. 6
( 13)


This aspect of rosary devotion explains its appeal for missionaries in
the Gastein valley and other Alpine areas of Salzburg. As a catechistic
tool the rosary was ideally suited to a distant region whose mountainous
terrain could discourage attendance at mass and limit access to clergy.
Problems posed by topography were especially dire in a mining region
like the Gastein valley. Because the valley™s gold and silver mines were
located high in the mountains and hence relatively inaccessible, miners
lived for most of their work week in hostels, divorced from any effec-
tive pastoral supervision. Miners were never effectively integrated into
the rhythms and practices of Catholic devotional life, which doubtless
helps explain why most were solidly Protestant (90 per cent, according to

49 Kurtze Andacht zu der Schmertzhaften unter dem Creutz stehend Jungfr¨ ulichen Mutter Maria
(Salzburg, 1741).
50 Anne Dillon, ˜Prayer by Number: The Confraternity of the Rosary and the English
Catholic Community, c. 1580“1700™, History 88 (2003), p. 470; see also pp. 457“60 on
the origins of rosary devotion.
51 Ibid., p. 469.
Confessional power in Alpine Salzburg 151

visitations conducted in 1617“18).52 Father Wagner blamed the persis-
tence of heresy in the region on the valley™s miners and their inadequate
integration into the parish community.53
Of¬cial sponsorship of rosary devotion in Alpine Salzburg included the
creation of confraternities devoted to it,54 but catechistic missions appear
to have promoted rosary prayer as above all a household devotion. Heads
of households were enjoined to pray it on Saturday evenings with their
wives and children but also with servants or farmhands (˜Hausleit™) living
under their roofs.55 Saturday, the day of the week on which Mary was
supposed to have wept at the tomb of Jesus, had a special meaning in
Marian devotional practice.56 Missionaries to the region may also have
considered Saturday-evening rosary devotions a needed counterweight to
the household conventicles long prevalent in the Pongau, where Protes-
tants gathered secretly to pray, sing hymns and read aloud from their
Bibles and chapbooks. In this respect rosary devotion would have offered
missionaries a way of confessionally colonizing the private space of the
household, which they considered to be under continuous siege if not de
facto occupation by Protestant devotional practices.
Catholic missionaries in Alpine Salzburg also encouraged rosary prayer
for the same reason they promoted the wearing of scapularies, namely as
a signi¬er of religious conformity or, alternatively, Protestant heresy. For
Catholics and Protestants alike, the rosary was a badge of confessional
identity. In 1593 the English Jesuit Henry Garnet called it ˜a manifest
badge or token of the Romane Religion™, a judgement shared by Tudor
law courts for whom possession of rosary beads suf¬ced to incriminate
suspected papists.57 In 1733 a Lutheran pamphlet on the persecution
of Salzburg Protestants alluded to the rosary™s signifying function as ˜a
symbol one carries and prays so that it is possible to discern those who
are of the Roman Church™.58

52 SLA, P¬‚eggericht Gastein, Reste 37.
53 Konsistorialarchiv, Salzburg, 10:2: Pastoralia Hofgastein, 9 June 1730.
54 Archbishop Paris Lodron chartered a Confraternity of the Rosary in the city of Salzburg
in 1634. Capuchin and Franciscan missions subsequently promoted the sodality in the
Pongau, including the Gastein valley. The charter of the Hofgastein brotherhood is
found in the Konsistorialarchiv, Salzburg, 10/2: Pastoralia Hofgastein (Bruderschaften),
21 September 1676.
55 See the report on a catechistic mission conducted in the Liechtenberg district in the
spring of 1732, in SLA, Emigrationsakten, Kart. 62 (26 May 1732).
56 Cf. Kurtze Andacht zu der Schmertzhaften . . . Mutter Maria, p. 8.
57 Dillon, ˜Praying by Number™, p. 453.
58 Theophilander (pseud.), Historische Nachrichten von dem Neuen Grusse: Gelobet sey Jesus
Christus! Warum die Evangelischen Salzburger, als sie noch in ihrem Lande Waren, solchen
nicht haben annehmen und gebrauchen wollen, sondern sich ein Gewissen dar¨ ber gemachet.
Inglechen von dem Rosen-Kranze, oder sogennanten Pater Noster in der R¨ misch-Catholischen
Kirche (n.p., 1733), p. 5.
152 James Van Horn Melton

For missionaries in rural Salzburg, the signifying force of the rosary
lay partly in the visual realm (members of Salzburg rosary confraternities
were required to carry it publicly at mass and in processions)59 but also
in the acoustical sphere. Unlike English Catholics in Tudor England, for
whom the rosary appears to have been a silent exercise60 (perhaps to avoid
detection), Catholic missionaries in Alpine Salzburg insisted that it be
prayed aloud as a public declaration of faith. A catechistic mission in the
Liechtenberg district admonished parishioners to recite their Saturday-
evening rosary prayers ˜in a loud voice™ (˜mit lauter Stim™), while one
part of the questionnaire used by Jesuit interrogators in the Gastein valley
sought to determine whether or not the subject prayed the rosary ˜laut™.61
Well after most Protestants had been driven from the territory, praying
the rosary aloud and in the presence of others remained an index of
conformity. The diary of Joseph de Berto, a Benedictine missionary sent
by the Salzburg consistory to conduct confessional mop-up efforts in
the Gastein valley between 1746 and 1753, recorded his interrogation
of a maidservant who had been denounced by the wife of her peasant
employer for failing to pray the rosary aloud with the rest of the household.
When the maidservant protested that she prayed the rosary regularly but
alone and in silence, the missionary responded: ˜But why alone? Pray
aloud nicely with the others to show you are a good Catholic.™62
So if the scapulary badge provided Catholic missionaries with a visual
signi¬er of conformity, audible rosary prayer also gave them an acoustical
one.63 The promotion of rosary prayer as an audible exercise, like the

59 ˜Kurtze Unterweisung fur alle Bruder und Schwester des H. Rosenkrantzes Bruder-
¨ ¨
schaft™, a broadsheet published in 1720 and distributed to members of the Hofgastein
brotherhood. It stipulates that members would receive a full indulgence when they joined,
when they attended confession on the ¬rst Sunday of October and when they died, as
long as they had observed the rules of the brotherhood. These included praying the rosary
aloud three times a week and carrying the rosary publicly at mass and in processions.
Konsistorialarchiv, Salzburg, 10/2: Pastoralia Hofgastein (Bruderschaften).
60 Dillon, ˜Praying by Number™, p. 470.
61 SLA, Emigrationsakten, Kart. 62 (26 May 1732), fo. 6; the handwritten questionnaire
from Gastein is found in Kart. 29a, fos. 155“6.
62 From the excerpts of the diary edited by Georg Loesche, ˜Ein handschriftliches
Benediktiner Tagebuch aus der Zeit gegen den “Gasteiner Glauben”™, Zeitschrift f¨ r u
Kirchengeschichte NF 39 (1921), pp. 96“133, here p. 108.
63 Another acoustical signi¬er were the efforts by Catholic missionaries in the Pongau to
encourage the laity to greet each other in everyday situations with the salutation ˜Praise be
to Jesus Christ™ (˜Gelobt sei Jesus Christus™). Pope Sixtus V had originally authorized the
greeting in 1587 and Pope Benedict XIII reintroduced it in 1728. Benedict promised an
indulgence of 100 days to those who used it, which according to a contemporary observer
from Protestant Germany, was the reason Salzburg Protestants resisted the greeting. See
Theophilander, Historische Nachrichten von dem Neuen Grusse: Gelobet sey Jesus Christus!,
p. 8. This 1733 account considered the greeting a device developed by the Church to help
identify nonconformity. The author emphasized the signifying function of the greeting
Confessional power in Alpine Salzburg 153

promotion of scapulary badges, was effective because it entailed com-
pliance with Catholic practices and beliefs “ above all veneration of the
Virgin and Catholic penitential doctrines “ that struck at the heart of
Protestant confessional identity. For convinced Protestants it was one
thing to carry a string of rosary beads to mass; it was quite another to
pray the rosary aloud, with the dozens of audible Marian mantras that
entailed. And as had happened in response to the aggressive promotion of
scapulary devotion, the more hotheaded reacted with behaviour and lan-
guage designed to desecrate. One reads of Protestants using their rosaries
as dog collars, or of a farmhand relating how Jesus had once seized two
women by their noses when he found them praying the rosary.64 The more
prudent, as be¬t their bifurcated confessional lives, sought to integrate
rosary devotion into their public personae as best they could without vio-
lating their Protestant consciences. Some for example recited the rosary
aloud but in a contrafactual version that substituted the Our Father for
the Ave Maria.65

Polarization and expulsion
Yet even efforts at compromise invited scrutiny, usually on the basis of
open or anonymous denunciations. As persecution intensi¬ed and con-
fessional tensions mounted, denunciations related to rosary prayer mul-
tiplied and suggest a process of polarization that had penetrated to the
level of the household. A recurring theme in denunciations is the ten-
sion between landholding peasants and propertyless farmhands, or what
language of the period categorized as the domiciled and undomiciled

in contending (p. 8) that ˜under the pretext of promoting the use of these holy words,
the subtle intent was to identify all those who would or would not render obedience to
the Pope . . . Thus this greeting is a Signum distinctivum, a distinguishing mark used
to recognize those who belong to the Roman Church and those who do not.™ Judging
from the frequent denunciation of those who resisted the greeting, the stratagem was
effective. A few examples: SLA, Kart. 59a, fos. 52ff. (a Mittersill miller who grumbled
˜Leck mich in Arsch™ when a farmhand greeted him with the salutation); Kart. 22a,
fo. 338 (a peasant who threatened to strike someone who had so greeted him); Kart.
38b, fo. 621 (a peasant who remained silent when greeted with the formula); Kart. 31a,
fos. 16“17 (a Hofgastein villager interrogated for having complained about the greeting).
Walker, Salzburg Transaction, p. 41, brie¬‚y discusses the greeting, which he mistakenly
calls the ˜angelic salutation™. The German term englischer Gruss refers not to the greeting
in question but rather to the Ave Maria, based biblically on the angel Gabriel™s salutation.
64 SLA, Emigrationsakten, Kart. 31a, fos. 168“73 (18 March 1735); Kart. 17a, fo. 588
(17 October 1733).
65 Cf. examples from interrogations conducted in Liechtenberg district, SLA, Emigra-
tionsakten, Kart. 62, fo. 202 (19 April 1732), fo. 246 (23 May 1732) and fo. 554
(13 May 1733).
154 James Van Horn Melton

(Angesessene and Unangesessene).66 One encounters cases like Hans
Priedlinger, a peasant from the Pongau district of St Johann, who was
denounced by one of his farmhands for leaving the room when Priedlinger
heard him praying the rosary, or that of Maria Winkler, a Pongau milk-
maid, who informed on the wife of her peasant employer after she forbade
her from praying the rosary aloud, or the peasant Maria Oberleitner, who
told missionaries in the Mittersill district that she had never heard Caspar
Orthofer, a former farmhand, pray the rosary aloud in her household.67
Denunciations related to the scapulary hint at similar tensions.68
Such a charged atmosphere left increasingly less room for the kind of
ambiguity and elasticity that had once characterized confessional per-
sonae in the region. Hastening the progressively stark demarcation of
confessional identities were the visual and acoustical signi¬ers used by
Catholic authorities to distinguish conformity from heterodoxy. They
could not have done so without considerable complicity on the part of
the inhabitants themselves. In the years following the expulsion edict, a
polarizing dynamic of provocation and denunciation came to character-
ize relations between Catholics and Protestants. Beleaguered Protestants,
forced to embrace devotional practices at odds with their Lutheran iden-
tities, grew ever more hostile to Catholic practices they had once accom-
modated. Catholics, reacting against Protestant provocation and anxious
for their part to avoid any suspicion of heresy, appeared increasingly will-
ing to come forward as informers. The sources give the impression that
by mid-1732, when the machinery of persecution and expulsion was in
full gear, an air of venom had come to pervade the valleys and mountains
of the Pongau. It arrived somewhat belatedly in the Gastein valley, the
most remote part of the Pongau where the ¬rst Jesuit mission did not
arrive until early 1732. As noted earlier, Catholic villagers in Hofgastein
were complaining about the harsh behaviour of Jesuit missionaries as
late as February of 1733. But judging from subsequent interrogations
in the valley (more than a thousand between winter of 1733 and late
1734), which depended heavily on information gleaned from informers,
the same dynamic of persecution and polarization came to prevail there

66 On these categories see Walker, Salzburg Transaction, pp. 12“13.
67 SLA, Emigrationsakten, Kart. 22a, fo. 379 (16 November 1733); Kart. 22a, fo. 291
(16 November 1733); Kart. 59a, fo. 60 (11 November 1732).
68 Cf. denunciations in the Liechtenburg district from spring and summer of 1732, in SLA,
Emigrationsakten, Kart. 62, fo. 230 (denunciation of peasant who had forbidden his
farmhands from wearing scapularies during work); fo. 245 (denunciation of peasant who
prohibited the wearing of scapularies in his household); fos. 558“9 (peasant denounced
by his maidservant for not permitting her to wear a scapulary).
Confessional power in Alpine Salzburg 155

as well. In a fashion that evokes more recent historical experience,69 a spi-
ralling dialectic of provocation and denunciation brought to the surface
resentments and tensions that exist under the surface of any society. Peas-
ants informed on each other or their farmhands, farmhands informed on
each other or their peasants, unmarried servant women denounced the
fathers of their unborn children, stepchildren incriminated stepparents,
wives denounced their husbands or vice versa. ˜Cursed and damned are
we,™ lamented the Protestant lay preacher Hans Mossegger in a 1731 ser-
mon. ˜No one can be trusted, not your child, your brother or sister, your
father and mother, your farmhands and neighbours.™70
The fate of the former members of the Hofgastein choir was indicative
of the growing repression. Wagner and Zech reopened their case in July
of 1733, as a result of which ¬ve were expelled from the territory inde¬-
nitely. Four others were banished for three years and allowed to return on
condition that they spend the term of exile in a Catholic territory where
their confessional conformity had been attested. The verdict allowed only
one, the frail eighty-¬ve-year-old peasant Michael Gruber, to remain.71
A few months after their expulsion, two former members returned
secretly to the valley with the aim of appealing for clemency from the
archbishop. The peasant brothers Matthias and Wolfgang Leyerer peti-
tioned separately, acknowledging their past transgressions but presenting
evidence putatively attesting their rehabilitation. Matthias even managed
to win the support of the new parish priest (Wagner had retired in late
1733), who testi¬ed that the petitioner, since returning to Hofgastein, had
behaved as a model Catholic, helped out with daily tasks in the parish and
showed genuine contrition. Surprisingly “ the archbishop rarely granted
clemency to those already expelled “ Firmian approved the request, hav-
ing been swayed not only by the priest™s recommendation but also by
the dire health of Matthias™s wife and children, who had remained in the
territory and contracted smallpox a few months after his expulsion.72
His brother Wolfgang, who appealed his three-year term of exile after
roaming through various parts of Bavaria, was less fortunate. It was not
from want of trying: the dossier he carefully assembled to accompany

69 On the phenomenon of denunciation in modern European history, see the editors™
introduction to Accusatory Practices: Denunciation in Modern European History, 1789“
1989, eds. Sheila Fitzpatrick and Robert Gellately (Chicago, 1997), pp. 1“21, and to
Der Staatsb¨ rger als Spitzel. Denunziationen w¨ hrend des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts aus
u a
europ¨ ischer Perspektive, eds. Michaela Hohkamp and Claudia Ulbrich (Leipzig, 2001).
70 Florey, ˜Predigt eines Salzburger Pr¨ dikanten aus dem Jahr 1731™, p. 143.
71 SLA, Emigrationsakten, Kart. 29b, fos. 551“3.
72 SLA, Emigrationsakten, Kart. 30b, fos. 378“87 (16“27 February 1734).
156 James Van Horn Melton

his petition represented a fascinating if futile effort to reinvent his con-
fessional identity. The packet included a note signed by Father Wagner
in April of 1731 certifying that he had joined the Confraternity of the
Rosary and recited the prayers audibly every week; a slip signed by a
Capuchin priest in the Bavarian town of Burghausen, where Wolfgang
had spent several weeks following his expulsion, attesting that the priest
had heard his confession in December of 1733; another confession-ticket
dated 16 January 1734 and signed by a Jesuit priest in Passau; and the
deposition of an innkeeper in Iltzstatt (near Passau) testifying that Wolf-
gang had attended mass with him and his wife every day and prayed
the rosary aloud. Also included in Wolfgang™s dossier was a piece of
handwritten verse entitled ˜A Faithful Admonition to the Said Wolfgang
Leyerer, A Repentant Salzburg Peasant from Unterberg in Gastein™. It is
not clear who composed the doggerel: conceivably it was Wolfgang him-
self, who was apparently literate since a house visitation conducted by
Catholic authorities in 1726 had discovered in his possession a Protes-
tant Bible, a volume of Luther™s hymns and a hymnbook containing the
˜Loinbacher™.73 Whoever composed the verse, Wolfgang enclosed it in his
dossier as further evidence of contrition and reconversion:
Wolf Leyerer, Hark my words!
Live piously as a Catholic Christian, avoid false teachings
Your gracious prince acts justly and well
When he hunts down the evildoers and shelters the pious.
Put your faith in one God and one Church, the old Roman one I mean
Leave be the Bible, Spangenberg™s hymnal,74 contentious books.
Remember that you are no Doctor but a peasant
And peasants are not meant to read books.
Sit quietly and still on your farm in Gastein
In peace with your wife and children, eating your cabbage and
With God™s help you will ¬nd mercy under Prince Firmian,
Who loves the pious but cannot tolerate evildoers.
A voice will tell you: Go home and sin no more.75

The author clearly thought he knew what the archbishop wanted to
hear, even if the tone of abject contrition sounds contrived and a bit over
the top. The archbishop must have had his doubts in any case, since he
rejected the petition and expelled Wolfgang again. Undaunted, Wolfgang
returned in the spring of 1734, as his wife (who was Catholic and had

73 Konsistorialarchiv, Salzburg, 11/54: Reformation Gastein (25 September 1726).
74 Johannes Spangenberg (1484“1550), a disciple of Luther and pedagogical reformer
whose devotional works enjoyed great popularity among Salzburg Protestants.
75 SLA, Emigrationsakten, Kart. 30b, fos. 373“4.
Confessional power in Alpine Salzburg 157

remained in the territory) admitted in a letter to the archbishop seeking
clemency for her husband. At the urging of Zech, who was unconvinced
by Wolfgang™s claims of contrition and still considered him a dangerous
Protestant, the archbishop rejected the appeal and expelled him a third
time. There is no evidence he ever returned.
For a strict confessional gatekeeper like Zech, Wolfgang™s efforts to
reinvent himself as a Catholic subject was simply another case of the
crypto-Protestant hypocrisy the Jesuit found so entrenched in the val-
ley. ˜For more than two centuries™, as Zech wrote of clandestine Protes-
tants in the Gasteinertal, ˜they have learned how to conceal, deny and
renounce their faith.™76 The self-conscious way in which Wolfgang sought
to verify his Catholic identity does indeed suggest an individual adept at
altering his confessional persona. Yet I would suggest that the ability
to migrate between Protestant and Catholic identities “ whether from
choice or necessity “ also equipped Salzburg Protestants for another kind
of migration, the territorial one that took thousands of them to Prussia
and a few hundred as far as the Georgia lowcountry. As emigrants they
were famously successful in both places, adapting with remarkable skill
and persistence to environments different in almost every way from the
one they had left behind. This adaptation required new habits and skills,
including the acquisition of new religious identities “ whether in Prussia
as members of a state Church, or in colonial Georgia as inhabitants of
a tightly knit, virtually theocratic Pietist community. If they had learned
anything in their Alpine homeland, it was the ability to alter confessional
identities “ often swiftly and at very short notice.

76 ˜Miserabilis Gasteinsium Status™, fo. 160.
8 The transformation of the Aufkl¨ rung: from
the idea of power to the power of ideas

Joachim Whaley
Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

The German Aufkl¨ rung has been an enduring theme in Tim Blanning™s
“uvre. His ¬rst book on reform and revolution in Mainz published in
1974 made a signi¬cant contribution to the debate on Enlightened Abso-
lutism. In the German states, he argued, Enlightened ideas were not only
accommodated within traditional structures, they positively reinforced
those structures. Indeed, if Enlightened Absolutism existed anywhere at
all, he suggested, then it was in the Holy Roman Empire.1
In contrast to the French Enlightenment, the German Aufkl¨ rung was
not characterised by any inherent antagonism to the demands of the state.
Enlightened ideas gained their distinctive force in Germany from the fact
that there was no distinction between intellectuals and administrators.
Many were both at the same time and were able to employ their ideas in
the service of bene¬cial reforms. The measure of the impact of these ideas
was that the German masses declined the opportunity to overturn the old
order after 1789. ˜Traditional notions of religion, duty and obedience
continued to dominate public life™; just as they had been accommodated
to the ideals of the Enlightenment, so they now ˜adjusted to changing
circumstances, without their essence being diluted™.2
Blanning™s latest work on the power of culture and the culture of power
reverts to this theme. In a comparative sweep that embraces Britain and
France as well as Germany, he again underlines the particularity of the
German case. In France the ˜intelligentsia became divorced from the
regime during the course of the eighteenth century and then helped to
destroy it™. In Britain, the state was peripheral to culture: intellectuals
were concentrated in London where there was no university before 1828
and no bureaucracy until even later. The relationship between German

1 T. C. W. Blanning, Reform and Revolution in Mainz 1743“1803 (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1974), p. 33.
2 Ibid., p. 38.

The transformation of the Aufkl¨ rung
a 159

intellectuals and the state, by contrast, was a symbiotic one.3 The exem-
plary case for ˜Germany™ is now taken to be Prussia. For Prussia played a
key role in what Blanning sees as the German response to the challenge
of the ˜new circumstances™ of the late eighteenth century.4
Austria too met the challenge of modernisation under Joseph II. Yet
Prussia under Frederick the Great mastered the new public sphere more
effectively still. Frederick created a state that was widely admired. It was
not only concerned with power (though Frederick pursued that with great
skill as well) but was ˜a state governed by the rule of law (Rechtsstaat) and
a state committed to the promotion of culture (Kulturstaat)™.5 Further-
more Frederick the Great™s success in combining power with culture also
played a key role in what Blanning sees as the dominant German cul-
tural trend of the decades after 1740: the development of nationalism.6
To varying degrees many German rulers, including Joseph II, embraced
this trend in the 1770s and 1780s. The result was that ˜princes and peo-
ples in Germany found in their national culture a powerfully adhesive
bond™ in the face of the ideological and military threat of the French
Blanning™s view of the particularity of the German tradition has much
in common with the mainstream of writing about the Aufkl¨ rung as an
intellectual and philosophical movement. His work on Mainz was in many
ways a precursor of what became the new approach to Enlightenment
studies, whose manifesto was the in¬‚uential collection of essays edited
by Roy Porter and Mikul´ s Teich devoted to the national contexts of the

European Enlightenments.8
Since then Enlightenment studies have evolved further. While many of
the main lines of interpretation have remained constant, new research has
opened up novel perspectives. Above all this has raised important ques-
tions about the period after 1789: for example, the question of the persis-
tence of Enlightened ideas into the nineteenth century and the extent of
their in¬‚uence, and the relationship between Enlightenment and nation-
alism. Moreover, these questions have particular signi¬cance for the Ger-
man case because of the way that the Aufkl¨ rung has been interpreted in
the context of the development of German society and culture.

3 T. C. W. Blanning, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture: Old Regime Europe,
1660“1789 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 209“12.
4 5 Ibid., p. 212. 6 Ibid., pp. 239“65. 7 Ibid., p. 265.
Ibid., p. 441.
8 Roy Porter and Mikul´ s Teich (eds.), The Enlightenment in National Context (Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 1981). The Cambridge History Faculty seminar on which
the essays were based was held in 1979. Blanning™s own contribution on ˜The Enlighten-
ment in Catholic Germany™ is pp. 118“26.
160 Joachim Whaley

The past three decades have seen an extraordinary boom in Aufkl¨ rung a
studies. In the 1970s people could in a sense still think of themselves as
pioneers, or as standard bearers for a neglected and rather misunderstood
movement. Much German scholarship in particular was infused with the
sense of the renewed signi¬cance for the present of a movement that
seemed to be the precursor of modern social and intellectual aspirations.9
As Werner Schneiders wrote in 1974: ˜Aufkl¨ rung has become a slogan
again, just like criticism, emancipation and autonomy.™10
The idea that the Aufkl¨ rung was ˜rediscovered™ after 1945 is of course
misleading. Ever since the late eighteenth century both the thing itself
and its legacy have been the subject of politicised and ideological debate.
But there was a peculiar urgency about the approaches to it after 1945,
both in scholarship and also in the periodic attempts by politicians
and commentators of the most diverse persuasions to appropriate the
Aufkl¨ rung legacy and to instrumentalise it for the present.12
Of course, that is in some senses true of Enlightenment studies gen-
erally. Peter Gay™s monumental two-volume study of the Enlightenment
published in 1966 and 1969 made an impact as an extraordinary work of
scholarship and synthesis. But its central theme “ the inherent and irre-
pressible liberalism of the Enlightenment “ was also highly congenial to
the progressive liberal consensus that emerged in universities in the US
and elsewhere during the 1950s and 1960s.13 However, such discussions
had an even sharper edge in Germany than elsewhere. The in¬‚uential
views of Adorno and Horkheimer and of Habermas, for example, in a
9 Joachim Whaley, ˜Rediscovering the Aufkl¨ rung™, German Life and Letters NS 34 (1981),
pp. 183“95.
10 Werner Schneiders, Die Wahre Aufkl¨ rung. Zum Selbstverst¨ ndnis der deutschen Aufkl¨ rung
a a a
(Munich: Karl Alber, 1974), p. 7.
11 For good surveys of the historiography with a wealth of bibliographical references,
see Winfried Muller, Die Aufkl¨ rung, Enzyklop¨ die deutscher Geschichte 61 (Munich:
¨ a a
R. Oldenbourg, 2002); Angela Borgstedt, Das Zeitalter der Aufkl¨ rung, Kontroversen
um die Geschichte (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2004); Christoph
Bohr, Philosophie f¨ r die Welt. Die Popularphilosophie der deutschen Sp¨ taufkl¨ rung im
¨ u a a
Zeitalter Kants, Forschungen und Materialien zur deutschen Aufkl¨ rung Abteilung II,
Monographien 17 (Stuttgart: Frommann-Holzboog, 2003), pp. 236“83; Peter Putz, Die ¨
deutsche Aufkl¨ rung, 4th edn, Ertr¨ ge der Forschung 81 (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche
a a
Buchgesellschaft, 1991); Horst Stuke, ˜Aufkl¨ rung™, in Otto Brunner, Werner Conze and
Reinhard Koselleck (eds.), Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe. Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-
sozialen Sprache in Deutschland, 8 vols. in 9 (Stuttgart: E. Klett, 1972“97), I, pp. 243“342.
12 Jurgen Habermas, Die nachholende Revolution, Kleine Politische Schriften 6 (Frankfurt
a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1990), pp. 12, 24.
13 Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: An Interpretation, 2 vols. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
1966“9). For the reception, see: Harold Mah, Enlightenment Phantasies: Cultural Identity
in France and Germany 1750“1914 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003), pp. 4“6.
The transformation of the Aufkl¨ rung
a 161

sense served two functions. They were formulated as visions of the devel-
opment of western, or more precisely capitalist, society as a whole, yet
they were also shaped by speci¬cally German concerns. Discussions of
these ideas today sometimes overlook the fact that they were formulated
within a German philosophical tradition as diagnoses of the speci¬c his-
torical experience of the Germans. They were propagated as prescriptions
for the future development of German society.14 That was something the
theorists of the Frankfurt School shared in common with Marx: the uni-
versalisation of a speci¬cally German experience and way of thinking.
Nor was this tendency con¬ned to the German Left. A similar point
might be made about Reinhard Koselleck™s Kritik und Krise published
in 1959. Koselleck™s analysis of the genesis of criticism is remarkably
similar to that of Habermas, which appeared in 1962; indeed Habermas
acknowledged his debt to what he described as Koselleck™s ˜outstand-
ing study™.15 However, Koselleck™s conclusions about the destructive and
negative effects of criticism could not but meet with outright and scathing
rejection by Habermas with his fundamentally, if cautiously, optimistic
sense that criticism, if voiced effectively and given an appropriate forum,
might yet transform society.16
The underlying issue throughout all of these early debates was the ques-
tion of the relationship between the German Aufkl¨ rung and the Euro-
pean Enlightenment. Was this simply a national variant of the broader
movement or was the Aufkl¨ rung substantively different? The Aufkl¨ rung
a a
never became an issue in the Sonderweg debate as such. But that was
largely because of the common assumption that the movement expired
around 1789, that it had few lasting consequences. Recent developments
have done something to relativise that assumption, but they have not
eradicated it entirely.
If scholars of the 1960s and early 1970s often thought of themselves
as trail-blazing pioneers, they are now more likely to feel themselves
lucky to ¬nd space on what often seems to be a hopelessly overcrowded

14 Rolf Wiggershaus, Die Frankfurter Schule. Geschichte, theoretische Entwicklung, Bedeutung
(Munich: Carl Hanser, 1986), pp. 364“83, 597“628; Rolf Wiggershaus, J¨ rgen Habermas
(Hamburg: Rowohlt, 2004), pp. 52“5.
15 Jurgen Habermas, Strukturwandel der Offentlichkeit, 8th edn (Neuwied and Berlin:
Luchterhand, 1976), p. 319. Reinhard Koselleck, Kritik und Krise. Eine Studie zur Patho-
genese der b¨ rgerlichen Welt (Freiburg and Munich: Karl Alber, 1959). For the context, see
Jan-Werner Muller, A Dangerous Mind: Carl Schmitt in Post-War European Thought (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), pp. 106“7 and William E. Scheuermann, ˜Unsolved
Paradoxes: Conservative Thought in Adenauer™s Germany™, in John P. McCormick
(ed.), Confronting Mass Democracy: Political and Social Theory from Nietzsche to Habermas
(Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 2002), pp. 221“42, esp. pp. 234“40.
16 See Habermas™s 1960 review of Koselleck™s book in Jurgen Habermas, Philosophisch-
politische Pro¬le, enlarged edn (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1987), pp. 435“44.
162 Joachim Whaley

motorway. Almost nothing seems to be excluded from ˜Enlightenment
studies™. Indeed the very notion of what the Enlightenment was has been
transformed. Once, the Enlightenment was understood as a purely ratio-
nalist tendency, whether as a negative and destructive force in Adorno and
Horkheimer™s reading or, following Habermas, as an ultimately more pos-
itive phenomenon, or at least as one which still had the potential to provide
the starting-point for a future Diskursgemeinschaft.17 Since then postmod-
ern and feminist theories have prompted investigation of the irrationalism
of the Enlightenment.18 Echoing the neo-Marxist critique of Adorno and
Horkheimer, such studies query the universality and emancipatory intent
of the Aufkl¨ rung. The ˜Schattenseiten der Aufkl¨ rung™ (˜the dark sides
a a
of the Enlightenment™, to cite the title of Gudrun Hentges™s study of atti-
tudes to Jews and ˜barbarians™) or the ˜esoterische Nachtseite™ (˜esoteric
darker side™) of the Aufkl¨ rung (as Monika Neugebauer-Wolk terms it)
a ¨
are now considered integral features of the project of modernity, rather
than just as pre-modern survivals.19
More recently still a series of attempts to synthesise the mass of new
research has sought to recognise the variety of the Enlightenment. Christa
Knellwolf, for example, writes of the Enlightenment as a ˜tapestry of
harmonious as well as con¬‚icting social, cultural and intellectual interests
and developments™.20 National Enlightenments have been overtaken by
multiple enlightenments; indeed the latest survey volume in English (the
Routledge Enlightenment World) explicitly avoids both the de¬nite article
and the capital ˜E™ throughout its nearly 700 pages. Fania Oz-Salzberger
has complained that the essence of the Enlightenment, its ˜lightness™, has
been lost, or even that the ˜Enlightenment no longer “is”™. It is no longer a
question of different interpretations, she suggests, but simply that more is
being added in and that more and more (often overspecialised) questions

17 Wiggershaus, J¨ rgen Habermas, pp. 52“5,115“30; Stephen K. White, ˜Reason, Moder-
nity and Democracy™, in Stephen K. White (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Habermas
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 3“16.
18 Putz, Deutsche Aufkl¨ rung, pp. 165“88; Karen O™Brien, ˜The Feminist Critique of
¨ a
Enlightenment™, in Martin Fitzpatrick, Peter Jones, Christa Knellwolf and Iain McCal-
man (eds.), The Enlightenment World (London: Routledge, 2004), pp. 621“34; Susan
Wilson, ˜Postmodernism and the Enlightenment™, ibid., pp. 648“59.
19 Gudrun Hentges, Schattenseiten der Aufkl¨ rung. Die Darstellung von Juden und ˜Wilden™
in philosophischen Schriften des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts, Studien zu Politik und Wis-
senschaft (Schwalbach/Ts.: Wochenschau, 1990); Monika Neugebauer-Wolk, ˜Die ¨
Geheimnisse der Maurer. Pl¨ doyer fur die Akzeptanz des Esoterischen in der his-
a ¨
torischen Aufkl¨ rungsforschung™, Das achtzehnte Jahrhundert 21 (1997), pp. 15“32, at
p. 20.
20 Christa Knellwolf, ˜Introduction™, in The Enlightenment World, pp. 571“5, at p. 571.
The transformation of the Aufkl¨ rung
a 163

are being asked.21 Others, however, continue to promote the ˜expansion™
of the Enlightenment. Harold Mah™s recent study of cultural identity in
France and Germany, for example, builds on the new approaches of the
1970s and 1980s to explore the ˜multiple, contradictory and phantasmic
nature of the terms and discourse of Enlightenment identities™.22
If our understanding of the European Enlightenment has changed,
what has happened to the Aufkl¨ rung in particular? That is not only a
question about current perceptions and understandings of the Aufkl¨ rung
but also about perceptions of its role in the development of modern Ger-
man society.

While recent scholarship on the Aufkl¨ rung has undoubtedly shared in the
broadening and deepening processes that have characterised Enlighten-
ment scholarship generally, the old underlying structures of interpretation
remain surprisingly persistent.23 This becomes apparent if we look at how
German scholars have approached the periodisation of the Aufkl¨ rung.a
Perceptions of the early and middle phases have undergone a considerable
change while views of the ¬nal phase of the Aufkl¨ rung remain extremely
Perhaps the most in¬‚uential periodisation is that of Werner Schnei-
ders.24 For him the symbolic start date of the Aufkl¨ rung is the announce-
ment of a lecture course in German by Thomasius in 1687. Its mature
phase begins around 1720 (the date of the publication of Wolff™s Deutsche
Metaphysik). The Seven Years™ War induced what he terms a ˜midlife-
crisis™, though signs of a change in attitudes became apparent even before
1750 with growing in¬‚uence from France and England and the serious
assault on Wolff™s system ¬rst by the rationalist theologian Crusius and
then by the early Popularphilosophie. Increasingly, Schneiders suggests, a

21 Fania Oz-Salzberger, ˜New Approaches towards a History of the Enlightenment “
Can Disparate Perspectives Make a General Picture?™, Tel Aviver Jahrbuch f¨ r deutsche
Geschichte 29 (2000), pp. 171“82, at pp. 171, 182.
22 Mah, Enlightenment Phantasies, p. 12.
23 See: Borgstedt, Zeitalter der Aufkl¨ rung; Muller, Aufkl¨ rung; and Monika Neugebauer-
a ¨ a
Wolk, Markus Meumann and Holger Zaunstuck (eds.), 25. Jahre Deutsche Gesellschaft
¨ ¨
f¨ r die Erforschung des 18. Jahrhunderts. Zur Geschichte einer Wissenschaftlichen Vereinigung
(1975“2000) (Wolfenbuttel: Wallstein, 2000).
24 Werner Schneiders, ˜Aufkl¨ rungsphilosophien™, in Siegried Juttner and Jochen Schol-
a ¨
bach (eds.), Europ¨ ische Aufkl¨ rung(en). Einheit und nationale Vielfalt, Studien zum
a a
Achtzehnten Jahrhundert 14 (Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 1992), pp. 1“17; Werner Schnei-
ders (ed.), Lexikon der Aufkl¨ rung. Deutschland und Europa (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1995),
pp. 12“22.
164 Joachim Whaley

new eclecticism undermined the doctrine of ˜Truth-Virtue-Usefulness™
and the principle of rationality became a hollow slogan as a result of its
endless reiteration.
In the 1770s the Aufkl¨ rung then experienced a severe crisis; after 1780
its protagonists were too weak to respond to new challenges. The young
turned to the Sturm und Drang and the world of feelings and emotion.
Kant™s vision of self-critical reason entailed the abandonment of too many
key principles of previous Aufkl¨ rung thinking, and in effect merely gen-
erated an internecine struggle between Kantians and anti-Kantians. The
weak and sickly Aufkl¨ rung could not cope with what Friedrich Carl
von Moser called the ˜Freiheitsin¬‚uenza™. In particular, the French Rev-
olution posed political challenges to which the German Aufkl¨ rer were
not equal. Lacking any constructive answers to the great questions of
the day, their defence of the reformist Aufkl¨ rung as the true Aufkl¨ rung
a a
lost credibility and they abandoned the central cause that had inspired
four generations: the commitment to practical reform. Germany paid a
heavy price for their pusillanimous self-denial: for ˜The fact that Germany
too had been a country of Enlightenment, was then forgotten for a
long time.™25 Above all, Schneiders insists that neither Leibniz nor Kant
belonged to the Aufkl¨ rung.26 Leibniz, he argues, did not have the anthro-
pological vision that he believes is typical of the Aufkl¨ rung; he remained
essentially a metaphysician and a natural scientist. Kant, he argues,
started off by defending the Aufkl¨ rung and thought of himself as a
philosopher of the movement. Yet Kant™s philosophy clearly undermined
the basis for empirical criticism and in pursuing an understanding of tran-
scendental ˜Vorurtheile™ or judgements he transcended the Aufkl¨ rung.a
Schneiders is not a critic of the Aufkl¨ rung. On the contrary, he has
devoted his entire career to promoting it. He has been particularly in¬‚uen-
tial in dispelling the old myth that the German Aufkl¨ rung was a delayed,
in some sense retarded, phenomenon that really only took root around
1750 and he has consistently argued for the continuing contemporary
relevance of Enlightenment philosophy.27 Yet in key respects his peri-
odisation mirrors the views of those whom he alleges have repressed the
memory of Aufkl¨ rung in Germany.

25 26 Ibid., pp. 17“18.
Schneiders, Lexikon der Aufkl¨ rung, p. 22.
27 See, for example, Werner Schneiders, Hoffnung auf Vernunft. Aufkl¨ rungsphilosophie in
Deutschland (Hamburg: Meiner, 1990) and his Deutsche Philosophie im 20. Jahrhundert
(Munich: C. H. Beck, 1998), pp. 207“8. On Schneiders generally, see: Frank Gunert and
Friedrich Vollhardt (eds.), Aufkl¨ rung als praktische Philosophie. Werner Schneiders zum
65. Geburtstag (Tubingen: M. Niemeyer, 1998). The preface praises him for his life-long
commitment to promoting the understanding of both the epoch and the programme of
the Aufkl¨ rung. Ibid., pp. ix“x.
The transformation of the Aufkl¨ rung
a 165

The early and middle periods are relatively unproblematic. The idea of
an early Enlightenment starting in the last decades of the seventeenth cen-
tury is now widely accepted, as is the central role that Thomasius played
in propagating the new ideas and promoting a new approach to the prob-
lems of government and society. While it is conventional to emphasise that
the Aufkl¨ rung was initially an academic movement and that it developed
in alliance with the state rather than in opposition to it, the recent focus on
the radical Enlightenment has added a new dimension. Martin Mulsow,
for example, has discovered a network of radical Antitrinitarian writers
who challenged virtually every assumption of conventional theology and
who savagely criticised the political exploitation of of¬cial teachings.28
Jonathan Israel has explored the central signi¬cance of Spinoza™s writ-
ings in this radical Enlightenment, suggesting that the Spinozist radical
Enlightenment was much more important, especially for the German
tradition, than most have previously recognised.29 Mulsow is more cau-
tious. He points out that the early German radicals were nothing if not
eclectic and that they were just as happy taking issue with Spinozist doc-
trine as they were arguing against Christian Platonism or the notion of a
philosophia perennis.30
At the same time, and at a less elevated level, recent research has
revealed evidence of radical strands in German politics from the late
seventeenth century. In urban unrest from Hamburg in the north to
Basel and Zurich in the south the demand for openness and publicity, for
the publication of constitutions and the public scrutiny of government
decisions became increasingly vociferous.31 These events were not just
localised and, though it is dif¬cult to measure their impact, it seems that,
cumulatively, they contributed to a growing awareness of and assertion
of fundamental rights.32 In the case of the Zurich unrest of 1713, for

28 Martin Mulsow, Moderne aus dem Untergrund. Radikale Fr¨ haufkl¨ rung in Deutschland
u a
1680“1720 (Hamburg: F. Meiner, 2002).
29 Jonathan Israel, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650“1750
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 11“13.
30 Mulsow, Moderne, pp. 439“43. See also: Winfried Schroder, Spinoza in der deutschen
Fr¨ haufkl¨ rung (Wurzburg: Konigshausen & Neumann, 1987); Martin Pott, ˜Radikale
u a ¨ ¨
Aufkl¨ rung und Freidenker. Materialismus und Religionskritik in der deutschen
Fruhaufkl¨ rung™, Deutsche Zeitschrift f¨ r Philosophie 38 (1990), pp. 639“50; Rainer Wild,
¨ a u
˜Freidenker in Deutschland™, Zeitschrift f¨ r historische Forschung 6 (1979), pp. 253“85.
31 Andreas Wurgler, Unruhen und Offentlichkeit. St¨ dtische und l¨ ndliche Protestbewegungen im
¨ a a
18. Jahrhundert, Fruhneuzeit-Forschungen 1 (Tubingen: Bibliotheca Academica, 1995).
¨ ¨
32 Georg Schmidt, Geschichte des Alten Reiches. Staat und Nation in der Fr¨ hen Neuzeit
1495“1806 (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1999), pp. 234“42; Wolfgang Schmale, Arch¨ ologie a
der Grund- und Menschenrechte in der Fr¨ hen Neuzeit. Ein deutsch-franz¨ sisches Paradigma,
u o
Ancien R´ gime, Aufkl¨ rung und Revolution 30 (Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 1997),
e a
pp. 332“50, 361“80, 399“439, 447“54.
166 Joachim Whaley

example, there is a clear link to the activities of three societies (the
˜Collegium der Insulanar™ 1679“81, ˜der Vertraulichen™ 1686“96 and
˜der Wohlgesinnten™ 1693“1709) that attracted a wide variety of mem-
bers from the educated urban elite, and even some artisans.33 The range
of topics discussed in the societies was quite extraordinary. Any view of
seventeenth-century Zurich as a conservative oligarchy in the grip of
orthodox Calvinism is undermined by the almost breathtaking radicalism
of the debates. There were, it seems, no taboos, either in politics or in
religion. For example, in August 1686 the ˜Vertraulichen™ concluded that
it could be justi¬able to offer resistance to an absolute ruler on grounds
of religious persecution. On 22 February 1698 the ˜Wohlgesinnten™ dis-
cussed the question of whether the works of Pierre Bayle and Spinoza
were harmful, concluding that they should be kept away from the une-
ducated but that they could do no harm to the educated. Other discus-
sions concerned the justice of preventive wars, neutrality, natural law,
the history of the Swiss Federation, alchemy, Copernicus and heliocen-
trism, Descartes™s proposition that animals have no souls and Spinoza™s
attempts to apply the principles of natural science to the study of the
Bible (which they rejected).
One of the leading ¬gures in the Zurich societies and in the 1713 upris-
ing was Johann Jakob Scheuchzer, whose correspondence linked him with
like-minded ¬gures throughout the Reich as well as the Netherlands and
England.34 Moreover, the Zurich disturbances, like subsequent disputes
elsewhere, were widely reported in the press, which gave prominence to
the demands of the discontents as well as to the measures taken to deal
with the unrest.35
The discovery of the existence of more radical tendencies has four
important implications. Firstly, it further undermines the once common
view of the inherently conservative nature of German thought. Secondly,
it suggests that the doctrines of Thomasius were at the very least arrived
at not only in opposition to orthodox teachings but also in conscious dia-
logue with even more radical ideas. Thirdly, it underlines the continuity
of Spinozist teachings in Germany, in contrast to the still widely held view
that Spinoza was rediscovered by Jacobi in the 1780s. Fourthly, it seems
clear that many of the issues that were openly debated in the 1770s and
1780s were not simply based on notions imported from France or the

33 Michael Kempe and Thomas Maissen, Die Collegia der Insulaner, Vertraulichen und Wohl-
gesinnten in Z¨ rich, 1679“1709 (Zurich: Verlag Neue Zurcher Zeitung, 2002), pp. 9“14,
u ¨
34 Michael Kempe, Wissenschaft, Theologie, Aufkl¨ rung. Johann Jakob Scheuchzer (1672“
1733) und die Sint¬‚uttheorie, Fruhneizeit-Forschungen 10 (Epfendorf: Bibliotheca Aca-
demica, 2003), pp. 22“5.
35 Wurgler, Unruhen, pp. 202“26.
The transformation of the Aufkl¨ rung
a 167

American colonies. They were at least partly grounded in the political
experience of many parts of the Reich since the late seventeenth century.
The new view of the early Enlightenment thus provides a further per-
spective on the middle phase, which Schneiders characterises as the phase
of the establishment or acceptance of the Aufkl¨ rung from about 1750.
Here again, the terms used re¬‚ect the generally rather speci¬c de¬ni-
tion of Aufkl¨ rung that Schneiders and indeed most German scholars
employ. In fact, work over the past two decades has emphasised multiple
strands of Aufkl¨ rung, if not multiple enlightenments. Tim Blanning has
drawn attention once again to the conscious alliance between Aufkl¨ rer a
and the state in Prussia, and there is little doubt that the Berlin Aufkl¨ rung
remains at the core of the movement as a whole, a fact recognised
by the philosophes who coined and popularised the notion of the age
of Frederick.36 However, the term ˜Berlin Aufkl¨ rung™, later used by
Hegel in a negative sense, implies a greater degree of homogeneity than
in fact existed. Ian Hunter has, for example, recently discerned three
competing Enlightenments at Halle in the 1740s: a civil or Thomasian
Enlightenment, a Pietist Enlightenment and a Wolf¬an Enlightenment.37
By the 1760s and early 1770s the Berlin scene itself was characterised
by often competing groups of Wolf¬ans, French-style materialists and
Popularphilosophen who variously propagated Lockean or Thomasian
ideas, or the Scottish ˜common-sense™ philosophers, or even notions of
nature and virtue derived from Rousseau.38
Berlin of course was not the only centre; nor was strict rationalism,
whether Wolf¬an or Thomasian, the only Enlightened way. Alongside
Berlin, other groups and tendencies developed in Halle, Zurich, Braun-
schweig, Leipzig and Konigsberg. The in¬‚uence of Locke was more
than matched by that of Shaftesbury.39 Part and parcel of Shaftesbury™s

36 Blanning, The Culture of Power, pp. 194“232; Claudia Schroder, ˜Si`cle de Fr´d´ric
¨ e ee
II™ und ˜Zeitalter der Aufkl¨ rung™. Epochenbegriffe im geschichtlichen Selbstverst¨ ndnis
a a
der Aufkl¨ rung, Quellen und Forschungen zur Brandenburgischen und Preußischen
Geschichte 21 (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2002).
37 Ian Hunter, ˜Multiple Enlightenments: Rival Aufkl¨ rer at the University of Halle™, in
Fitzpatrick, Jones, Knellwolf and McCalman (eds.), Enlightenment World, pp. 576“95; Ian
Hunter, Rival Enlightenments: Civil and Metaphysical Philosophy in Early Modern Germany,
Ideas in Context (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).
38 Terry Pinkard, German Philosophy 1760“1860: The Legacy of Idealism (Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press, 2002), p. 89.
39 Josef Chytry, The Aesthetic State: A Quest in Modern German Thought (Berkeley: Univer-
sity of California Press, 1989), pp. iv, lxv“lxxiv, 94; Lothar Jordan, ˜Shaftesbury und die
deutsche Literatur und Asthetik des. 18. Jahrhunderts™, Germanisch-Romanische Monatss-
chrift NF 44 (1994), pp. 410“24; Oskar F. Walzel, ˜Shaftesbury und das deutsche Geis-
tesleben des 18. Jahrhunderts™, Germanisch-Romanische Monatsschrift 1 (1909), pp. 416“
37; Rebekka Horlacher, Bildungstheorie vor der Bildungstheorie. Die Shaftesbury-Rezeption
in Deutschland und der Schweiz im 18. Jahrhundert (Wurzburg: Konigshausen & Neu-
¨ ¨
mann, 2004), pp. 22“6, 34“5, 101, 131“59.
168 Joachim Whaley

aesthetic was his republican Commonwealthman politics that infused
aesthetic and cultural theory with a subversive and oppositional tendency
from the outset and which remained in¬‚uential into the 1790s, shaping
the ideas both of Schiller and of Schiller™s radical young critics. Strict
rationalism was paralleled by what has been described as the supranatu-
ralist network that extended from Zurich up to Copenhagen and across
to Konigsberg, via Marburg, Dusseldorf, Munster and other centres.40
¨ ¨ ¨
That in turn overlapped with the tendency that Peter Reill has described
as Enlightenment vitalism, which seemed increasingly to provide plau-
sible answers to the objections that Hume and others had made to the
reductive mechanical rationalism of the early decades of the century.41
Then, developing slightly later, there is the Catholic Enlightenment; and,
slightly earlier, a Berlin-centred Jewish Enlightenment.42

Many of these developments extend well into the period of what Schnei-
ders and others term the crisis of the Aufkl¨ rung, dated from the end of
the Seven Years™ War, the early 1770s or the 1780s. Its underlying causes
are also variously explained. Frederick Beiser suggests largely philosoph-
ical causes. On the one hand rational criticism led to scepticism, which
undermined the common-sense belief in the reality of the external world.
On the other hand scienti¬c naturalism led to materialism which under-
mined any possibility of human freedom, immortality and the sui generis
status of the mind.43 Werner Schneiders focuses on a crisis in the rela-
tionship between the Berlin Aufkl¨ rung and the state. The ˜est-il utile™
debate of 1780, he suggests, crystallised a growing disillusionment of the

40 Johan van der Zande, B¨ rger und Beamte. Johann Georg Schlosser, 1739“1799,
Veroffentlichungen des Instituts fur Europ¨ ische Geschichte Mainz 119 (Stuttgart:
¨ ¨ a
Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden, 1986), pp. 24“5.
41 Peter H. Reill, ˜Analogy, Comparison, and Active Living Forces: Late Enlightenment
Responses to the Skeptical Critique of Causal Analysis™, in Johan van der Zande and
Richard H. Popkin (eds.), The Skeptical Tradition around 1800: Skepticism in Philosophy,
Science and Society, International Archives of the History of Ideas 155 (Dordrecht, Boston
and London: Kluwer, 1998), pp. 203“11.
42 For literature on these aspects, see Borgstedt, Zeitalter der Aufkl¨ rung, pp. 42“53; Shmuel
Feiner, The Jewish Enlightenment, trans. Chaya Naor, Jewish Culture and Contexts
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002).
43 Frederick C. Beiser, ˜The Enlightenment and Idealism™, in Karl Americks (ed.), The
Cambridge Companion to Idealism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000),
pp. 18“36, esp. pp. 19“22; and Frederick C. Beiser, The Fate of Reason: German
Philosophy from Kant to Fichte (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987),
pp. 75“7.
The transformation of the Aufkl¨ rung
a 169

Aufkl¨ rer with the reforms of the 1760s and 1770s.44 The very fact that
Frederick II had set the question of whether it was permissible for a ruler
to deceive his subjects in their own best interests for a prize essay competi-
tion in 1777 created unease. Some, like Kant, disapproved of the fact that
the question had been asked at all. The sense that the greatest reform of
all, the transformation of society, remained as remote as ever, led some
to doubt whether it could ever be achieved. According to Schneiders,
the debate about Aufkl¨ rung and wahre Aufkl¨ rung (true Enlightenment)
a a
that developed in the following years was ultimately little more than an
endgame played out by a movement that had no future. Frederick the
Great™s death in 1786, the Wollner edict which sought to dictate the
dogma deemed valid in the Prussian state religion (to the exclusion of
any competing versions) in 1788 and the French Revolution of 1789 cre-
ated a new framework in which the Aufkl¨ rer had nothing more to say. By
the early 1770s, they had vanquished their enemies, Schneiders argues,
but they now paid the price for their success. Con¬dence and optimism
gave way to ˜exhaustion and disillusionment™.45
This chronology has a long tradition. It echoes the criticisms levelled
at the Popularphilosophen by the younger generation of philosophers in
the 1790s.46 It re¬‚ects the view that Hegel set out in his Lectures on
the History of Philosophy around 1820, which criticised the Aufkl¨ rung a
as plodding and unimaginative, a second-rate derivative of English and
French thought. Popularphilosophie (popular or popularising philosophy)
was nothing more than Wolf¬anism minus the formal system propagated
by a brotherhood of ˜ehrliche Trodler™ (honest slow-coaches). Hegel had a
clear purpose: to present the philosophy of Kant as the prelude to the Ide-
alist systems of the 1790s and, ultimately, to his own mature system, the
culmination, as he suggests in his closing remarks, of the ˜Bemuhungen¨
des Geistes™ (the exertions of the spirit) over 2,500 years.
Hegel™s chronology has never really been seriously challenged. Even his
most radical critics simply substituted a new conclusion to his narrative:
most notably, Marx™s proclamation of the end of philosophy and the dawn
of the new, and ¬nal, age of theory. Moreover, the notion of an early
demise of the Aufkl¨ rung was further reinforced by the emergence in the
1870s of the idea that a ˜Deutsche Bewegung™ or ˜deutsche geistige Bewe-
gung™ (German intellectual-spiritual movement) had developed between

44 45 Ibid., p. 19.
Schneiders, Lexikon der Aufkl¨ rung, pp. 19“20.
46 Bohr, Philosophie f¨ r die Welt, pp. 203“15; Beiser, Fate of Reason, pp. 167“8.
¨ u
47 G. W. F. Hegel, Werke in zwanzig B¨ nden (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1971“9), XX,
pp. 308, 455. See also Ursula Goldenbaum (ed.), Appell an das Publikum. Die offentliche
Debatte in der deutschen Aufkl¨ rung 1687“1796, 2 vols. (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2004),
I, pp. 13“16.
170 Joachim Whaley

about 1770 and 1830.48 In Dilthey™s view this was characterised on the
one hand by a radical critique of the Aufkl¨ rung and its supersession by
Kant, and on the other hand by a growing sense of Germanness among
German intellectuals.49 Dilthey and successors such as Herman Nohl
were liberals hoping to bring about a revival of the Kantian heritage.
However, the concept of a ˜Deutsche Bewegung™ also had obvious appeal
to conservatives who wanted to emphasise the anti-rational and anti-
western nature of German thought and culture.50 Finally, after 1945
Hajo Holborn, another liberal (and an emigr´ as well), later identi¬ed the
´ e
philosophical core of the ˜Deutsche Bewegung™ as the root of the German
catastrophe. In his view, Idealism succeeded between 1770 and 1840,
where Pietism and orthodoxy had failed, in halting the steady advance of
the ˜Aufkl¨ rung in the spiritual and political life of Germany™.51 Accord-
ing to Holborn this explained why Germany had no liberal tradition: for
Idealism, he argues, was inherently statist and not founded on the western
natural law tradition.
If the ideological baggage attached to the concept of a ˜Deutsche Bewe-
gung™ has now been abandoned, the master narrative at its core remains
powerful. Philosophers insist that Kant, though he might have intended
to save it, destroyed the Aufkl¨ rung and that Idealism represents a radi-
cal new departure. Literary scholars remain wedded to the concept of
Deutsche Klassik and then Romantik as movements that superseded and
were superior to Aufkl¨ rung.53
Attempts to introduce the concept of Sp¨ taufkl¨ rung (late Enlighten-
a a
ment) have not been entirely satisfactory. The combination of crisis and

48 Armin Mohler, Die konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918“1932. Ein Handbuch,
3rd edn (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1989), pp. 12“15; Hellmuth
Rossler and Gunther Franz, Sachw¨ rterbuch zur Deutschen Geschichte (Munich: R. Old-
¨ ¨ o
enbourg, 1958), pp. 191“3.
49 Wilhelm Dilthey, ˜Die dichterische und philosophische Bewegung in Deutschland 1770“
1800™, in Wilhelm Dilthey, Gesammelte Schriften V (Leipzig and Berlin: B. G. Treubner,
1924), pp. 12“27.
50 Herman Nohl, Die Deutsche Bewegung. Vorlesungen und Aufs¨ tze zur Geistesgeschichte von
1770“1830, eds. O. F. Bollnow and F. Rodi (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1970).
51 Hajo Holborn, ˜Der deutsche Idealismus in sozialgeschichtlicher Beleuchtung™, in Hans-
Ulrich Wehler (ed.), Moderne deutsche Sozialgeschichte, Neue Wissenschaftliche Biblio-
thek 10 (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1976), pp. 85“109, at p. 97.
52 Schneiders, Lexikon der Aufkl¨ rung, p. 18. But see Gerhard Gamm, Der Deutsche Idealis-
mus. Eine Einf¨ hrung in die Philosphie von Fichte, Hegel und Schelling (Stuttgart: Reclam,
1997), p. 11; Karl Americks, ˜Introduction: Interpreting German Idealism™, in Ameriks,
Companion to German Idealism, pp. 1“17; Beiser, ˜Enlightenment and Idealism™, ibid.,
pp. 18“36; Walter Jaeschke, ˜Zum Begriff des Idealismus™, in Christoph Halbig, Michael
Quante and Ludwig Siep (eds.), Hegels Erbe (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2004), pp. 164“83.
53 Gerhard Schulz, Romantik, 2nd edn (Munich: C. H. Beck, 2003), pp. 26“9, 67“76;
Muller, Aufkl¨ rung, p. 100; Borgstedt, Zeitalter der Aufkl¨ rung, p. 91.
¨ a a
54 For example: Wolfgang Albrecht, ˜Deutsche Sp¨ taufkl¨ rung “ eine interdisziplin¨ re
a a a
Forschungsaufgabe™, Weimarer Beitr¨ ge 33 (1987), pp. 655“63; Wolfgang Albrecht,
The transformation of the Aufkl¨ rung
a 171

lateness all too readily equates with decay and decline. The fact that the
main theme of Sp¨ taufkl¨ rung is often held to be the debate about the
a a
meaning of Aukl¨ rung itself ¬ts all too neatly into the Hegelian notion that
movements and ideas only re¬‚ect on themselves when they have all but
run their course. Furthermore some notions of Sp¨ taufkl¨ rung have been
a a
criticised because they give undue prominence to the German Jacobins
and to relatively minor Popularphilosophen, which simply emphasises the
weakness of the phenomenon generally. Similarly an exclusive focus on
the debate about what Aufkl¨ rung was, with all the growing ambiguity of
claims to represent a wahre Aufkl¨ rung and the development of an outright
opposition movement or Gegenaufkl¨ rung (anti-Enlightenment), in many
ways merely reinforces the impression of an ever-weakening endgame
after 1789.
Many of these arguments ignore the fundamental point. Instead of
terms such as ˜crisis™ or ˜late™ it would be more fruitful to think of the later
Enlightenment in the terms that Roy Porter suggested for England: as a
second Enlightenment or the enlightened critique of Enlightenment.55
The key lies in seeing the signi¬cance of a fundamental shift that took
place during the 1770s. It was a complex phenomenon and it had aes-
thetic, religious, philosophical, as well as political dimensions. Of course
many of the ingredients are identical to the causes of the supposed crisis
of the Aufkl¨ rung. However, there is something more positive at the root
of what are often seen as disparate manifestations of decline.

Like the ¬rst Enlightenment the second is characterised by a wide spec-
trum of responses, attitudes and approaches. What uni¬es them is a
fundamental shift in attitudes to the state. The ¬rst Enlightenment had
been characterised by a positive view of the state and its functions based
on a traditional understanding of natural law. According to Pufendorf,
Thomasius and Wolff, the individual relinquished his natural rights, the
iura connata, on entering society. With certain restrictions, largely self-
policed by the ruler, the prerogatives of the state took precedence over the
rights of the individual. From the 1760s that view was gradually super-
seded by the notion of inalienable human rights or Menschenrechte, which

˜Deutsche Sp¨ taufkl¨ rung: Versuch einer Wesensbestimmung aus germanistischer
a a
Sicht™, in Werner Schneiders (ed.), Aufkl¨ rung in Europa: Einheit und Vielfalt (Berlin:
Berliner Wissenschaftsverlag, 2003), pp. 19“25; Wolfgang Albrecht, ˜Aufkl¨ rung, Refor-
mation, Revolution oder “Bewirkt Aufkl¨ rung Revolutionen?” Uber ein Zentralproblem
der Aufkl¨ rungsdebatte in Deutschland™, Lessing Yearbook 22 (1990), pp. 1“75.
55 Roy Porter, Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World (Harmondsworth:
Allen Lane, 2000), p. xvii.
172 Joachim Whaley

the state was in no circumstances entitled to infringe.56 The prerogatives
of the state were increasingly limited and criticism of the abuse of power
by absolutist princes, even enlightened ones, became commonplace. The
old equivalence of state and society gave way to the assertion that society
was independent of the state and that the state had a duty to respect its
The causes of this paradigm shift are complex. The in¬‚uence of French
physiocratic theory is undoubtedly signi¬cant. There was also growing
unease at the rather unenlightened behaviour of some rulers, as well as
doubts about the impact of enlightened reform. However, the new view
was also in large part both a reaction against Wolff and Wolf¬anism and
also a response to the sceptical and materialist challenges to which Wolf-
¬anism had no answer other than the insistence on its own exclusive
The debate about whether one calls this early liberalism or proto-
liberalism diverts attention to nineteenth-century issues and detracts
from the broader signi¬cance of this paradigm shift for the Aufkl¨ rung.58
For it informed the entire spectrum of enlightened opinion. The Berlin
Popularphilosophen, for example, embraced an eclectic approach that still
retained Wolff™s insistence that the individual be educated to be useful
but now combined that with an insistence on the limitation of the state™s
role.59 The state continued to loom large in their thinking but they were
increasingly ambivalent towards it. Ernst Ferdinand Klein, the Prussian
legal expert, for example, spent his life defending society against the state,
but when asked by his doctor on his deathbed on 18 March 1811 what
he was thinking about he replied: the state.60
The members of the Berlin circle of the 1780s no more exclusively
represented the second Aufkl¨ rung, than their predecessors in the 1740s
and 1750s had done the ¬rst. Kant™s response was diametrically opposed

56 Diethelm Klippel, ˜Von der Aufkl¨ rung der Herrscher zur Herrschaft der Aufkl¨ rung™,
a a
Zeitschrift f¨ r historische Forschung 17 (1990), pp. 93“210; Jorn Garber, ˜Vom “ius con-
u ¨
natum” zum “Menschenrecht”. Deutsche Menschrechtstheorien der Sp¨ taufkl¨ rung™,
a a
in Reinhard Brandt (ed.), Rechtsphilosophie der Aufkl¨ rung. Symposium Wolfenb¨ ttel 1981
a u
(Berlin: de Gruyter, 1982), pp. 106“47.
57 Bohr, Philosophie f¨ r die Welt, pp. 49“51; Beiser, Fate of Reason, pp. 193“225.
¨ u
58 Klaus Gerteis, ˜Die politische Sp¨ taufkl¨ rung und die “Krise” des Absolutismus™, in
a a
Helmut Reinalter (ed.), Die demokratische Bewegung in Mitteleuropa von der Sp¨ taufkl¨ rung
a a
bis zur Revolution 1848/49 (Innsbruck: Inn“Verlag, 1988), pp. 65“74.
59 Bohr, Philosophie f¨ r die Welt, pp. 68“70; Christina M. Sauter, Wilhelm von Humboldt
¨ u
und die deutsche Aufkl¨ rung, Historische Forschungen 39 (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot,
1989), pp. 99“115.
60 Klaus Berndl, ˜Neues zur Biographie von Ernst Ferdinand Klein™, in Eckhart Hellmuth,
Immo Meenken and Michael Tauth (eds.), Zeitenwende? Preußen um 1800 (Stuttgart:
Frommann-Holzboog, 1999), pp. 139“81, at p. 181.
The transformation of the Aufkl¨ rung
a 173

in philosophical terms, though not so different in its attitude to the state.
And the spectrum could be extended to include such diametrical oppo-
sites as Justus Moser with his defence of traditional corporatist rights,
Johann Georg Schlosser with his amalgam of Shaftesbury and traditional
Frankfurt republicanism, and the whole range of opinions represented
by the so-called Jacobins.61
Equally signi¬cant is another variety of philosophical reactions that
developed in the 1790s as successive recipes for a true Aufkl¨ rung. These
were more than just responses to the French Revolution; they were pro-
ductive answers to the issues of the day formulated within the framework
that emerged in the 1760s and phrased in a vocabulary that was well
established before 1789.
Alexander von Humboldt, for example, criticised both the Philan-
thropinists (as limited rationalists) and Kant (as a subjectivist). Inspired
by his reading of Rousseau and Shaftesbury, horri¬ed by Wollner™s liter-
alist Aufkl¨ rung, and sceptical about the ahistorical rationalist experiment
in France, he developed a more radical, vitalist vision of the development
of the individual.62 The state did not become redundant, but it needed
to change its mission from one of control to one of liberation and the
promotion of sensual beings. For Humboldt, as for so many others, the
new view of the state essentially limited its function to providing security,
which he de¬ned as ˜the certainty of lawful freedom™.63
Developments in Jena and Tubingen also produced more radical
visions of what the state might be and do. Fichte sought ¬rst to complete
Kant™s system, then moved beyond it. Like Humboldt, he rejected the
machine-like and controlling state and insisted on man™s essential free-
dom.64 The Tubingen group “ Holderlin, Schelling and Hegel “ were
¨ ¨
also ¬rst inspired by a radical version of Kant™s teaching developed by
Immanuel Carl Diez. They then interacted with Reinhold and above all

61 Jonathan B. Knudsen, Justus M¨ ser and the German Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press, 1986), pp. 1“30; van der Zande, B¨ rger und Patriot, pp. 63“5;
Susanne Lachenicht, ˜Deutscher Jakobinismus: zur “Januskop¬gkeit” eines politischen
Ph¨ nomens™, in Oliver v. Mengersen (ed.), Personen “ Soziale Bewegungen “ Parteien.
Beitr¨ ge zur Geschichte. Festschrift f¨ Hartmut Soell (Heidelberg: Manutius, 2004),
a ur
pp. 301“22; Anne Cottebrune, ˜Deutsche Freiheitsfreunde™ versus ˜deutsche Jakobiner™. Zur
Entmythologisierung des Forschungsgebiets ˜Deutsche Jakobiner™ (Bonn: Friedrich Ebert-
Stiftung, Historisches Forschungszentrum, 2002).
62 Sauter, Wilhelm von Humboldt, pp. 184“91, 316, 347; Frederick C. Beiser, Enlightenment,
Revolution and Romanticism: The Genesis of Modern German Political Thought 1790“1800
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), pp. 111“37. See also: Anthony La
Vopa, Fichte: The Self and the Calling of Philosophy, 1762“1799 (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2001), pp. 312“13.
63 Beiser, Enlightenment, Revolution and Romanticism, pp. 133“5.
64 Ibid., pp. 45“99.
174 Joachim Whaley

Fichte in Jena, and ¬nally developed their own notion of Aufkl¨ rung in
the Systemprogramm of 1797. They too rejected the traditional state. In
so far as they believed they needed a state at all at this stage it was for the
purposes of security only. Their response to the leading icons of Weimar
thought is indicative. For the Swabians criticised Schiller and Goethe for
their neglect of the collective side of community: Schiller, they claimed,
had failed to appreciate the social essence of human existence.66
One thing that all these individuals have in common is that they are gen-
erally excluded from the Aufkl¨ rung. Neo-Humanism, Idealism, Roman-
ticism “ in Fichte™s case nationalism as well “ are all conventionally studied
as rejections of Aufkl¨ rung. The same can be said of the Deutsche Klas-
sik and, by implication, its leading exponents Schiller and Goethe. Their
underlying concerns, however, were still surely those of the Aufkl¨ rung:
the explanation of man as a rational being and the establishment of the
optimal principles for man™s social living. A new language of philosophy
and new claims for the status of philosophy were employed in the pur-
suit of the old objectives.67 The turn to a new mythology represented
a development of key Aufkl¨ rung principles, notably those developed
by Herder. The high regard that young Romantics such as Friedrich
Schlegel had for Lessing as the model of an Enlightenment thinker is
indicative of a continuing sense of identi¬cation with the fundamental
principles and aspirations of the movement.69 And while each new ten-
dency claimed exclusivity and invariably scorned its competitors, they
would have been surprised to be told that they rejected the Aufkl¨ rung.a

65 Dieter Henrich, Grundlegung aus dem Ich. Untersuchungen zur Vorgeschichte des Idealis-
mus, T¨ bingen-Jena (1790“1794), 2 vols. (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 2004), I, pp. 13“
21, 891“6, 902“5; Franz Gabriel Nauen, ˜Revolution, Idealism and Human Freedom:
Schelling, Holderlin and Hegel and the Crisis of Early German Idealism™, International
Archives of the History of Ideas 45 (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1971), pp. viii, 1“17, 23“4, 46“9;
Frederick C. Beiser (ed.), The Early Political Writings of the German Romantics, Cambridge
Texts in the History of Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996),
pp. xi“xxix; Chytry, Aesthetic State, pp. 123“7; Frederick C. Beiser, The Romantic Imper-
ative: The Concept of Early German Romanticism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 2003), pp. 43“55.
66 Chytry, Aesthetic State, p. 69.
67 Bohr, Philosophie f¨ r die Welt, pp. 171“215; Jurgen Habermas, ˜Die Philosophie als
¨ u ¨
Platzhalter und Interpret™, in Jurgen Habermas, Moralbewußtsein und kommunikatives
Handeln (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1983), pp. 9“28; Dieter Henrich, ˜Franzosische ¨
Revolution und klassische deutsche Philosophie™, in Dieter Henrich, Eine Republik
Deutschland (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1990), pp. 71“101, esp. pp. 92“4.
68 George S. Williamson, The Longing for Myth in Germany: Religion and Aesthetic Culture
from Romanticism to Nietzsche (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2004), pp. 19“71;
Habermas, Die nachholende Revolution, pp. 14“15.
69 Friedrich Schlegel, ˜Uber Lessing™, in Friedrich Schlegel, Kritische und theoretische
Schriften, ed. Andreas Huyssen (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1978), pp. 46“75. See also Huyssen™s
illuminating editorial postscript, ibid., pp. 227“43.
The transformation of the Aufkl¨ rung
a 175

What Hegel (much) later told his lecture audience in Berlin was a distor-
tion of his early own development. In reality it was only in the late 1790s
that he and his friends began to denounce the ˜berlinische Aufkl¨ rerei™.
Aufkl¨ rung as such remained the central cause.

What caused the change in attitude? To some extent it resulted from the
increasingly bitter struggle in the philosophy faculties during the 1790s.71
By about 1800, the Kantians and Idealists had triumphed over their oppo-
nents, though pre-Kantian Aufkl¨ rer were still powerful enough to drive
Fichte out of Jena for atheism in 1798.72 On the other hand exponents
of more traditional “ in Hegel™s view ˜antiquated™ “ Aufkl¨ rung or ˜practi-
cal reasoning™ persisted in neighbouring faculties, particularly those that
contributed to the emergence of the ˜gesamte Staatswissenschaften™ in
the early decades of the nineteenth century.73
Just as important, the dramatic changes in the political scene around
1799 prompted ¬gures such as Fichte or Hegel to perceive a renewed role
for a state conceived as more than just the guardian of a realm of freedom.
The optimism about freedom that had inspired many during the 1790s
was undermined. The state that the later Aufkl¨ rer wanted variously to
reduce, to limit or to turn into a harmonious space of freedom came
under threat. Under attack from France its structures wilted and the
wider framework which held the German states together, the Reich, was
also more and more obviously redundant.
In casting about for a new state it seemed to some only natural to turn
to that other Enlightenment (re)discovery: the nation. As Tim Blanning
has recently reminded us, the decades after about 1740 saw a powerful
development both of German culture and of con¬dence in the worth and

70 Stuke, ˜Aufkl¨ rung™, p. 306. For an account of Hegel as an Aufkl¨ rer, see Willi Oelmuler,
a a ¨
Die unbefriedigte Aufkl¨ rung. Beitr¨ ge zu einer Theorie der Moderne von Lessing, Kant und
a a
Hegel, 2nd edn (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1979). More cautious, but with an emphasis
on Hegel™s loyalty to key Aufkl¨ rung principles, is Frederick Beiser, Hegel (London:
Routledge, 2005), pp. 21“33.
71 Beiser, Fate of Reason, pp. 226“326; Bohr, Philosophie f¨ r die Welt, pp. 203“15.
¨ u
72 La Vopa, Fichte, pp. 380“7.
73 David F. Lindenfeld, The Practical Imagination: The German Sciences of State in the Nine-
teenth Century (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1997), pp. 33“88; Michael Stolleis,
Geschichte des offentlichen Rechts in Deutschland, 3 vols. (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1988“99),
II, pp. 156“86, 230“65. See also: Wolfgang Albrecht (ed.), Um Menschenwohl und Staat-
sentwicklung. Textdokumentation zur deutschen Aufkl¨ rungsdebatte zwischen 1770 und 1850,
mit drei zeitgen¨ ssischen Kupfern, Stuttgarter Arbeiten zur Germanistik 302 (Stuttgart:
Hans-Dieter Heinz, 1995).
176 Joachim Whaley

world-historical potential of that culture.74 That drew on a variety of older
traditions of thinking about the German nation. The humanist critics of
Rome around 1500 and the rhetoric of the Reformation established a
new awareness of ˜Germany™ as both a linguistic and a geographical con-
cept. The external con¬‚icts of the Reich with the Turks and the French
in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the internal struggle of the
Protestant princes against the emperors in the name of German liberty
all contributed to a rich vocabulary of images and an expressive pathos-
laden national discourse. In the seventeenth-century language societies
those notions were employed in the pursuit of a national ideal that tran-
scended social and gender and that aspired to transcend the religious
divide as well. In the eighteenth century the discourse of the nation was
then further enriched by the development of dynastic nationalisms: that
local and regional patriotism that was so characteristic of the early phases
of the Aufkl¨ rung. Governments from Vienna to Berlin fostered such
patriotism in their efforts to consolidate their disparate territories and
their subjects into citizens of a streamlined unitary state. The distinc-
tive blend of culture and power that Blanning has identi¬ed in Prussia is
re¬‚ected in the appearance there of a new intensity of national rhetoric
during the Seven Years™ War. Works such as Thomas Abbt™s Vom Tode f¨ r u
das Vaterland (1761) or the patriotic poetry of Ewald von Kleist, Johann
Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim and Karl Wilhelm Ramler are indicative of the
new spirit, but also of its ambiguous elision of Prussian and German.
The combination of the two levels “ the ˜German™ and the territorial “ is
characteristic of most German national or patriotic writing well into the
nineteenth century.
Many of the elements of what is taken to be classic nineteenth-century
nationalism clearly developed long before 1789.75 The view, espoused
both by traditional nationalist historians and by scholars such as Hans-
Ulrich Wehler, that a purely cultural nationalism expressed in a cos-
mopolitan idiom gave way to a quite new form of modern political nation-
alism expressed as a secular religion, draws too stark a contrast between
two supposed forms.76 It also exaggerates the Prussian disaster of 1806 as

74 Blanning, The Culture of Power, pp. 232“65. For a review of recent literature: Borgstedt,
Zeitalter der Aufkl¨ rung, pp. 71“80.
75 Ute Planert, ˜Wann beginnt der “moderne” deutsche Nationalismus?™, in Jorg ¨
Echternkamp and Sven Oliver Muller, Die Politik der Nation. Deutscher Nationalismus
in Krieg und Krisen 1760“1960 (Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 2002), pp. 25“59; Joachim
Whaley, ˜Thinking about Germany, 1750“1815: The Birth of a Nation?™, Publications of
the English Goethe Society NS 64 (1996), pp. 53“72; Joachim Whaley, ˜Reich, Nation,
Volk: Early Modern Perspectives™, Modern Languages Review 101 (2006), pp. 442“55.
76 Hans-Ulrich Wehler, Nationalismus. Geschichte, Formen, Folgen (Munich: C. H. Beck,
2001), pp. 62“87.
The transformation of the Aufkl¨ rung
a 177

a dramatic watershed in the development of German nationalism. In real-
ity writers such as Fichte, but also Arndt and Jahn, continued to think in
eighteenth-century Aufkl¨ rung terms of rationalism and universalism.77
Yet at the same time the dissolution of the Reich and the collapse of the
German state system generated new imperatives. On the one hand the
need to drive the French out seemed to require the precise de¬nition of
German values and qualities (especially the martial qualities) and of Ger-
man ethnicity. On the other hand the dissolution of the Reich required
more urgent re¬‚ection on the geographical extent of ˜Germany™ than at
any time since the ¬fteenth century.78
The new national ferment was essentially radical in its politics. Fichte™s
Reden an die deutsche Nation, for example, denounced the betrayal of the
German nation by the princes, including the King of Prussia. He sketched
out a vision of the liberation of the Volk from France and of a renewal of
the nation in the service of mankind based on a new unifying religion.
Like others, Fichte conceived of Germany as a land of freedom.
Nonetheless, the German governments sought to use the new rhetoric
in their efforts to mobilise their people in the struggle against the French.
The Austrians emulated France and the Confederation of the Rhine and
introduced universal conscription. The Prussians embraced reform and
their monarch appealed to his people. The majority of the people were,
however, more moved by loyalty to their locality or region: ˜the national
discourse of the elites simply passed the less educated by™.79
Equally important, once the crisis was over, the governments had no
more use for the propaganda of national patriotism. In Prussia, as in
other German states, the authorities soon turned the patriots into out-
laws, suspect because the Germany that they believed in would engulf the
Prussian crown along with all the other German crowns. Heine™s shrewd
and embittered judgement of 1836 characterises the process nicely. The
princes hoped to be liberated from Napoleon by God, he wrote, but they
realised that the combined forces of their subjects might also be help-
ful. Hence they did all they could to awaken the communal spirit of the

77 Klaus von See, Freiheit und Gemeinschaft. V¨ lkisch-nationales Denken in Deutschland
zwischen Franz¨ sischer Revolution und Erstem Weltkrieg (Heidelberg: C. Winter, 2001),
pp. 20“5.
78 Karen Hagemann, ˜Mannlicher Muth und Teutsche Ehre™. Nation, Milit¨ r und Geschlecht
zur Zeit der Antinapoleonischen Kriege Preußens, Krieg in der Geschichte 8 (Paderborn:
Schoningh, 2002).
79 Planert, ˜Wann beginnt der “moderne” deutsche Nationalismus?™, p. 56. See also
Matthew Levinger, Enlightened Nationalism: The Transformation of Prussian Political Cul-
ture 1806“1848 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 41“68 and Otto W. John-
ston, Der deutsche Nationalmythos. Ursprung eines politischen Programms (Stuttgart: J. B.
Metzler, 1990).
178 Joachim Whaley

Germans: ˜We were ordered to adopt patriotism and we become patriots;
for we do everything that our princes tell us to do.™80

That was not the end of nationalism. Nor, however, did the response to
the national crisis before 1815 represent the extirpation of all Aufkl¨ rung
values. Narratives that see 1806 either as the birth of Prussian-German
nationalism or as the origin of a uniquely German form of nationalist
evil need to be re-examined.81 There were undoubtedly important new
developments in the period 1789“1815. Some reacted to events in France
by arguing that the Germans had no need of a revolution since they were
well on the way to achieving freedom (and more effectively) by means of
reform. Others turned against any kind of reform and developed powerful
anti-Aufkl¨ rung ideas, part of a movement as complex and as diverse as


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