Ideologies and Political Thought in Germany in the Era of Extremes (1914-1990)

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Lutz Raphael, SAR.3.15.


This course is available on the MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


This course has no formal pre-requisites; knowledge of relevant languages other than English is useful but not essential. Students with reading knowledge of German should nevertheless consult Professor Raphaell at an early date for additional readings in their areas of interest in the course.

Course content

Starting from the First World War  academics and intellectuals strongly marked the particularities of German intellectual traditions and political thought in contrast to "western" ideas of democracy and liberalism. At the same time, the critical distance towards western "civilisation" encouraged an intellectual culture open to analyse  the ambiguities of modernity, the crisis of historism and liberalism during the interwar period. During the Weimar Republic the intellectual debates were strongly intermingled with the political confrontation between left and right. Nationalsocialist dictatorship and exile contributed to give these intellectual trends and debates an even larger echo at the European and even global level (e.g. anti historicism, existentialism, neo-liberalism or new racism). After 1945, Defeat of Nazism, the collapse of German imperialism  and the discovery of the Holocaust lead towards a fundamental reorientation of   German political and social ideas under the impact of the Cold War Ideologies of East and West. It opened a long period of Westernisation (as a practice of intensified exchange of social and political ideas between Western Europe, Britain  and the USA) embedding (West) German intellectual trends in the mainstream of western intellectual history.

The course focuses on those aspects of German intellectual production that informed the development of social and political ideas and on those authors having a major importance for the orientation of public discussions in Germany. The course will combine the study of primary sources (in English translation) and secondary literature on these themes at the intersection of intellectual and political history of 20th century Germany.

Course Objectives: (i) To introduce students to a variety of methods and interpretative perspectives of German History, Intellectual History and History of Political and social Thought and to the wide range of pertinent primary and secondary sources; (ii) To provide advanced knowledge of German Intellectual History  in the 20th century (iii) To provide comprehensive understanding of the methods of Intellectual History and the History of Political Ideas (iv) To offer a firm basis for more advanced historical work, including independent research, in this and other areas.


20 hours of seminars in the MT. 20 hours of seminars in the LT.

Twenty weekly seminar meetings in Michaelmas and Lent terms. Students are expected to keep up with readings for the weekly meetings and to participate in the seminar discussions. Students are required to produce two essays during the year.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the MT.

Indicative reading

Steven E.Ashheim, The Nietzsche Legacy in Germany 1890-1990. (1992);

Jane Caplan (ed.), Nazi Germany (2008);

Riccardo Bavaj/ Martina Steber (eds.), Germany and the 'West': A modern Relationship (2015);

Michael Freeden, Ideology. A very short introduction (2003);

Mary Fulbrook, A History of Germany 1918-2008 (2009);

Konrad H.Jarausch, After Hitler. Recivilizing Germans, 1945-1995 (2006);

Charles S.Maier, The unmasterable Past: History, the Holocaust and German National Identity (1988);

Andrei S.Markovits, Philip S.Gorski, The German Left: Red Green and Beyond. (1993);

A.Dirk Moses, German Intellectuals and the Nazi Past (2007);

George L. Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology, (1964);

Jan-Werner Müller (ed.), German Ideologies Since 1945 (2003);

A.J.Nicholls, Freedom with Responsibility: the Social Market Economy, 1945-1990. (1994).


Essay (50%, 5000 words) in the LT.
Essay (50%, 5000 words) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2014/15: Unavailable

Average class size 2014/15: Unavailable

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication