythsof the past and the dreams of the
future,an ideal fatherland,closely linked with the past, devoid of any immediate connection
with the present, and expected to become sometime a political reality. . . . Nationalism in
the West was based upon a nationalitywhich was the product of social and political factors;
nationalism in Germany did not find its justificationin a rational societal conception,it found
it in the 'natural' fact of community,held together,not by the will of its membersnor by any
obligations of contract,but by traditional ties of kinship and status. German nationalism sub-
stitutedfor the legal and rational concept of 'citizenship' the infinitelyvaguer concept of 'folk,'
which, firstdiscovered by the German humanists,was later fully developed by Herder and the
German romanticists."Hans Kohn, The Idea' of Nationalism (New York, 1944), 330-31; see also
his Prelude to Nation States: The French and German Experience, 1789-i8I5 (New York, 1967).

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68 Robert M. Berdahl

States: The Frenchand GermanExperience,1789-I8I5-demonstrates, he

considersthereal actorsin thenationaldramato have been theintellectuals:
Mbser, Klopstock,Herder, Muller, Kleist, Fichte, Schleiermacher,and
others.Otherhistorians-theGermanHans Rothfels, theFrenchmanJacques
Droz, and the EnglishmanSir Lewis Namier, to name only a few-have
describedGermannationalismin categoriessimilarto thoseof Meinecke.9
In short,historiansof Germannationalismhave been largelypreoccupied
fromthose of WesternEurope,
with the factthat it had originsdifferent
thatit sprangfromGermanculture,and that it can be studied primarily
in the ideas of its writers.
It would be wrongto suggestthattheseapproachesto Germannational-
ism have littleto contributeto our understanding. Obviouslythe absence
of a commonpoliticalexperiencegave Germannationalisma different hue;
obviouslythe poets and thinkerswere importantin the formationof na-
tional consciousness.Neverthelessthisculturaland ethnicemphasisin the
The firstprobleminvolvedin emphasizingtheculturaloriginsof German
nationalismis the persistentdilemma of the historianof ideas: what was
the relationshipbetweenthe ideas and the politicalreality?How did the
ideas of the intellectualelite become the experienceof the nation?Or, if
earlynationalistsmerelyarticulatedsentiments thatwerefeltless keenlyby
a broad spectrumn of the population,what new experiencesgeneratedthe
new nationalistthought?Finally,what happened between 1 8oo and 1848
thatincreasedthe appeal of nationalismas a politicalmnovement? This last
questionis neverfullyansweredby thosewho have studiedthe growthof
nationalismin the ideas of intellectuals.Meinecke,forexample,relies on
such vague generalizationsas "the growthof realism."Ranke, he tells us,
could neverhave sharedthe universalismof Humboldt or Fichte because
"his consciousnessand the consciousnessof his time were too realisticand
concreteforthat."'0 Paradoxicallyhe wouldmakeRankeboththecreatorand
thecreationofthe"consciousness ofhistime."
One thingupon which students of modernnationalismalmostuniversally
agree is thatnationalism,at base, is rootedin the psychology of a people.
The literatureabounds in such descriptionsof nationalismas "a condition

9 Hans Rothfels,"Grundsatzlicheszum Problem der Nationalitit," Historische Zeitschrift,174

(1952): 339-58; Jacques Droz, "Concept fransais et concept allemand de l'ido6ede nati6nalite,"
in Europa und der Nationalismus, Bericht uber das III. in.ternationaleHistoriker-treffen in
Speyer-17. bis 20. Oktober 1949 (Baden-Baden, 1950), 111-13; Sir Lewis Namier, "Nationality
and Liberty,"in his Vanished Supremacies (New York, 1963), 31-53. See also Eugene N. Ander-
son, Nationalism and the Cultural Crisis in Prussia, i806-1815 (New York, 1939). In his preface
Anderson comments:"The idea of nationalism,if one may employ the term 'idea' in Meinecke's
sense of a living, molding cultural force,has exercised its own power over varied persons and
conditions and put its stamp on them" (p. viii). See further,Otto Pflanze, Bismarck and the
Development of Germany: The Period of Unification,i8l5-1871 (Princeton, 1963), 32-39. Pflanze
also uses the categoriesof Meinecke, pointing out some of their limitations in "Nationalism in
Europe, 1848-1871," Review of Politics, 28 (1966): 129-43.
10Meinecke,Cosmopolitanismand the National State,216.

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New Thoughtson German Nationalism 69

of mind,"a "stateof mind,"a "new formof consciousness."CarltonJ. H.

Hayes began his studyby referring to nationalismas "the most significant
emotionalfactorin public life today."Rupert Emersonhas written,"The
simpleststatementthatcan be made about the nationis thatit is a bodyof
people who feeltheyare a nation."It seemshighlyquestionablewhetheran
intensifiedawareness of a common language and culture could alone
providethe motivespringforGermannationalismin the earlynineteenth
century.The attractionof nationalismas a politicalmovementoriginated
in thedeeperpsychological needsofsomegroupsin thenationalcommunity."1
The catalystto whichthe developmentof Germannationalismis always
attributedis the Napoleonicoccupationand thewarsof liberation.It is true
thattheseprovideda crucialstimulusto nationaldevelopment.It is also true
thattheypushednationalismin a numberof different directions.12In addi-
tionto thefewradicalnationalistswho beganto demandpoliticalunityafter
1815, thewarsof liberationalso producedthe even moresignificant patriot-
ism whereinloyaltywas directedto the individualGermanstates.Loyalty
to the stateas nation could be reconciledwith the broader national cul-
turalideal, but it also acted as a counterweight to the demand fornational
politicalunity.Prussianconservative particularists,
nationalismas a 'swindle" as late as 1861.'3 Importantas thewarsof libera-
tion were,theydo not fullyexplain whythe culturalidea of thenationwas
graduallytransformed into the demand forcloserpoliticalunity,nor why,
once the externalprovocationof Frenchoccupationwas removed,national-
ismcontinuedto capturethe imaginationof importantgroupsin Germany.
A secondlimitationof theculturalor ethnicdescriptionof the originsof
nationalismis that it bears little relationshipto what nationalistsfinally
demandedor achieved.In thedebatesat Frankfurt in 1848JosephMaria von
Radowitzpointedout thattheterritorial boundariesof Germanywerebeing
endangeredby "our conceptionof the national principle."The linguistic
principleof nationality,he warned,had cost Germanya part of Posen; it
had led the Czechsto seekautonomyin Bohemia,the Italians to demanda
segmentof the Tyrol, and it had put the futureof Schleswigin doubt. In
the end the delegatesfolloweda double, contradictory answerto the prob-
lem: whereverthe Germantonguewas spokenshouldbe German;whatever

11 See Leonard W. Doob, Patriotism and Nationalism: Their Psychological Foundations (New
Haven, 1964), 4-9; Carlton J. H. Hayes, Essays on Nationalism (New York, 1926), i; and Rupert
Emerson, From Empire to Nation: The Rise to Self-Assertionof Asian and African Peoples
(Cambridge, Mass., 1960), 102. One of the most significantdiscussionsin this regard is David M.
Potter, "The Historian's Use of Nationalism and Vice Versa," AHR, 67 (1961-62): 924-50. Potter
argues that historianshave only paid lip service to the "communityof interest"as a source of
nationalism. "The point is . . . that nationalism rests on two psychological bases instead of
one: the feelingof common culture and the feelingof common interests"(p. 937).
12 For the varietiesof nationalism that developed, see Walter
Simon, "Variations in Nationalism
during the Great ReformPeriod in Prussia,"AHR, 59 (1953-54): 305-21.
13 This phrase was used to describe nationalism by the Prussian
Conservativesin the program
of their organization,the Volksverein,of September i86i. For a copy of the program,see Ludolf
Parisius, Deutschlands politische Parteien und das MinisteriumBismarcks(Berlin, 1878), 42.

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70 Robert M. Berdahl

territorywas GermanshouldremainGerman.Some,like WilhelmJordanof

Berlin,did not hesitateto statewhatconsiderations shouldbe used in draw-
ingboundaries."Our rightis theright of thestronger,therightofconquest,"
he said in justificationof Germancontrolof Poland. At least one deputy
recognizedthe inconsistency of the Assembly'sattitudestowardnationality
when he remarked,"We also engage in sophistry.Look at Posen, look at
Schleswig-nowone principleis on top,now theother.It goesaroundlike a
If culturalcriteriabecameless importantthanstatepowerin definingthe
nationin 1848,theycontinuedto playa secondaryrole duringthenexttwo
decades. The national statecreatedby Bismarckexcluded many Germans
and includedmanynon-Germans. As Otto Pflanzehas argued,nationalunity
forBismarckwas not an end in itselfbut a means for achievinga given
objective: the expansion of Prussianpower.15 The Bismarckianstate was
not "pre-determined," it was "self-determined," not by popular sovereignty
or the Volk,but by itsleadingstatesmen.Much ink was spilledby national-
istpublicistsduringthe late summerof 1870 to provethatGermanyshould
annex Alsace-Lorrainein order to restoreto the provincestheir greater
Germanculturalheritage.'6"Againsttheirwill we wish to give themback
themselves,"reasoned Treitschke.Bismarckwas unmoved by such argu-
mentsexceptinsofaras he hoped thatcommonculturalbondsmightease the
assimilationof the conquered provincesinto the Empire and facilitatethe
acceptanceof theirannexationby the other European powers.Bismarck's
primaryconsiderationin annexing the territorieswas militarysecurity.'7
In the 187os and the i88os efforts to "Germanize"the Danes and the Poles
also brought a new emphasisupon Germanculture.In all theseinstances,
however,culturedid not "form"theGermannationalstate,it legitimizedit.
As in 1848,theprinciplecuiusregio,eius natioprevailed.
One finalcommenton the inadequacyof this approach to German na-
tionalism.The stresson theuniquenessoftheGermannationaltraditionhas
too easily shaped the normativejudgmentsof German historianson both
in the unique developmentof theirnationalpast,in its departurefromthe
WesternEuropean tradition.Meinecke'streatmentof the Germanpast,as
we havenoted,possesseda certainteleology, expressed,forexample,whenhe
used thenotionof "pre-determination" to contrasttheGermandevelopment
withthe "self-determination" of France.The same maybe said of Gerhard
Ritter,who,in thenewprefaceto therecenteditionofhisbook,The German
Problem,viewedthenationas a "historically boundand bindingcommunity"
14 Wilhelm Jordan's outburst is reported in Sir Lewis Namier, 1848: The Revolution of the
Intellectuals (Garden City, 1964), 108-09. For the conflictingdefinitionsof nationalism evident
in the FrankfurtAssembly,see especially Pflanze, "Nationalism in Europe," 136-37.
15 Pflanze,Bismarckand the Development of Germany,passim.
16 Eberhard Kolb, "Bismarck und das Aufkommender Annexionsforderung1870," Historische
Zeitschrift, 209 (1969): 318-56.
17 Pflanze,Bismarckand the Development of Germany,474.

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New Thoughtson GermanNationalism 71

and lamentedthe factthatthe youngergenerationof Germanintellectuals

is turningaway fromit.18On the otherhand, Westernand some German
historians,writingin the wake of the disastersthathave befallenGermany
in thiscentury,have drawn oppositeconclusionsfromtheirsearchof the
Germanpast. They have attributedthe "German problem"in part to the
typeof nationalismthatflourished there.Louis Snyderput it mostbluntly:
"Germanyfora centuryand a halfhas been plagued by the wrongkind of
nationalism.... Herein lies thetragedyof theGermannation."'9In short,a
more balanced view mightlay less stresson the uniquenessof the German
Here, then,are a numberof criticismsof the way historianshave han-
dled thesubjectof Germannationalism.Too muchattentionhas been given
to the culturaland ethnicbasisof Germannationalismand thusto thecon-
trastbetweenGermanyand WesternEurope. This emphasishas been more
usefulin describingthe "what" of nationalismthan the "why"; it has de-
scribedthe ideas of individualnationalists,but it has not demonstrated
nationalismdevelopedwhen it did or how it shaped the nationalstatethat
actuallyemerged.Nationalismin Germany,as elsewhere,was definednot
only by language or cultureor ethnicity;nationalitywas also determined
by the dictatesof utility,by nationalistsand politiciansforwhomnational-
ismwas a functionalconcept.

WHILE IT SEEMS CLEAR thatsome new approachesto the studyof German

nationalismare required, it is less clear where we should turn to find
them.Let me suggestsomeareasthatwe mightexploremorefully.
Some of the most stimulatingliteratureon the subject of nationalism
has recentlybeen providedby those who have studied the emergenceof
the new nationsin the non-Europeanworld.20Strugglingto cut the tether
of colonialism and to propel themselvesinto the modern world, these
new stateshave embraceda revolutionarynationalismthat,thoughobvi-
ouslyalien to the European experiencein so manyrespects,may also con-
tain some importantsimilarities.For the newlyemergentnations,as for
Germanyduringthe nineteenthcentury,nationalismis primarilya utili-
tarian concept. Studies of nationalism in these developing areas have
yieldedtwo generalizationsthatcould profitablybe applied to the origins
18 Gerhard Ritter,The German Problem (Columbus, 1965), vii.
19 Louis Snyder, German Nationalism: The Tragedy of a People (2d ed.; Port Washington,
N.Y., 1969), 308.
20 Two of the most suggestivestudies are: The American UniversitiesField Service Staff,
pectant Peoples: Nationalism and Development, ed. K. H. Silvert (New York, 1963); and Rupert
Emerson, From Empire to Nation. See also Emerson, "Nationalism and Political Development,"
Journal of Politics, 22 (1960): 3-28; Karl Deutsch, Nationalism and Social Communication(New
York, 1953); Karl Deutsch, "Social Mobilization and Political Development," American Political
Science Review, 55 (1961): 493-514; Samuel P. Huntington,Political Order in Changing Societies
(New Haven, 1968); and S. N. Eisenstadt,Modernization: Protest and Change (Englewood Cliffs,

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72 Robert M. Berdahl

of German nationalism.The firstis that nationalismis generatedamong

a people by the growingawarenessof its economicbackwardnessand by
the desire for a modern economy.One outstandingscholar of economic
developmenthas writtenthat"the ideologyof nationalismseemsto be one
of the requirementsfor the achievementof developmentalgoals in soci-
etieson a relativelylow levelofeconomicdevelopment."2'
AlexanderGerschenkronhas pointed out the relationshipbetweeneco-
nomic backwardnessand nationalismin Germany.The "New Deal in
emotions"necessaryfor a "greatand sudden industrialization effort"was
in part derived,he argues,fromthe nationalismof FriedrichList.22List
was one of the firstto associate German economic retardationwith the
absence of national unity.He became acutelyconcernedabout Germany's
economic weakness during the depressionthat struckafter 1816. Both
German manufacturers, overcomeby a flood of English goods afterthe
terminationof the ContinentalSystem,and German agriculture,plagued
by crop failuresand decliningexportmarketscaused in part by the Eng-
lish corn laws, sufferedseverely.In i8i9 List and a numberof business-
men foundedthe German Commercialand IndustrialLeague to combat
thiscrisis.During the next few yearsthis group agitatedfor the creation
of a German customsunion, a plan that finallybore fruitwith the com-
pletion of the Zollvereinin 1834. These experiences,togetherwith obser-
vationshe made duringhis exile to the United Statesfrom1825 to 1832,
formedthe backgroundof List's economicdoctrineelaboratedmost fully
in The National Systemof Political Economy.23
The primarylines of List's argtument are familiar.He began with an
attack on what he called the cosmopolitaneconomic theoryof Adam
Smith,accordingto which the generalprosperity-"thewealthof nations"
-is the result of the division of labor and the free exchangeof goods.
Actually,List asserted,this wvouldlead only to the prosperityof the
advanced nations,not to that of the more backwardones. For List, Ger-
many's natural antagonistwas not her traditionalenemy France, but
England with its freetrade,the objectiveof whichwas to keep Germany
in an underdevelopedstatus,supplyingthe Englishworldwith "children's
toys,wooden clocks, and philological writings."In contrastto Smith's
doctrineList proposedthe "national systemof political economy,"which
21 Bert F. Hoselitz, "Nationalism, Economic Development, and Democracy," in Otto Feinstein,

ed., Two Worldsof Change(Garden City, 1964), 250.

22 Alexander Gerschenkron,"Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective," in Bert F.
Hoselitz, ed., The Progressof UnderdevelopedCountries (Chicago, 1952), 24. For a recentcritique
of List's diagnosis of German economic backwardness,see Richard H. Tilly, "Los von England:
Probleme des Nationalismus in der deutschen Wirtschaftsgeschichte," Zeitschriftfurdie gesamte
Staatswissenschaft, 124 (1968): 179-96. Tilly also points out that concern over Germany's back-
wardness in relation to England firstappeared around 1780. See also Hans Gehrig, Friedrich
List und Deutschlands politisch-okonomischeEinheit (Leipzig, 1956).
23 Friedrich List, Das nationale System der politischen 6konomie (Stuttgart,i841). All my
citations are from the English edition, The National Systemof Political Economy, tr. Sampson
S. Lloyd (London, 1904).

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New Thoughtson GermanNationalism 73

"teacheshow a given nation in the presentstateof the worldand its own

special relations can maintain and improve its economic conditions."
The wealth of a nation depends upon its "productivepower," the culti-
vation of all its resources,labor, capital, and intelligence.No nation can
fullyrealize these productivepowers unless it passes beyond the agricul-
tural stage of developmentand achieves a balance between agriculture,
industry,and commerce;for Germanyto neglectindustrialdevelopment
would be like cuttingoffa "limb of its body." In theseearlystagesof de-
velopmentthe interventionof the state is essentialto protectthese pro-
ductivepowers."The industrialhistoryof nations,"he wrote,"and none
more clearly than that of England, proves . . . that a perfectlydeveloped
manufacturingindustry,an importantmercantilemarine, and foreign
trade on a reallylarge scale, can only be attainedby means of the inter-
positionof the power of the state."The statepower,however,cannot be
broughtto bear unless it is a unifiedstate; "the unityof the nation be-
comesthefundamental conditionofprosperity."24
In assessingthe needs of GermanyList declared that the Zollverein
should be expanded to include Holland and Denmark. He wrote, "A
natural consequence of this union must be the admissionof both these
countriesinto the German Bund, and consequentlyinto the Germanna-
tionality,wherebythe latter will at once obtain what it is in need of,
namely fisheries,naval power, maritimecommerce,and colonies."25On
other occasions he advocated the expansion of Germanyeastward into
the Danube basin. Hans Kohn has concludedfromthisthatList was "one
of the most extreme Pan-Germanimperialists."26 Such a conclusion is
unwarranted.List was an expansionist,to be sure, and his model was
theAmericanwestwardmovement,but his use of theconceptof the nation
has little to do with Pan-Germanimperialism.His suggestionthat admis-
sion of the Dutch and the Danes to the German Confederation
would therebyadmit themto the Germannationalityimpliesa conceptof
the nation thathas littleethnicbasis. The nationforList was a utilitarian
concept; it was the vehicle throughwhich economic advancementtakes
place. List's nation was not "pre-determined," it was avowedly "self-
determined"in the same manner as Bismarck's,by need and common
List was not alone. The entire "older" historicalschool of economics,
led by WilhelmRoscher,Bruno Hildebrand,and Karl Knies,also rejected
the cosmopolitanismof the classical school of economics.Althoughtheir
theoriesdiffered in manydetails,as nationalistsand historicists
an economic policy that would reconcile German historicaldevelopment
withtherequirements ofa moderneconomy.27
24 Ibid., io6, 99, 144, 132.
25 Ibid., 143.
26 Kohn, Idea of Nationalismn,322.
27 Feitel Lifschitz,Die historische Schule der Wirtschaftswissenschaft
(Bern, 1914), 66-107,

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74 Robert M. Berdahl

Karl Marx, operatingfromquite different assumptions,reached many

of the same conclusions.The rightof nationhood,he maintained,was not
derived fromcommon blood, or geography,or consciousnessof common
traditionsand culture;the sole justificationfornational existencewas the
advancementof the economy.Accordingly,small nations, such as Den-
markor Poland, had no rightto statehood.28 As earlyas 1845 Marx blamed
Germany'spreoccupationwith idealistphilosophyon economicbackward-
ness.Germans,he wrote,
feelcalledupon to sitin judgmenton thewholeworldand see in Germany the
fulfillmentofall history.
We havefrequently notedthatthisinflatedand extrava-
gantnationalarrogance corresponds to an utterlypetty,
and backward
existence.If nationalnarrow-mindedness is everywhererepulsive,it becomesac-
tuallyloathsomein Germany, forthereit is coupledwiththeillusionthatthe
Germansare above nationalismand practicalinterests, in contrastto those
nationsthathave thefrankness to admittheirnationalnarrow-mindedness and
theirdependence on practical

Marx was never a nationalist.But he advocated German unificationin

1848, and when it became apparent that national unity could only be
achieved by the militarymight of authoritarianPrussia, he supported
thattoo. National unitywould bringeconomicadvancement,and with it,
It is possible simplyto pigeonhole the nationalismthat sprang from
these economic factorsas "economic nationalism,"the ideology of an
aggressivecapitalistelite in search of a wider marketand greaterstate
support,or, as in the case of Marx, an ideology that would serve the
long-rangeinterestof a proletarianrevolution.As the work done on de-
velopingareas in the world todayshows,however,it is necessaryto probe
even deeper. And this leads us to the second generalizationthat can be
gleaned fromthe non-Europeanexperience.It is that nationalismis itself
reinforcedby economic development,that the processof economic mod-
ernizationbreaks down traditionalsociety,therebyprovidingboth the
means and the psychologicalneed for the creationof the consciousnessof
a broadercommunity, thenation.31

121-98; Artur Sommer, "Ueber Inhalt, Rahmen, und Sinn Aelterer Stufentheorien,"in Edgar
Salin, ed., Synopsis: Festgabe fur Alfred Weber (Heidelberg, n.d.), 535-65; Albert Miissigang,
Die soziale Frage in der historischenSchule der deutschen National6konomie (Tubingen, 1968),
8i-i17. Both Hildebrand and Knies were active in the nationalist cause. Hildebrand's political
beliefs cost him his teaching post at Marburg in 1846; he served in the FrankfurtAssemblyin
1848, then fled to Switzerland,where he remained until i86i. Knies, too, went into exile in
Switzerlandafter 1848.
28 Solomon Bloom, The World of Nations: A Study of the National Implications in the Work

of Karl Marx (New York, 1941), 34-35, 44.

Gesamtausgabe,Erste Abteilung:
29 Karl Marx, "Die Deutsche Ideologie," in Historisch-kritische

Samtliche Werke und Schriftenmit Ausnahme des "Kapital," ed. D. Ryazanov (Moscow, 1927),
5: 445-46. I have used the translationfrom"The German Ideology" found in Bloom, World of
Nations, 139.
30 Bloom, World of Nations, 140-5o; George Lichtheim, Marxism: An Historical and Critical

Study (New York, 1961),72, 82-83.

31 On the basis of his studyof nationalism in Asia and Africa,Rupert Emerson has concluded

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New Thoughtson GermanNationalism 75

It is clear that even the early stages of economic developmentbring

fortha set of circumstancesthat reinforcethe quest for a national com-
munity. The process of economic modernizationinvolves a radical
transformation of the traditional structureof an agrarian society. It
involvesthe destructionof an older social order in which the bonds of
individualloyaltyand dependencyare based on personaland local obli-
gations; it requires the creation of a new societyin which individuals
becomehighlydependenton manyothersfromwhomtheyare farremoved
personallyand geographically.For men living on the land, loyalties
extend outwardin circlesof diminishingintensity-totheirvillage com-
munityor estate,to theirdistrict,and to their"country."32The resultis
a high level of social integration.This is the basis of Weber's description
of a "status"society.It is integratedbecause the individual'sown view of
his statusin societycorrespondscloselyto the generalconceptionheld by
societyat large.33The developmentof a moderneconomyintrudesupon
thisset of relationships,firstin the formof commercialagriculture,which
alters or destroystraditionallord-peasantrelations,later in the formof
industrialism,which necessitatesgreatergeographicand social mobility.
The result is the destructionof traditionalallegiancesand a degree of
social disintegration.34In the face of such disintegrationnationalismacts
as a forceforthe reintegration of society.As one studentof thisprocessin
developingareas has noted, "Nationalismas a social value has been the
major cohesive force to date within each separate modern society,and
... its existencein underdevelopedareas is a necessarypart of the process
of development."35

that "nationalism is normally associated with deep-running social fermentand change which
disrupt the older order of society and bring about a rise in social consequence and awareness
of ever-wideningsegmentsand classes of people at large." "Nationalism and Political Develop-
ment," 19-20.
32 Namier, "Nationality and Liberty,"37. Namier points out that in France pays is still used
for the various provincesand that in eighteenth-century England "country"was frequentlyused
for "county."
33 See especially Reinhard Bendix, Nation-Building and Citizenship (New York, 1964), 40-48.
34 Wolfram Fischer uses three concepts to describe this social disintegration.The firsthe
calls "decorporization,"which refersto the breaking up of the corporate or stdndischstructure
of society.The second, "disproportionization,"refersto the changing proportionsbetween these
corporate groups, i.e., the numerical growth of the lower strata. The third he defines as "de-
moralization,"which results from"the loss of identitybetween the objective societal order and
the subjective will of the individual." "Social Tensions at Early Stages of Industrialization,"
ComparativeStudies in Societyand History,9 (1966): 76-77.
35 Silvert,introd. to Expectant Peoples, 26. In another interesting
study,The Passing of Tradi-
tional Society: Modernizing the Middle East (Glencoe, 1958), Daniel Lerner makes the following
observation: "Empathy is . . . the inner mechanism which enables newly mobile persons to
operate efficiently in a changing world. Empathy, to simplifythe matter,is the capacity to see
oneself in the other fellow's situation. This is an indispensable skill for people moving out of
traditional settings. . . . High empathic capacity is the predominant personal style only in
modern society,which is distinctivelyindustrial, urban, literate, and participant. Traditional
society is nonparticipant-it deploys people by kinship into communities isolated from each
other and froma center . . . it develops few needs requiring economic interdependence;lacking
the bonds of interdependence,people's horizons are limited by locale and their decisions in-
volve only other known people in known situations.Hence there is no need for a transpersonal
common doctrine formulatedin termsof shared secondarysymbols-a national 'ideology' which

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76 Robert M. Berdahl

It may be useful in this regard to distinguishbetween the "idea" of

the nation and the "ideology" of nationalism.The idea of nationality
implies only that there is somethingunique about a people because of
culture,language,race, or historicaldevelopment;such a view may be
seen, forexample,in the writingsof Herder. Nationalismas an ideology
is functional.It servesa definitepurpose of elites,as, for example, fur-
theringeconomic developmentor binding a communitytogetherduring
a period of social upheaval. As an ideology it formsthe "link between
action and fundamentalbelief."36Indeed, German nationalism in the
early nineteenthcenturymay be more fullyunderstoodif we grasp the
relationshipbetween nationalismand socialism in developing nations.
Both ideologies developed simultaneouslyin the process of moderniza-
tion; by promisingto liberate men fromthe oppressionassociatedwith
that processboth providea moral basis for action. Reinhard Bendix has
The desireof theworkersforfullcitizenship
and thesearchof theintellectuals
fora powercapableof removingthebackwardness of theircountry,had a com-
monpre-conditionin thepriordeclineofkinshipties,religiousbelief,linguistic
territorialand racial communalism.... By theseprior developments
as thoseof social

What is especiallylacking in German historiography is a study of the

originsof Germannationalismfromthispoint of reference.Recentstudies
have givennew emphasisto the economicand social bases of Germanuni-
fication.Helmut B6hme stressesthose economic factorsthat accounted
for the emergenceof Prussiandominanceand the exclusion of Austrian
influencein Germany.Theodore Hamerow ties togetherthe social, eco-
nomic, and ideological impulses leading to German unification.Hans-
Ulrich Wehler has pointedout how Bismarckattemptedto utilize "social
imperialism"as a means of integratingGerman society.38 But there has
been no attemptto studynationalismas a responseto the needs of Ger-
man modernizationprior to 1848. It is possiblehere only to suggestsome
of the factorsthatneed to be studiedfromthisstandpoint.
As in otherdevelopingareas, much of the tensionpresentin Germany
after i815 can be tracedto the gradual transformation of the traditional

enables persons unknown to each other to engage in political controversyor to achieve 'con-
sensus' by comparingtheiropinions" (pp. 49-50).
36 David Apter, The Politics of Modernization(Chicago, 1965),314.

37 Reinhard Bendix, "Concepts in Comparative Historical Analysis," in Stein Rokkan, ed.,

Comparative Research across Cultures and Nations (Paris, 1968), 78. David Apter maintains
that "nationalism and socialism are ideologies that, better than most, provide the coherence
necessaryfor retraditionalizationduring the process of change." Politics of Modernization, 340.
38 Helmut Bohme, Deutschlands Weg zur Grossmacht (Cologne, 1966); Theodore Hamerow,
The Social Foundations of German Unification, i858-I871 (Princeton, 1969); Hans-Ulrich
Wehler, Bismarck und der Imperialismus (Cologne, 1969); see also Wehler's Krisenherde des
Kaiserreichs(G6ttingen,1970), 113-61.

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New Thoughtson GermanNationalism 77

social structureand the inabilityof the establishedpoliticalorderto adjust

to thesechanges.The resultwas a wideninggulf betweenstate and soci-
ety.39In 1794, for example, Prussia issued the AllgemeinesLandrecht,a
generallaw code so comprehensivein nature that it has been considered
the functionalequivalentof a constitution.40 The AllgemeinesLandrecht,
however,was based largelyon an earliernotionof society;it dividedPrus-
sian societyinto separateEstatesand painstakingly enumeratedthe rights
and privilegesof each. It representedthe concertedeffortof the Prussian
bureaucracyto retain the essentialelementsof the traditionalorder at a
time in which the older structureof societywas losing its foundation.
For a briefperiod of the reformera a more liberal bureaucracyattempted
to make the state responsiveto the demandsof a changingsociety;after
1815 thateffort failedand thoseclassesthatfoundlittlemeaningor value
in the traditionalorderbecame increasingly alienated.Similarexperiences
were repeatedelsewherein Germany.In Wiirttemburg after 1815, when
the middle-classliberals submittedtheir demands, the strugglebetween
the monarchand the aristocracybecame a three-cornered conflictover
"the good old law."41 The result,as one historianhas describedit, was
"emotional turmoil at all levels of society,for the old orientationsof
loyalty,status,and law wrenchedapartand twistedintonew."42
The "emotionalturmoil" evident in these social changes may also be
seen in the importantdemographicshiftsin Germanyafter i815. The
massive increase in population (thirty-eight per cent between 1815 and
1845), the growthof cities,and the shiftfromthe countryside to the city-
theseare problemsthatthehistoriansofnationalismhave generallyignored.
Was the ideologyof nationalismused by urban elites to command the
loyaltyand obedience of the new urban massesforwhom the traditional
loyaltiesof kinshipand traditionno longer existed?
Overpopulation,economic hardship,and political unrestcombined to
forma steadystreamof emigrationfromGermany.This emigrationitself
39 On this theme, see Reinhart Koselleck, "Staat und Gesellschaftin Preussen," and Werner
Conze, "Das Spannungsfeldvon Staat und Gesellschaftim VormSirz,"in Conze, ed., Staat und
Gesellschaft im deutschen Vormarz, I8I5-I848 (Stuttgart,1962), 79-112, 207-69. For a larger
study of Prussia, beginning with the Allgemeines Landrecht and ending with the revolution
of 1848, see Reinhart Koselleck, Preussen zwischen Reform und Revolution (Stuttgart,1967).
40 See Koselleck,"Staat und Gesellschaftin Preussen,"8o.
41 On the struggleover the "good old law," see Leonard
Krieger, The German Idea of Free-
dom (Boston, 1957),237-41.
42 Mack Walker, Germany and the Emigration, i8i6-1885 (Cambridge, Mass., 1964), 2.
43 Between i815 and 1845 the population of Germany grew from 25 to 34.25 million. Most of
this gain was in the cities. Berlin grew from 191,500 in 1815 to 403,586 in 1847; during the
same three decades other cities grew comparably,in many cases doubling or tripling their size.
Equally important,much of this growthwas due to the influx of people from the countryside.
Betweeli 1837 and 1844, for example, the population of Berlin increased a total of i1o,130,
only 15,453 of which could be an excess of births over deaths. See Theodore
Hamerow, Restoration,Revolution, Reaction (Princeton, 1958), 19-20; Hajo Holborn, A History
of Modern Germany(New York, 1969), 3: 7-8. For an annual rate of population growth,broken
down by decades, see D. V. Glass and E. Grebenik, "World Population, 8oo-1950o," in The
Canmbridge Economic History of Europe, 6, pt. 1, ed. H. J. Habakkuk and M. M. Postan (Cam-
bridge, 1965): 62.

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78 Robert M. Berdahl

servedto spur nationalism.The increasingnumber of Germansemigrat-

ing to Americaafteri840 servedto point up the backwardnessand politi-
cal impotenceof a divided Germany.Political divisionhad left Germany
behind in the establishment of colonies; now thosewho leftstrengthened
foreignstates,not Germanyitself.One representative in a South German
diet lamentedin the 1840s: "Every state seeks solid ground beyond the
seas; even little Belgium foundscolonies. Only Germany,with its forty
millions,remainsidle; it leaves to pure chance one of the mostimportant
of national concerns,the fate of many thousands,and the honor of its
name in the New World."44FriedrichList argued that Germanymust
expand eastward,providingsettlementsfor Germans who would other-
wise be lost to the Fatherland forever.But that necessitateda strong
It is significantthatthoseclassesin the societythatwere the mostclosely
tied to the traditionalsocial structure-thearistocracyand the peasantry
were the least prone to nationalistsentiment.46 Prussian conservative
aristocrats,thoughsupportersof a kleindeutscheconomicunion, professed
hostilityto nationalism,and their Conservativepartydid not embrace it
fullyuntil 1876. After 1848, nevertheless,the ruling elite found it in-
creasinglynecessaryto use nationalismto buttressits position.47
On the otherhand, thosegroupsthat had brokenloose fromthe tradi-
tional order,who feltalienated fromit, oftensoughtto findan identity
within the national movement.Such was the case with the youth,for
example,in the Burschenschaften.48 It was also the case withJewishintel-
lectuals such as Heinrich Heine and Ludwig Borne, who could not gain
access to traditionalsociety.Borne may have reflectedthe patriotismof
many Jews when he wrote,
mydesirefora fatherland
BecauseI wasbornwithouta fatherland, is morepas-
sionatethanyours,and becausemybirthplacewas not biggerthantheJuden-
44 Quoted in Walker, Germanyand the Emigration,124.
45 See List's essay, "Die Ackerverfassung,die Zwergwirtschaft, und die Auswanderung" (1842),
in Ludwig Hausser, ed., Gesammelte Schriften(Stuttgart,1850), 2: 150-234; Walker, Germnany
and the Emigration,114-18.
46 For the posture of the various social classes on the issue of national unification,see Hame-
row, Social Foundations of German Unification,380-99.
47 Karl Deutsch maintains that it is common for the traditional upper classes, especially
aristocracies,to assume the leadership of a national movement,even against their will, in order
to sustainpolitical pre-eminence.Nationalism and Social Communication,75-76.
48 Youth, by definition,stands between a traditional order and a newly formingsociety.Erik
H. Erikson has pointed out why ideologies are especially appealing to the youth. "Youth stands
between the past and the future,both in individual life and society. It also stands between
alternate ways of life. . . . Ideologies offerto the members of this age group overly simplified
and yet determined answers to exactly those vague inner states and those urgent questions
which arise in consequence of identity conflict. Ideologies serve to channel youth's forceful
earnestnessand sincere asceticismas well as its search for excitementand its eager indignation
toward that social frontierwhere the struggle between conservatismand radicalism is most
alive. On that frontier,fanatic ideologists do their busy work and psychopathicleaders their
dirty work; but there, also, true leaders create significantsolidarities." Young Man Luther:
A Study in Psychoanalysisand History (London, 1958), 42. See also David E. Apter, ed., introd.
to Ideology and Discontent (New York, 1964), 16-46.

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New Thoughtson German Nationalism 79

gasseand everythingbehindthelockedgateswas a foreigncountry to me,there-

foreforme nowthefatherland is morethanthecity,morethana territory,more
thana province.For me onlytheverygreatfatherlandas faras itslanguageex-
tends,is enough.49

Areas of Germany,such as Baden or the Rhineland, where traditional

societyhad brokendown, eitherthroughthe reorganizationof Napoleon
or the strainsof populationpressureand class tension,were also the most
nationalist.The Mittelstand,definedonly negativelyin the PrussianAll-
gemeinesLandrechtas composedof everyonewho was neitherpeasantnor
noble, was the mostsusceptibleto the appeal of nationalism.The working-
class movementdevelopedties with the nationalistcause veryearlyin the
century.50 Nationalism frequentlywas the means by which the middle
with the conservativeorder in Germany.In
class expressedits frustration
tryingto launch railroad construction,for example, middle-classentre-
preneursoftenfound themselvespittedagainstthose old elites that had a
vestedinterestin Germanparticularism. Hamperedby reactionary bureauc-
racieswhen theyattemptedto extendrail lines acrossterritorialfrontiers,
entrepreneurssaw national unificationas the only solution.51Moreover,
liberal nationalistsviewed the railroad as a major ally. Jakob Venedey
commented in 1835:

In a completelydifferentwayand a muchmoreperceptible fashionthanis so

oftenboastedof the Zollverein,
the railroadswill bringdownall the internal
bordersin Germany. Ten yearsafterall the largeand capitalcitiesare linked
togetherbytherailroad,Germany willbe a completelydifferentcountry,and the
prejudiceswhichhaveso splintered
theGermanpeopleup to now,whichhaveso

A NEW PERSPECTIVE on the originsof Germannationalismis needed. We

must explore the relationshipto the national movementof those indi-
viduals and groupsthatwere especiallyconcernedthatGermanyovercome
its economicbackwardness.More oughtto be done to measurethe impact
of internalmigrationon national consciousness.We should discoverthe
dimensionsof the tensionsof earlyindustrialization
at the local level and
their effecton nationalistsentiment.However sketchyand tenuous the

49 Ludwig Borne, Gesammelte Schriften(Milwaukee, 1858), 5: 31-32. I have used the transla-
tion as it appears in Koppel S. Pinson, Modern Germany (New York, 1966), 67-68. The rela-
tionship of German Jews to the nationalist movement would provide an excellent case study
for the psychologicalroots of nationalism. For a description of Jews seeking assimilation, see
Toni Oelsner, "Three JewishFamilies in Modern Germany:A Study in the Process of Emancipa-
tion," JewishSocial Studies,4 (1942): 241-68, 349-98.
50 Werner Conze and Dieter Groh, Die Arbeiterbewegung in der Nationalen Bewegung
(Stuttgart,1966), 13-40.
51 Dietrich Eichholtz,Junkerund Bourgeoisie vor I848 in der preussischenEisenbahngeschichte
(East Berlin, 1962), 1-12, 33-36.
52 Quoted in ibid., 7-8.

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8o Robert M. Berdahl

hypothesespresentedhere about the originsof German nationalismmay

be, theyofferpossibilitiesforresearchthat ought to be pursued further.
In the futurehistoriansof German nationalismmust concernthemselves
with more than its ethnic and cultural roots. While these factorsare
important,theymustbe seen less as the primarycauses forthe demand for
national unitythan as ones used to legitimizethat demand. Nationalism
in Germany,as in all societies,served both as an instrumentfor those
who wantedto overcomeeconomicbackwardnessand as a means of assur-
ing social cohesionduringthe passage fromtraditionalto modernsociety.

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