Sie sind hier: FRIAS School of History Veranstaltungen Making Moral Citizens. Democracy, …

Making Moral Citizens. Democracy, Maturity and Authority in Postwar Western Europe

Wann 10.05.2012 um 09:00 bis
11.05.2012 um 19:00
Wo FRIAS Seminarraum, EG, Albertstr. 19
Kontakttelefon +49(0)761/203-97376
Teilnehmer nach Anmeldung
Termin übernehmen vCal

Concept and Organisation: Sonja Levsen, Junior Fellow, and Till van Rahden, External Senior Fellow

Programm (PDF)


The workshop will focus on controversies over how to raise citizens in Europe after World War II. It aims to explore postwar European History in light of larger questions about the inherently fragile nature of democracy as a way of life. Even if struggles over legitimacy in democratic polities have long revolved around the idea of maturity (Mündigkeit), debates on the meaning of maturity and on ways to make mature citizens took on a particular urgency in postwar Western Europe.

After the end of World War II, elites and ordinary citizens in Western Europe reflected intensively on matters of education and childrearing. In these debates, Fascism and Nazism, war and genocide were interpreted as a “rupture with civilization,” a breach that seemed to call into ques-tion if not to invalidate liberal, conservative or socialist conceptions of morality and authority. The cataclysmic violence of the war years challenged any form of moral certainty. As a conse-quence, moral conflicts and dilemmas were at the heart of larger postwar European obsessions of how to establish stable democracies and avoid repeating the political breakdowns of the interwar period.

Utopian fantasies and dystopian fears about the political ramifications of private life have been central to how postwar Western Europeans imagined themselves as citizens. Debates about education, the family, and child-rearing served as key sites to negotiate the relationship between authority and democracy, maturity and delinquency, individual freedom and the common good. They essentially drew on the notion that the fate of postwar European democracies depended on the nurturing of moral sentiments and fostering of moral practices that would enable citizens to take on their role as bearers of democratic legitimacy. Through an analysis of these debates the workshop aims to encourage reflections on why the divide between the realm of politics and the private sphere has been more than usually unstable and contested in postwar Western Europe’s “Velvet Revolution” (Mark Lilla). Childrearing and education as fields in which the state increas-ingly aimed to shape practices often construed as private will be the main focus of the workshop. Against the background of anxieties over the future of the nation and of democracy in the wake of war and genocide, polities in postwar Europe struggled over the meaning and role of morality, responsibility, and maturity as educational goals. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s hopes for a better future that focused on the malleability of children and youth coexisted with concerns over their alleged gullibility. The highest political stakes seemed to ride on the question of how children and youth could and should be made into future democratic citizens. We are less interested in exploring the history of civic education (éducation civique, staatsbürgerliche Erziehung, educazione civica). Instead the workshop invites contributions that explore larger stories of entanglement between democracy as a way of life and concerns about education and child-rearing. It is about the making of moral citizens in the broadest sense.

The workshop aims to foster exchange between specialists in the history of education, child-hood, the family and youth and encourages them to develop comparative and transnational approaches to these questions. With a geographical focus on Western Europe we expect to be able to challenge and refine assumptions about the convergence of European societies, about the extent, limits and reasons of national peculiarities, as well as about frequently invoked notions such as “Americanization,” “Cold War Culture,” or “Youth Rebellion.” We also want to take seriously the idea, articulated by Jeffrey Herf and others, that the post-1945 era saw “multiple restorations”—not only forms of Christian conservatism, but also socialist, social democratic and liberal democratic impulses whose roots were internal to Western Europe.