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Over the last two centuries, Germans and Americans have been rivals, friends, opponents, and, most recently, allies. This 1997 cross-disciplinary collection of essays analyses how German and American views of each other developed and periodically shifted, providing a fresh analysis of the often complex German-American relationship. The images that resulted from encounters between the two countries frequently reflected significant cross-currents of the contemporary relations, and often foreshadowed important trends. The nine German and eight American contributors to this volume analysed travelogues, private letters, diaries, diplomatic reports, and newspaper articles from the wake of US independence through the reunification of Germany, and also post-1945 movies, that reflect these cross-cultural encounters and illustrate how political agendas, prejudices, stereotypes, and pragmatic forces influenced individual, group and mass perceptions of the other society.
In the years after World War I, Weimar Germany seemed prone to provoke contrasting views from within and without the Reich. American feelings toward Germany had turned from subtle ambiguity to outward hostility during the war. The peace order resulting from World War I led to an intense fight about the ratification of the peace treaty in the U.S. Senate. After the Senate had refused to ratify the peace treaty, the incoming Republican administration opted to conclude a pragmatic peace with Germany that derived in large parts from the precedent of the Versailles Treaty. By the date of the conclusion of the Treaty of Berlin in August 1921, the dominant views among American diplomats and journalists with regard to Germany's position in international politics had changed from animosity to a growing insight that Weimar Germany needed America's help to stabilize its finances as well as to solve the fractious reparations question.
In the scenario that developed in 1923 - growing domestic turmoil, a seemingly uncontrollable hyperinflation, and the Ruhr Crisis - Germany appeared as a republic created more by the force of circumstances than by the higher insights of its citizens. In order to promote democracy, sound financial management, and a nonaggressive foreign policy, postwar Germany would need external encouragement and American assistance.
Like Shelley's Magus Zoroaster, European travelers to the United States may have met their own image, if not that of the Other. The same was true for Americans who visited the old continent or expressed their private thoughts about it. Do images and perceptions of another country consist of accurate observations that mirror the reality of the perceived object? Or do those perceptions reflect the subject's own psyche, prejudices, intentions, and actions? These are the major questions that inform this book. The last century of German and American relations has witnessed a close relationship emerging from the great antagonism between the two powers during the era of the world wars. The deep mutual fascination that has developed from this changing relationship finds its antecedents in the German immigration that started in the late seventeenth century and became a mass movement in the middle of the nineteenth. Interest in the other country's constitutional development and its federal system figures as another point of engagement. The history of German-American relations offers rich material for the study of German and American mutual images and group perceptions. Exploring them will in turn allow us to map patterns of communication that have powerfully shaped the evolution of German-American relations in general. The analysis of German and American mutual images thus constitutes an important chapter in the burgeoning history of transnational perceptions.
This volume on Hannah Arendt's and Leo Strauss' impact on American political science after 1933 contains essays presented at an international conference held at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1991. The book explores the influence that Arendt's and Strauss' experiences of inter-war Germany had on their perception of democracy and their judgment of American liberal democracy. Although they represented different political attitudes, both thinkers interpreted the modern American political system as a response to totalitarianism. The contributors analyse how their émigré experience both influenced their American work and also had an impact on the formation of the discipline of political science in postwar Germany. Arendt's and Strauss' experiences thus aptly illustrate the transfer and transformation of political ideas in the World War II era.
A roundtable discussion on the last day of the Boulder conference summarized the main issues examined in the essays of this volume. It also served to hone the questions raised during the conference and thus offers spontaneous insights into the interpretation of Arendt's and Strauss's work on both sides of the Atlantic. The discussion touched upon three basic themes: (1) the influence of German philosophy on these two philosophers, (2) their American experience, and (3) their respective views on democracy. What follows is an abridged and edited version of the discussion transcript, wherein redundancies have been omitted.
PETER GRAF KIELMANSEGG: I propose to begin with questions concerning the intellectual and cultural background, that is, the origins, roots, and connections between Hannah Arendt's and Leo Strauss's thinking. Next, we could revisit the question of what could be called the Americanization of Arendt and Strauss, that is, the question of the extent to which the books they wrote in this country reflect the fact that these authors have become Americans. And third, I suggest that we take up a topic of more general relevance, namely, the relationship of Arendt and Strauss to democracy. They experienced the failure of democracy in Germany, had an existential encounter with a totalitarian dictatorship, and eventually became citizens of a successful republic. Many of our questions could be brought into this context, by which I do not mean that their biographies are necessarily the most important factors in explaining their attitudes toward democracy; but it is perhaps one way of looking at the problem.