Identity creation and the culture of contrition : reconfiguring national identity in the Berlin Republic.
The thesis examines the reconfiguration of concepts of national identity in postunification
Germany in three broad sections. Section one examines the discourse of
identity of neoconservatives and critical thinkers between the 1960s and 1980s.
Neoconservatives advocated a return to conventional national identity based upon the
patriotic identification with indigenous national traditions. Critical thinkers argued for a
post-national Constitutional Patriotism based upon the critical reflection of national
traditions. Both these approaches are located within the context of conflictual attitudes
towards the concepts of "compensation" and "emancipation" in past and present and
towards the experience of the National Socialist past.
Section two examines the reception of unification within the liberal conservative and
neue Rechte milieu. Liberal conservatives sought to synthesise the technocratic
Westernisation of the post-war FRG with a traditional national concept. Neue Rechte
conservatives rejected "Western" values and perceived in the collapse of Communism
the discrediting of both the "utopia" of radical social alternative and also of the
Kleinutopie of civil society. The post-Cold War constellation signified for these thinkers
the opportunity for a return to pre-1945 traditions of German nationalism and offered an
opportunity to relativise the national socialist past.
Finally, section three offers an analysis of the reconfiguration of national identity which
synthesises the concern for "national" identity with the left-liberal concept of "postnational"
identity. The "Westernisation" of the concept of the German nation perceived
positive antecedents in the bourgeois emancipation movements of the pre-national
nineteenth century. The final chapter elaborates the thesis of a "culture of contrition" for
the national socialist past which formulates a radical, "post-national" identity with
emancipatory aspirations. The thesis perceives in this latter discourse of "broken"
identity an attempt to reconfigure a sense of national "normality" in the present which is
predicated upon the acknowledgement of "abnormality" in the past.