The Unscripted Revolution: Male Subjectivities in Germany, 1918–1919

TitleThe Unscripted Revolution: Male Subjectivities in Germany, 1918–1919
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsFöllmer, Moritz
JournalPast & Present
Pagination161 - 192
Date Published08/2018

This article aims to shed new light on the German Revolution of 1918/19 by focusing on male subjectivities on both a micro-level and in political discourse. The first section analyses how after the sudden end of the war and the demise of the Empire, workers and peasants asserted their freedom and dignity as civilian men. They celebrated, pursued their self-interest, confronted representatives of the old order or appealed to the provisional institutions of the emerging Republic for support. This diversity of subjectivities fuelled the revolutionary dynamic but impeded any prospect of a new consensus, a problem that haunted the three major currents of the German left. The second section argues that Majority Social Democrats, Independent Social Democrats and Communists attempted to unite and steer male subjectivities from their respective vantage points. However, a revolutionary subject remained elusive, which reflected both the complex transition from wartime to postwar society and a long-standing intellectual tension between deterministic, Marxist beliefs and an emphasis on voluntaristic, ethically inspired action. Hence the tendency, by May 1919, to declare closure on the revolution. The conclusion summarizes these findings and contends that the events of 1918/19 in Germany do not fit the model proposed in Keith Michael Baker and Dan Edelstein’s recent comparative volume ‘Scripting Revolution’. Instead they should be viewed as an unscripted revolution in search of its own subject. [Oxford Academic]

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