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Demos and Nation

Misplacing the Dilemmas of the European Union--In Memory of Stanley Hoffmann

Charles S. Maier


“Demos and Nation,” written in homage to the memory of Stanley Hoffmann, critically considers the “no-demos” theory that argues the European Union is necessarily limited in its scope and loyalty because supposedly any authentic democratic political union must rest on a “people” or “demos,” which the EU lacks. There is no European demos, so the proponents argue; only nation-states possess this communal glue. I argue that, first, European history shows the no-demos theory ascribes far too great a unity and cohesion to the process of traditional nation-state formation as well as to current national polities; second, that polities at any level create their demoi through common civic activity, such as voting, political party formation, and meaningful parliamentary policy making; they are not pre-existing. Additionally, current difficulties of the EU should be attributed more to xenophobic populism at the national level than to failings in Brussels. Ultimately the no-demos theory plays into the hands of political leaders and movements that wish to advance their populist and authoritarian agendas at home by stigmatizing the EU.

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The Culture of Culture: Toward a German Variant of Performative Democracy

Charles S. Maier

Marcel Reich-Ranicki, the German literary critic, recalls in his

recent memoirs that at age ten, when he set out from his small town

in Poland, his teacher said with tears in her eyes, “Mein Sohn, Du

fährst in das Land der Kultur.” Elias Canetti recalled in the first volume

of his memoir—The Tongue Set Free—how when he was age eight,

his mother, recently widowed, found fulfillment at the Burgtheater

and left Manchester to take up residence in Vienna. Was it just the

magic of the German language that transported these Jews and made

literary overachievers of their children? A vision of metropolitan culture

and assimilation? Culture was “the way ‘in,’” as Louis Spitzer

puts it in his book on marginality, Lives in Between.

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"Als wär' es ein Stück von uns …"; German Politics and Society Traverses Twenty Years of United Germany

Charles S. Maier

This essay looks at postunification Germany through the pages of German Politics and Society. The articles published during this period reveal the evolution of intellectuals' understanding of the unified country—concerns that mirrored changes in social, political, and cultural reality. Of course, academics are beholden to their own histories and Weltanschauung, a fact that produced, at times, prescient, sometimes fragmentary, and sometimes alarmist interpretations and analyses of the country in an attempt to provide orientation. Nevertheless, this review shows how German watchers have slowly up-dated their paradigms and are now not worrying as much about a mellowed, less German country that has fascinated them over the decades.