European cities were incubators of modernity during the „long“ 19th century and gave rise to a civil society based on voluntary associations. Was this a precondition for the process of democratization we observe in the 19th century? With associations becoming a mass form that was also used by the lower classes, liberal public opinion became increasingly critical of the idea of civil society on the eve of World War I. Since the 1980s, however, interest in the concept has revived, first because historians argued that the lack of a civil society tradition to provide a training ground for democracy played a crucial role in the development of totalitarianism in some European countries, and then because the start of the transformation process in the former communist states in Eastern Europe was connected with the need to develop civil society in these countries in order of becoming democracies.
Recent research has raised questions about both notions regarding civil society—its historical connection with totalitarianism, and its present-day importance for democratization. To explore these issues, this module will therefore ask: what were the real achievements and shortcomings of civil society during the 19th century, and is it true that Eastern Europe lacked a native tradition of civil society? Since voluntary associations as the core of civil society arose across Europe and North America nearly simultaneously, we will follow the approach of entangled history to understand the transfer of this phenomenon into different countries, combining readings and discussion on general European (and also North American) history with specific case studies from the Russian and Habsburg empires.
Basic/leading questions to be discussed will be:
Origins of voluntary associations and civil society:
• What social problems led to the founding of voluntary associations (e. g., urban growth, poverty, housing shortages, hygiene, morality)?
• What cultural forces underlay the new forms of sociability (e. g., the “consumer revolution,” “civilizing process,” or “nocturnalization”)?
Civil society and social class:
• Who joined the associations, and how did this change over time?
• To what extent were the statutes and sociability of voluntary associations, and thus civil society itself, based on principles contrary to modern understandings of democracy, such as wealth, education, moral improvement, and the exclusion of the lower classes?
Civil society and government:
• Did civil society in individual countries really serve as a school of democracy, and did it stand in opposition to the „state“ and state institutions?
• How was civil society connected modern nationalism and liberalism and with modernist ideas of bureaucratic social engineering?
• How were ideas about administrative solutions to urban problems transferred between cities and between countries?
To earn the credit points, in addition to active participation in the discussion, a research paper on a selected time period, country or aspect is required, discussing selected research questions in the seminar (4 credits + 5 research paper) and the presentation of one book central to the discussed questions in the contextualization course (3 credits). To fulfil the module requirements the participation in one Kolloquium is necessary (3 credits).
Read the assigned texts /and Thesenpapiere/ in their entirety for the assigned date
Serve as discussion leader on assigned dates (seminar)
Chose a topic for a research paper of 25 to 30 pages, give a short paper and 15 minutes overview discussion on an assigned date. The paper, the general content of the oral presentation has to be agreed with the instructor before.
If possible and relevant, include scholarship in languages other than English.
Chose a book relevant to the module topic for presentation in the contextualization.