Common Volk: Centuries-Old Ideals in Contemporary German Conservatism

Saturday, January 5, 2019
Stevens C Prefunction (Hilton Chicago)
Norman Frazier, Loyola University Chicago
Questions around Germany’s growing conservative party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), ask whether National Socialist values, and the violence which seems to be their corollary, are remerging. This study provides a historical assessment, arguing that while the contemporary crisis signals a resurgent Nazism, the anti-immigrant, anti-EU values of discontent from the AfD and its constituency have longer roots in the nineteenth century. Volkish ideology, a populist intellectual movement, held distinct beliefs of anti-liberalism and anti-Semitism during the mid-to-late nineteenth century. Several parallels between modern German conservatism and that of the Volkish exist: desire to escape to an older, orderly Germany; apprehension about globalization; fear of a decline in German identity. Many historians have linked Volkish ideology to the roots of the Third Reich. The historiography of Nazism connects the rise of such conservatism to a older, distinct German “spirit” claimed by several Volkish thinkers. This study intends not to determine whether such a German “spirit” exists, but identifies the presence of that historical tradition within contemporary German conservatism.
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