Saturday, May 19, 2012
The second half of the class we focused more on the politics and the history of the period (1918-1939) after examining some of the cultural and artistic works in the first half. Beginning with Rosa Luxemburg who was also covered in the midterm we looked at the aborted revolution in Germany led by German communists known as the Spartacus Group or the Spartacists. However, in all of the following lectures, the theme of communism was a topic that we dealt with repeatedly. Some of the important things to remember:
What were the basic arguments against capitalism used by communists?
How did they predict its collapse?
What was the theory of imperialism and how did it change communist doctrine from the 19th century?
What thinkers were associated with the theory of imperialism?
What were the empirical events used to support/disprove this argument?
What role did communists play in the Weimar Republic?
How did communists oppose fascists?
Fascism/Nazism was the other main political movement that developed during this period of time:
What were the origins of fascism?
What were its major appeals to German people?
Why was fascism seen as a revolt against civilization?
What part of the population gave the most support to the Nazis?
In what ways could both communism and fascism be considered nihilistic?
Besides these political movements/ideologies we also discussed the political structure of Germany: during this time both the Weimar Republic and the Nazi regime.
How did Germany divide power between its Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of government and between state and local government?
What were some of the distinctive rights guaranteed in the Weimar Constitution?
What were the major political parties and how did the party system work?
What were the major weaknesses in the Weimar government?
When did Germany experience hyperinflation?
How did the Great Depression contribute to the Nazis seizing power?
How did Hitler seize power in 1933?
How did the Nazi regime control the economy?
What was the Volk?
What were the major artistic/cultural movements in the 1920s-early 1930s?
What was German propaganda like?
How is anti-Semitism central to understanding Nazism?
Why was fascism supported by many western capitalists?
What were other fascist governments doing during the 1930s?
Why is the Spanish Civil War important for the rise of fascism?
How did World War II begin?
The last few readings dealt with the radical social changes caused by the rise of fascists regimes and the cultural changes this was causing. Especially changes in education, in values and even perception, but also the "politicization" of culture in the writings of Ernst Jünger (conservative) and Walter Benjamin (radical/Marxist):
What is different about the post-liberal age from the liberal age?
Why are they skeptical of progress?
How does science and technology increase political control?
How does technology and science affect education?
How does modern forms of art change perception and experience?
What is the difference between integrated and isolated experience?
Why is culture becoming more important in political conflicts?
What was the Popular Front?
Why is Jünger more pessimistic about mass culture? Why is Benjamin more positive?
What is the aura and and how does mechanical reproduction destroy it? What are the consequences for culture?
How does the past influence our interpretation of the present?
What is the relationship between progress and nihilism?
These questions or some form of will make up most of the material on the final exam. In some cases I will also ask to compare some of these ideas/themes to the films and books we looked at in the first half of the class.