Drawing on Rathenau's papers and on a depth of knowledge of both modern German and German-Jewish history, Shulamit Volkov creates a finely drawn portrait of this complex man who struggled with his Jewish identity yet treasured his "otherness." Volkov also places Rathenau in the dual context of Imperial and Weimar Germany and of Berlin's financial and intellectual elite. Above all, she illuminates the complex social and psychological milieu of German Jewry in the period before Hitler's rise to power.
Shulamit Volkov is the Konrad Adenauer Chair for Comparative European History and Professor of Modern European History at Tel Aviv University. She was previously a fellow at St Anthony's College, Oxford, the Wissenschaftskolleg, and the Historisches Kolleg. Volkov is the author of The Origins of Popular Antimodernism in Germany: The Urban Master Artisans, 1873 1896 (1978) and the editor of Deutsche Juden und die Moderne (1994) and Being Different: Minorities, Aliens, and Outsiders in History (2000).
As small, independently employed practitioners of traditional crafts, the master artisans possessed a special social identity. The author focuses on their character as a group, their public behavior, and the formation of their ideas and political allegiance. She contends that between 1873 and 1898—a period often called the "Great Depression"—this group underwent a crucial change in attitude reflecting a growing sense of social isolation and political homelessness. To understand the complexities of their outlook, Shulamit Volkov considers changes in their economic and social position during industrialization and the Great Depression, comparing the German experience with that of England. Her analysis of economic, social, cultural, and political history uncovers the forces that led to the emergence of popular antimodernism and helped attract part of the German populace to prefascist ideas.
Originally published in 1978.
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