D. Gosewinkel (Hrsg.): Anti-liberal Europe

Anti-liberal Europe. A Neglected Story of Europeanization

Gosewinkel, Dieter
New German Historical Perspectives 6
New York 2015: Berghahn Books
Anzahl Seiten
X, 200 S.
$ 85.00; £ 53.00; € 71,69
Rezensiert für H-Soz-Kult von
Riccardo Bavaj, School of History, University of St Andrews

This volume provides an overview of some recent work by German historians on visions, perceptions and uses of “Europe” in twentieth-century Germany, with occasional forays into other countries. It is largely based on dissertations, both doctoral and postdoctoral theses, from the last fifteen years. It deals with Catholic-conservative visions of the Abendland (Vanessa Conze), Ordre Nouveau conceptions of a “Europe of the Regions” (Undine Ruge), the reverberations of Mitteleuropa ideas in Nazi schemes for a “New Order of Europe” (Jürgen Elvert), nation-state and bloc centred notions of Europe in the GDR, where a sense of cultural Europeanness was marginalized and the process of European integration either mocked or ignored (Jana Wüstenhagen), and anti-colonial critiques of “Europe’s” disregard of human rights and the right to national self-determination – critiques that not only pointed to the betrayal of “Western values” in the colonial periphery but also to the simultaneous decline of these values in the metropoles themselves (Fabian Klose).[1] In addition, Peter Schöttler traces the biography of his grandfather Gustav Krukenberg (1888–1980), who in the 1920s worked as a lobbyist for German business in Paris, and later joined the Waffen-SS to become Brigadeführer of the Charlemagne Division. After his release from Soviet captivity, Krukenberg was a vocal supporter of Adenauer’s policy of French-German reconciliation, while in private maintaining relationships with former French collaborators. Many of these were right-wing extremists, who shared with Krukenberg the belief that their fight had been for “Europe” all along (the concept of Europe allowed them, in a way, to harmonize their pre- and post-1945 lives).[2]

All chapters of the volume are worth reading, and its editor Dieter Gosewinkel is to be commended for making German scholarship available to an English-speaking audience. Readers of the volume will benefit, moreover, from two insightful commentaries by Michael Freeden and Martin Conway, both of whom illuminate some of the issues arising from the volume’s overall framework. Freeden, in particular, sounds a note of caution, and the decision to include his comments in this collection shows a refreshingly liberal stance on the part of the editor. Readers should note, however, that these comments (= chapter 1) relate specifically to Gosewinkel’s and Klose’s contributions: This follows from the organization of the conference on which the book is based[3], but makes for an awkward structure, as the comments are sandwiched between these two contributions (= introduction and chapter 2). In this review I would first like to echo some concerns voiced by Freeden and Conway, and then add two further caveats which readers might want to consider when approaching this volume.

1) The overarching aim of this collection is to engage notions of Europe that deviate from the “current form of European integration” and what is commonly viewed as its tradition (p. 3). As the title suggests, these notions are subsumed under the term “anti-liberal Europe”. It is questionable, however, whether the dominant narrative of European integration, which Gosewinkel intends to challenge, is adequately described as revolving around a “liberal core”, i.e. the principles of the “political and economic freedom of the individual” (p. 4). It is unclear where this leaves conservative technocrats, as well as Christian and social democrats, whose vital role in the process of European integration is part of any standard account, but whose credentials as standard-bearers of a “liberal project” might be less obvious. The problem is compounded by the fact that twentieth-century Europeans spoke various liberal languages at different times and in different places. Gosewinkel freely acknowledges methodological difficulties in distinguishing between “liberal” and “anti-liberal” conceptions of Europe, but his attempt to reconcile the construction of a postwar-oriented ideal type (e.g. civil and political rights, the rule of law and market economy) with a more substantive and pluralist approach of historical semantics raises more questions than it answers (pp. 5–6). To be sure, most chapters – especially those on the Abendland idea, the Ordre Nouveau, and the Nazi New Order – tackle ideas that fit the bill of being “anti-liberal” by any standard. But while Schöttler’s and Wüstenhagen’s chapters lack a sustained engagement with the anti-liberal thrust of their subject, the label “anti-liberalism” feels particularly tacked on in Klose’s otherwise interesting contribution on anti-colonial critiques of French and British domination. No matter how effective (and justified!) critiques of moral double-standards may have been – liberalism and colonialism are by no means mutually exclusive, nor does the fight for national self-determination in itself amount to a liberal project.

2) The objectives of the volume as outlined in the introduction are much broader and more ambitious than reflected in the remit of individual chapters. The introduction not only promises a different genealogy of the idea of Europe but also opens up two further perspectives: First, it seeks to examine the ways in which pre-1945 anti- or non-liberal concepts of Europe shaped the post-1945 process of European integration. This is without a doubt a fruitful avenue of research, and one that has recently been pursued with great success by Christian Bailey[4], but it is not part of the agenda of the chapters in this volume. Second, pointing to the “unintentional effects of enforced Europeanization”, the introduction makes a case for the analysis of “experiences of Europeanization” and, in particular, “Europeanization by violent means” (pp. 7, 17). These issues are in fact of great interest, and historians have begun to explore them in recent years[5], but again they are not addressed by any of the chapters in this volume. The slight mismatch between introduction and chapters might be attributed to the different contexts from which the research design for this volume originates: It formed the basis both for a panel at the 2010 German Historikertag in Berlin and a theme issue of “Zeithistorische Forschungen / Studies in Contemporary History” in 2012, where “Europeanization through violence” and National Socialism as part of European integration were indeed discussed. The bulk of the introduction to the theme issue is identical with the introduction to this volume.[6]

3) This leads to my last point: translation. As most chapters are based on German texts, this aspect is significant. Some chapters are quite readable, others are a little heavy-handed. There are a few cases where the meaning of a sentence is not really clear, for instance, when referring to “a differentiating perspective of absolute contextualization” (p. 6). There are some glitches that unintentionally twist the meaning of a sentence, e.g. when East German dissidents are said to have been “supervised by the Stasi” (p. 161). Some chapter titles are misnomers: For example, chapter 2 is less about “Europe as a colonial project” as it is about colonialism as a European project. The translation of key terms is sometimes unfortunate, too: The term Abendland, for instance, which is mostly left untranslated, suddenly appears as “the West” (pp. 78–80), thus rendering the lucid argumentation of the original text less intelligible.[7]

These caveats notwithstanding, English-speaking students will profit enormously from a thorough engagement with this volume, given that much of the more recent German research on the topic has yet to find its way into seminar discussions outside German-speaking academia. If the cameo appearance of Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts on the front cover helps with this, so much the better. In terms of future research, what seems most fruitful about the analytical perspective of this volume is perhaps less the call for a non-normative view of Europeanization. The basic point that “anti-liberal” does not automatically mean “anti-European” is well made, but it is one to which scholars have subscribed for at least two decades.[8] Rather, as Martin Conway points out in the afterword, we might need to focus our attention more on the “frontiers between the liberal and the anti-liberal, or non-liberal, in the history of projects of European integration” (p. 183). Irrespective of the question whether such a focus can give rise to a “neglected story of Europeanization” as envisioned by the book’s subtitle – it does appear that postwar “liberal Europe” was never quite as liberal as some might think.

[1] See Vanessa Conze, Das Europa der Deutschen. Ideen von Europa in Deutschland zwischen Reichstradition und Westorientierung (1920–1970), Munich 2005; Undine Ruge, Die Erfindung des “Europa der Regionen”. Kritische Ideengeschichte eines konservativen Konzepts, Frankfurt am Main 2003; Jürgen Elvert, Mitteleuropa! Deutsche Pläne zur europäischen Neuordnung (1918–1945), Stuttgart 1999; Jana Wüstenhagen, “Blick durch den Vorhang”. Die SBZ/DDR und die Integration Westeuropas (1946–1972), Baden-Baden 2001; Fabian Klose, Menschenrechte im Schatten kolonialer Gewalt. Die Dekolonisierungskriege in Kenia und Algerien 1945–1962, Munich 2009 (English translation: Human Rights in the Shadow of Colonial Violence. The Wars of Independence in Kenya and Algeria, Philadelphia 2013).
[2] For the original text, see Peter Schöttler, Dreierlei Kollaboration. Europa-Konzepte und “deutsch-französische Verständigung” – am Beispiel der Karriere von SS-Brigadeführer Gustav Krukenberg, in: Zeithistorische Forschungen / Studies in Contemporary History 9 (2012), pp. 365–386, <http://www.zeithistorische-forschungen.de/3-2012/id=4690> (23.07.2015).
[3] Another Historical Perspective on Europeanism, Oxford, 13. / 14.05.2011; see the conference report by Henriette Müller, in: H-Soz-Kult, 08.09.2011, <http://www.hsozkult.de/conferencereport/id/tagungsberichte-3794> (23.07.2015).
[4] See Christian Bailey, Between Yesterday and Tomorrow. German Visions of Europe, 1926–1950, New York 2013.
[5] Robert Gerwarth / Stephan Malinowski, Europeanization through Violence?, in: Martin Conway / Kiran Klaus Patel (eds.), Europeanization in the Twentieth Century. Historical Approaches, Basingstoke 2010, pp. 189–209; Mark Mazower, Hitler’s Empire. How the Nazis Ruled Europe, New York 2008, pp. 553–575.
[6] See the panel report by Maria Neumann and Erik Swiatloch, 11.10.2010: <http://scienceblogs.de/historikertag/2010/10/11/die-dunkle-seite-der-europaisierung-antiliberale-europakonzeptionen/>; and <http://www.zeithistorische-forschungen.de/3-2012> (23.07.2015).
[7] For the original text, see Vanessa Conze, Abendland, in: Europäische Geschichte Online (EGO), 09.03.2012, <http://www.ieg-ego.eu/conzev-2012-de> (23.07.2015).
[8] See, for instance, Gerard Delanty, Inventing Europe. Idea, Identity, Reality, Basingstoke 1995, pp. 111–114; Michael J. Heffernan, The Meaning of Europe. Geography and Geopolitics, London 1998, pp. 131–178; Kevin Wilson / Jan van der Dussen (eds.), The History of the Idea of Europe, London 1993, pp. 106–143.