Which Germany would you like to live in? Luther’s, Hitler’s, or Habermas’s?

In thinking about what worldviews are broadly contending for the human future, it occurs to me that Germany, over the past 500 years, has basically passed through the three key ones:

  • The religious civilizational vision. This is embodied today by contemporary fundamentalists Christians and traditionalist Muslims, and was represented in Germany 450 years ago by Martin Luther.
  • Herderian nationalism. This vision is promoted by a broad mix of 21st century forces, each with their own reasons for doing so. On the left, it’s promoted by multiculturalists and postmoderns enamored of Heidegger and Messianism. On the right, it’s promoted by plutocrats and intellectual Straussians, as well as other Machiavellians and Nietzscheans happy to manipulate the masses for elite advantage. In Germany, it was given over a decade’s calamitous run under Hitler.
  • The Habermasian social democratic vision (post-1945 Germany to the present). Jurgen Habermas’s Germany is so obviously preferable to the other alternatives that it gives me hope for the future. What future, other than Habermas’s, is really worth working for?

Luther, Hitler, or Habermas. Is there, broadly speaking, a viable fourth option?

What’s your vision for the future?


Image source: Wikipedia Commons.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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16 Responses to Which Germany would you like to live in? Luther’s, Hitler’s, or Habermas’s?

  1. But for your last two sentences, I would have said that you commited the error of a false dichotomy (trichotomy?). There are many other ways to go, including the conservative/liberal-conservative/christian-valued road of CDU or moving down a more libertarian and/or neoliberal road (possibly something for FDP in the longer term).

    As for ranking alternatives, I have to admit to never having read up specifically on Habermas; however, looking at both the Swedish and German social-democrats, they have not impressed me in terms of success and have often been a bit backwards with regard to the state of their ideology and the way the world has developed.

    • santitafarella says:

      Well, I picked Habermas as a broadly representative, Enlightenment oriented intellectual; someone in accord with liberal bourgeois politics.

      I suppose I would include most conservative and liberal politics in Europe as, broadly speaking, Habermasian.

      I’m less sure about how the Enlightenment holds up in American politics. Conservatives in the United States have increasingly become Herderian religious and nationalist fanatics, or extreme libertarians that turn a blind eye to American plutocracy (and even celebrate it). Leftists in the United States fuzzy up their thinking with multicultural deference to Herderian cultures that would destroy the Enlightenment if they ever came to power. Of course, leftists in Europe make this error as well.

      I just feel that the Enlightenment is besieged on all sides, but is really the only way forward into a sane human future. It seems to me that it has to win because the alternatives are so obviously irrational.

      But, then again, humans are not necessarily rational animals. Dostoevsky’s novels, alas, teach us this.


  2. Paradigm says:

    I would mix Habermas and Herder. We need social justice to stick together. A millionaire and a homeless person have nothing in common. When more such gorges open up between people society falls apart. But the same gorges open up between Muslims and Christians/Seculars. If you look at PISA:s survey of how kids in school are performing you can see a clear pattern: rich multicultural countries like USA, Sweden and Germany fail and relatively poor but homogenous countries like Poland and Estonia succeed. That’s and indication of things to come.

    • Which PISA survey are you looking at? The one I have as being most recent states the top 15 countries (in order) as:

      Hong Kong-China
      New Zealand

      That seems to show a fairly uneven majority of “rich multicultural countries” (Finland, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland) succeeding over “relatively poor” or “homogenous countries” (Shanghai-China, Korea, Hong Kong-China, Singapore, Estonia, Poland). What’s more, the “homogenous” countries (as you call them) are by no means all poor.

      What point were you trying to make? What data were you using?

  3. Paradigm says:

    I use the same data as yours above, but I also discuss other countries not in the top 15 – namely USA, Sweden and Germany. It seems to me that we may define multiculturalism differently. In my previous comment I pointed out the Muslims in the West as a problem. That is the main problem with multiculturalism in my and most skeptics views.

    China has about 1-2 percent Muslims.
    South Korea 0.1 percent
    Hong Kong couldn’t find a figure
    Finland 0.8 percent
    Singapore within the 0.8 percent “others” category
    Canada 2.0 percent
    New Zealand 0.9 percent
    Japan less than 0.1 percent
    Australia 1.7 percent
    Netherlands 5.5 percent
    Belgium 6.0 percent
    Norway 3.0 percent
    Estonia 0.1 percent
    Switzerland 5.7 percent
    Poland 0.1 percent
    Iceland 0.1 percent

    As you can see most of these have very few Muslims and the exceptions are Netherlands and Belgium that are very rich and Switzerland which is super rich. Your idea that Finland and Japan should be counted as multicultural seems unreasonable with any type of definition.

    I did not state that the homogenous countries were poor. I said “rich multicultural countries like USA, Sweden and Germany fail and relatively poor but homogenous countries like Poland and Estonia succeed”.

    My point is that multiculturalism, at least the Muslim kind, is failing. The new generations in these countries will not have the same level of education as in more homogenous countries and they will no be able to compete with these.

    • “multiculturalism, at least the Muslim kind, is failing”

      You are honestly saying, lets be blunt, that the more Muslims a country has the worse it becomes?

      • “rich multicultural countries like USA… fail”

        The USA has only a 0.8% Muslim population – there’s only any correlation if you ignore the many countries that don’t fit in with your thesis, and for those that do you’re simply making false syllogisms. Do you really see it as being as simplistic as this?

  4. Paradigm says:

    USA is an exception, although it has its share of ethnic conflicts because of its extrem blend of groups from all over the world. So they have a special problem with multiculturalism which is unrelated to Muslims – and yes they fail.

    Overall the picture is clear: the more Muslims the worse results in school. That’s not what I am saying, that’s the stats above. The correlation is pretty clear if you adjust for how rich the countries are, which makes sense because they then have more resources to combat the problem with – at least until the money runs out.

    There are not many countries that don’t fit my theory. You only mention USA and I mentioned three others. And they are very rich. Look at all the countries on the list and you see it clearly. Especially if you admit that Finland, Iceland and Japan are not multicultural. Look further down the list and you see France 7.5%, Germany 5%, Sweden 4.9%, Denmark 4.1%, UK 4.6%. All rich countries with an average share of Muslims that is way larger than the top 15. I recommend anyone who believes your idea of a lack of correlation to read the PISA list at:
    http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/54/12/46643496.pdf and compare it with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_Europe. It’s very obvious.

    Besides, it’s no surprise since immigrants from these countries have an IQ of 75-85. And intelligence correlates to school performance.

  5. concerned christian says:

    Although that was not the major point of the discussion but since others brought up the question of the correlation between Islam and backwardness, I can bring your attention to another bizarre event in a Muslim country. The richest man in Egypt, who happened to be a Christian who made his fortune by building multinational industries, is under attack for daring to tweet a picture of Mickey and Minnie Mouse with traditional Islamic outfits! Now Imams and Muslim zealots are demanding a boycott of his industries which happen to hire many Muslims and pay them good wages. once again there are enough crazy Muslims in Egypt who are willing to destroy one of the few successful enterprises in the country over yet another cartoon!

  6. Paradigm says:

    Concerned Christian:
    The examples are so many that those who don’t see the problem must be in denial. Every muslim country without huge amounts of oil and a small population is poor. And as I was saying earlier, children in countries that allow a large influx of Muslims perform worse than others, meaning they will be poor in the future. (My comment on that is still in moderation.) Add to that the corruption, oppression of women and persecution of religious minorities, from Nigeria to Indonesia, and also the simple fact that this is a religion where fundamentalism is the majority choice. The picture should be clear for anyone with their eyes open.

    • santitafarella says:

      Paradigm and Concerned:

      I’m inclined to agree with both of you that contemporary Islamic society is a culture in crisis. Islamic societies are having an extraordinarily difficult time squaring literalist Quran belief with 21st century global feminism, science, and skepticism.

      And thanks for the information on the Mickey Mouse incident. I didn’t know the “controversy” surrounded an Egyptian Christian.


      • “[…]with 21st century global feminism, science, and skepticism. ”

        Feminism should not be mentioned together with science and skepticism—and is certainly not something that Islam should strive to be compatible with: Equal rights, opportunities, and obligations for men and women is something that societies (including those based on Islam) should strive for. 21st centurty Feminism, however, is a one-sided women’s rights and benefit movement—and one that makes large use of blind and uncritical faith, allies it self with pseudosciences like gender-studies, and is highly un-enlightenment (possibly even anti-enlightenment). What they are good at is propaganda , including painting the picture that they are a force of good in the eyes of those who have not questioned their claims.

        Have a look at e.g. http://michaeleriksson.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/six-feminist-myths/ or http://michaeleriksson.wordpress.com/2010/07/01/unfair-argumentation-methods-vii-swedish-example/ for examples of their reality distortion or any number of other posts dealing with their highly unenlightened strive to censor and oppress those having the “wrong” opinion.

  7. concerned christian says:

    Sadly this battle is more than just a Mickey Mouse business, it appears that the Muslim brothers are calling the shots in Egypt today. They manage to infiltrate the best known secular party in Egypt, El Wafd which used to have many Christians in its leadership. These two parties, in addition to few smaller parties, formed a coalition to run in the September parliamentary election.
    Naguib Sawiris, the man in the center of this controversy, is forming and supporting one of the few parties that refused to join this coalition and the brotherhood wants to destroy him and his party at any cost.
    So far it appears that the military Junta ruling the country favor the brotherhood and refused to postpone the election so that other secular parties will have a chance to build itself. So the expectation now is that the brotherhood will win the election in September and write a new constitution to fit their style.

    • santitafarella says:


      I only hope that the scenario you paint is not true. I was under the (apparently mistaken) impression that there would be a new constitution written before any election. I thought I read somewhere that John Rawls (the famous philosopher) would have been interested in seeing how an Egyptian constitution might come out (as it was supposed to be written before it was obvious who, in the country, might be in control). Rawls argued that the best way to make laws is to get everyone in the room together before they knew who would be rich or poor, in power or out, etc. Presumably, according to Rawls, people would then write fair laws because they wouldn’t know where, in the pecking order, they might land.

      Is there no context in which such a positive constitutional outcome occurs in Egypt? You think it’s just going to be populist Sharia? What’s a least bad case scenario?

      • concerned christian says:

        Santi, now you are getting to the bottom of the problem. Here’s what happened after the Military Junta took control.
        They appointed a committee to modify the constitution, and included some hard headed Muslim Brothers in that selected committee.
        The committee proposed some changes which appear to make it harder for new parties to form, and a voting on these changes were held
        Voting was turned into a vote for or against Islam, if you accept the changes you are a true Muslim. The vote ended up with about 77% yes.
        A parliament election will be held on September and the parliament will be given the authority to write the constitution.
        The battle now is what you just stated, should we have the constitution first or the election first. Again it was cast as a religious question; secularists say “Constitution first” while Muslim brothers and Salafis say election first. So far the “election first” party is dominating with ridiculous claims such as “when a majority voted yes on the changes in the constitution that sealed the deal for the next steps.
        So stay tuned for more news in September.
        BTW I have a feeling that similar game was attempted in Turkey, and I believe that if the Muslim party won a super majority, the secular Turkish state would have ended.

  8. santitafarella says:


    I do recall that the recent Turkish elections were a nail-biter for secular Turks worried for their constitution. Fortunately, a supermajority of traditionalists did not prevail and the Turkish constitution cannot be rewritten by them alone (at least at this point).

    As for Egypt, I’m very sorry to see it moving in the (apparent) direction that it is.


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