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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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Liberal Ideals: Faded Remnants or New Dawn?

Liberal Ideals: Faded Remnants or New Dawn?

(p.101) 3 Liberal Ideals: Faded Remnants or New Dawn?
Left Liberals, the State, and Popular Politics in Wilhelmine Germany

Alastair P. Thompson

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on left liberal ideals and attitudes. What did left liberals stand for? Not much is the usual answer. Ideological decline, a continual erosion of liberal substance, lies at the centre of interpretations of left liberal failure in Germany. There are two strands to the story. The first is the debasement of ideology: the glittering tenets of democracy, militia, and social harmony increasingly tarnished by monarchism, militarism, and market economics. Wilhelmine left liberals, it is argued, failed to live up to the ideals of their early nineteenth-century precursors. The second concerns the dissolution of a social base. It claims left liberalism succumbed to socio-economic inevitability, not just to infections of nationalism and imperialism, or left liberal leaders' sins of omission and commission. Identification with the nation-state, market economy, artistic and scientific achievement, urban society, municipal government, and other aspects of Wilhelmine Germany was crucial to the character of left liberalism.

Keywords:   Wilhelmine Germany, left liberals, left liberalism, ideology, democracy, market economy, municipal government, militarism, social base

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