This chapter seeks to reconstruct and contextualize liberal
internationalism’s creation of an autocratic and militarist German adversary
at the beginning of the twentieth century. Liberal internationalists used
images of less civilized societies and of a militarist German state to
accentuate their own virtues, both British and liberal, and to recollect
liberal beliefs in progress. During the First World War, L. T. Hobhouse and
other intellectuals considerably supported the official propaganda when they
distinguished between a Western and, by definition, liberal civilisation,
led by Britain on the one hand and a backward and militarist Germany on the
other. Like later theorists of Germany’s Sonderweg, its ‘special path’ to
modernity, they identified inflated nationalism as the cause of Germany’s
departure from the Western model.
This volume traces changing images of Germany in the field of International
Relations (IR). Images of countries are mental representations with audio-visual
and narrative dimensions that identify typical or even unique characteristics.
This book focuses on perceptions of Germany from the English-speaking world and
on the role they played in the development of twentieth-century IR theory. When
the discipline originated, liberal internationalists contrasted cooperative
foreign policies with inherently aggressive Prussianism. Early realists
developed their ideas with reference to the German fight against the Treaty of
Versailles. Geopoliticians and German emigre scholars relied on German history
when they translated historical experiences into social-scientific vocabularies.
The book demonstrates that few states have seen their image change as
drastically as Germany during the century. After the Second World War, liberals,
lawyers, and constructivists developed new theories and concepts in view of the
Nuremberg trials, the transformation of the former enemy into an ally of the
West, and Germany’s new commitment to multilateralism. Today, IR theorists
discuss the perplexing nature of ‘civilian power’ Germany – an economic giant
but a military dwarf. Yet the chapters in this volume also show that there has
never been just one image of Germany, but always several standing next to each
other in a sometimes compatible and sometimes contradictory manner.
This chapter pursues three tasks. First, it reviews Germany’s impact on the
history of the twentieth century and discusses influential examples of
scholarly reflection upon Germany. Second, it explains the approach of the
book by outlining the generation of images of nations in IR theory. Images
are mental pictures of an entity that identify typical or even unique
characteristics through audio-visual or narrative representations.
Furthermore, the studied images of Germany are tainted by the interests and
political projects of others. Hence, it suggests that not historical events
themselves but their stylised representation in discourse affect academic
theorising. Finally, it provides an overview of the following chapters.