In This Review

Another Country: German Intellectuals, Unification and National Identity
Another Country: German Intellectuals, Unification and National Identity
By Jan-Werner Müller
Yale University Press, 2000, 310 pp

Europe's intellectuals have played a prominent role as public educators since the Enlightenment. Intellectual discourse has often remained inseparable from a nation's past and present. This lucid and empathetic account examines West German intellectuals and their role in the debates over reunification and national identity. From 1945 to 1989, Müller writes, intellectuals attempted to engage the public about Germany's past; one famous example was the 1986 "historians' debate" started by the conservative writer Ernst Nolte and the liberal theorist Jürgen Habermas. But unification opened new questions, causing the author Günter Grass, among others, to fear that reunification would force Germany to lose its valuable "Holocaust identity" and forget its troubled past. Habermas, in contrast, championed a "constitutional patriotism" that represented a major shift away from ethnic nationalism and state worship. The writer Martin Walser took a different course, advocating trust in German culture and repudiation of collective guilt. Müller concludes that the divide between the Left (which wants to exorcise Germany of its past "exceptionalism") and the Right (which sees "normality" as a goad to the pursuit of national interests) remains profound. But he concludes that Germany's intellectuals have indeed helped establish and preserve a "robustly liberal and democratic" political culture.