Please note! This event unfortunately has to be postponed!
03 Jun 2020 – 05 Jun 2020

“In Defense of Democracy.” Hermann Broch’s American Experience and the Relevance of His Political Thinking Today

Venue: ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Aufgang B, 3. Etage
Organized by Paul Michael Lützeler (St. Louis), Daniel Weidner (ZfL/HU Berlin)

Please note! This event unfortunately has to be postponed!

Symposium, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, Hannover, organized by the Leibniz Center for Literary and Cultural Research Berlin (ZfL) in collaboration with the Internationaler Arbeitskreis Hermann Broch

Hermann Broch experienced a general political and social crisis in Europe in the interwar period and especially after the National Socialists seized power in Germany: the self-destruction of democracy, the manipulation of the masses by means of a clever propaganda, the blatant disregard of Citizen and Human Rights, the incarceration and internment of dissenters, the enslavement and in the end annihilation of certain groups like the Jews. After his emigration to the United States in 1938, Broch reacted with a series of political initiatives and the great project of a “Theory of Mass Delusion,” which not only sought to explain the success of the ‘totalitarian’ regimes, but also worked on a conception of democracy that, according to Broch, would only be able to stand up to those regimes if it was newly and differently conceptualized. Broch’s ideas are radical: His political theory is comprehensive and deals with economic as well as cultural and even anthropological aspects. At the same time it does not take liberal democracy as such for granted. The American experience of a democratic tradition becomes a learning process for Broch, which at times leads to far reaching considerations, as on the politics of Human rights, but which also reveals the difficulties of political practice under the conditions of exile. Today, in the face of rampant populism and the crisis of representative democracy, Broch’s ideas are relevant again. The conference discusses them in a broader historical context and explores conceptual and political perspectives of Broch’s American experience.


Wednesday, 03 Jun 2020

18.30 Public Keynote

  • Paul Michael Lützeler (Washington University in St. Louis, Vorsitzender des Internationalen Arbeitskreises Hermann Broch): Brochs Überlegungen im amerikanischen Exil zur “Re-education” in Deutschland


Thursday, 04 Jun 2020


Opening and Introduction


  • Doren Wohlleben (Universität Marburg): Erziehung zur Demokratie. Brochs Ideen zum Projekt einer Internationalen Universität
Barbara Picht (ZfL): Wissensnetzwerke des Exils. Brochs Korrespondenzen und Zeitschriftenkontakte


  • Sebastian Wogenstein (University of Connecticut): Das Recht auf Recht. Broch on Human Rights in Context


  • Doerte Bischoff (Walter A. Berendsohn Forschungsstelle für deutsche Exilliteratur, Universität Hamburg): Die Gemeinschaft der Staatsbürger. Demokratische Modelle in Brochs Exilromanen
  • Kirk Wetters (Yale University, New Haven): Hermann Broch and Post-Weberian Theory


  • Nora Goldschmidt (Durham University): Broch’s ‘Political Turn’: Reading the Aeneid in “Der Tod des Vergil”
  • Agnieszka Hudzik (Freie Universität Berlin): “Der Tod des Vergil” im komparatistischen Kontext


Friday, 05 Jun 2020


Alice Staskova (Universität Jena): Hermann Brochs “Theorie der Demokratie” (1941) und der Untergang des Fiktionalismus
Christian Borch (University of Copenhagen): Broch and Avalanche Modernity. On the Twilight State and Tensional Individuality


  • Udi Greenberg (Dartmouth College, Hanover): The Afterlife of Weimar Thought. Broch, Religion, and Politics in the United States


  • Martin Klebes (University of Oregon, Eugene): Law and Consciousness. Broch on Democratic Propaganda

  • Daniel Weidner (ZfL/HU Berlin): “Irdisch absolut.” Hermann Brochs Kritik der Politischen Theologie


Patrick Eiden-Offe (Ruhr-Universität Bochum): Essayismus und Politik. Brochs politische Aufsätze im Kontext der frühen Nachkriegszeit
  • Eva Geulen (ZfL/HU Berlin): Rom rühmen. Broch und Arendt

Admission is free of charge, there is no need to register in advance.