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GERMAN HISTORICAL INSTITUTE WASHNGTON, D.C. ANNUAL LECTURE SERIES No. 8 - page 41 / 46

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39

(the fate of the German mind at the end of its bourgeois era), published in 1935 and again in 1959 under the rather misleading title (the belated nation).21 According to Plessner, it was the lack of authentic historical traditions in the political thought of the German bourgeoisie that

produced this excessive

in the beginning of the nineteenth

century and which existed particularly after the founding of the

This

expressed itself as a political medievalism, or as a perpetual reflection on the Middle Ages, that consequently took the form of a mounting criticism of modernity. After 1918 in particular, this medievalism pitted itself against the Weimar Republic.22 This was the case not only with historians but also, and even especially, among theologians, philosophers, sociologists, art historians, and legal scholars. This medievalism articulated itself as the hope for the dawning of a New Middle Ages,which many believed to have arrived in 1933. 23

In his book from 1935, Plessner explained that in Germany, in contrast to England and to the countries shaped by their Roman heritage, a close connection had never developed between the formation of the nation-state and the ideals of the Enlightenment.24 In addition, he observed that, since the Romantic period and because of it, political enlightenment and political

humanism were superceded by the myth of the medieval characterized as a distant splendor hovering between memory

,

21 Helmuth Plessner, (Stuttgart, 1959), 15ff. , 83ff. Otto Gerhard Oexle, "Das Mittelalter und das Unbehagen an der Moderne. Mittelalterbeschwörungen in der Weimarer Republik und danach," in , ed. Susanna Burghartz et al. (Sigmaringen, 1992), 125153. Ibid., 145ff Plessner, 22 23 24 , 13, 29ff

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