The currently changing political landscape in Europe and the United States gives rise to the question of what the tasks of Bildung are right now. Are the humanities able to engender a conversation about the deep divisions between liberals, conservatives, and even anti-liberals? Do they have the wisdom to reach out equally to Obama voters with progressive values, to conservatives who believe strongly in family, the nation, and God, and to supporters of populist parties with strong anti-liberal tendencies? The article addresses these questions by arguing for a political Bildungsroman and scrutinizing political subjectivity as meticulously as Freud interpreted dreams in psychoanalysis.
Manuel Clemens teaches Cultural Studies at the University of Vechta. He studied Cultural Studies and Philosophy in Frankfurt/Oder and Paris. He received his PhD from the German Department at Yale University with a dissertation titled “The Labyrinth of Aesthetic Solitude: A Small Theory of Bildung.” His current book project is on the Frankfurt School's concept of the authoritarian character. Other publications include “New Authorities in Politics and Literature,” a special issue of Colloquia Germanica (2017), co-edited with Thorben Päthe, and The Return of the Authoritarian Character: Transatlantic Perspectives, forthcoming in spring 2022, co-edited with Thorben Päthe and Marc Petersdorff.