A clear picture is presented of the connections between individual theoretical positions and the general political conditions of modern Germany. Areas of political history covered in particular depth include nineteenth-century legal and parliamentary history, aspects of German liberalism, Weimar social democracy, political Catholicism, Adenauer and Erhard, Brandt's reforms and the Tendenzwende of the late 1970s. By closely linking intellectual and political history, this work examines how recent German political theory has developed as a set of varying responses to recurring aspects and problems of political life in modern Germany. At the same time, it addresses the philosophical and political implications of the works which it treats, and it critically examines how modern German political theory has contributed to broader attempts to theorize political legitimacy and politics itself.
This book will be of interest to students of political theory, German studies and European political history.
* Exam copies only available to lecturers for whom the book may be suitable as a course text.
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‘This immensely learned and informative study examines in detail the work of four of the leading political theorists in Germany in the 20th Century: Max Weber, Carl Schmitt, Jürgen Habermas, and Niklas Luhmann, along with a briefer treatment of Franz Neumann and Otto Kirchheimer. Thornhill's aim is not only to explain ideas, but also to “illuminate the interrelations between political theory and political event.” He provides a penetrating account of the main themes of each of his chosen authors and situates them carefully in terms of political developments within Germany. The objective might seem to invite a superficial survey, but there is nothing superficial in Thornhill's treatment. He seems to have read everything written by and about his subjects and to know the history of political and economic developments in Germany very thoroughly. The result is an authoritative, stimulating, and quite challenging account of an influential body of work. It is accompanied by a very extensive bibliography, devoted mostly to primary sources. Highly recommended for upper-division undergraduates and above.'
Donald J. Maletz, in: Choice July/August 2000.
Selected for the Choice Outstanding Academic Books list for 2000