Der gute Staatsbürger
Die politische Ethik der Literatur 1789–1848
[The Good Citizen. The Political Ethics of Literature, 1789–1848]

Wallstein, Göttingen 2023, 528 pages
ISBN 978-3-8353-5513-2

The good citizen is an ancient ideal. This volume addresses the shift in the political ideal of virtue from Antiquity to the 19th century. The historical focus lies on the decades between 1789 and 1848 that are shaped by political and social tensions which cast the citizen’s relationship to the state into a crisis of legitimization. A reaction to this crisis is the appearance of a series of different ideas regarding the ideal citizen who serves the common good. The research focusses on selected works by Schiller, Goethe, Novalis, Kleist, Heine, Aston, and Büchner which are analyzed as literary thought experiments that test ideals of citizenship and offer alternatives.

This volume examines the main thesis that the figure of the good citizen depicts a political ethos that is supposed to form the basis for living together in the state. The study ends in the mid-19th century when the political ideal of virtue loses importance and, instead, the idea of the German citizen who is defined through their adherence to the nation gains popularity.