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Antisemitic anticapitalism in German culture from 1850-1933 / by Matthew R. Lange.

Publication | Library Call Number: DS146.G4 L362 2006

This dissertation examines selected works of German literature vis-à-vis ethical, socio-economic, and political documents from the economic "take off" period in the middle of the nineteenth century through the rise of National Socialism and investigates two aspects of antisemitic anticapitalistic representations contained therein. First, this study traces how---in fictional literature, antisemitic propaganda, and academic scholarship---the Jews gained the dubious distinction of being the inventors, agents, and embodiment of capitalism and elaborates on the traits associated with or assigned to both of them, e.g. egoism and material self-interest. Second, the analysis examines how representations of specifically Jewish capitalists were instrumentalized both to discredit laissez faire and simultaneously to assist in the definition of a specifically "German" socio-economic ethos. In this process, antisemitic anticapitalism served to ingrain a collectivist mentality in German culture by molding behavior, both positively by means of a direct contrast between Jewish and German figures and ex negativo by representing unacceptable behavior solely with a Jewish figure, the purported antipode to the "German." This discourse operated implicitly at first, but by the twentieth century social planners increasingly made explicit statements and undertook "reforms" in Germany both to instill a culture of duty and self-abnegation and to purge the capitalist spirit in an attempt to create a harmonious Volksgemeinschaft (national community). This study traces the emergence and evolution of concepts such as the "Social Question" and modern political antisemitism as well as an antagonism between a capitalistic Gesellschaft (society) and a socialist Gemeinschaft (community) to illustrate how these antagonistic issues manifest themselves in various literary works. Ultimately, this study follows the pursuit a "Final Solution" to the "Social Question" that emerged in the nineteenth century and sheds light on the culmination of these developments in National Socialism. Specifically, I argue that the persecution and, in the end, intended liquidation of the Jews was not merely, or even primarily, an attempt to rid the world of a race on a physical-material level, but also an attempt to eradicate the laissez-faire Geist on a metaphysical-spiritual level.

Lange, Matthew, 1972-
Record last modified: 2018-05-18 16:19:00
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