Radical Conservatism and the Liberal Question

Hermann Wagener and Paul de Lagarde as Promotors of the Radicalization of 19th Century German Conservatism

In: Comparative Political Theory
Tobias Adler-Bartels Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg: Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat, Erlangen-Nurnberg, Erlangen, Germany

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To understand conservatism as an isolated ideology is an almost hopeless endeavor; after all, conservative thinking is always embedded into specific ideological constellations. While the mirror-image effect identified by Michael Freeden generally emphasizes the conceptual intertwining of conservatism with other ideologies, the example of German conservatism highlights its structural dependence on liberalism, described here as the liberal question. The article focuses on the context of radical conservatism and sheds light on the radicalization of German conservative thought in the nineteenth century focusing on the thinkers Hermann Wagener (1815–1889) and Paul de Lagarde (1827–1891). Despite their different biographical and political starting points, both Wagener and Lagarde developed a radicalized conservatism that made the (intellectual) struggle against liberalism the supreme task of their metapolitical agenda. In the context of the so-called Conservative Revolution in the Weimar Republic, this radical thinking condensed into a distinct political movement. The historical reconstruction of this episode of radicalization of German conservatism thus also serves to provide a differentiated view of contemporary right-wing phenomena in general.

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