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Left Liberals, the State, and Popular Politics in Wilhelmine Germany$
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Alastair Thompson

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198205432

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205432.001.0001

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Locating the Left Liberals

Locating the Left Liberals

(p.26) (p.27) 1 Locating the Left Liberals
Left Liberals, the State, and Popular Politics in Wilhelmine Germany

Alastair P. Thompson

Oxford University Press

Who were the left liberals? No political grouping in Imperial Germany, anti-Semitic splinter groups apart, had a comparable history of splits and short-lived mergers. These disruptions were partially bridged by continuity of personnel and tradition. The label ‘left liberal’ was itself a product of diversity. It included North German groups who generally called themselves Freisinnige. However, most South German left liberals, reflecting a greater openness and attachment to radical political reform, referred to themselves as Democrats. Left liberal, as used here and by contemporaries, was an umbrella term to cover the political terrain between the National Liberals and the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD). There remains the need for a more detailed and accurate assessment of left liberal sociology. Two features emerge from an analysis of left liberal social composition. The first is the clear correlation between party and social hierarchy. The second is the wide, but correspondingly shallow spread of left liberal support. Left liberalism was also a party of minorities.

Keywords:   Imperial Germany, left liberals, National Liberals, SPD, sociology, social composition, minorities, social hierarchy, left liberalism

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