Reconstructing Humanity: Philosophies of the Human in the German Cold War
Foster, John Conroy
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This dissertation examines the role played by conceptions of human being in the intellectual and cultural life of the two German states in the early decades of the Cold War. In the wake of the crimes of the National Socialist regime, one answer to the oft-posed question of how German (and European) culture had descended into a condition of abject barbarism was that the Nazis had prioritized one particular species of mankind over humanity as a whole. Scholars and journalists on the both sides of the Cold War divide employed philosophical analyses of human being, in part, as a means of raising their normative claims to the highest possible level of generality, thereby overcoming Nazism's radical particularism and working to reintegrate Germany (either East or West) into the community of civilized peoples. These efforts were shaped by the intensifying geopolitical conflict that characterized the decades immediately following the end of the Second World War. In both East and West Germany, intellectuals employed the language of humanism as an important tool in these projects. While this term was often used to make reference to the German and European cultural heritage, it was more often employed metonymically, as a place holder for values ideal for human flourishing. East German communists had an ambivalent relationship to humanism. On the one hand, they rejected the human as a standard of value outside of party orthodoxy. On the other, they sought to appropriate humanism for themselves, arguing that Marxism-Leninism was creating an ideal social order for human beings. Dissident Marxists, such as Herbert Marcuse, Ernst Bloch, and Leo Kofler, integrated conceptions of humanity into critiques of Stalinism. The human being also formed an important element in sociological analyses of the postwar world by figures such as Alfred Weber and Arnold Gehlen, who used the condition of human beings in modernity as a basis for evaluating the political structures of modern civilizations.
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