“In Defense of Democracy.” Hermann Broch’s American Experience and the Relevance of His Political Thinking Today
Symposium, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, Hannover, organized by the Leibniz Center for Literary and Cultural Research Berlin (ZfL) in collaboration with the Internationaler Arbeitskreis Hermann Broch
Hermann Broch experienced a general political and social crisis in Europe in the interwar period and especially after the National Socialists seized power in Germany: the self-destruction of democracy, the manipulation of the masses by means of a clever propaganda, the blatant disregard of Citizen and Human Rights, the incarceration and internment of dissenters, the enslavement and in the end annihilation of certain groups like the Jews. After his emigration to the United States in 1938, Broch reacted with a series of political initiatives and the great project of a “Theory of Mass Delusion,” which not only sought to explain the success of the ‘totalitarian’ regimes, but also worked on a conception of democracy that, according to Broch, would only be able to stand up to those regimes if it was newly and differently conceptualized. Broch’s ideas are radical: His political theory is comprehensive and deals with economic as well as cultural and even anthropological aspects. At the same time it does not take liberal democracy as such for granted. The American experience of a democratic tradition becomes a learning process for Broch, which at times leads to far reaching considerations, as on the politics of Human rights, but which also reveals the difficulties of political practice under the conditions of exile. Today, in the face of rampant populism and the crisis of representative democracy, Broch’s ideas are relevant again. The conference discusses them in a broader historical context and explores conceptual and political perspectives of Broch’s American experience.
The symposium will take place via Zoom.
Thursday, 24 Jun 2021
- Eva Geulen (ZfL), Paul Michael Lützeler (Washington University in St. Louis), Daniel Weidner (MLU Halle-Wittenberg): Opening and Introduction
- Paul Michael Lützeler (Washingtion University in St. Louis / IFK Wien/Linz): Brochs Überlegungen im US-Exil zur “Re-Education” in Deutschland
- Doren Wohlleben (Universität Marburg): Erziehung zur Demokratie: Brochs Ideen zu einer Internationalen Universität
- Barbara Picht (ZfL): Wissensnetzwerke des Exils. Brochs Korrespondenzen und Zeitschriftenkontakte
- Patrick Eiden-Offe (ZfL): Essayismus und Politik. Brochs politische Aufsätze im Kontext der frühen Nachkriegszeit
- Kirk Wetters (Yale University, New Haven): Hermann Broch and Post-Weberian Theory
- Martin Klebes (University of Oregon, Eugene): Law and Consciousness. Broch on Democratic Propaganda
Friday, 25 Jun 2021
Unfortunately, the lectures by Ioana Vultur and Doerte Bischoff have to be canceled. The symposium will therefore start at 14.30 instead of 13.30.
- Daniel Weidner (Universität Halle): “Irdisch absolut”: Brochs Kritik der Politischen Theologie
- Agnieszka Hudzik (Freie Universität Berlin): “Der Tod des Vergil” im komparatistischen Kontext
- Sebastian Kirsch (ZfL): Stimmen und Nebelmenschen: Zum chorischen Status der “Schuldlosen”
- Sebastian Wogenstein (University of Connecticut): Broch and “The City of Man” Project of 1939/1940
- Eva Geulen (ZfL/HU Berlin): Rom rühmen. Broch und Arendt
Fig. above: Hermann Broch in the garden of the Hotel Radetzky in Hinterbruehl near Vienna on 10 June 1933. Photo: Trude Geiringer. Source: Private archive of Paul Michael Lützeler (with friendly permission).