Thursday, July 13, 2023

on the natural history of destruction/nostalgia for the present

Hajo Holborn, "Achievements and Prospects of German Democracy", Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 70, No. 3 (Sep., 1955) JSTOR,  cited by Krieger

Everywhere bureaucracy has multiplied but nowhere as much as in Germany. Allied military government liked to work through the civil service rather than through political parties. The Bonn system has extended the scope of the judiciary and of the government service tremendously and in Germany these two professions are staffed by the same type of civil servant. The Bonn constitution like all the new state constitutions contains grandiose catalogues of civil rights which go far beyond anything known in the United States. The experiences of the arbitrariness of Nazi rule have created in Germany a great belief in judicial procedures. But many of these civil rights are mutually incompatible and a settlement of conflicts calls for a political decision rather than a juristic opinion. One says in Germany that the Rechtsstaat has become a Justizstaat, a government by justices rather than a government by law. Meanwhile, the administration is busily occupied in determining the claims which the new legislation has granted to practically every imaginable category of human being, and all these claims are justiciable. The main contacts between the hard-working German and his new state are the pleadings of his private claims before an official behind a desk.

German bureaucracy is organized as before 1933. The university diploma is the entrance ticket to a career in the higher service and admission to the university depends in turn on the graduation from high school. Except for some beginnings in Hamburg, Hessen and West Berlin, class privileges in higher education have not been broken. Allied military government utterly failed to broaden the social base of the civil service and of the "academic class" in general. Some changes have taken place. The idea of Rechtsstaat does not appear any more as a matter of course and as something that can easily be combined with any other political order, including totalitarianism. But while, therefore, totalitarianism and militant nationalism are being rejected, a positive belief in democracy as the only method that can assure the permanent security of the rule of law in our age is extremely rare. Democracy, or, as one would say among these groups in Germany, the "rule of parties" (Parteienstaat), is not a guarantee of freedom. On the contrary, it is argued that the democratic volonte generale can produce the suppression of all law and freedom. In this line of thought national socialism appears more as a consequence of the French Revolution than as a reaction to it, and this explains, too, why academic historical thought centers so largely on Bismarck.

It is true, however, that this has not led to an openly reactionary attitude or to militant nationalism. Both the judiciary and the general civil service have shown a more cooperative spirit toward the Bonn government than they did to the Weimar Republic. But parliament and parties are eyed with suspicion by the great majority. Germany's most eminent philosopher of education, Theodor Litt, wrote recently: "A champion of democracy must be conscious of the odds against which he is struggling and the dubious support which he can expect from the present state of public life and the average thinking of his fellow citizens."' The Rechtstaat ideal has come back and come back in greater strength. In the historical and social setting of Germany it is not likely to lose its authoritarian overtones altogether, but it has become noticeable that the authority of the government is being enforced with a firmer hand than in the days of the Weimar Republic, even against the industrialists.

Ever since I was a kid, and then later, with Richter and Polke, and Kraftwerk, and reading Böll, reading and watching Fassbinder, Herzog, Germany in Autumn... Wings of Desire was released two years after Signal Germany on the Air. Gursky. It's useless even making a list. I'm not sure when I came up with the thought that postwar Germany was autistic, but I made the comment to a woman whose family charts the history of the 20th century in Germany, or at least the high bourgeois, German and Jewish, with all that implies, and she agreed. Marcel Reich-Ranicki said that the only German he ever met who fully understood the significance of the Nazi era to the Jews was Ulrike Meinhof. It made me laugh.

At some point in the 90s I wrote the title for an essay "German Culture and the Banality of Democracy". It makes sense I'm repeating things from 2002

"One says in Germany that the Rechtsstaat has become a Justizstaat, a government by justices rather than a government by law." The need for truth and the hatred of politics

I interrupted a pompous 20something art aficionado/theory-hack who was describing the work to a friend in terms of "the abject", to say that the best way to understand Polke was to think of Herzog or any well educated German man born during the war and now alone in the desert, or in the jungle, or at sea, or on the ice, tripping on acid and screaming lyric poetry into the void. The pompous kid looked over his glasses and said, "I'm not familiar with his films."

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