H-Diplo Roundtable XVII, 2 on The Weimar Century: German Émigrés and the Ideological Foundations of the Cold War

George Fujii Discussion

H-Diplo Roundtable Review
Volume XVII, No. 2 (2015)
28 September 2015

Roundtable Editors:  Thomas Maddux and Diane Labrosse
Roundtable and Web Production Editor:  George Fujii
Commissioned for H-Diplo by Thomas Maddux
Introduction by Samuel Moyn

Udi Greenberg.  The Weimar Century: German Émigrés and the Ideological Foundations of the Cold War.  Princeton, N.J.:  Princeton University Press, 2014.  ISBN:  9781400852390 (hardcover, $35.00/£24.95).

URL:  http://www.tiny.cc/Roundtable-XVII-2


© 2015 The Authors.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Udi Greenberg’s The Weimar Century: German Émigrés and the Ideological Foundations of the Cold War is a compelling exploration that lies at the intersection of transnational intellectual history and Cold-War studies.

The story of European exile intellectuals in the twentieth century has a well-worn historiography to match it. Yet in this terrific first book, Greenberg enters that literature in a genuinely distinctive way by shifting characters towards some who — even if their theories did not have lasting value — were profoundly influential in their time and contributed powerfully to the makings of their own present, and thus our own.

Greenberg’s approach is biographical: each chapter takes up a significant German thinker, shows how his insights drew on his experience under the Weimar Republic, and then puts him in motion to show how he lived through the Nazi period and affected the postwar world. Four of his five émigrés were Jewish by birth (the last, Carl Friedrich, was a Protestant who left Germany when his Heidelberg institute was shuttered); all five drew on their learning in the Weimar era to offer new insights into the stabilization of liberal democracy that proved of great relevance as a Cold War dawned that made the West seem continually embattled and in need of acting to avoid catastrophe. Such figures made the twentieth ‘the Weimar century.’

Friedrich joined Harvard University’s government department, was a major figure in the propagation of the theory of totalitarianism, and thought deeply about the role ‘responsible elites’ would play in maintaining liberal democracy. Ernst Fraenkel had been a labor lawyer under Weimar, and later provided an influential early theory of the Nazi state; after the war, Greenberg shows him going to Korea, where his Weimar-inspired animus towards the communist left and theory of ‘collective democracy’ was filtered into what was already an ideological battleground. Waldemar Gurian, who had been born a Russian Jew but became one of the most influential twentieth century Catholic publicists, joined in the interwar elaboration of a new kind of Catholic political vision that made it compatible with liberal democracy, and made the United States a powerful model of how to organize a moral society, with obvious ramifications for the emerging contest with the Soviet Union (about which Gurian penned one of the earliest influential analyses). Karl Loewenstein, meanwhile, responded to Weimar’s collapse by inventing a theory of ‘militant democracy,’ according which it is justifiable to abridge the liberties of staunch enemies of liberty. He saw the theory deployed in Latin America in chilling ways and, later, in defense of West Germany’s suppression of its communist party. But Greenberg’s protagonists were not simple apologists for Cold-War America’s violence. He stresses that his last figure, Hans Morgenthau, turned his ‘realism’ to the critique of the Vietnam war, even if most of those who felt the same way hardly had Morgenthau’s Weimar roots. As Greenberg notes, Morgenthau’s opposition is in retrospect resonant as “the high point of the German-American symbiosis and the moment of its crisis” (255).

Stellar individual biographies on their own, the chapters of the book add up to far more than the sum of their parts. As the cases of several of his protagonists demonstrate, the focus of The Weimar Century falls not just on Europe for its own sake but on that continent and the wider world. In this respect, the main and most interesting theme in the book is not how to explain the Weimar and non-German sources of the post-World War II democratization and stabilization in the Federal Republic. Rather, it is how the intellectual and political influence went the other direction — mainly in providing ideas and energy for the American Cold War and in geographical expanses that reached far away. This book, in a new era of transnational intellectual and political history, thus vindicates widespread demands that traffic across large geographical spaces be studied in multiple directions.

Remarkably, all six of the H-Diplo reviewers celebrate its achievements, while noting important paths of future research which Greenberg has opened.

Alexander Vazansky credits Greenberg with a synthetic triumph, since the different lives in each chapter, even if studied before independently by prior scholars, take on a new cast when read serially and viewed as a unity of experience across a generation. Joshua Derman makes a series of pertinent comments on Greenberg’s argument, remarking that the brilliant legal theorist Carl Schmitt’s role in the thought of nearly all of the figures in The Weimar Century provides another aperture on their relationships. Derman also offers the corrective argument that at least some aspects of what the figures found to be of value long preexisted 1919, and so may not have depended so fully on the Weimar experience as Greenberg suggests.

James Chappel interestingly meditates on how émigré scholarship has shifted so far away from the study of critics and philosophers who were peripheral in their own day — epitomized by the Frankfurt school writer Walter Benjamin — so as to explain real outcomes, as if prior scholars were so preoccupied with émigrés challenging the system that they forgot émigrés had help set it up (Chappel plausibly worries that scholars today may have gone too far in the other direction). He also calls for more attention to economic factors, since the rise of Cold-War Atlanticism was hardly a mere victory of commitments to formal democracy.

Nicolaas Barr Clingan welcomes the clearheaded appreciation in the book of the debatable ends to which German theories were put in Cold-War circumstances, mostly with full participation of their originators, while also calling for even more skeptical interrogation of the kind of ‘democracy’ that Greenberg’s protagonists endorsed, anxious as they typically were about mass politics. In another sterling chapter-by-chapter analysis of Greenberg’s success, Paul Petschmann also asks whether the protagonists of The Weimar Century had such ambivalent and insubstantial a commitment to ‘democracy’ that it is not clear whether any novel principles beyond opportunism guided their invocations of the term. 

Finally, Daniel Bessner’s thorough overview of Greenberg’s achievement helps situate it in the literature, concluding with the arresting observation that, in terms of actual policy effects, émigrés had their largest or at least most immediate impact precisely as the Vietnam war waned and after; Henry Kissinger’s role as diplomatic sage since suggests that Weimar’s legacy did not simply peter out.


Udi Greenberg is an Associate Professor of international and European history at Dartmouth College. He is the author of The Weimar Century: German Émigrés and the Ideological Foundations of the Cold War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014). He is currently working on the role of Christian networks (both Catholic and Protestant) in shaping international politics in the mid twentieth century, especially European integration and decolonization.

Samuel Moyn teaches law and history at Harvard University. He received a doctorate in modern European history from the University of California-Berkeley in 2000 and a law degree from Harvard University in 2001. He spent thirteen years in the Columbia University history department, where he was most recently James Bryce Professor of European Legal History. He has written several books in his fields of European intellectual history and human rights history, including The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (Harvard University Press, 2010), and edited or coedited a number of others. His new book, based on Mellon Distinguished Lectures at the University of Pennsylvania in fall 2014, is Christian Human Rights (2015). He is editor of the interdisciplinary journal Humanity and coeditor of Modern Intellectual History.

Daniel Bessner is Assistant Professor in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. He received his Ph.D. in History from Duke University in 2013, and spent the 2013-2014 academic year as a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University’s Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies. His book manuscript, provisionally entitled Democracy in Exile: Hans Speier and the Rise of the Defense Intellectual, is under contract with the United States in the World series at Cornell University Press. His articles have appeared in the Intellectual History Review, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Religions, Armed Forces & Society, and Terrorism and Political Violence. In 2014, the International Society for Intellectual History awarded him the Charles Schmitt Prize for Best Article by a young historian for an essay on Murray Rothbard and modern libertarianism.

James Chappel is an Assistant Professor of history at Duke University. He received his Ph.D. in European History from Columbia in 2012, and was a member of the Society of Fellows at the University of Chicago. His research on Catholicism and twentieth-century European politics has appeared in numerous scholarly journals, and he has a forthcoming monograph on the subject from Harvard University Press.

Nicolaas P. Barr Clingan is a Lecturer in History and the Comparative History of Ideas Program at the University of Washington. He received his Ph.D. in History from the University of California at Berkeley. His book manuscript explores the intellectual reception of the Frankfurt School and Critical Theory in the Netherlands since the 1930s. He is an editor at H-Low Countries.

Joshua Derman is Assistant Professor of humanities at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He received his Ph.D. in modern European history from Princeton University, and his A.B. in philosophy from Harvard University. Prior to joining HKUST, he was a Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. His first book, Max Weber in Politics and Social Thought: From Charisma to Canonization (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), is a comprehensive history of Weber’s early impact in Germany and the United States.

Paul Petzschmann is Lecturer of European Studies at Carleton College. He received his D.Phil from Oxford University and his research interests are in the history of modern political thought and political theory. Recent publications include "The most important laboratory"? German and American Responses to Nazi administrative Policy," Public Administration, March 2014; "Renewal as Fate: Roots of Realism in the Shadow of Weimar Politics," in Felix Roesch (ed.), Émigré Scholars and the Genesis of International Relations (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

Alexander Vazansky received his PhD from the Ruprecht-Karls-Universitat, Heidelberg and is an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  His publications include Co-editor with Marco Abel, “What Was Politics in ‘1968’?” Special issue of The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics and Culture, v. 7, no. 2 (December 2014); “Army in Anguish: The United States Army, Europe, in the Early 1970s,” in Detlef Junker and Thomas Maulucci, eds., GIs in Germany: The Social, Economic, Military, and Political History of the American Military Presence. Cambridge University Press (Cambridge University Press, August 2013); Co-author with Stefan L. Brandt, “American Cultural ImagiNation: The New Americanists and the Bush Revolution” in Birte Christ et al., eds., American Studies: Shifting Gears, (Heidelberg: Winter Verlag, 2010); and “Civil Rights und Black Power in Rheinland-Pfalz,” in Werner Kremp, ed., Amerikaner in Rheinland-Pfalz: Alltagskulturelle Begegnungen (Trier: WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2009).


The exiles who fled National Socialist Germany for the United States in the 1930s have fascinated scholars for decades. In manifold books, writers including Laura Fermi, H. Stuart Hughes, Anthony Heilbut, Lewis Coser, and Jean-Michel Palmier have examined this remarkable cohort.[1] Indeed, several of the most prominent—and well-studied—intellectuals of the twentieth century were German exiles, including the Marxist scholars collectively known as the Frankfurt School, Hannah Arendt, Leo Strauss, and, of course, Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger.[2] In recent years, other émigrés on their way to the intellectual pantheon, such as Albert Hirschman and Hans Morgenthau, as well as less well-known figures, such as Hans Speier, have received biographical treatment.[3] In writing a book intended to shed new light on the history of the exiles, Udi Greenberg set himself a formidable task, which he admirably and adroitly accomplished.

In The Weimar Century, Greenberg, a specialist in European intellectual history, shows that a number of émigrés played a significant role in reshaping U.S and West-German politics, culture, and foreign policy from the 1930s onward. By demonstrating that the émigrés’ “ideas, politics, and institutional connections stood at the heart of the postwar Atlantic order,” he highlights the importance of transnational intellectual history to subjects that have traditionally been the reserve of diplomatic, political, economic, social, and cultural historians (3). Greenberg focuses on five particularly prominent individuals who have mostly escaped the attention of English-language historians: Carl J. Friedrich, a Protestant political theorist who transformed American and West-German higher education; Ernst Fraenkel, a social democratic lawyer who influenced the South Korean Constitution and West German socialism; Waldemar Gurian, a Catholic theorist who helped convince West-German Catholics to support democracy and the U.S.-led Western alliance; Karl Loewenstein, a liberal lawyer whose program of ‘militant democracy’ shaped U.S. foreign and West German domestic policy and law; and Hans Morgenthau, an international-relations theorist who inspired policymakers and intellectuals alike to question the Vietnam War. Though they did so in different ways, these exiles “were all crucial architects of both democratization and anti-Communist mobilization” in the United States, West Germany, and elsewhere (3).

Greenberg astutely chose the émigrés he examines. Each represents a specific pro-democratic German constituency. Friedrich exemplifies Protestants; Fraenkel, social democrats; Gurian, conservative Catholics; Loewenstein, liberals; and Morgenthau—perhaps here a bit of an outlier—international-relations ‘realists.’ In Greenberg’s narrative, these scholars all developed ideas during the Weimar Republic that only exerted significant influence after their emigration and association with prominent American institutions. It is this process, Greenberg argues, that makes it possible to refer to the twentieth century’s second half as ‘the Weimar century.’ In so doing, he emphasizes the critical point that, to understand the Cold War’s origins, institutions, and policies, historians must adopt transwar and transnational perspectives. Or, as Greenberg puts it, Cold War politics was “not only … a projection of American power but also” the result of “the absorption and revival of European ideas and traditions” (23-24).

Perhaps the book’s most significant claim, with which I am in full agreement, is its argument that to understand the émigrés’ trajectories, one needs to study their opinions about democracy. The exiles’ democratic theory, which emerged from their experience witnessing Weimar’s collapse, underscored that democracy was “continually subject to domestic and foreign threat” (16). Without “constant mobilization and innovative defense mechanisms,” they warned, democracy might fall prey to its enemies as it had in Germany (16). In this intellectual framework, “democracy and anti-Communist mobilization were not antithetical to each other but were, in fact, complementary processes” (22). It was this notion that engendered anti-democratic behaviors, such as Loewenstein’s internment of thousands of innocent civilians living in Latin America during World War II, which we today find repugnant. Tragically, to defend democracy after the trauma of Weimar, Loewenstein and other exiles violated several of its most cherished norms.

Carl Friedrich was convinced that “democracy was dependent on ‘responsible’ elites” and dedicated his life to creating institutions to train these elites (26). Before leaving Germany for Harvard in 1926, for example, Friedrich established the German Academic Exchange Service, which aimed to produce a transnational democratic elite. In exile, he founded Harvard’s Graduate School of Public Administration (1935) and the Harvard School of Overseas Administration (1942) to train bureaucrats and future occupation officials respectively. Friedrich based the latter two institutions on Heidelberg University’s Institute for the Social and State Sciences, which had sought “to build a triangular nexus of state, academia, and philanthropy” (45). The U.S. occupation of Germany provided Friedrich with the opportunity to institutionalize the organizational relationships he deemed critical to establishing democracy in his former homeland. Greenberg highlights how, “with massive American support,” Friedrich made “the long-standing collaboration of state-philanthropy-academia … the blueprint for German higher education” (57). As in all the cases examined in The Weimar Century, Friedrich’s story reveals how failed Weimar dreams transformed into postwar realities as exiles worked with and through U.S. institutions.

Ernst Fraenkel offered two arguments in the 1920s that forever defined his thought. First, he asserted that the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) must reject orthodox Marxism and engage in “cross-class cooperation” with middle-class parties (88). Second, he maintained that “collectives [such as classes, religious groups, ethnic groups, etc.], not individuals, were the primary units of democratic political action” (88). The first idea influenced postwar German politics, while the second shaped South Korea’s Constitution. Soon after migrating to the United States in 1939, Fraenkel made his American reputation as the author of The Dual State, an analysis of Nazi governance.[4] During the war, he joined the Office of Strategic Services before being recruited to serve in the Korean occupation. Impressed with his “anti-Nazi and anti-Soviet credentials,” as well as his “legal knowledge and familiarity with international politics,” U.S. officials asked Fraenkel to supervise the Constitution’s drafting (106). Fraenkel ensured that the Korean Constitution reflected his collective understanding of democracy by having it explicitly protect group rights, such as the right to bargain collectively. Upon completing his duties in Korea, Fraenkel returned to West Germany in 1951 and became a prominent voice in socialist politics. As he had in Weimar, Fraenkel implored his fellow socialists to embrace a cross-class program, though he also began to argue that they must ally themselves with the U.S.-led western alliance. Though many social democrats initially took a strong stand against the emerging Cold War order, through speeches and writings Fraenkel helped convince the SPD to reject orthodox Marxism and embrace the alliance, which socialists did when they released the 1959 Godesberg Program.

In the Weimar Republic, Waldemar Gurian distinguished himself from his Catholic intellectual peers by asserting that only “the pluralist nature of the parliamentary system” could ensure Catholic autonomy in an era of extreme nationalism and communism (134). After fleeing to Switzerland in 1934, Gurian made his international reputation as the author of Bolshevism as World Menace. In this book, he argued that Nazism and Bolshevism were essentially identical “totalitarian” movements that desired “to fully politicize human life and eliminate all competing sources of authority beyond the state” (140). Under totalitarian regimes, Gurian feared, devout Catholics would have no freedom of religion. Gurian was also gravely concerned that totalitarian governments “continually expanded by exploiting [their] enemies’ spiritual weaknesses from within” (141). Democracies were thus constantly subject to a dangerous subversion that had the potential to infiltrate and destroy the entire parliamentary system upon which modern Catholicism relied.

In 1937, Gurian accepted a position at Notre Dame, where he promoted his perspective in writings and speeches. Indeed, by the end of World War II, Gurian’s opinions “had become the consensus of the Catholic camp in exile” (150). After the war, Gurian allied with the Rockefeller Foundation to fund Catholic speakers, publications, and cultural events that spread his message throughout West Germany. His work was particularly influential on the Catholic-Protestant Christian Democratic Union, whose pro-American, pro-republican, anti-secular, and anti-communist program mirrored Gurian’s almost exactly. Moreover, his ideas about totalitarianism, specifically the ease with which democracy could succumb to it, proved critical to the nascent U.S. field of Soviet Studies.

Unlike many of his liberal contemporaries, in the 1920s Karl Loewenstein asserted that “the rights liberals cherished depended on loyalty to the democratic state” and maintained that democratic governments had the “duty to deny the freedoms of speech and political organization to anyone who threatened these rights” (170). Soon after Hitler came to power in 1933, Loewenstein fled Germany for Yale, where he continued to argue in favor of what he termed ‘militant democracy.’ (When World War II erupted, he became Special Assistant to the U.S. Attorney General. In this position, he was responsible for the Emergency Advisory Committee for Political Defense of the American Republics (CPD), a group charged with “coordinating domestic measures against potential Axis enemies” in Latin America (189). Loewenstein, fearing anti-democratic subversion, used his position to pursue “the mass internment and deportation of civilian populations,” primarily those of German, Italian, and Japanese descent (191). With CPD supervision, Latin American police officials raided communities in Cuba, Paraguay, Chile, Brazil and twelve other Latin American countries. They detained thousands of individuals whom government officials suspected of anti-war sentiments and then deported them to Asia or Europe. Throughout the war, CPD agents traveled across the region to assist Latin American officials with these arrests. Using research conducted by local U.S. embassies and by Loewenstein in Washington, the CPD compiled lists of ‘potentially dangerous’ individuals and often participated in their interrogations. (192)

Eventually, this project “gave birth to an ambitious program of mutual defense: the erection of a hemispheric network of concentration camps” (193).

Loewenstein’s theory of militant democracy also affected postwar Germany. Through his speeches, writings, and consultancies, Loewenstein successfully promoted his program amongst German intellectuals, jurists, and politicians. Thus, the 1949 West German Basic Law “preemptively denied [certain] rights,” such as the freedom of speech and association, “to the republic’s domestic and foreign enemies” (205); in 1952, the West German Supreme Court banned the neo-Nazi Socialist Reich Party; and in 1956, it outlawed the Communist Party. In the latter case, the court even used the language of militant democracy to justify its ruling. Partially as a result of Loewenstein’s efforts, by the mid-1950s Germans across the political spectrum embraced the notion that democracy must be preemptively militant if it were to survive the potential onslaught of anti-republican forces.

Most diplomatic and international historians will be familiar with Hans Morgenthau, the final figure Greenberg examines. Morgenthau immigrated to the United States in 1937, and after World War II began promoting “a form of ‘realist’ diplomacy, which would focus on the United States’ ‘national interests’” (227). At that moment, he believed the nation’s major interest was to ensure “a balance of power in Europe and East Asia” (228). Morgenthau famously expressed his realist perspective in his 1948 Politics among Nations, which quickly became an academic classic.[5] By the late 1940s, his reputation had expanded to the point that U.S. officials, most notably George Kennan, sometimes asked him for guidance. As the result of his writings and advice, Morgenthau’s realist framework began to inform U.S. foreign policy and the worldviews of those who made and thought about it.

Over the course of the 1950s, though, Morgenthau became progressively disillusioned with U.S. decision-makers, whom he felt disregarded the thrust of his realism. His disenchantment with the U.S. elite manifested itself in his early critique of American military involvement in Southeast Asia. Beginning in the 1950s, Morgenthau publicly lambasted U.S. actions in Vietnam for four primary reasons. First, he believed the Ngô Đình Diệm regime was corrupt. Second, he did not consider the defense of Vietnam to be a core U.S. national interest. Third, he critiqued the intervention as a manifestation of the American belief that military force could solve political problems. Finally, he averred that the war reflected U.S. elites’ incorrect conviction that “every challenge” to U.S. power was “the manifestation of a global Communist conspiracy” (241). Morgenthau disseminated his perspective in writings, speeches, and, most memorably, a televised 1965 debate with McGeorge Bundy. Greenberg shows how Morgenthau’s ideas, which were couched in the increasingly dominant intellectual framework of realism, provided both circumspect elites and the nascent student protest movement with “the language to articulate [their] own frustration” with Vietnam (253).

As this review indicates, The Weimar Century is a tour de force of transnational intellectual history that effortlessly incorporates the histories of diverse world regions. Its few lacunae are less the result of any oversights by Greenberg and more an indication of his chosen topic’s richness. There are several issues in particular that I would like to see future historians address. First, what role did ethnicity and religious background play in the lives of some of the figures examined? Three of the émigrés Greenberg studies (Fraenkel, Loewenstein, and Morgenthau) identified as Jews and another (Gurian) converted from Judaism to Catholicism in his youth. Did their Jewish background influence the émigrés’ thought and careers, and if so, how? Second, though Greenberg rightly notes that the student protest movements in the United States and West Germany rejected the Weltanschauungen of the exiles in the 1960s, it is nevertheless true that two émigrés—Henry Kissinger and Secretary of State Zbigniew Brzezinski —ascended to the most influential U.S. foreign policymaking positions in the 1970s.[6] Did the earlier generation of émigrés create the cultural and institutional conditions that enabled two younger exiles like Kissinger and Brzezinski to enjoy such success in the United States? Finally, I am curious to know how American-born intellectuals’ theories of democracy both complemented and departed from those of the exiles. In what ways did the divergent historical experiences of the émigrés and their U.S. colleagues inform the thought of both groups? Did theoretical differences affect transatlantic encounters?

These minor questions take nothing away from what is a brilliant and accomplished book. As a whole, The Weimar Century suggests that diplomatic and international historians have much to gain from continuing to incorporate the scope, methods, and frameworks of intellectual history into their work. A variety of audiences will be interested in this book. In addition to historians of the U.S. experience in World War II and the Cold War, those concerned with the Weimar Republic, transatlantic exchanges, exile, Latin America during World War II, German and Korean reconstruction, and manifold other topics will have much to learn from The Weimar Century. It is also written in a style accessible to advanced undergraduate and graduate students. In sum, The Weimar Century is an excellent addition to the library of any scholar or student of the many subjects it eloquently illuminates.


Udi Greenberg’s The Weimar Century is a landmark text in the intellectual and diplomatic history of the twentieth-century Atlantic world. Greenberg marries impressive intellectual sophistication and subtlety with painstaking archival labor. The results provide a fresh and provocative take on the hidden intellectual legacy of the Weimar Republic. We normally think of Weimar as the crucible for ‘reactionary modernism’ and a welter of obscure, tantalizingly transgressive currents of mystical thinking. The dark prognostications of philosopher Martin Heidegger and legal theorist Carl Schmitt, both of whom became Nazis, seem to represent Weimar better than the rationalism of the neo-Kantian philosopher Ernst Cassirer, or the constitutionalism of the lawyer and politician Hugo Preuss. Greenberg reminds us that Weimar was a democratic experiment, both in the sense that it featured a robust democratic constitution and that its intellectual culture was far from uniform. Many Weimar intellectuals, although not the best remembered of them, were committed to some form of democracy. While they may have been doomed at the time, it turned out that after World War II, with the help of the Americans, they were able to emerge triumphant.

The idea that German democratic traditions were revived after the war is not a new one, of course, even if recent scholars have been far more interested in Weimar than in the longstanding, putative tradition of Goethe.[7] Greenberg’s innovation, in my view, is to combine trans-national and trans-war accounts with the methodologies of intellectual and diplomatic history. This allows us to see that the kinds of democratic ideas nourished in Weimar, and coming to fruition in the Cold War, were idiosyncratic and in some ways bizarrely anti-democratic; their triumph, in turn, was rooted more in powerful institutional support than in the inherent plausibility or attractiveness of the ideas themselves. The end result nuances our portrait of Cold War liberalism: an immensely powerful constellation of intellectual and military firepower that is only beginning to receive its historical due.

Cold War liberalism had many guises, of course. Raymond Aron, Karl Popper, and Isaiah Berlin differed dramatically from one another, and all of them had issues with the ‘neoliberal’ turn of German and Austrian economists. The Weimar Century traces one particularly vital form of liberalism’s rebirth, which was nourished in the unfriendly soil of the Weimar Republic. The book is organized biographically, with each chapter dedicated to one intellectual: Carl Friedrich, Ernst Fraenkel, Waldemar Gurian, Karl Loewenstein, and Hans Morgenthau. Each of these five figures spent part of the interwar years in the United States. Some, like Friedrich, chose to cross the Atlantic in the 1920s while others, like Gurian, were forced out of Europe in the late 1930s. Their combination of cosmopolitan sophistication and passionate anti-Communism may have been useless in the 1930s, but as the geopolitical stars realigned in the mid-1940s and America began to cast the world in its own image, they became extraordinary powerful.

Greenberg’s émigrés were central to the ideological apparatus of the Cold War as it developed in both West Germany and America. In West Germany, they bore much of the burden of interpreting the new American hegemon, a divided Germany, and a new constitution for a skeptical German audience. He deftly places his five figures at the heart of the multi-pronged democratization efforts of the Americans—both the government and the well-funded foundations that supported its mission. His protagonists, already prominent enough in Weimar, were inescapable after the war, mobilizing America’s immense cultural power and their own prodigious networking skills in the service of a democratic conquest of the West German public sphere. The Americans benefited from their skills, too. With consummate intellectual and archival dexterity, Greenberg follows his protagonists through the shadowy networks and brightly lit conference rooms of American security apparatus. The émigrés provided inestimable theoretical and scientific sophistication, Greenberg explains, to a military juggernaut that was not quite prepared for the tasks of global governance that suddenly appeared on its plate. On American soil, they were central to Sovietology and international relations—two cornerstones of the rapidly expanding edifice of social-scientific knowledge production. Fraenkel and Loewenstein, in particular, were central to the Americans’ global mission, too. They gave on-the-ground guidance in Latin America and South Korea, where they proved particularly important in making the ‘tough’ decisions—notably the rounding up of political prisoners and the violent repression of Communism.

The Weimar Century shows that the international history of the early Cold War must reckon with intellectual history: Sovietology, international relations, constitutionalism, and academic exchange programs, some of the lynchpins of American ‘Grand Strategy,’ have complex, transnational intellectual histories and were not merely generated by the dictates of Realpolitik. Moreover, their development only makes sense once we adopt a transnational frame and realize that the Cold War security state offered extraordinary opportunities for foreigners, whose skills and ideas were seamlessly integrated into a project that was global in conception as well as reach. There are some areas of tension in the project, however, and I will organize my more questioning remarks around two themes: first, the nature of intellectual history, and secondly, the actual substance of Greenberg’s argument about the reconstruction of democracy in the mid-twentieth century. To ground my remarks, I will analyze The Weimar Century alongside two classics of trans-Atlantic history.

As for intellectual history, one book that came to mind repeatedly when reading The Weimar Century was the first book of another talented intellectual historian: Martin Jay’s account of the Frankfurt School, The Dialectical Imagination (1973).[8] The topics are quite similar: Atlantic stories of German Jews, intellectually rooted in Weimar Germany and coming to prominence in Cold War America. In some ways, Greenberg is a historian very much in Jay’s mold, more concerned with grasping a thinker’s fundamental insights in highly conceptual ways than with digging deeply into particular texts. Both scholars, too, are highly alive to the institutional (and financial) contexts of intellectual exploration. The similarities, though, largely end there, and I wonder what that means for intellectual history as an enterprise, insofar as Jay largely defined, for decades, what it means to do intellectual history in the United States. Jay was concerned about the development of ideas, to be sure, but not so much with their actual traction in economic or political institutions. Greenberg is part of a broader turn by intellectual historians towards, for lack of a better word, power. The figures that excited Jay—Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse—are absent in Greenberg’s work, even though they too were fantastically influential and often Jewish émigrés who made postwar forays back to Germany (only Marcuse briefly appears in The Weimar Century). There is no reason that Greenberg necessarily should discuss them, but their absence is still startling. A reader of Greenberg’s book with no prior knowledge would be unaware that a different constellation of émigrés provided intellectual sustenance to the politico-sexual experimentation of the New Left.

The question that arises is whether intellectual historians, in attempting to speak to diplomatic or political historians, find themselves more in the company of intellectual entrepreneurs than intellectual trailblazers. Martin Jay’s version of intellectual history aimed to provide resources for thinking about the present, exposing his readers to critical and inspiring ideas, primarily on the left. For all of the potential pitfalls of such a project, memorably referred to by competing intellectual historian Dominick LaCapra as a “cultural sun tan,” the benefits were enormous, too.[9] Can intellectual historians hold onto that legacy while simultaneously taking a turn towards power and institutions? In Greenberg’s terms, must “The Weimar Century” denote anti-Communism and Cold War paranoia rather than political or cultural liberation, another feature of the age of extremes?

As for the substantive argument of Greenberg’s book, another classic comes to mind, and it too opens up questions: Daniel Rodgers’s Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age (1998).[10] Like Greenberg, Rodgers, an eminent American historian, is concerned with ideas and intellectuals that crossed the Atlantic Ocean and embedded themselves at the heart of powerful institutions in Europe and America alike (Rodgers looks at a slightly earlier period, roughly 1880-1940). And yet here too Greenberg travels a significantly different path. This brings both benefits and drawbacks, two of which I’ll explore with reference to Waldemar Gurian, Greenberg’s Catholic example and the only one on whom I can claim any expertise.

First, while Rodgers moves chronologically, Greenberg structures his iterative narrative around intellectual and institutional biography, so the reader traverses the same temporal ground five times in the course of the book (each chapter follows one figure from Weimar to the Cold War, beginning in Germany and ending in the transatlantic intellectual-institutional space opened up by postwar reconstruction). The potential connections between the émigrés in question therefore escape the reader’s view: we never hear about the ‘Weimar period,’ as such, but about five different Weimars. Is it simply a coincidence, for instance, that figures like Loewenstein, Friedrich, and Gurian were all trying to imagine forms of democracy that would sidestep the general will and the redistributive state in the name of subsidiary groups? Or were all of them, instead, taking part in transnational conversations, involving the French and British as well as the Americans, about the possibilities for merging democracy with rule by rational elites—the story that Rodgers and Charles Maier have told so indelibly?[11] Is it a coincidence that four of his figures—the same four who spent the most time in Germany—were Jewish? Other historians have plausibly focused on the Jewish contribution to liberalism’s revival. Greenberg does not explicitly reject this notion, but the iterative nature of his analysis allows it to escape analysis.

The narrowing of Gurian, for instance, into a German-American framework might obscure his true intellectual profile. He was already a cosmopolitan figure in the 1920s. A Russian Jewish convert, he spent much of the decade in France, interviewing Catholic industrialists and learning from Jacques Maritain; he found a most kindred spirit with the Austrian Johannes Messner, publishing scathing essays about Catholic social science in his Viennese journal; he lived for years in Switzerland, working with the Swiss-German publisher Carl Doka and thinking about Catholic-Jewish relations with the Austrian Jewish convert, Johannes Oesterreicher. It seems misleading, therefore, to portray Gurian as a primarily German-American figure, given his profound connections to the Catholic continent. It is true that he was primarily a figure of the Catholic milieu, but he argued that Catholics had to dialogue more freely with non-Catholic intellectuals, which he tried to do so himself through his encounters with figures like Karl Mannheim.

At the same time, a reading of Gurian that focuses on that most American of themes—democracy—is somewhat misleading, too. This is the second major difference between Greenberg’s book and Rodgers’s, which focuses on issues of welfare and capitalism more than on democracy. Democracy as a political form—the desirability of universal suffrage, the necessity of civil rights—was not the primary concern to the social scientists and experts who plied Rodgers’s Atlantic. Did it matter to Greenberg’s figures? Did they, in other words, decide that the issue of political democracy was paramount? In Gurian’s case, at least, I think that the answer must be in the negative. The transnational Catholic debates that Gurian participated in were not, after all, primarily about ‘democracy.’ Greenberg’s strange claim that Catholics accepted democracy only in Germany (123) makes Gurian seem like a lonely pioneer. In reality, democracy was accepted by many European Catholics: healthy Catholic parties existed in Ireland, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and Austria. This was not the result of a spate of pro-democratic writings, however. Catholics in these places had participated in parliamentary life for decades, and Catholic writers were almost universally supportive of the dogma of Catholic accidentalism, according to which the Church can coexist with any political regime.

Like most Catholic intellectuals, the Gurian of the 1920s and 1930s had little to say about democracy. Insofar as he tackled it at all, as he did in his 1939 address to the American Catholic Historical Association, he was concerned primarily to argue that the secularism and relativism of modern democracies made them inherently unstable and unable to resist the threat of totalitarianism. He did, however, write at length about the bourgeoisie and the ‘capitalist entrepreneur,’ and he was more at home with sociologists like Franz Müller or Theodor Brauer than he was with the more committed Center Party stalwarts like Peter Tischleder who assiduously translated the Weimar constitution into Catholic theological language. He was not outwardly opposed to democracy, but he did believe that his Catholic faith could not be linked with any particular political form: the problem with Charles Maurras, Gurian contended, was not at all his monarchism, but his desire to connect monarchism to the Catholic faith. Gurian, that is, fits neatly into a transnational conversation about the nature and trajectory of capitalist modernity and the welfare state, but less well into a trans-Atlantic conversation about democracy.

It might be, then, that Greenberg’s emphasis on the German-American story and his neglect of social-economic themes keeps him from contributing as much as he could to the broader narrative of what we might call, following Maier, ‘the recasting of the bourgeois Atlantic.’ He rightly makes a great deal of his figures’ furious anti-Communism, but is it obvious that the antonym to Communism is ‘democracy’ instead of ‘capitalism’ (or, indeed, socialism)? Marcuse and Adorno were anti-Soviet without becoming Cold War liberals, after all. With the possible exception of Fraenkel, however, Greenberg’s subjects seemed to believe that the devilish problems of social order and personal freedom could be resolved without fundamentally disrupting established economic relations. How were the political ideals of Greenberg’s subjects, and of Cold War liberalism more broadly, related, either conceptually or institutionally, to the consolidation of welfare capitalism after the war? In what ways do their stories illuminate a trans-war continuity, not only in political theory, but also in political economy? Greenberg only hints at the answers to these questions, which courts the risk of accepting a division between politics and economics that is central to some forms of liberalism, including some that he studies, but need not guide us as historians. 

As a whole, though, The Weimar Century is a great success, and Greenberg has adroitly shown that a generation of German émigrés was instrumental to both the reconstruction of West German democracy and the global re-imagination of America’s role after World War II. The story has much to teach intellectual and diplomatic historians as well as anyone interested in the state of democratic politics today. Although Greenberg does not pursue this thread, there is something eerily prescient about his protagonists’ belief in militant, military, and elitist democracies, and he helps us to understand the ways in which the genuine assaults on democracy experienced in Weimar produced a paranoid democratic politics that survive into times and places where popular governance and civil liberties are reasonably well-protected. His figures might, that is, help us to understand a ‘zombie politics’ to match the “zombie economics” diagnosed by economist John Quiggins.[12] Historians are well-placed to answer the deceptively simple question, ‘Which century do we live in?’ It might be, Greenberg suggests, that we live in the Weimar Century—and that it has not yet run its course.


We Democrats

In a February 2015 op-ed in the New York Times about the repayment demands of Greece’s creditors, the economist Paul Krugman criticized the selective use of the Weimar Republic as a “supposedly object lesson in the dangers of budget deficits and monetary expansion.” For many austerity-minded European figures, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that lesson has to do with the risk of inflation and the need for disciplined leadership. For Krugman, however, the operative parallel for understanding the prospects of today’s “Weimar on the Aegean” is not inflation, but rather the destabilizing effects—both economic and political—of the Allies’ punitive reparations demands under the Treaty of Versailles. Versailles, he writes, “crippled German democracy.” Significantly, Krugman concluded that the rest of contemporary Europe’s political and financial bodies should recognize the legitimacy of then-newly elected Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) party, “whose leaders are, from everything I’ve heard, sincerely committed to democratic ideals.”[13]

As Krugman’s column demonstrates, the Weimar Republic remains an historical site onto which conflicting meanings of democracy—as a set of institutions, values, allegiances, and potentially exclusionary limits—are projected and mobilized. In his masterful book, Udi Greenberg accomplishes a major reassessment of the period’s significance for understanding Cold-War ideology and challenges the traditional image of the Weimar Republic as a “democracy without democrats” (14). Using the diverse cases of five highly influential but largely unrecognized intellectuals, he explores the crucial legacies of their Weimar-era democratic projects for the making of the post-WWII world. Their visions, Greenberg reveals, shaped not only postwar German reconstruction, but also, through their powerful roles in the American pursuit of hegemony in the early Cold War, political and military developments across the globe. These transnational impacts, however, often had tragic consequences, because the militant anti-communism that grounded most of these figures’ visions rendered their projects inflexible and restrictive. Insofar as the “American Century” was also the “Weimar Century” (24), the contours of these intellectuals’ visions of democracy had far-reaching political and ideological effects. In this review, I argue that Greenberg’s historical analysis opens a new lens for understanding the limits of contemporary ‘democratic’ policies and suggest that these limits might be elaborated through further critical discussion of the conceptual paradoxes he uncovers at the roots of these Weimar projects.

To begin, however, I will highlight some of the major themes and historiographical achievements of this work. In five chapters examining a diverse set of intellectuals—the Calvinist Carl J. Friedrich, the Socialist Ernst Fraenkel, the Catholic Waldemar Gurian, the liberal Karl Loewenstein, and the theorist of ‘realism’ Hans Morgenthau—Greenberg demonstrates the sense of political mission that guided anti-communist democrats in their battles against the extreme left and right in the Weimar Republic, their contributions to the war effort as émigrés in the United States (U.S.), their roles as experts and authority figures in postwar reconstruction projects, and their impact on U.S. Cold-War ideology. Each chapter describes its protagonist’s confrontation with mass political movements and the dangers that these movements posed to Germany’s first democracy. Crucially, the German Communists’ attempts to use both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary means to undermine the republic contributed profoundly to these figures’ fear of democracy’s internal enemies. Democratic institutions had to be defended, even by restricting the rights of individuals and parties deemed to be threats. The fact that the Communists were themselves persecuted by the Nazis after 1933 did not mitigate the émigrés’ subsequent antipathy. Sadly, Greenberg notes, “in a disturbing irony of postwar culture, these agents of democracy rarely recognized how their zeal for anti-communism perpetuated elements of Nazi thought” (17), even though they lacked the Nazis’ racism and anti-Semitic fear of ‘Judeo-Bolshevism.’ This conviction had ramifications not only for Germany—for example, in the August 1956 ruling by the West German Supreme Court that banned the Communist Party with reference to Loewenstein’s theory of “militant democracy” (169-170)—but also for wartime and postwar conflicts in Latin America, Korea, and Vietnam, towards which the émigrés’ universalist convictions about democracy were directed with the backing of American power. Domestically, following the return of all but Morgenthau to West Germany, the émigrés’ various educational campaigns convinced German citizens that democracy was not a foreign imposition, and that America’s emergence as a global superpower bolstered West Germans’ own sovereignty. As Gurian reassured postwar German Catholics, in the face of the atheist, totalitarian Soviet Union, the United States was not “‘too imperialist… on the contrary, it is not imperialist enough’” (153).

In tracing these figures’ histories, Greenberg makes compelling arguments about the sources, dynamics, and consequences of their particular visions of democratic thought and practice. He builds on two historiographical accounts of West Germany’s postwar orientation towards democracy and the West: one that emphasizes the role of Americanization, in which the absence of ‘native’ democratic values is exaggerated, and a second that foregrounds German efforts to revitalize democracy, but identifies such efforts exclusively as reactions to Nazism. For Greenberg, by contrast, it was the “synergy” (7) of German and American efforts that produced Germany’s Westbindung, and these figures were the “connecting tissue” (11) between the U.S. and the Federal Republic after they returned from exile. The émigrés provide an important counterexample to both of the dominant accounts because the influential projects they developed were rooted in the Weimar period. As Greenberg notes, these intellectuals drew little attention to the fact that their ideas had roots in Weimar, given the Republic's tragic reputation (embodied in the postwar slogan ‘Bonn is not Weimar’), yet their projects in fact predated the conflict with the Soviet Union. While hopes for implementation were initially dashed by the Nazis, the influence and power that these figures achieved in American academic, political, and diplomatic institutions during and after WWII afforded them incredible opportunities to actualize their often peculiar visions of democracy.

Greenberg systematically reconstructs the political and intellectual development of each of his figures, demonstrating that despite their diverse backgrounds, they emerged from Weimar as passionate defenders of democratic institutions. He convincingly shows that each figure’s later project was not simply a response to the rise of fascism and Soviet Communism, but rather a return to earlier political visions. In my view, Greenberg is overwhelmingly successful in this regard. His command of the existing literature and current research in this field, both in English and German, is enviable, and each chapter is bolstered by extensive archival research, carried out in multiple locations in Germany, Great Britain, and the United States. As a European intellectual historian, I will leave it to my better-informed colleagues to assess Greenberg’s interpretations of these figures as political actors and of broader trends in Cold War history. In the remainder of my review, I would like to explore a few conceptual issues raised by the book about the normative content of ‘democracy,’ which I hope might prompt further discussion.

The democratic visions developed by these figures were, as Greenberg notes several times, rather “idiosyncratic” (35, for example). Friedrich, for example, grounded his “patrician thinking” (36) about a democracy led by responsible elites not in (French) Enlightenment theories of individual rights, but in the Calvinist notion of the ‘covenant,’ which he derived from the German Calvinist Johannes Althusius’s 1614 anti-monarchical Politica Methodice Digesta (Systematic analysis of politics) (31). This conception allowed Friedrich to counter German Protestants’ general hostility to democracy in the Weimar Republic by demonstrating democracy’s supposedly native, religious roots, but it made it difficult for him to reconcile his vision with a secular conception of society. Similarly, in the 1920s and early 1930s, Gurian curiously “identified liberal democracy as Catholicism’s most natural ally in the struggle to protect [traditional] communities” (121). Greenberg adroitly explains how these peculiar interpretations attempted to overcome the considerable hostility that many Protestants and (to a lesser extent) Catholics felt towards the Weimar Republic. However, when later given the opportunity to reactivate these projects with support from the U.S. government and institutions like the Rockefeller Foundation, both Friedrich and Gurian “integrated their own reactionary agendas, blind spots, and contradictions into the fabric of postwar thought in ways no one could have envisioned only a few years earlier” (144).

As a historian, Greenberg (rightly, in my view) does not shy away from condemning the restrictive and even violent consequences that resulted from the implementation of these projects. This is particularly true in the case of Loewenstein, whose theory of “militant democracy” manifested itself in the suspension of civil rights and mass internment of suspected political radicals throughout Latin America during World War II. The influence of these émigrés on public and private leaders in America contributed substantially to the U.S.’s “Manichean” (37) approach to Communism during the Cold War. “To be sure,” Greenberg writes, “these aggressive American efforts to instill their version of democratic norms did not stem from benevolence. American leaders’ conceptions of democracy rarely translated into a desire to build egalitarian societies or to empower people at the grassroots” (23). This “to be sure,” however, raises a thorny issue. In what sense should we understand the form of ‘democracy’ they promoted so strenuously?

Greenberg notes the multiple ways in which the émigrés’ dualistic visions of democracy and Communism led to gaps between their democratic ideals and the practices they supported, but the ideals themselves are at times left conceptually underdetermined. This tendency is perhaps a byproduct of his argument that historians of Germany’s reconstruction have overlooked the important role of democratic ideas alongside political and economic initiatives (7). Thus, in the effort to reconstruct the vitality of this intellectual lineage of Weimar, democratic ideas are treated as “weapons” (8) in the “arsenal” (15) of these figures’ projects, formed in the “incubator” (16) of the Republic and comprising an “intellectual reservoir” (9) for future political practice. Yet Greenberg is sometimes rather agnostic about the content of these ideas. How should one assess the critique of democracy formulated by the jurist and political theorist Carl Schmitt, for example, who was in Weimar an important interlocutor for Fraenkel, Gurian, and Morgenthau? Greenberg shows that Schmitt served as both an inspiration and a foil in different ways for these thinkers, but Schmitt’s anti-democratic account of ‘the political’ could have been more directly examined and evaluated.

Although Greenberg ably explains the impact of the extremism of Weimar politics on the émigrés’ distrust of mass movements, these intellectuals seem to be given a pass on explaining the reasons for the masses’ irrational behavior and, moreover, providing a democratically inspired solution for it. The émigré philosopher Theodor W. Adorno once praised the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud for his refusal to accept ‘the masses’ as a given, natural object, whose behavior could then be analyzed along the lines pursued by the psychologist Gustave Le Bon; rather, the formation of ‘the masses’ itself was precisely the phenomenon which called out for explanation, both psychologically and sociologically.[14] One has the sense that few of these figures would have been inclined to ask such questions; for them, citizens were to be managed from above, not cultivated. Loewenstein, for example, like other liberal thinkers (including Friedrich), “held a highly elitist and suspicious view of the ‘masses.’ Most citizens, he believed, were prone to primitive emotions and irresponsible demagoguery” (175). Loewenstein explained the dangers of demagoguery by distinguishing between the Anglo-Saxon tradition of “representative democracy” and the Rousseauian tradition of “radical democracy,” the latter of which, he claimed, undermined the liberal principle of the separation of powers and ultimately produced fascism and Leninism (175-177). Loewenstein maintained this elitist conception throughout his postwar career, publishing and lecturing to large audiences about individual liberties, representative institutions, and democratic procedures. But without trusting in even the potential capacity for citizens to achieve political maturity, would one not be left, paradoxically, with a ‘democracy without democrats’? It would be instructive in this regard to assess critically Loewenstein’s historical narrative of democratic thought.

Morgenthau provides the possible exception to this elitist vision in Greenberg’s final chapter and functions as something of a foil to the other four figures. I found Greenberg’s account of Morgenthau especially instructive, having previously held the traditional view of Morgenthau’s realism as being fundamentally amoral. In fact, despite his enormous influence in the Cold-War establishment, Morgenthau came to believe that his theory had been fundamentally misunderstood. The belief that the spread of Communism anywhere on the globe was a strategic threat to democracy resulted in the ill-advised strategy behind the Vietnam War, which he publically opposed, to the great consternation of the Johnson administration (245-246). Furthermore, Greenberg deftly shows that despite his “seeming transformation from warrior to Cold War dissenter, Morgenthau’s initial support of the Cold War and his subsequent opposition to it both stemmed from the Weimar period” (212). Specifically, his “dynamic” view of politics distinguished between legally resolvable “disputes” (Streitigkeiten), which might well be addressed by the League of Nations, and genuinely political “tensions” (Spannungen), which were “existential” in nature, in Schmitt’s sense of “the political” (das Politische) (217, 216). But to conflate the two and unthinkingly treat the conflict with Communism in existential terms, as the Cold-War establishment did, risked destroying democracy’s own civic foundations. For Morgenthau, democratic norms could not be sustained through the distrustful, top-down model championed by his anti-communist fellow émigrés; rather, a nation’s principles, such as the pluralist ethos of ‘equality in freedom’ that he believed had long grounded American ideals, “were generated by the collective action of its citizens” (247).

Yet if Morgenthau’s reputation survived the generational shift of the 1960s better than that of his peers, it is less clear that his more egalitarian vision won out politically after the Cold War. Rather, it is the commitment to defend—and expand—democracy even at the cost of imperial wars and the limiting of democratic rights at home and abroad that emerges as a troubling legacy of the “Weimar Century,” with terms like “militant democracy” now providing the justificatory language for the restriction of civil liberties under the “War on Terror” (208). Although Greenberg does not conceptualize his study in this way, it might be usefully conceived of as a genealogy of the concept of ‘democracy’ under the sign of the Cold War and its aftermath—that is to say, of its descent, despite good intentions, into an ideological instrument whose normative content remains to be fulfilled. If this is so, Greenberg’s trenchant analysis compels us to consider anew the critic Raymond Williams’s troubling assertion in the late 1950s, amidst the Cold War atmosphere of Great Britain: “We are not all democrats now.”[15]


Peter Gay’s seminal book on Weimar Culture, first published in 1968, carried a powerful leitmotif in its subtitle: “The Outsider as Insider.” It was the marginal figures of the late Wilhelmine era, Gay argued, who created much of the art, music, literature, and philosophy that later came to define the culture of the first German republic. These outsiders’ innovations often predated the political caesura of November 1918, which meant that many of the cultural movements we associate with the Weimar Republic were already germinating in an earlier and politically quite distinct period.[16] Udi Greenberg’s exciting new study extends the outsider/insider dichotomy into the decades that followed the collapse of Weimar. It shows how a handful of political thinkers who were peripheral to Weimar intellectual life—Carl J. Friedrich, Ernst Fraenkel, Waldemar Gurian, Karl Loewenstein, and Hans J. Morgenthau—subsequently attained inordinate importance as writers, advisers, policy makers, and institution builders during the Second World War and early Cold-War eras. They became ‘establishment’ émigrés who found positions of authority by promoting West German democratization, the strengthening of the Atlantic alliance, and mobilization against Communism. By identifying the traits and trajectories common to these five men, and illuminating the ties that connected them (often forged by Friedrich and his patrons in the Rockefeller Foundation), Greenberg has defined a milieu as well as a research agenda of great significance. The Weimar Century makes an important contribution not only to the literature on German émigrés, but also to the growing field of scholarship on the transnational dimensions of American social and political thought.

Though their reputations may have waned after the 1960s, these five émigrés wielded considerable power during the 1940s and 1950s. Greenberg links them to several momentous political shifts in the postwar period: the establishment of the Cold-War university, the de-radicalization of the German Social Democratic Party, the rise of Christian Democracy, the dissemination of totalitarianism theory, the outlawing of the West German Communist Party, and the creation of the American policy of containment. Greenberg argues that these émigrés provided the ‘language’ for the above-named transformations (27, 108, 166, 198), which may be a way of saying that, while their causal contributions are hard to quantify, they helped frame the rhetoric that legitimized the developments taking place around them. The most exciting parts of The Weimar Century are therefore those places where Greenberg is able to document precisely the institutional legacies left by these men. Drawing on material from personal papers and U.S. government archives, Greenberg demonstrates the significant difference these men made, not so much as pure theorists, but as institutional impresarios, lobbyists, and policy makers. Three meticulously researched case studies stand out: Friedrich’s efforts to put academia at the service of government initiatives while teaching at Harvard University; Fraenkel’s campaign to promote labor rights and ‘collective democracy’ in Korea; and Lowenstein’s plan to export his doctrine of ‘militant democracy’ by organizing the arrest and deportation of allegedly ‘subversive’ activists in wartime Latin America. These are powerful illustrations of the authority that German émigrés acquired to shape American policy, oftentimes in the most surprising of places.

The book’s title, The Weimar Century, alludes to one of Greenberg’s most original claims. These German émigrés not only made significant contributions to the ideas and institutions that underpinned American hegemony (or in Henry Luce’s words, the ‘American century’), Greenberg argues; their contributions also constituted, essentially, “the resurrection of ideas and theories from the Weimar period” (11). For Friedrich and Fraenkel, American power and financial resources offered means for replicating what they regarded as Weimar’s institutional successes. Loewenstein, by way of contrast, wanted to ensure that Americans learned the lessons of Weimar’s vulnerability to anti-democratic radicalism. Gurian and Morgenthau first formulated their characteristic intellectual themes (totalitarianism and international political theory, respectively) in response to the crises of the embattled German republic. Spending years in the United States may have made these émigrés more religiously ecumenical or inclined to see their adoptive land as a force for global good, but, as Greenberg insists, it did little to change anything fundamental about their thought (59–60, 146–48).

According to Greenberg, “many of the intellectual foundations of Germany’s democratization, its possibilities and limitations, lay in the intense discussions of the Weimar era” (8). That his five protagonists, born between 1891 and 1904, would have arrived at a version of their mature thought as twenty- or thirty-something is certainly plausible. But Greenberg also wants to make a stronger claim, namely, that their democratic thinking possessed the unmistakable terroir of Weimar political culture. Raised on the hardscrabble soil of the first German republic, theirs was a variety of democratic thinking that remained constantly vigilant against enemies from both the far right and far left of the political spectrum. Having experienced the precarious early years of the Weimar Republic, these émigrés came to regard the stability of democratic institutions as their highest priority—to be secured, if necessary, even at the expense of more critical and deliberative forms of democratic activity (257–58). Greenberg credits these Weimar-era schemes and the émigrés who purveyed them with helping to win West Germans for democracy, but he also takes them to task for precluding more socially progressive outcomes by “not challenging power structures or restraining state authority,” or “including the poor and dispossessed in the political process” (88, 44). The contemporary standard against which they are being judged remains unclear until the final chapter, when Morgenthau is revealed as the ethical counterpoint who possessed the democratic sensitivities that Greenberg finds lacking in the four other figures.

As an organizing concept, ‘Weimar’ is useful for tying together the diverse convictions and careers of these five pro-American, anti-Communist intellectuals, and there is much in the book to substantiate the formative character of their youthful experiences. At times, however, Greenberg appears to undercut his thesis by acknowledging that important elements of their political thought originated outside the Weimar Republic. Fraenkel “rarely wrote on communism” before 1933 (88), and Morgenthau did not discuss the origins or ethics of participatory democracy until relatively late in his career (246–49). In 1932 Friedrich published a scholarly edition of the 1614 treatise Politica Methodice Digesta by Johannes Althusius, a German Calvinist jurist who Friedrich believed had paved the way for modern constitutional democracy. Greenberg categorizes this project as belonging to the Weimar phase of Friedrich’s thinking; the edition was intended, Greenberg argues, to “dismantle Protestant objections to Weimar” and to “guide German Protestants, who were mostly staunch nationalists, toward international cooperation with other democracies” (30). Yet Friedrich conceived of and wrote the book entirely in the United States, and made no explicit mention of German politics in his lengthy editorial introduction, which he published in English. Could one not argue, then, that the ‘foundations’ of Friedrich’s democratic thinking lay just as much in the United States as in Germany?

One could also make the case that many of the distinctive characteristics Greenberg ascribes to Weimar “democratic” thought were present long before the foundation of the republic. As Greenberg notes, the view that “democratic institutions flourished only under the guidance of a wise and responsible political elite” was prevalent among German liberals (175), particularly in the Heidelberg milieu where both Friedrich and Loewenstein studied (29–30, 35–36). But it is important to note that these Weimar thinkers shared more than just a sense of elitism with the German liberals who preceded them. Friedrich and Loewenstein’s sympathetic depiction of Anglo-Saxon political culture (and its religious roots) echoed the writings of other Heidelberg thinkers—not only Max Weber, whom Greenberg briefly discusses in this context (32), but also his senior colleague Georg Jellinek.[17] In that sense, the pro-American intellectual projects of these Weimar-era thinkers may have been less ‘idiosyncratic’ and Weimar-specific than Greenberg suggests (2, 26).

The complexities attendant in talking about ‘intellectual foundations’ are also apparent in Greenberg’s discussion of Morgenthau. Starting in the late 1950s, Morgenthau, a hardened Cold warrior, grew deeply concerned about the costs to American democracy of waging a war on global Communism. He proved willing to speak ‘truth to power’ and challenge the American foreign policy establishment over the Vietnam War. In keeping with the book’s thesis, Greenberg contends that Morgenthau’s disaffection with Cold-War politics was prefigured in the structures of his Weimar-era thought: “Despite this seeming transformation from warrior to Cold War dissenter, Morgenthau’s initial support of the Cold War and his subsequent opposition to it both stemmed from the Weimar period” (212). In the late 1920s, Morgenthau became convinced that an effective German foreign policy was being hampered by the nationalist chauvinism of the far right, which he deemed “morally bankrupt” and “self-defeating” (221). Greenberg interprets Morgenthau’s opposition to American involvement in Vietnam, three decades later, as an indication that he was “returning to the Weimar roots of his theory” of international politics (246). It is conceivable that Morgenthau’s political views, like those of the other émigrés, were psychologically determined by deep structures inherited from his youth in the Weimar Republic. However, the rich archival evidence that Greenberg adduces to shed light on Morgenthau’s character seems to suggest a different explanation. Morgenthau was a man who was capable of change; or, if change is too strong a word, then at least capable of modulating and rethinking his ideas. He became an astute commentator on American current events—something, according to Greenberg’s account, that none of the other émigrés did. It seems paradoxical to explain the plasticity of his mature thought by reference to a sensibility allegedly ingrained in his youth.

One red thread that runs through the book—and which connects its protagonists directly to the political discourse of the Weimar Republic—is the legacy of the German jurist Carl Schmitt (1888–1985) for democratic thought. Schmitt had a legion of interlocutors and admirers among the generation born around the turn of the twentieth century. Still, the group selected by Greenberg contains four intellectuals whose engagement with Schmitt seems particularly notable. Fraenkel “borrowed heavily” from Schmitt’s critique of classical liberal parliamentarism to advance his own vision of a council-based democracy (85). Gurian, who studied with Schmitt, was “deeply influenced” by his mentor’s views on liberalism and individualism, though his admiration eventually turned to bitter “enmity” as Schmitt’s sympathies for authoritarianism became increasingly overt (130).[18] Loewenstein’s interwar discussion of the disjunctures between liberalism and democracy bore many similarities to Schmitt’s own constitutional jurisprudence, and it was Loewenstein who, as an occupation adviser at the end of the Second World War, took the initiative to have Schmitt arrested.[19] Towards the end of the Weimar Republic, Morgenthau published an analysis of the first edition of Schmitt’s Concept of the Political, whose constructive criticism Schmitt may well have incorporated into the following edition (216–17). Given the density of the interconnections, it is tempting to conclude that the shared relationship to Schmitt says something specific and important about the coherency of this group. While Greenberg makes insightful observations about the individual connections to Schmitt, it would have been interesting to see them thematized at greater length.

The Weimar Century is an elegantly designed, deeply researched, and passionately written study of the power possessed by German émigrés to shape the policies of the United States, their native country, and parts of Asia and Latin America. Greenberg could make this point successfully without taking the additional step implied in the book’s title and arguing, as insistently as he does, that the “intellectual origins” of West German democratization and the Atlantic alliance lay in the Weimar Republic (5). For, in doing so, he implies that the intellectual trajectories of his protagonists were somehow decisively and permanently determined by the impersonal forces, cognitive structures, or predicaments that are signified by the concept of ‘Weimar.’ Such an argument seems to work against the broader moral of his book, whose case studies powerfully testify to the creative agency of individuals, working at propitious moments, to leave their personal mark on the most monumental of institutions.


Udi Greenberg's book provides both fascinating insights into the life of Weimar intellectuals alongside a much-needed corrective to the understanding of the early Cold War in Europe and its intellectual foundations. First, it reports from the geographical periphery of the conflict, from the American occupation administrations in Germany and elsewhere rather than from the power centers of Washington D.C. and Moscow. Second, it puts ideas and the transatlantic networks that promoted them centre stage. Greenberg's book draws on five biographies of less well-known émigré figures. Hans Morgenthau is perhaps the best-known, while Ernst Fraenkel, Karl Loewenstein and Waldemar Gurian are much less familiar and Greenberg provides an important service by re-introducing their work to a larger audience.

Greenberg's argument is that these intellectuals played a vital but largely unrecognized role in the political reconstruction of West Germany after 1945. They did much of the intellectual heavy lifting behind Germany's successful orientation towards the West, transmitting a peculiar conception of democracy "based on strong state institutions, spiritual consensus, and vigilant suppression of Communists" from its Weimar roots across the Atlantic and back to Germany with the backing of American state and civilian institutions (3). Greenberg claims that these émigré intellectuals were able to act as mediators between two historically hostile idea-environments, translating the American project of democratic reconstruction into a familiar idiom for consumption by German audiences in the process. The reconstruction of Germany after the Second World War was not just the result of 'Americanization' but of a re-import of Weimar political ideas. The book highlights the positive continuities between Weimar Germany and the Federal Republic in a further undermining of the myth of a German 1945 'zero hour.'

The story of Carl Friedrich is perhaps the most surprising, combining an account of Friedrich's little-known activities as a transatlantic activist of the German youth movement and his development of a liberal political theology based on the work of the renaissance political theorist Johannes Althusius. Friedrich placed Althusius' structure of decentralized yet hierarchically organized 'organic communities' at the heart of a collectivist and authentically German form of democracy. As a result, Friedrich emerges as much more than just an academic political scientist. He played a crucial role in German reconstruction, first by involving American centers of higher learning in policy-making during the Second World War and by taking an active role in the rebuilding of German universities in the American zone of occupation. What deserves more attention in Greenberg's account is that Friedrich's biography is different from that of the other émigrés. Unlike them, he was not a political refugee and his initial response to the Nazi regime was not one of wholehearted opposition. Although an early proponent of the concept of totalitarianism in political science and a vocal proponent and tireless organizer in the intellectual war effort against Nazi Germany, defending democracy was not at the heart of his intellectual enterprise. The use he made of the concept of democracy was in my view more a strategic accommodation of his new intellectual environment in the United States. His main focus throughout the 1930s and early 1940s remained the defense of constitutional constraints to mass democracy as means of ensuring political stability. The important role of 'constitutional dictatorship' in his work stands in an interesting tension to his reconstructions effort in the service of the United States, all in the name of restoring democracy. This tension also extends to Friedrich's earlier work on public administration. The claim that the thrust of his scholarship on American administration was directed against the New-Deal state and its agencies needs to be approached with caution (52). His focus on bureaucratic responsibility in the famous exchange with administrative scholar Herman Finer in the early 1940s was an attempt to mobilize the concept of responsibility in the service of an independent technocratic state insulated from public scrutiny and criticism. The notion of responsible elites invoked by Greenberg in this chapter is revealing, because for Friedrich, responsibility did not mean democratic responsibility but responsibility in the sense of Max Weber's famous ethic. Responsible administrative elites could act in the interest of the people at large without actually consulting them. Friedrich, like the other émigrés portrayed in Greenberg's book, did not regard the Weimar Republic as a failure pure and simple, but neither was he unsympathetic to German imperial traditions, remaining partial to the some of the institutions of the German Obrigkeitsstaat, notably a professional civil service.

Ernst Fraenkel is featured by Greenberg as a representative of the large contingent of German social democrats in exile. Greenberg places collective democracy at the center of Fraenkel's work. Through this concept Fraenkel attempted to combine collective rights - especially of organized labor - and individual rights within the framework of a constitutional  democracy. With the failure of this project in the Weimar Republic, Fraenkel came to regard U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal as the successful culmination of this project. While working as an advisor to the U.S. State Department in post-war Korea and Germany he dedicated himself to putting the idea ‘collective democracy’ into practice. Greenberg also draws out an important connection between Fraenkel's social democratic activism and his anti-Communism. The Cold War gave Fraenkel an opportunity to combine his functions as an advisor to the State Department in Korea and West Germany. In Korea he played an important role in enshrining his vision of collective democracy in the new South Korean constitution but also in scuppering the chances of a joint American-Soviet administration of the peninsula, leading to the eventual partition of the peninsula (96-101). In Germany, Fraenkel's Weimar connections to social democratic circles enabled him to steer the leadership of the German Social Democratic Party away from Moscow and embrace American-style democracy. Greenberg presents Fraenkel's legacy as arising from a singular transatlantic convergence between liberal and social democracy that enjoyed success on the Cold War periphery but not at its American center (112). His success demonstrates that American institutions were happy to promote values abroad that they did not support at home (119). This is an original argument and it would be interesting to find out more about how Fraenkel was able to reconcile the tension between his commitments to the labor movement with his service to American Cold War institutions during the McCarthy era. Here as elsewhere the impression remains that anti-Communism overshadowed any commitment to democracy.

Waldemar Gurian is included as a representative of the important contingent of Catholic émigrés who took advantage of the opportunity to re-introduce their agenda of "a Christian, communitarian, and anti-Communist order" to post-war Germany with the backing of American private foundations (122). At the heart of Gurian's project stood originally an ideology that attempted to contrast the atomized individuals of the modern age with the 'person' embedded in natural relations of community and authority. In this respect Gurian's Catholic political theology mirrored Friedrich's Calvinist variant in its opposition to both individualism and collectivism and the political forms - liberalism, but also nationalism and communism (127). During the Weimar years it was Gurian's anti-Communist writing that were to gain him notoriety and that eventually smoothed his path to becoming a founding figure of Soviet Studies in the American academy. In contrast to other German Catholic intellectuals affiliated with the Centre Party, Gurian resisted political Catholicism's move to the right and instead embraced democracy. Gurian's conception, much like Fraenkel's, was to allow for the representation of churches, labor unions, and other communities alongside political parties.

In Swiss and American exile Gurian became one of the earliest adopters of the concept of totalitarianism, highlighting the similarities between Nazism and Communism in the pages of The Review of Politics, a journal founded especially for this purpose. Like Fraenkel and Friedrich, Gurian made his ideological edifice more accommodating while in exile, allowing other religious denominations and proclaiming the mantle of American democracy as the salvation of Weimar personalism (147). Supported by the Rockefeller Foundation's 'Spiritual Marshall Plan,' Gurian was one of the first cultural ambassadors who traveled to Germany, and became an important figure behind the intellectual revival of Christian Democracy that was to be a prominent feature of post-war European politics. Yet as with the case of Friedrich, Gurian's democratic credentials appear dubious. Gurian was not a democrat of conviction but his support of Weimar as well as American democracy was a tactical compromise to stem the tide of Nazism and Communism, respectively. Greenberg likens this tactical accommodation to a "conversion" yet at the same time contends that for Gurian "the liberal state remained a tool for combating Christianity's enemies and had little value in and of itself" (134).

Karl Loewenstein's concept of militant democracy followed a similar trajectory from Weimar Germany via the United States and back to the Federal Republic. Loewenstein, a constitutional lawyer and admirer of the British parliamentary system, first cut his teeth as a critic of the Weimar Constitution and sometime disciple of Carl Schmitt. Like Fraenkel, he adopted Schmitt's critique of liberal constitutionalism that constitutionally enshrined neutrality between competing interests was a chimera leaving the state defenseless against its enemies. In times when democratic regimes found themselves under attack at home and abroad, democracy, so Loewenstein argued, had to become 'political' in Schmitt's sense - making a distinction between its friends and its enemies and denying the  rights of free expression to its opponents. Democracies had to be defended against the instability inherent in Rousseauian popular sovereignty by protecting fundamental institutions from majority decision-making and even criticism. While Lowenstein was in exile in the United States his arguments, which had first been devised in Weimar Germany, fell on fertile soil in the context of the growing anti-Communist hysteria. As a prominent member of the 'Committe for Political Defense,' Loewenstein played an important role in coordinating measures against Nazi subversion across the Americas, leading to the internment and deportation of thousands of civilians in order to "defend the democratic values of the American Republics” (189). Subsequently employed by the Legal Division of the American military government in Germany, Lowenstein became an important figure in the reconstruction of the Federal Republic and his concept of militant democracy or streitbare Demokratie became "one of the fundamental principles guiding Germany's emerging political and legal establishment" (204). Loewenstein himself was far more circumspect than Greenberg allows regarding the influence he was able to wield as a member Legal Division. His occupation diaries paint the picture of a man whose expertise and proposals, especially regarding de-Nazification, were entirely ignored by an American military establishment that seemed more interested in cooperating with politically questionable German elites for the sake of expediency. It seems that his influence over the emerging Federal Republic was exercised less through the intermediary of American occupation than through his activities as a travelling lecturer and an authority for the German legal establishment in its attempts to ban Communist and neo-Nazi organizations.

The best-known of the figures features in Greenberg's book was also the one whose German roots have been most consistently obscured: Hans Morgenthau. In taking Mortenthau’s Weimar roots seriously, Greenberg manages to put the tension between a hard-headed political realism and a defensive moralism at the heart of Morgenthau's scholarship. This tension allowed Morgenthau to be regarded as an intellectual authority by both the Cold-War establishment in its confrontation with the Soviet Union and by the representatives of an emerging opposition to the Cold War consensus in the United States. Morgenthau's more nuanced realism, which developed in his Weimar years, in fact sought to balance a critique of international law’s idealist fallacy with the attempt to build a new international system that was better able to constrain conflict through shrewd diplomacy. Calling for dynamic leadership in balancing these two aspects of international politics led Morgenthau to become sharply critical of ambitious humanitarian agendas. While in Weimar Germany wily diplomacy was a question of ensuring the Republic’s international survival from a position of weakness, Morgenthau argued that the same imperatives applied to the United States in the early Cold War. While his realism provided a justification for containing the Soviet Union, it did not legitimize the 'moral crusade' against communism in Southeast Asia. Rather than a continuation of realist-inspired containment, the American presence in Southeast Asia was the result of an 'internationalist delusion' of the country's foreign policy establishment that "ignored reality and the national interests of the United States" (238). 

Other than their émigré trajectories, all five intellectuals shared a commitment to political institutions as the stabilizers of Western democracy. It was their mission to insulate bureaucratic decision-making from interference by mass-publics and populist politics. As Greenberg repeatedly demonstrates, they did not shy away from using coercion and propaganda in furthering these ends, frequently drawing on well-entrenched anti-Communist sentiment in their efforts to mobilize support for these measures. If these five émigrés "helped expand the boundaries of state authority during the early Cold War" (20) it was perhaps less the United States that provided the institutional model but, paradoxically, the European dictatorships and their institutions themselves. Greenberg recognizes the irony of their undertaking when he writes that the policies advocated by these émigrés "often led to ironic, tragic, and brutal consequences” (208). Yet it is worth thinking about whether these tragic consequences and contradictions were simply a case of 'collateral damage' or whether they go the heart of the notion of democracy that these émigré figures held in common. For many European liberals between the wars - and for German liberals in particular - democracy had often been a mere means for the achievement of substantive ends as evidenced by the label 'prudential democrats' or Vernunftrepublikaner, a label that certainly applies to Friedrich and Gurian. It was ultimately their fear of mass democracy rather than the overwhelming power of the total state that stood behind their particular interpretations of totalitarianism. In their fight against totalitarianism they seemed willing to accommodate not only Nazi anti-communism but also the bureaucratic institutions of the strong state and of dictatorship. As a result their use of democracy was so dramatically thinned out that any appeal to the concept smacks of intellectual opportunism or mere lip-service for the benefit of their American paymasters. The idea of continuity that is very much at the heart of this book extends beyond the Weimar Republic. While relatively preferable to the Nazi alternative it was not loved by the figures Greenberg discusses and its best features included many of the old Imperial institutions, most importantly the German civil service, that many of the émigrés recommended their American hosts imitate.

This important book is an invitation for others to explore this nexus of continuities and discontinuities between the many different German political regimes of the twentieth century. It also holds the promise of exploring the international aspect of American foreign policy and its impact not only on occupied Germany and Japan but America’s Cold War Allies elsewhere.


Udi Greenberg’s work represents an important contribution to the history of German-American relations during the early Cold War. Analyzing the intellectual and political impact of five emigre scholars who underwent their academic maturation in Weimar Germany and came to the United States in the 1930s, Greenberg argues that the study of these scholars’ Weimar-era ideas and their subsequent careers in the United States provides crucial insights into postwar West German and U.S. political thought and policy. Carl J. Friedrich, Ernst Fraenkel, Waldemar Gurian, Karl Loewenstein, and Hans J. Morgenthal played an important role in the democratization of West Germany and the emergence of a growing Cold War consensus in both the United States and West Germany. Their experience of the fragile Weimar regime led them to emphasize the need for a robust democratic government capable of fending off internal and external totalitarian threats, ideas that fell on fruitful ground in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. To Greenberg the emigres were “crucial architects of both democratization and anti-communist mobilization” whose “ideas, policies and institutional connections stood at the heart of the postwar Atlantic order” (3). While these five scholars have hardly been invisible from the history of German emigres, Greenberg for the most part successfully highlights contributions and aspects of their work regarding German democratization and American Cold War foreign policy that have often not received sufficient attention. Particularly intriguing is Greenberg’s emphasis on the connectivity and interplay between Weimar emigres, the U.S. government, German and U.S. universities, as well as private American foundations.

Greenberg has published multiple article length pieces on German emigres. The Weimar Century, his first monograph,  looks at each scholar separately, but always follows a similar pattern. Beginning with their early academic careers in Weimar Germany, Greenberg carefully analyzes the development of their respective political theories. He then maps the transition of the scholars to the United States during the Depression (with the exception of Friedrich, who came to Harvard in 1926) and their institutional and intellectual impact on American ideas of government, democracy, foreign policy, and totalitarianism during the 1930s and 40s. Finally, he explores the impact of the emigres and their theories on postwar Germany, U.S. policy in Germany, and U.S. Cold-War policy in general. Greenberg carefully selected scholars from a variety of political and religious backgrounds. In Friedrich he found a conservative Protestant. Fraenkel was a moderate Jewish social democrat. Gurian was a conservative Catholic. Loewenstein and Morgenthau were both Jewish liberals. Despite their varied political leanings, all five scholars developed remarkable parallels in their political theories marked by a strong support for representative democratic institutions paired with a strident anti-communism.

During the Weimar era all five defended the new liberal order and sought ways to increase its legitimacy in the eyes of their fellow Germans. Of the five Morgenthau was exclusively concerned with international relations. The other four sought ways to heighten popular identification with democratic institutions, while at the same time strengthening those institutions against potential revolutionary mass movements. Friedrich, Fraenkel, and Gurian identified with communities that were either hostile or ambivalent towards the Weimar state. Friedrich and Gurian developed theories positing that support for liberal democracy aligned with the values and interests of their respective religious communities, German Protestants and German Catholics. Using the works of sixteenth-century Calvinist philosopher Johannes Althusius and German sociologist Max Weber, Friedrich argued that representative and constitutional governance had emerged out of Calvinism rather than secular humanism. Gurian’s personalist ideas led him to reluctantly embrace “liberal democracy as Catholicism’s most natural ally in the struggle to protect… ‘organic’ communities,” (121) such as the family, the village, professional associations, and the Catholic Church, which formed the bedrock of a morale and functioning society. Fraenkel argued that socialists should cooperate with the liberal bourgeoisie in creating a social Rechtsstaat, a state that not only provided equality before the law, but also actively promoted social legislation and welfare programs.

Loewenstein and Morgenthau represented schools of thought concerned with curbing the weaknesses of liberalism. The theories they developed were concerned with strengthening the liberal state in the domestic (only Loewenstein) and the international sphere. Greenberg focuses on the genesis of Loewenstein’s concepts of ‘militant democracy’ and a ‘democratic international.’ Even before the rise of Hitler, Loewenstein emphasized the need to limit the freedoms in a representative democracy in order to protect it. He saw two competing concepts of democracy at play in Weimar representative democracy vs. radical democracy. Communism and National Socialism were results of radical democracy which ultimately “suppressed domestic divisions, sacrificed all liberties, and reversed liberal separation of powers” (177) in the name of the collective, be it nation, class, or race. Morgenthau is rightly recognized as one of the founding figures of the realist school in international relations. However, Greenberg shows that his theory had a moral component that is often overlooked. This becomes particularly evident in his Weimar scholarship and his later opposition to the Vietnam War. In Weimar Morgenthau tried to split the difference between liberal support for the League of Nations and conservative rejection positing that “a just and credible international order required a balance between respect for international law and the recognition that some inequalities had to be solved through political means” (222).

While their ideas met with limited resonance in 1920s Germany, all five scholars became highly influential in their American exile. The Depression as well as the confrontation with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union made U.S. policy elites receptive to the emigres’ ideas on fortifying the liberal order. Friedrich and Gurian played crucial roles in creating networks of scholars and policymakers in the United States. Both shared with Loewenstein a fear of the masses and a preference for creating responsible elites to safeguard the democratic order. Influenced by his doctoral advisor Alfred Weber and his Institute for Social and Government Sciences in Heidelberg, Friedrich in particular emphasized the importance of creating democratically trained elites who would serve as the unelected administrators and bureaucrats and thus  protect and stabilize democratic institutions while remaining unaffected by the inherent uncertainties of popular elections. The New Deal provided fertile ground for his ideas. Friedrich “initiated a stream of projects that brought together academia, the U.S. government, and philanthropy, cooperation that transformed American academia into an organ of the democratic state” (46). He played a key role in the foundation of the Graduate School of Public Administration in 1936 and the Harvard School of Overseas Administration in 1942.

All five emigres were strident anti-communists who saw the Soviet Union and the United States as representatives of two antithetical political philosophies. Friedrich, Fraenkel, Gurian, and Loewenstein contributed to popularizing the concept of totalitarianism that tied the Soviet Union to Nazi Germany as totalizing systems of belief that could not be reconciled with liberal democracy. Gurian provided ideas allowing Catholic exiles to reconcile with liberal democracy as the only viable means to combat totalitarianism in any form. What is striking in the cases of Friedrich, Fraenkel, and Gurian is how much each of them came to see the United States as the embodiment of their political ideas. In some instances this was wishful thinking rather than a realistic assessment of U.S. political and social reality. As a result, they became strong advocates for the democratization and west integration of Germany. To Greenberg the strident anti-communism represents the darker side of the emigres’ influence on the postwar order. The scholars’ “profound inflexibility” towards communism “meant that Weimar democratic ideas constrained the postwar political imagination just as much as it enabled it” (17) Greenberg notes instances in each case where the emigres’ need to protect democratic institutions led them to advocate ideas and policies that Greenberg understands as contradictory to the democratic ideals they were trying to protect.

Greenberg’s case primarily rests on policies implemented when Fraenkel and Loewenstein took up government positions during World War II and the immediate aftermath. Fraenkel became a member of the Joint Committee in Korea. He became very vocal about his beliefs that Soviet-U.S. negotiations over the future of Korea were bound to fail because there was little room for compromise. Greenberg argues that Fraenkel’s actions were a major contributing factor to the permanent partition of the country. Loewenstein played a role the Emergency Committee for Political Defense (CPD) a U.S. led effort to coordinate domestic measures against potential Axis subversion among the nations of the western hemisphere. Loewenstein saw this as the first step towards creating a “Democratic International” an international organization tasked with intervening in any country threatened by a totalitarian takeover. The Committee engaged in mass internment and deportation all over the Americas creating a network of concentration camps. Loewenstein’s concept of militant democracy, which was integrated into the West German constitution, also led to the prohibition of the KPD, the West German Communist Party, in 1956. Despite this one example in the German context, Greenberg’s laments over the narrowing effect of the scholars’ anti-communism remain rather vague. The assumption appears to be that their fears of totalitarian subversion were exaggerated and harmful, but, aside from the example of the KPD, Greenberg provides few concrete explanations.

Greenberg shows that Friedrich and Loewenstein, both of whom worked for the U.S. occupation authorities of Germany, played a crucial role in the democratization process in West Germany. Friedrich helped draft new democratic constitutions for the states of Bavaria, Baden, and Hesse as well as the new federal constitution of 1948. Loewenstein was tasked with reforming German legal structures and political education. However, Greenberg see his greatest impact in reviving German liberalism and popularizing the concept of ‘militant democracy’ among Germany’s new political leadership. Friedrich, Loewenstein, and Gurian became part of a lecture circuit financed by the Rockefeller foundation to promote democratic ideals and warn of the dangers of communism. The scholars played important roles in establishing departments of Political Science at German universities and ‘politics’ as a high school subject. They also created networks of scholars and educational institutions promoting democratic values and U.S. culture. Greenberg does an excellent job of tracing the impact of Lowenstein’s and Fraenkel’s theories within German intellectual and political debates. Fraenkel advocated strongly for the German social democrats to abandoned Marxism and embrace NATO and the new western orientation of the Federal Republic, ideas the SPD finally embraced in its Bad Godesberg program of 1959. Loewenstein’s “militant democracy” became the cornerstone of West Germany’s democratic identity. Gurian’s impact on postwar German political thought and practice was less direct and remains a little vague in Greenberg’s telling. With the help of the Rockefeller foundation, he participated in and initiated educational efforts targeting German Catholics. But Greenberg does not provide any direct links between Gurian and the new Christian Democratic leadership.

Of the four former Weimar scholars, Morgenthau had the least involvement in postwar West Germany. With Morgenthau Greenberg’s focus is exclusively on his foreign policy ideas. Greenberg sets Morgenthau up as a counterpoint to the other scholars. While Morgenthau was a major advocate of confronting and containing the Soviet Union, he did so not because of a fundamental philosophical rejection of communism or communist regimes. He actually came to challenge the Cold War mindset in the 1960s when he opposed U.S. involvement in Vietnam, arguing that a realist approach to foreign policy did not preclude leaders from ethical and moral considerations. Morgenthau thus became the only émigré embraced by the 1960s student movements. The student protesters particularly in West Germany challenged many of emigres’ beliefs. They embraced direct democracy and eschewed elites. Greenberg argues that these challenges led to the gradual disappearance of these scholars themselves and their ideas “from academic curricula and from debates on political theory” (257) as well as the institutions they built to lose some of their prestige. That claim seems exaggerated. The student protesters ultimately failed in seriously challenging the Cold War consensus in West Germany (and the United States). While German society and politics did open up and grass-roots engagement increased, wide acceptance of ‘militant democracy,’ west orientation, and anti-communism prevailed among the German public.

The greatest strength of Greenberg’s book lies in the synthesis he provides. The scholars he chose are not obscure. They have all received some attention within the historiography of the German academic emigres. However, in comparing these five, Greenberg reveals aspects of their work that have not received sufficient attention. He also makes a convincing case in tracing their impact on the German and U.S. Cold-War consensus. When it comes to evaluating the influence of their anti-communist beliefs, Greenberg assumes rather than making a convincing case for their negative impact on West German politics and society. On the other hand, he successfully expands our understanding of West Germany, showing that this democratization “was the outcome of prolonged collaboration” between the US and the West Germans “in which both sides were crucial players” (7). The emigres were important intermediaries in that symbiotic process.


It is a pleasure to take part in this forum. I am grateful to the reviewers for delivering such stimulating remarks and challenging questions. I am also deeply thankful for Tom Maddux and the H-Diplo team for their tireless work and for providing the space for this discussion.

The Weimar Century argues that many Cold War institutions, policies, and thought patterns emerged from a broader set of sources than scholars have previously recognized. Recent historical work has done much to show how American anti-Communist mobilization built on ideas and frameworks that existed long before the 1940s, such as visions of ‘development’ or belief in an American global civilizing mission.[20] Much less noticed, however, is how this broad campaign also drew from foreign political ideas and traditions. My book traces the work of several German anti-Communist democrats—Protestant political thinker Carl J. Friedrich, Socialist theorist Ernst Fraenkel, Catholic publicist Waldemar Gurian, liberal lawyer Karl Loewenstein, and international-relations theorist Hans Morgenthau—who spent the 1920s crafting pro-democratic theories and institutions (especially educational centers) in a failed effort to stabilize the tragically weak Weimar Republic. They then resurrected their ideas in the 1940s and 1950s in the service of a different democratic leviathan, the United States, under the aegis of the U.S. military, colleges and universities, philanthropic foundations, and diplomatic agencies. In the early Cold War, they shaped academic centers in United States, designed public diplomacy outreach in West Germany, managed economic policies in Korea, and directed mass incarceration in Latin America, leaving deep marks on the mechanisms of American global hegemony. In the process, these émigrés also became major figures in postwar Germany’s democratization and Western integration. With the backing of the victorious Americans, they reintroduced their Weimar-era democratic concepts and organizations to the ruined land, helping to forge West Germany’s Cold War ideological mainstream. 

Yet as Joshua Derman warns in his insightful comments, the business of uncovering origins comes at considerable peril. Historians often obsess over the ‘hidden roots’ of influential theories, policies, or institutions, seeking to find their very first utterance or embryonic appearance. This fascination with genealogy risks creating tunnel vision that presents later triumphs as somehow inevitable, instead of explaining the ruptures and unexpected shifts that made specific ideas and theories appealing at certain moments. For example, the existence of anti-Communism in the 1920s does not quite explain why it became so much more powerful in the 1940s. Derman thus wonders whether my focus on Weimar as the source of postwar political projects—in both West Germany and the United States—comes at the expense of ignoring later influences. The émigrés’ long careers may provide earlier, and more international, starting points for some ideas, but what new light does this shed on the building of the American postwar order?  

Since this question is so important, I want to elucidate how the émigrés’ long stories can help better explain four broad issues: 1) the nature of American hegemony in Europe; 2) the place of ‘outsiders’ and minorities in Cold War diplomacy; 3) the role of democracy in American global dominance; and 4) the legacy of Cold War thought in contemporary politics. All of the reviewers raise questions on one or more of these topics, and I hope that the following will clarify my approach to these issues.

First, the émigrés’ work in postwar Germany demonstrates how much American efforts to rebuild Europe and establish a transatlantic alliance relied not just on military might, economic prowess, and European desires for an anti-Communist umbrella, as crucial as these were. If some Germans embraced the American empire ‘by invitation,’ in Geir Ludenstad’s classic phrase, it was also due to an ideological convergence, the sense that the United States embodied political projects far broader and older than mere anti-Communism.[21] A key goal of The Weimar Century is to examine how diverse political subcultures—Catholics and Protestants, liberals, socialists, and conservatives—surprisingly came to see the United States as an ally of their own pre-Nazi political, religious, and ideological traditions. The book traces émigré’s tireless, multifaceted, and sometimes weird campaigns to market the new superpower, its democratization policies, and the Western alliance as the fulfillment of older political beliefs, whether this was the pursuit of social justice and socialist equality, the strengthening of conservative Christian values, or the buttressing of liberalism in the form of individual freedom. It is of course impossible to measure the precise rate of ‘success’ that these efforts enjoyed, and one should not overstate their impact. Cultural diplomacy and public outreach can often miss their targeted audience (whether due to boredom, resentment, or misunderstanding), and even at their most effective, leave pockets of resistance.[22] But I believe that the evidence is there to show that these operations enjoyed at least some resonance. It is no accident that the émigrés who spearheaded them enjoyed prominence in West Germany’s educational, intellectual, and even political establishments long after the end of the U.S. occupation. This ideological diversity—the ability of so many to imagine the United States, and the democracy itself, as the guardian and even the embodiment of their own long-held ideals—was crucial to building a stable and legitimate regime in postwar Germany and to fostering cooperation with U.S. policies, including anti-Communism. It was part of the matrix that gave the Cold War its enormous mobilizing power.

Second—which leads me to Daniel Bessner’s comments—the paths that led Friedrich, Fraenkel, Gurian, Loewenstin, and Morgenthau from the margins to the center of American power provide a helpful perspective on the shifting political and cultural position of the Jewish minority that was enabled by the Cold War. Bessner wonders why the Jewish background of some of the émigrés goes largely unmentioned in my book. If, as Jeremi Suri, Kevin Schultz, and others have recently claimed, the postwar (and post-Holocaust) era marked a dramatic turning point in Americans’ growing tolerance towards Jews—the era of “Judeo-Christian” ideology—was not that a major force behind the émigrés’ (and many other’s) support for the United States?[23] It is true that Jews acquired an unprecedented level of acceptance—even authority—in the postwar world. Yet in this scholarly fascination with Jewish agency in modern politics, it can be misleading to attribute too much to Judaism. The fact remains that beyond some marginal exceptions (a small pamphlet for Gurian, a short letter by Fraenkel), these émigrés wrote and said nothing about Judaism in the 1940s and 1950s, not even in private correspondence. In my view, one must resist assuming—rather than proving—the supremacy of their Jewish backgrounds as a primary component of their identity over other political, cultural, and religious affiliations. I find it problematic that it is so common to talk of ‘ethnic Jews’ but never of ‘ethnic Christians,’ as if there is something uniquely unshakable about a Jewish background. If there is any lesson in the émigrés’ attitude towards their own Judaism, it is that it helps to reveal the limits of Cold War tolerance. In my mind, it is not accidental that the Christian political establishment preferred to absorb these secular thinkers, who were largely quiet about their Jewish affiliation.

Third—and this leads me to James Chappel’s perceptive critique—drawing closer links between the Weimar Republic and the postwar world can help reframe the intense debate over the role of democracy in the early Cold War, both in Europe and the United States. For decades, historians have portrayed American policymakers, politicians, and even scholars’ repeated postwar talk of ‘democracy promotion’ as either reflective of genuine liberal convictions or (more commonly) a veil for other purposes: whether the imperialist expansion of power, the promotion of free market, or something else.[24] More recently, scholars have claimed that democracy was perhaps not so much a ‘noble lie’ but just a marginal consideration in a broader American push to ‘modernize’ and ‘develop’ a more stable world to secure American prosperity.[25] Chappel expands this line of thinking to the story of Europe’s reconstruction, and doubts whether democracy was important to the continent’s remaking after 1945. In his view, the architects of Europe’s rebuilding and the main allies of the United States were conservative Catholics who cared very little about democratic politics. While they may have adopted the mantle of ‘Christian democracy,’ their main concerns were economic and socio-cultural, especially combatting Marxism and preserving Christianity’s legal, cultural, and religious authority. They were therefore willing to support any political form that served these purposes, from monarchy to dictatorship.[26] Chappel is part of a growing group of prominent international scholars who claim that it is misleading to interpret the early Cold War as a clash between Communism and liberal democracy. Instead, the anti-Communist crusade in Europe was the project of conservatives, whose goal to impose Christianity often contradicted the diversity and pluralism commonly associated with democracy.[27]

While this approach has done much to uncover the importance of religious ideologies in the postwar era, I stand behind The Weimar Century’s claim that democracy mattered a great deal to many Cold Warriors on both sides of the Atlantic. In both Europe and the United States, a wide array of thinkers and politicians were convinced that democratic polities were best positioned to harness the energies of the masses and lead them to actively combat Communism.[28] Take for example George Kennan, the widely influential and hard-nosed anti-Communist (who was also an avid reader of Gurian, Friedrich, and Morgenthau’s writings). For all his snobbism and even racism, Kennan proclaimed in his Long Telegram that democracy was the best—though by no means the only—way to foster the “self-confidence, discipline, morale, and community spirit” necessary to defeat Moscow.[29] Indeed, tracing the international careers of these émigrés is especially illuminating because they so clearly conceived of the global crusade against Communism as a direct continuation of their earlier Weimar-era quest for democratic stability. Communists seemed so evil because they sought to exploit the very democratic institutions and liberties, such as voting and free speech, which émigrés believed were key tools to bring stability and peace. In seeking to resurrect these ideas during and after the war, these émigrés engaged in diverse conversations with policymakers, intellectuals, and even the public in both Germany and the United States. Where possible, then, I examine the intersections where their fixation with buttressing democratic structures was shared by others across the globe (for example, as I show in chapter 4, when diplomatic and military personnel discussed the value and perils of democracy in Latin America).

To some extent, my difference with Chappel and others is a matter of emphasis, of who we look at and how much importance we attribute to them. When it comes to Europe, Chappel is certainly right that many Catholics and other anti-Communist activists could not have cared less about democracy, including Waldemar Gurian before the 1930s. However, as time passed, he and others (like prominent Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain) spent increasing energy explaining why democratic institutions and practices, such as the separation of powers (even if officially under a constitutional monarchy like that in Britain or Belgium), were the best guardians of Christian communities. In my view, it is telling that Christian democrats preferred electoral regimes. Their robust functioning in Europe was not some accident—the option of authoritarianism was alive and well in other parts of the anti-Communist bloc. The same is true for American Cold Warriors. If American diplomats, philanthropists, and social scientists were animated by economic and power calculations, these did not always contradict democratic visions. If that were the case, it would remain unclear why they spent so much time, resources, and energy drafting democratic curricula, publications, parliaments, and exchange programs in postwar Europe and elsewhere. My claim was never that all those who joined the trans-Atlantic struggle against Communism were great democrats or that democracy was their overriding concern. Rather, I hope to highlight how important democratic theory was in their efforts to prevent another world war and mobilize the masses against internal and foreign enemies.

In emphasizing the importance of democracy, however, I do not seek to apologetically praise Cold Warriors as heroically benevolent. When they engaged in democracy promotion it was not out of dewy-eyed aspirations for foreign peoples’ liberation, but because they often saw it as an effective security mechanism against foreign threats. As such, democracy was limited to nations deemed “mature” enough to rule themselves (mostly white Europeans), and could be discarded when it did not serve its purpose, which was often the case in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. What is more, as Nicolaas Barr Clingan rightfully notes in his valuable review, one of the main objectives of The Weimar Century is to highlight the disturbing ideological convictions that undergirded mid-century understandings of democracy. Friedrich’s influential theory, for example, conflated democracy with belief in Christianity, and rejected any secular ideology as morally degenerate and politically dangerous. Loewenstein’s ideas were soaked in patrician disdain for the people, whom he saw as faceless ‘masses’ that needed to be managed from above by self-appointed elites. These are far from unambiguously laudable convictions.  

My goal, then, is to separate the debate about democracy and its global promotion from the reflexive value judgments that so often surround it. Instead of celebrating or condemning Cold Warriors’ level of commitment to democracy, it seems to me more helpful to understand what they meant by democracy, and how these ideas animated their actions. To be sure, I did express my own value judgments on some elements of the émigrés’ thought, and both Baar Clingan and Alexander Vazansky take issue with this. While the first believes that their most alarming ideas (especially their elitism) are “given a pass,” the latter complains that I am too harsh in my condemnations. But even though my book is indeed peppered with my appraisals of specific ideas or policies, its more important aim is to highlight how the concepts, values, and institutions associated with democracy have changed over time. The yardstick by which many political theorists measure democratic health today—the extent to which it empowers its most disadvantaged populations, or how it defends individual liberties—would be completely foreign to the Cold War generation, which saw democracy’s main mission as fostering political consensus, strengthening state institutions, and repressing dangerous dissent. Equally important is that during the early Cold War, one person’s democracy was another person’s worst nightmare. When Socialists or Catholics talked of democracy, they agreed on superficial institutional mechanisms (such as voting) but held widely different moral horizons. Democracy was never a fixed and stable concept, but rather a vast ocean of contested meanings. Scholars are only beginning to fully chart them and their consequences.

This discussion of the diverse and shifting meanings of democracy leads me to the fourth and final issue stressed by this forum’s participants: the value and legacies of Cold War thinking today. Both Chappel and Barr Clingan wonder whether my book is a genealogy of contemporary politics, especially U.S. diplomacy in the violent years since the terrorist attacks of 2001. The similarities between the two periods are indeed glaring: just like the architects of the Cold War, many proponents of the so-called War on Terror propagate lengthy foreign interventions and imposed democratization, believe that liberties are best defended by radically limiting them, and link foreign threats to domestic subversion. Chappel further connects my work to broader trends in intellectual history by wondering if the recent focus on thinkers who joined the institutions of power—rather than on theorists who criticized the mainstream, like the renowned members of the Frankfurt School—has led scholars to abandon the task of providing ideological alternatives to contemporary intellectual and political realities. My book, in this regard, reflects not only the prolonged afterlife of Cold War thought, but also the depressing defeat of other (and more progressive) political models.   

While I deliberately avoided commenting on current international politics in my book—history is rarely better understood when it becomes a fodder for present political debates—the links between its stories and today have proved too numerous for many readers to ignore. I would therefore like to conclude by briefly making explicit what The Weimar Century left implicit. It is true that I highlighted the tragic side of the émigrés’ politics as a commentary on the disasters that their inflexible and even combative political theories could inflict. Fraenkel never wondered whether Korea’s division was a price worth paying for his social-democratic project; similarly, Loewenstein thought it normal to imprison and deport hopeless individuals in order to promote liberalism. Both stories are good reminders of such convictions’ disastrous and unintended consequences, which still tragically unfold today, especially in the Middle East. Yet if the émigrés’ missionary zeal proved so violent in East Asia and Latin America, it also helped usher in a remarkable calm in Western Europe. Ironically, the ideas that were so oppressive in some parts of the globe proved exceptionally progressive in others, helping Germany leave behind decades of violence and expansionism in favor of peaceful pluralism. To say that context matters is perhaps banal but not insignificant. The allure of Cold War thinking stemmed at least in part from its striking effectiveness in taming Europe’s destructive impulses.

But ultimately, if The Weimar Century has a political agenda, it is to highlight the dangers of looking at the postwar moment when trying to formulate policies and ideas for today. It is sometimes astonishing how often contemporary thinkers and policymakers hark back to Germany’s reconstruction and the early Cold War as a model for today’s dilemmas, as if seven decades have not changed global politics. Much of the debate about American policy in the Middle East, for example, revolves around the United States’ ability or lack thereof to repeat its policies in Europe and Japan in the 1940s, namely the imposition of democracy and anti-Communist mobilization, instead of grasping it for the completely different conundrum that it is.[30] In my view, this constant refraction of the present through the past, especially a past so violent and filled with fear, profoundly limits our ability to imagine fresh and flexible responses to new challenges. It imposes irrelevant categorizations and political recipes. In many ways, my book explores a similar repetition. At its heart is the German émigrés’ inability to let go of the 1920s, their compulsive effort to resurrect their Weimar-era projects in a world profoundly different. If I spent so much time highlighting the difference between their political thought and contemporary visions of democracy, it is in part because I believe it would be helpful to look elsewhere for advice. Perhaps we, too, could use a fresh perspective, free from the immediate postwar dramas that still inform so much of our thinking.



[1] Laura Fermi, Illustrious Immigrants: The Intellectual Migration from Europe, 1930/41 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971); H. Stuart Hughes, The Sea Change: The Migration of Social Thought, 1930-1965 (New York: Harper and Row, 1975); Anthony Heilbut, Exiled in Paradise: German Refugee Artists and Intellectuals in America, from the 1930s to the Present (New York: Viking Press, 1983); Lewis A. Coser, Refugee Scholars in America: Their Impact and Their Experiences (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984); Jean-Michel Palmier, Weimar in Exile: The Antifascist Emigration in Europe and America, trans. David Fernbach (Verso: London, 2006).

[2] Martin Jay, The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923-1950 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973); Rolf Wiggershaus, The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories, and Political Significance (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995); Thomas Wheatland, The Frankfurt School in Exile (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009); Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004); Michelle-Iréne Brudny, Hannah Arendt: An Intellectual Biography (New York: Melville House, 2008); Eugene Sheppard, Leo Strauss and the Politics of Exile: The Making of a Political Philosopher (Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2007); Daniel Tanguay, Leo Strauss: An Intellectual Biography (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011); Walter Isaacson, Henry Kissinger: A Biography (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005); Jeremi Suri, Henry Kissinger and the American Century (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009).

[3] Jeremy Adelman, Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014); Christoph Frei, Hans J. Morgenthau: An Intellectual Biography (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001); William E. Scheuerman, Morgenthau (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009); Daniel Bessner, Democracy in Exile: Hans Speier and the Rise of the Defense Intellectual (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, forthcoming 2016).

[4] The Dual State was, along with Franz Neumann’s Behemoth and Sigmund Neumann’s Permanent Revolution, one third of an influential “émigré trilogy” that introduced American intellectuals to the analysis of “totalitarian” societies. See Franz Neumann, Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism (London: Victor Gollancz, 1942) and Sigmund Neumann, Permanent Revolution: The Total State in a World at War (New York: Harper and Row, 1942). Of course, the most famous work on the history, theory, and practice of totalitarianism was written by another émigré, Hannah Arendt. See her The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1951).

[5] Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948).

[6] Though Brzezinski was of Polish descent, he spent a significant part of the 1930s living in Nazi Germany with his diplomat father. Perhaps these early memories shaped his political worldview.

[7] The old notion that Weimar was an impossibly contradictory, failed experiment has been largely rejected for some time now. See, for instance, Peter Fritzsche, “Did Weimar Fail?,” The Journal of Modern History 68 (1996), 629-56; Eric Weitz, “Weimar Germany and its Historians,” Central European History 43 (2010), 581-591; Manuela Achilles, “With a Passion for Reason: Celebrating the Constitution in Weimar Germany,” Central European History 43 (2010), 666-89.

[8] Martin Jay, The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research 1923-1950 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1973).

[9] Dominick LaCapra, A Preface to Sartre (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1978), 10.

[10] Daniel Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University press, 1998).

[11] Charles Maier, Recasting Bourgeois Europe: Stabilization in France, Germany and Italy in the Decade After World War I (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975).

[12] John Quiggin, Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Uniersity Press, 2012).

[13] Paul Krugman, “Weimar on the Aegean,” New York Times, 16 February 2015, accessed 13 April 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/16/opinion/paul-krugman-weimar-on-the-aegean.html?_r=0

[14] Theodor W. Adorno, “Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda,” in The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture, ed. and intr. J. M. Bernstein (London and New York: Routledge, 1991), 116-117.

[15] Raymond Williams, Culture and Society: 1780-1950 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983 [1958]), 314.

[16] Peter Gay, Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider (New York: Norton, 2001), especially vi–vii, 2–6.

[17] See Lawrence A. Scaff, Max Weber in America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011); and Duncan Kelly, “Revisiting the Rights of Man: Georg Jellinek on Rights and the State,” Law and History Review 22, no. 3 (2004): 493–529.

[18] Gurian’s serial attacks on Schmitt, published in an émigré journal, made light of the Jewish and Catholic colleagues with whom the Preußischer Staatsrat had once consorted. The SS was happy to make use of this “ammunition” in its own vendetta against Schmitt during the mid-1930s. See Reinhard Mehring, Carl Schmitt: Aufstieg und Fall (Munich: Beck, 2009), 378.

[19] For a recent treatment of the relationship between Schmitt and Loewenstein, see Werner Sollors, The Temptation of Despair: Tales of the 1940s (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), chapter 4.

[20] See for example David Ekbadh, The Great American Mission: Modernization and the Construction of an American World Order (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010); Nick Cullather, the Hungry World: America’s Cold War Battle against Poverty in Asia (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2010).

[21] See Geir Ludenstad’s classic “Empire by Invitation in the American Century,” Diplomatic History 23:2 (1999) 189-217.

[22] This important point is highlighted in Mary Nolan, The Transatlantic Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), esp. 191-266.

[23] See for example Jeremi Suri, Henry Kissinger and the American Century (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007); Kevin Schultz, Tri-Faith America: How Catholics and Jews Held Postwar America to its Protestant Promise (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Deborah Dash Moore, GI Jews: How World War II Changed a Generation (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006).

[24] On the one pole of this debate, which highlights universal liberalism, one can count Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman, American Umpire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2013); Tony Smith, America’s Mission: The United States and the Worldwide Struggle for Democracy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012); and Elizabeth Borgwardt, A New Deal for the World: America’s Vision for Human Rights (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005). For a recent example of the other pole, which attributes U.S. foreign policy to imperialist imposition of capitalism, see Perry Anderson, U.S. Foreign Relations and its Thinkers (London: Verso, 2015). 

[25] This is especially notable among scholars of the Cold War in Asia, such as Daniel Immerwahr, Thinking Small: The United States and the Lure of Community Development (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2015); Ekbadh, The Great American Mission; and Nick Cullather, The Hungry World

[26] James Chappel, The Struggle for Europe’s Soul: Catholic Political Economy and the Salvation of Democracy, 1920-1960 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, forthcoming).

[27] See for example Samuel Moyn, Christian Human Rights (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015); Marco Duranti, Conservatism, Christian Democracy, and the European Human Rights Project, 1945-1950 (New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming); Giuliana Chamedes, The Vatican and the Making of the Atlantic Order (PhD diss., Columbia University, 2013).

[28] My thinking on this issue has been influenced heavily by Jennifer M. Miller, especially her Contested Alliance: The United States, Japan, and Democracy in the Cold War (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, forthcoming), as well as Jan-Werner Müller, Contesting Democracy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011).

[29] The quote, which I mention in my book, is from the “Long Telegram” (22 February 1946), http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/coldwar/documents/pdf/6-6.pdf.

[30] See for example Michael Walzer’s recent essay, “Islamism and the Left,” Dissent Magazine (Winter 2015), available online at https://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/islamism-and-the-left .