Helmuth Plessner and The Delayed Nation
Journal of European Studies
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Whaley, J. (2020). Helmuth Plessner and The Delayed Nation. Journal of European Studies, 50 (1), 128-140. https://doi.org/10.1177/0047244119892853
Helmuth Plessner’s The Delayed Nation (Die verspätete Nation) was a key text in the Sonderweg narrative that dominated the writing of German history from the later 1950s to the mid-1980s: the idea that the disaster of the Third Reich and the Holocaust could be explained in terms of Germany’s problematic path to modernity since the Middle Ages. The book had originally been published under a rather prolix title in Zurich in 1935 when Plessner was an émigré in the Netherlands. It made little impact then and only attracted attention from 1959 under a short title which seemed to capture the essence of the emerging left-liberal view of the disastrous course of German history. The more accessible title in reality masked an extremely complex book which did not sit easily with the social history preoccupations of the avantgarde of post-war German historians. Plessner’s history was a narrative of intellectual degeneration that placed philosophy at the heart of the German problem. Plessner’s book can only be fully understand in relation to his own philosophical and political concerns in the 1920s. its impact in the 1960s and after derives almost entirely from its suggestive and eye-catching title.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0047244119892853
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/299001
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