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Turning "liberal Critics" into "Liberal-Conservatives": Kurt Sontheimer and the Re-coding of the Political Culture in the Wake of the Student Revolt of "1968"

Riccardo Bavaj

Keywords: FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY; KURT SONTHEIMER; 1968; LIBERALISM; POLITICAL CULTURE; SCHOLARS; UNIVERSITIES

The student revolt of the late 1960s had far-reaching repercussions in large parts of West German academia. This article sheds light on the group of liberal scholars who enjoyed a relative cohesiveness prior to "1968" and split up in the wake of the student revolt. The case of Kurt Sontheimer (1928-2005) offers an instructive example of the multifaceted process of a "liberal critic" turning into a liberal-conservative. While he initially welcomed the politicization of students and the democratization of universities, he became increasingly concerned about the stability of West Germany's political order and placed more and more emphasis on preserving, rather than changing the status quo. Sontheimer was a prime example of a liberal critic shifting and being shifted to the center-Right within a political culture that became increasingly polarized during the 1970s.

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