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  • Citizenship and National Identity in Twentieth-Century Germany
  • Patryk J. Polec
Eley, Geoff, and Jan Palmowski (eds.) — Citizenship and National Identity in Twentieth-Century Germany. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008. Pp. 304.

The post-1989 political reorganization of central and eastern Europe and the challenges of globalization and migration have prompted scholars to revisit modern German history through the lens of "citizenship." The inception of a European Union citizenship as well as migration and immigration have significantly changed the political, cultural, and economic dynamic of Germany. This has sparked an evaluation of the German citizenship law and its exclusive conception based on the ius sanguinis. Citizenship analysis deconstructs political-legal concepts to determine how identity and citizen rights are defined through public and political debates.

T. H. Marshall's contention that citizenship denotes "the full membership of the human community" has been challenged by sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, and social historians who believe that such a simplified definition does not accurately define the culture of citizenship (pp. 3–5). Most social scientists and historians examine "thin" and "thick" concepts of citizenship. The former is concerned with the legal nature, that is, how interest groups "vie for recognition [End Page 240]before the law for their ability to exercise legal and formal citizenship rights in theory and in practice" (p. 5). The "thick" conceptions focus on the construction of citizenship through "culture." Scholars who view citizenship through this approach are interested in how cultural constructions, communication, and material artifacts define perceptions of citizenship.

Citizenship and National Identity in Twentieth-Century Germanyaddresses questions that are central to the social sciences by breaking down the rigid dividing lines among cultural, political, social, and legal history. Edited by Geoff Eley (University of Michigan) and Jan Palmowski (King's College, London, UK), it is based on papers delivered at the conference "Citizenship and National Identity in Twentieth-Century Germany" in 2004. It constitutes the most important attempt, to date, to consider citizenship as a prime model for deciphering identity in modern German history. Its contributors investigate major themes in Germany's past to demonstrate how, and by whom, citizenship was defined in order to unearth the intricate relationship between citizenship and the nation.

The text is divided into three broad categories that consider both "thin" and "thick" conceptions of citizenship. The first deals with the historical development and construction of the political-legal concepts. Dieter Gosewinkel's comparative examination of France and Germany suggests that demographic, political, and economic conditions forced Germany to define its national community increasingly through culture rather than by place of birth. Peter C. Caldwell and Annemarie Sammartino focus on the Weimar Republic to show that the relationship between individuals and the state was constantly renegotiated to preserve the survival of the Republic. In the final chapter of this section, Jan Palmowski's examination of the German Democratic Republic promotes the argument that socialist citizenship established a feeling of local togetherness, but ultimately failed to solidify an identification between citizens and the state.

The second section explores how citizenship is constructed through Alltagskultur(everyday culture) and how identity and "otherness" are defined. Jennifer Jenkins examines the Wohnkultur(culture of dwelling) through the Werkbundto demonstrate how German identity was fashioned by architecture, home furnishings, and consumption. S. Jonathan Wiesen broadens this perspective by looking at the manufacturing sector during the Third Reich. He argues that company public relations transferred and reinforced Nazi racial ideals by excluding various groups. At the same time, during times of shortages and limited citizenship rights, companies worked against the state by promoting individual consumption and self-gratification instead of placing the Volkabove everything else. Wiesen suggests that companies helped create a sense of individual normality even though they did not hide political and economic realities.

Other important contributions in this section include Thomas Lindenberger's analysis of law enforcement. He argues that cultural codes, police camaraderie, and expectations about the inviolability of the human body defined the protection and the enforcement of citizenship. Cornelie Usborne provides insights on gendered contestations around political rights during the transition from the late Empire to the Weimar Republic. She reflects on how the abortion laws...


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