Synopses & Reviews
Martin Jay tackles a question as old as Plato and still pressing today: what is reason, and what roles does and should it have in human endeavor? Applying the tools of intellectual history, he examines the overlapping, but not fully compatible, meanings that have accrued to the term “reason” over two millennia, honing in on moments of crisis, critique, and defense of reason.
After surveying Western ideas of reason from the ancient Greeks through Kant, Hegel, and Marx, Jay engages at length with the ways leading theorists of the Frankfurt School—Horkheimer, Marcuse, Adorno, and most extensively Habermas—sought to salvage a viable concept of reason after its apparent eclipse. They despaired, in particular, over the decay in the modern world of reason into mere instrumental rationality. When reason becomes a technical tool of calculation separated from the values and norms central to daily life, then choices become grounded not in careful thought but in emotion and will—a mode of thinking embraced by fascist movements in the twentieth century.
Is there a more robust idea of reason that can be defended as at once a philosophical concept, a ground of critique, and a norm for human emancipation? Jay explores at length the communicative rationality advocated by Habermas and considers the range of arguments, both pro and con, that have greeted his work.
A taboo-breaker and a great provocateur, George L. Mosse (1918–99) was one of the great historians of the twentieth century, forging a new historiography of culture that included brilliant insights about the roles of nationalism, fascism, racism, and sexuality. Jewish, gay, and a member of a culturally elite family in Germany, Mosse came of age as the Nazis came to power, before escaping as a teenager to England and America. Mosse was innovative and interdisciplinary as a scholar, and he shattered in his groundbreaking books prevalent assumptions about the nature of National Socialism and the Holocaust. He audaciously drew a link from bourgeois respectability and the ideology of the Enlightenment—the very core of modern Western civilization—to the extermination of the European Jews. In this intellectual biography of George Mosse, Karel Plessini draws on all of Mosse's published and unpublished work to illuminate the origins and development of his groundbreaking methods of historical analysis and the close link between his life and work. He redefined the understanding of modern mass society and politics, masterfully revealing the powerful influence of conformity and political liturgies on twentieth-century history. Mosse warned against the dangers inherent in acquiescence, showing how identity creation and ideological fervor can climax in intolerance and mass murder—a message of continuing relevance.
What was life like under the Third Reich? What went on between parents and children? What were the prevailing attitudes about sex, morality, religion? How did workers perceive the effects of the New Order in the workplace? What were the cultural currents—in art, music, science, education, drama, and on the radio?
Professor Mosses extensive analysis of Nazi culture—groundbreaking upon its original publication in 1966—is now offered to readers of a new generation. Selections from newspapers, novellas, plays, and diaries as well as the public pronouncements of Nazi leaders, churchmen, and professors describe National Socialism in practice and explore what it meant for the average German.
By recapturing the texture of culture and thought under the Third Reich, Mosses work still resonates today—as a document of everyday life in one of historys darkest eras and as a living memory that reminds us never to forget.
Historical Justice and Memory
highlights the global movement for historical justiceacknowledging and redressing historic wrongsas one of the most significant moral and social developments of our times.
Distinguished historian Martin Jay surveys the idea of reason in Western thought over two millennia, from the ancient Greeks to the Frankfurt School and since.
About the Author
George L. Mosse (1919-1999) was the John C. Bascom Professor of European History and the Weinstein-Bascom Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has long been recognized as one of the most creative and innovative historians of modern Europe during the second half of the nineteenth century. His research ranged from the Protestant Reformation and the seventeenth century to the political, social and cultural history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Mosse revolutionized the study of Nazism and facism, and opened new dimensions in such diverse fields as nationalism, racism, historical memory and symbolism, the commemoration of mass death, German-Jewish history, and the history of sexuality and the body. No other Europeanist historian of the later twentieth century exhibited so broad a range of research and analysis.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments Introduction: The Serpent and the Dove The "Eternal Emigrant" Why an Intellectual Biography of George L. Mosse? The Link between Life and Work Machiavellism and the Holocaust The Great ProvocateurChapter 1. From Machiavellism to Totalitarianism Political Concerns Thomas Hobbes as the "Voice of the Future" The Serpent and the Dove: The Question of Political Morality From Machiavellism to National SocialismChapter 2. Beyond the History of Intellectuals From Ideas to Ideologies: The Turn to Popular Culture Between Consensus, Nihilism, and Propaganda From Nihilism to Liturgy: The Religion of Fascism Beyond the History of IntellectualsChapter 3. The Roots of the Anthropological and Visual Turn The Anthropological Turn: Myth Anthropology and Mass Movements Between Rationalism and Irrationality History and Psychology: Rationalizations, Motivations, Perceptions Anthropology and Historicism The Visual Turn: Aesthetics and Architecture Toward New PerspectivesChapter 4. The Dark Side of Modernity The "Failure of the Enlightenment" Nationalism, Racism, and Respectability Modernity and the Great WarChapter 5. From Machiavellism to the Holocaust Nihilism and the Holocaust Respectability and the Holocaust Reconsidering the "Ideal Bourgeois"Chapter 6. The Missing Link: The Nationalist Revolution The Fear of Ideology The Building Blocks of a General Theory: Fascism as Revolution The Missing Link: Fascism as a Nationalist Revolution The World through the Eyes of Its FaithsChapter 7. The "True Mission of Judaism" George Mosse, Zionism, and the Reality of Israel A Heritage Rediscovered: Redemption by Judaism Between Nationalism and Patriotism The "True Mission of Judaism"Chapter 8. The Granitic Foundation of a Faith The Meaning of History The Devil's Advocate The "History of Perceptions"Conclusion: George L. Mosse's Legacy Mosse's Work between Recognition and Neglect Mosse as Émigré Historian The Message of a Life Notes Index