Middle East Technical University

German- Turkish Master’s Program
in Social Sciences

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8410501 Joint Seminar

Fall 2017



“The role of the
middle class in the 19th century Germany’s path to totalitarianism,
enriched by a comparative perspective with the Italian case.”


 Term Paper




                                       WC: 726



Submitted to: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Fatma Umut Be?p?nar

Submitted by: Gizem K?l?ç







4.2  1848








paper will seek to understand the middle class (and consequently the weakness
of liberalism) in the 19th century Germany as implication for fascism in
Bismarck’s Reich that led to the rise of National Socialism in the long-run and
will include a comperative analysis with the middle class in Italy of the given
time and discuss the role of middle class in both countries’ path to fascism.

rise of fascism in Germany and the underlying reasons for the rise of National
Socialism has been already studied widely since Europe, has been suffering from
its consequences a lot. Lots of new paradigms or schemes have been developed in
order to understand this process better, to find the roots of the problem and
to prevent history from repeating itself, not only in Germany or in Europe but
in anywhere in the world. Fall of the Weimar Republic and the subsequent
dominance of National Socialism have been widely linked to Path Dependence or Sonderweg (EN: “Special Path”) theories.
Questions such as “What were the historical roots of National Socialism”, “What
its victory meant for the German history after 1945” have long been at the
centre of scholarly debates. Though, variations and critics of the Sonderweg theory are abundant in number,
they almost always focus on the period following the rise of Weimar Republic
till the assignment of Adolf Hitler as chancellor of Germany and would exclude
the period preceding Weimar Republic, and thus signalling a uniformity in
content. Thereby, based on this
abovementioned observation, I would argue that,  even though it may be going too far to argue
that something as gruesome as the Holocaust was an outcome of policies
initiated 70 years ago, it would not be wrong to claim that the seeds of German
fascism can be sought under Bismarck’s Germany. As all the Sonderweg proponents, I will also be
cautious about asserting a “necessary relationship between long-term
developments in the German History and the triumph of the National Socialism. I
will cautiously avoid equating Bismarck with Hitler, however, in the end I will
be specifically looking for peculiarities in German politics of that time that
hindered a liberal democracy from developing.

Germany’s path to totalitarianism is a multi-faceted process that include the  cluster of many variables all of which can no
way be included in the scope of this paper, I will be focusing on the role of
middle class in Bismarck’s Germany, basing my claims on one of the main
arguments of the Sonderweg thesis: “The middle class in Germany was weak and
consequently the progress to parliamentary government was stalled.” (Feuchtwanger, 2005). However, I will
also avoid equating the middle class with liberalism and put a special emphasis
on the lack of liberalist ideas among the middle class. The peculiarities of
the German case, and especially that of the middle class, the reasons why it
did not develop as strongly as their counterparts in other European countries
will be elaborated through secondary source analysises.

though the special path that Germany took has already been studied widely in
academia, not as much has been written on Italy and it could be said that this
is a gap of the existing literature.The reason why the other leg of this
comparison was chosen as Italy could be explained as follows: “Both countries
are still carrying the burden of their notorious past, a part of which was
characterized with two forms of authoritarianism, Fascism in Italy and Nazism
in Germany. Both Italy and Germany were late in nation building, unified in
1870 and 1861 respectively. Middle class and liberals constitute a significant
part of the society in both countries and liberal nationalism as an ideology
was strong in both countries during the 19th century. Thereby I argue that
there could be drawn some similarities between these two countries to help
explain the Italian case as well.


order to conceptualize my arguments, I will be referring to one of the
aforementioned paradigms that has been widely used to explain certain historica
events, including the “Special German Case”: Path Dependency. The idea behind
the Path Dependency paradigm could be simply explained by the famous saying “History
matters.” However, we encounter a complex and intricate mechanism behind this
philosopy especially when it is employed in the social science realm. “The
identification of path dependence involves both tracing a given outcome back to
a particular set of historical events, and showing how these events are
themselves contingent occurrences that can not be explained on the basis of
prior historical conditions.” (Mahoney, 2000) James Mahoney argues not all historical
explanations that include casual sequences in the past shall be called “path
dependent” and he presents three defining features of path-dependent historical
analyses. First, he asserts that “Timing also matters”, which is to say, if a
certain historical process had taken place too late could not have been of such
a great consequence. Accordingly, “Path-dependent analysis involves the study
of causal processes that are highly sensitive to events that take place in the
early stages of an overall historical sequence.” (Mahoney,
Secondly, he highlights the importance of “unpredictability” in a given
sequence or the term “contignency”. He argues that we tend to take a given
sequence for granted, let’s say A-B-C, but we do not know what is the normal
path for this sequence. In his own words, this second criteria could be
explained as “A system that exhibitis path dependency is one in which outcomes
are related stochastically to initial conditions”. Third, he introduces the
term “inertia” which is to say the tendency of processes to stay in motion. The
scope of this inertia depends on the type of sequence analyzed.

            Speaking of which, Mahoney argues
that there are two types of sequences with different path-dependent properties
than each other: self-reinforcing sequences and reactive sequences.
Self-reinforcing sequences could be described as those reproducing each other
towards a given outcome, where the initial steps lead to further movement in
the same direction. (Mahoney, 2000) A defining feature of those sequences
could be that,in these sequences it gets harder and harder over time to change or
reverse direction. If we are to give two examples of self-reinforcing
sequences, one in social sciences and one in positive sciences, the former
could be the aristocracy since they keep reproducing power because of their
past privileges while the latter would be “daylight saving time” that is still
implemented in Turkey notwithstanding all the scientific evidence against it.
At this point, so many variables are dependent on this daylight saving time
that, reversing direction would cost way too much money and practicality.
Reactive sequences, on the other hand, concerns change over time, rather than
the persistence. Mahoney (2000), gives the following definition of a reactive
sequence: “Reactive sequences are chains of temporally ordered and causally
connected events. In a reactive sequence, each event in the sequence is both a
reaction to antecedent events and a cause of subsequent events.” Now that the
defining features and a brief overview of the Path Dependency theory is
presented, this paper will now locate 
the German case in the paradigm itself.

            The defining features of the
Bismarckian era can be categorized under the “self-reinforcing” sequences while
the Weimar Republic, which starts with the resignation of Bismarck and
therefore marks the end of Bismarckian era could be called as a reactive one
(against Bismarck). In other words, the event leading up to the rise of
Bismarck as a chancellor and the developments that took place during his time
were self-reinforcing each other, making the system hard to change, until a
point where the desire to change outweighed the persistence and status-quo, and
there came the Weimar Republic. Just as it took only one man (himself) to bring
Bismarck to the power, it was again only one man that took him fom power, therefore
making it a reactive sequence . The rise of the Weimar Republic and the
conditions that led to this development is not in the scope of this paper, therefore,
I will now focus on how the developments of the Bismarckian Era would fall
under the category of self-reinforcing sequences.

            I will provide a really crude
historical overview, since the points made in this parapgraph will be elaborated
with great detail in the next section anyway. Historically speaking, it all
goes back to the Industrial Revolution that started in the 1848 in France. The
wave of industrialisation and change spreads to Prussia in the second half of
the 19th century, which gave the advantage over unificiation to Prussia, rather
than Austria. French Revolution and Industrialization brought about many
different ideologies, but the relevant ideologies in the German context were
liberalism and nationalism. Otto Von Bismarck himself was a conservative
revolutionist, being of Juncker’s origin, so there was a constant tension
between him and the liberals. In Germany, this liberal ideology was not supported
by the aristocracy, but instead found its home a new middle class that was
forming, which came to be known as the “Mittelstand”.
(Retallack, 2015)  The industrial
revolution created a new middle class made up of merchants, bankers, and other professional
occupations who profited from new business ventures and the wealth created by them.
(Hill, 2005) In the meantime, the original “bourgeouise” kept profiting from
their past privileges and never actually questioned the ultimate power of the
nobility, which could indeed be the peculiarity of the German case. As
indicated above in the self-reinforcing sequences section, the aristocracy did
not want to lose what they had gained already so they demonstrated a sort of “inertia”
and left the liberalist ideas to the recently developed “new” middle class,
thereby hindering the liberal democracy from developing by not contributing to
it and finally making it a self-reinforcing sequence. This section will analyze
one circle of this chain, the new middle class. This section will seek answers
to such sub-questions as “What did this new middle class entail?”, “What were
their relationship with the liberalist ideas like?” and “What was the influence
of the bourgeouise on the constant tension between the liberals and Bismarck?”.



section will provide an overview of the classical middle class/aristocracy in
the Germany during the 19th century. Before embarking on explaining the
defining features of the middle class in Germany, it is necessary to have a
look at the term Junkers of the Prussia. Junkers were the members of the landed
nobility in Prussia, owning most of the arable land there. Politically, they
would support monarchism and military traditions and their value judgements
were generally in direct contrast with those of the liberals, while being
compatible with the conservative ideas. Otto van Bismarck, himself, was of a
Junker origin as well. In fact, one could recognize a Junker from their name, as
their names would always include the ‘von’ prefix. As the Prussian superiority
was extended to the whole of Germany following the unification, Prussian Junkers
became more and more powerful in 1871. In contrast, the Junkers were sort of a
threatened social class during the period right after the industrial
revolution, when agriculture started declining due to the effect of

            Junkers had an immense influence on
the middle class of the 19th century Prussia , especially on the new middle
class, Mittelstand, that arose
following the industrialization. The concept of German
Mittelstand/Mittelschicht was developed in the 19th century. The middle class
was primarily seen as a product of industrialization and was generally
considered to be representing the modernization of the German society. From the
beginning the sociological approach was focusing on specific criteria enabling
to describe the particularities of this new social group. The notions of
“consumption”, “aspiration” and “attitudes” were central to this definition.(Suhr,
1928) Consequently, this new group took on the role of representing the
ideology of liberalism and liberal values. They believed in constitutionalism,
civil equality, the rights of smaller states over rights by birth and were opposed
to absolutism. (Clark, 1997) Bismarck’s notorious blood and iron policy was
also influential in the recruitment of the army. Surprisingly, he did not
insist on the aristocracy of its officers, attracting a large number of
middle-class men with ambitions to become officers (Craig, 1978).

the other hand, the bourgeouise, on whom the opponents of Sonderweg theory tend
to put all the blame, was going through a sort of feudalization process. Thus,
while in other European countries industrialization was accompanied by social
mobility and opportunity and political parliamentarization and democratization,
in Germany the social and political clocks were held back. Social hierarchies
and values remained premodern. (Evans, 1997.) The German bourgeouise of the 19th
century  looked to the state for approval
and support; instead of taking an active role in politics, it was apolitical
and abandoned its leadership role to the bureaucracy and pre-modern elites. (Wetzell,
1993) Therefore, I would agree with the Sonderweg paradigm on the point that,
as Evans also asserted, the German bourgeouise failed in their attempt to wrest
power from the aristocracy in the way that its counterparts in other countries
had done, which led to the Prussian aristocracy preserving its sociopolitical
hegemony. However, I argue that even
though the bourgeouise indeed feudalized itself over time, the real culprit for
the the absence of parliamentary democracy in the 19th century was the new
middle class, namely the Mittelstadt
and the fact that their influence as a social class on the political mechanisms
of Germany grew less over time and how  failed to upheld the liberal values.

next chapter will focus on the 1848 Revolution and then Bismarck’s fight
against liberalism.


Germany of 1949 was quite different from that of today, or even that of 1871,
in that there was no such country as Germany back then, but thirty-nine
independent states possessing the legacy of the Holy Roman Empire. Inspired by
the political developments taking place in France, supporters of the
Pan-Germanism ideology took it to streets and protested the traditional,
largely autocratic political structure of the Confederation.(Dill, 1970)
However, they failed. The revolution of 1948, therefore, marks the first
failure of the unification efforts and the liberalist movement in the 19th
century’s Germany. With the failure of the revolution of 1848, one phase in the
struggle for unification came to an end. Now Germany was going to be
transformed not into a democratic country by the efforts of liberal revolutionaries
but by the rulers into a militaristic empire. In a notorious speech that he
delivered, Bismarck described his policy of unification as “one of blood and
iron” which meant a policy of war and militarization.

 However, Burke argues that it was only the
liberals’ attempt at unification in 1848 that failed, not the liberal ideals
themselves. As Feuchtwanger suggests, outside factors were influential in the
failure of the liberal revolution, not the actual beliefs of the liberals.
(Burke, n.d) It took 23 years for the liberals to achieve their main goal:
unification. Even though the chancellor of the new federal state was a
conservative, most of the values and beliefs of the liberals were represented
in the newly formed society, which now had universal suffrage, a non-absolute
monarchy, a three-tier voting system, a unified currency and a central bank. (Burke,
n.d) Moreover Kulturkampf, Bismarck’s
struggle with the Catholic Church over the homogeneity of the state, could also be interpreted as an
accomplishment on the liberals’ side.

will be elaborated later on, the liberals actually played a crucial role during
the unification of Germany and it is no coincidence that Bismarck’s troubled
relationship with the liberals dates back before 1871, the creation of the
Second Reich. In a meeting at the Prussian Parliament in 1862, Bismarck articulated
the words that have come to be immediately associated with his personality:
“Germany does not look to Prussia’s liberalism but to her strength. The
great questions of the day will not be decided by speeches and the resolutions
of majorities, that was the great mistake of 1848, but by iron and blood.”
What he meant by the great mistake of 1848 was actually the proliferation of
the liberalist ideas of that time. Nevertheless, Bismarck acknowledged that
liberalism would still be prevalent in Germany and he would inevitably need the
support of liberalism. Therefore he planned his next moves accordingly, in a
strategic way. After the Austria-Prussia war in 1996, many liberals especially
those who were of the opinion that unification was necessary under any
condition, gradually started to side with him. While the constitution was still
in the process of drafting, Bismarck used his powers to introduce a bill of
indemnity in the legislature, granting the government
retroactive approval for its operation without a legal budget. The consequence,
as Bismarck had foreseen, was a split in the ranks of his adversaries. Those
who argued that there could be no compromise on the principle of constitutional
government rejected the indemnity bill, but many more
moderate liberals decided to accept the settlement. (Strauss
& Berentsen, 2017) Thus, Bismarck won another victory of internal affairs,
one as important as the one fought on the battle against the Austrians.

year 1873 brought about an economic depression and a considerable loss of power
on the liberals side. Over time, liberalism was replaced with a growing
sentiment of nationalism.Burke argues that anti-semitism was institutionalized
by Bismarck in Germany, initiated by the seperation of Jews and Germans through
the rapid industrialization of the Germany. (Burke, n.d) If the liberal values
and sentiments had been more powerful back then, maybe the option that would be
chosen by the masses in the long run with regards to nationalism would have
been liberal nationalism and not the national socialism.

back to the argument that I asserted in the last paragraph of the previous
section, I suggest that the bourgeouise straying from their hitherto value judgements
and habits did not have as much of an 
influence on the absence of a parliamentary democracy as the opponents
of the mainstream Sonderweg paradigm argues.Rather, it was the defeat and
failure of the liberal values that hindered a “liberal” democracy from
developing as argued above. As Blackbourn and Eley argues in their essay, we
should think twice about the the assumed absence of the bourgeouise revolution
and maybe accept that the bourgeouise may come to social dominance by other
than liberal routes, as the interests of the bourgeoise may be pursued and
secured by other than liberal democratic means. (Blackbourn, Eley, 1984)



chapter will first provide a brief historical background on the unification
process in Italy and then seek to analyze the formation of middle class in
Italy after the unification, the effect of liberalism and will discuss the
influence of middle class on Italy’s path to Fascism. Differences and
similarities between the Italian and German case will be drawn, if there is

just as Germany, was a latecomer in the nation building. It was only in 1861
that the unification of the independent Italian states started and only in 1871
that this process came to an end. Even before the unification, the sentiments
of nationalism was strong in Italy, the goal of a unified Italian nation had
captivated many, which led to a number of attempts at unification. Not
surprisingly, Italy was also among those European countries that were inspired
by the wave of change that occured in 1848. Despite intense feelings of
nationalism, when Italy’s opportunity came to unify in early 1848 the leaders
and the people became hopelessly divided. 
The revolution in Italy failed because the Italians did not understand
the nature of the unification they were trying to achieve and this, coupled
with their loyalty to small Italian kingdoms, prevented them from attaining the
cohesive effort needed to create a unified state. (Hill, 2015) Unlike Germany, there
were two men behind the unification of Italy: Cavour and Garibaldi Unlike
Bismarck’s “might makes right” approach, they preferred the use of diplomacy
and popular appeal in order to accomplish unification.However, both
revolutionists had a common ground which is their affiliation with the Realpolitik thought which is defined as
a set of activities that help organize individuals, systematically resolve
disputes, and maintain order in society with the use of power. (Humphrey, 2014)
Cavour utilized Piedmont, the counterpart of Prussia in this equation, as a key
to the unification and benefited from the alliance of Britain and France when
necessary. Therefore, Cavour (and partly Garibaldi, too) used alliance,the
distinction and knowledge of international and domestic politics, a pattern
that is also observed in the rule of Bismarck in Germany.

new Italian state was a constitutional monarchy.