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The Seduction of Culture in German History
Wolf Lepenies

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"[Lepenies] gives a thorough treatment of the culture wars between France and Germany, émile Durkheim and Max Weber, the role culture played behind the Iron Curtain, and how the intellectuals triumphed over the communists throughout much of Eastern Europe but not in the German Democratic Republic . . .. Lepenies excels . . . in his examination of German society and its embrace of culture while shunning politics."--Victorino Matus, First Things

"A highly thought-provoking, if not contentious, series of 'history of ideas' vignettes. Lepenies traces the evolution of the Kulturnation, a nation united by culture rather than by political institutions, from the 18th century, when it emerged in the absence of a central German state, until German reunification in 1990. . . . Lepenies concludes with a cautiously optimistic view of Germans' reconciliation of culture and politics. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice

"Wolf Lepenies, one of Germany's foremost public intellectuals, has written a fascinating and chilling essay on the seemingly unshakable German attitude of valuing culture over politics. . . . [T]he role or cultural trends as powerful agents still needs to be seriously addressed. Lepenies's book does just this."--Anna B. Manchin, H-Net Review

"[T]he eleven chapters/essays read most like a sophisticated and stimulating after-dinner conversation with much wit and many a dazzling insight and bon mot."--Diethelm Prowe, Historian

"It is . . . one of Lepenies' achievements to be able to combine irony and engagement. . . . [T]here is a refreshing combination of restrained detachment with an unambiguous commitment to the ideal of a free society."--Beatrice Puja, European Legacy


"Wolf Lepenies has written a penetrating account of the role of Germany's self-image as the home of Kultur in that country's intellectual and political history. His range of reference is amazingly wide, and his writing is a delight. The Seduction of Culture in German History combines striking anecdotes, historical sweep, and incisive critical analysis."--Richard Rorty, Stanford University

"For anyone who has been astonished by the German obsession with high culture--even in economic hard times, Berlin has three opera houses--Wolf Lepenies's deeply intelligent book is indispensable reading. But The Seduction of Culture in German History is more than the history of a national obsession. It is a searching analysis of the ways in which culture can serve as a sinister substitute for ethical engagement in democratic politics. With his brilliant forays into the cultural history of America and France and his dazzling sweep from Bismarck to the present, Lepenies has written a book whose passionate commitment to participatory democracy is rendered the nobler by his sophisticated irony and urbanity."--Stephen Greenblatt, Harvard University, author of Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare

"The Seduction of Culture in German History is a powerful and sustained meditation on the dilemmas of Germany's legendary infatuation with Kultur. These themes have never been brought together so impressively and convincingly. This marvelous tour d'horizon of twentieth-century German intellectual life provocatively suggests that the central interpretive questions about the German past remain unsettled. Lepenies's prose is lively, witty, and engaging. Every paragraph is packed with dazzling insight. The writing is lapidary, the conclusions magisterial."--Richard Wolin, CUNY Graduate Center

"Wolf Lepenies has written a wonderfully erudite and thought-provoking book on that grand theme of German history since the eighteenth century: the immense value placed upon Kultur and the disparagement of politics. Lepenies accomplishes his task by taking the reader on a wide-ranging tour through the thought and biographies of many of the key figures of German, French, and American intellectual life. The problem he examines is a critical one for understanding Germany and the connections between it and the United States. The book is an intellectual tour de force written in a fluent and highly engaging style."--Eric D. Weitz, University of Minnesota

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File created: 4/21/2017

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