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How Modernity LED to Downfall of Weimar Republic

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The first discourse of the crisis of modernity emerged in the nineteenth century, as a response to the growing social, political and financial issues arising from the Industrial and French Revolutions. The making of the Weimar Republic contributed to the original discourse, a clash between progressives and regressives resilient to the technological and social advancements in society. Regressives, such as Alexis de Tecqsueville argues that industrialisation and its modernisation of societies destroys the chance of a working democracy and ushering in a new world of cultural change. Whereas progressive thinkers, such as Aguste Comte, believed that this industrialisation was more a pawn in the modernisation of a society, where industrialisation in this case promoted sociality, that issues that would either unite or divide people would be settled in a more democratic, egalitarian way. What was problematic, as theorised by Comte, was politics and dialogue. Politics and dialogue were based on outdated foundations, foundations that were irrelevant as to him, it had become clear that all realities operated by the same Newtonian principles: ‘The only danger to be feared, the only needful precaution,’ ) explains, ‘is that of not allowing ourselves to be turned aside from the end by the intrigues of ambitious men, who dispute among themselves the falling remnants of the ancient system’.

So as a precaution, technological advancement should be guided through the states virtue, if democracy was to benefit the citizen. This emphasis on democratic culture which was seen as the promise of modernity and only way for a society not to succumb to an oppressive one. In the context of the Weimar Republic, the second discourse in regards to modernity is useful in examining its downfall. This second discourse revolved around financial crises and Keynesian welfare states that arose as a response to these crises’s. The rise of the National Socialism and the consolidation of power could not have happened if it were not for the delicate politics culture that that formed prior to the events of WW2.

A key factor in this dissolution was the grown challenge of the elite class. Once traditionally responsible for the functions of the state, the newly formed republic took over many of these functions, such as being the high ranking civil servants and armed force members, employers and large landowners and agrarians. Together, they were a probable threat to the republic. The judiciary system is a great example in highlighting the divide between the elites and the republic, the passing of verdicts in regards to politically motivated crimes, they demonstrated that they viewed these types of crimes as an action merely ‘patriotic’ if anything, and such actions only merit minor punishments, while those who committed crimes on the left side were awarded much harsher verdicts. Quite often, trials against right wing motivated attacks were thrown out or suppressed. Local and federal governments did try and rectify these gross abuses of power; however there was not much progress made, until much later when younger, more liberal judges were brought in. Similarly, these changes came about in the aforementioned areas. Such is a common happening in history; the public sector was subject to swings between political affiliations and expansions into new functions of social policy. As long as workers in the public and judicial areas obliged to their day to day duties, while privately being dissatisfied or content with the regime.

The Weimar era forms into two distinct periods, on the one hand on the basis of the period of crisis’s that occurred following WW1 and the succession of exciting events that defines this period, the violent and immense changes to society and culture were not as a supplement to this era, but rather its essence. The questions of traditions instilled an atmosphere of uneasiness and led people across class and political affiliation to question everyday life. Yet as this happened, a crisis of modernity evolved: as new ideas were introduced and put into effect, they began to breakdown due to society’s resistance to change. The hindrance caused by World War 1 onto Germany’s economy reduced that chance for growth and compromise within the Weimar which would have been palatable to those who rejected the Republic. Without the room to distribute wealth, the Weimar suffered, and disputes if ages and labours costs increasingly divided German society into two. It would be unfair to look at the Weimar Republics only significance being its ending, even so, an analysis must not just be made of National Socialism, but the conditions that helped it grown and consolidate power. In short, while the Republic rightly has its own history, it is also proper to judge the Weimar against the events that caused and followed its demise.

After the fall of the last democratic Weimar government had a majority in the government. In March 1930 Paul Hindenburg established a cabinet headed by a man named Enrich Bruning. Bruning implemented a bunch of emergency decrees, carrying out rigorous policies which further cut wages and social expenses in an effort to balance the budget. By the following election 6 months later, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) had made significant gains on from German voters. And by July 1932, the NSDAP party, alongside other radical political parties, made up the majority of the Reichstag. In the years of economic depression, the NSDAP was able to garner power through solidarity with the working class. Pre industrialisation, the concept of idleness was practically unknown to the working class, the notion of a full time job is quite new, and with it the line between leisure time and work. This new concept, whilst freeing in terms of providing people with a guidelines in terms of work and play: also led to the concept of unemployment . By the 1920’s, the topic of unemployment was at the centre of political debate. Unemployment was not a serious social or political problem pre-World War 1, but the rise in legislation in regards to welfare and social security pushed unemployed as the hot topic in political discourse. 

However the disturbance of the economy due to the switch from consumer goods to war production in brought in a significant amount of unemployment. The need to deal with this, to support dependents of soldiers at the Front, and then later, to provide those returning from the war in 1918-19 with the means of subsistence until they found a job: these were the political imperatives that lay behind the emergence of the unemployment benefit system that took on concrete form at the start of the Weimar Era.  

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