Hannah Arendt and Alexander and Margarete Mitscherlich produced influential accounts of the postwar West-German population's silence or inarticuleteness. The Mitscherlichs claimed that this silence was symptomatic of a blocked process of mourning; Arendt saw it as a legacy of brutal totalitarian rule. However, both viewed the rapid economic recovery as evidence of the German inability to engage in discursively mediated therapeutic and political processes. Frantic busyness was a form of silence. This paper presents a critical reassessment of these approaches. By drawing on Albert Hirschman's theory of exit and voice, it argues that economic activity possesses a communicative dimension. The alleged retreat from politics is not a symptom of muteness but rather indicates people's preference for an alternative mode of communication. Arendt and the Mitscherlich may be right in assuming a correlation between the postwar economic recovery and ostensible political apathy, but lack the conceptual means to clarify the relationship.
Innocence and the Politics of Memory
Jonathan Bach and Benjamin Nienass
take on the problematic some decades later, see Alexander Mitscherlich and Margarete Mitscherlich, The Inability to Mourn: Principles of Collective Behavior (New York, 1975). 11 Just in the last few years, see, for example, Angelika Bammer, Born
Allgemeine Zeitung online , 14 September 2017. 37 Alexander Mitscherlich and Margarete Mitscherlich, Die Unfähigkeit zu trauern: Grundlagen kollektiven Verhaltens (Munich, 1980), 53–54. 38 Quoted in Hans-W. Saure and Anton Maegerle, “Skandal um