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.

in Prussians, Nazis and Peaceniks
Changing images of Germany in International Relations

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.

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Changing images of Germany

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.

in Prussians, Nazis and Peaceniks