The Seduction of Culture in German History

Wolf Lepenies, Author . Princeton Univ. $24.95 (260p) ISBN 978-0-691-12131-4

The German obsession with high culture has no parallel elsewhere: Berlin alone has three opera houses, and Hitler was more distraught by the Allied bombing of Nazi-approved cultural monuments than the destruction of his cities. Lepenies, a leading German intellectual and journalist, examines this pride, a phenomenon he says is at odds with the status of culture in France, Britain and America. In the latter countries, the concept of "culture" includes everything from politics to sports, morality to social issues. Only in Germany does Kultur solely represent the exalted life of the mind; it opposes, "with mandarin-like scorn," everyday politics and economics, and carries a concomitant belief in the superiority of the German nation over other nations concerned with such matters. Lepenies brilliantly argues that this notion of Kultur has profoundly influenced Germany's domestic and foreign policy for centuries. According to Lepenies, the German indifference to politics partly caused the downfall of the Weimar Republic (too few could be bothered to defend it from its enemies), contributed to the rise of Nazi ideology and continues to shape Germany's sometimes troubled relations with its European neighbors and America. Lepenies's concise insights make for a fascinating read. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/06/2006
Release date: 03/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-4008-2703-9
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-691-16461-8
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