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Ecologies of Socialisms

Germany, Nature, and the Left in History, Politics, and Culture


Edited By Sabine Mödersheim, Scott Moranda and Eli Rubin

This volume explores the complex webs of interaction between the environmental movement, socialism, and the «natural» environment in Germany, and beyond, in the twentieth century. There has long been a divide between the environmental, or «green,» movement and socialist movements in Germany, a divide that has expressed itself in scholarship and intellectual discourse. And yet, upon closer inspection, the split between «red» and «green» is not as clear as it might at first seem. Indeed, little about the interaction between socialism and environmentalism, or socialism and the environment, fits into a neat binary. In a way, the discourses, positions, and policies
that structure the interactions between environmentalism, nature, and socialism in German history and culture can be said to constitute a kind of ecology – a complex and interdependent web of relations, which can appear as antagonisms, but which can also contain deeper, less immediately visible, interdependencies. Ecologies of Socialisms attempts to combine the work of scholars from a wide range of disciplines (history, literature, German/Austrian studies, philosophy, geography) in order to contribute to a better and more nuanced understanding of how «green» and «red» have clashed and also merged in German history and culture.
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Introduction (Eli Rubin / Scott Moranda)


Eli Rubin and Scott Moranda


Is Germany the “Greenest nation” as Frank Uekötter has provocatively asked?1 Forget the Berlin Wall, forget the Cold War, World War II, the Nazis, the Holocaust, the Kaiserreich, and forget the storied history of the Social Democratic Party – the SPD. Germany is now the nation of separated trash, solar panels and wind power. The only Wende people talk about now, in relation to Germany, is the Energiewende. And perhaps, that is part of the point. The Energiewende provides for a national identity that generates warm, positive press and seemingly avoids the more divisive and troubling aspects of past markers of Germanness.

Even if the reality of the “greenest nation” is more complicated, it is undeniable that Germany has been at the center of the global history of environmentalism. Scientific conservation had deep roots among the foresters, urban planners, and other technical experts of Wilhelmine Germany who had outsized influence on Progressive reformers in the United States and British civil servants across their Empire.2 German-speakers also shaped Romanticism, ecology, and notions of holistic interconnectedness, most importantly in the figure of Alexander von Humboldt, whose Kosmos had a global influence.3

The rise of modern environmentalism also was central to postwar German history. Beginning in the early 1970s with Earth Day and the←1 | 2→ anti-nuclear movement, and fueled by massive protests and occupations in places such as Wyhl and Brokdorf, the environmental movement coalesced into a...

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