The End of the Weimar Republic: Individual Agency, Germany’s ‘Old Elites’, and the ‘Crisis of Classical Modernity’

  • Peter Lambert
Part of the Mass Dictatorship in the Twentieth Century book series (MASSD)


This chapter reconsiders developments in high politics in Germany in the period 1930–30 January 1933. It seeks in particular to review the manoeuvres that culminated in Hitler’s appointment as chancellor in the light of the two approaches which have underpinned much research on the Weimar Republic in general in recent decades. On the one hand, the Fischerites and Bielefeld School had argued that the fundamental problem of the Weimar Republic lay in its want of modernity, in the many hangovers from imperial Germany which characterised it, and most of all in the continuing and structurally determined power of Germany’s ‘old elites’ working together in a close ‘alliance’. This perspective was anchored in the Sonderweg thesis, which, positing a ‘Western’ norm of modernisation, held Germany to have been an aberrant exception. Detlev Peukert challenged this approach at its roots. In a seminal study first published in 1987 under the title Die Weimarer Republik: Die Krisenjahre der klassischen Moderne, 1 he here asserted that Weimar Germany, far from having missed some kind of alleged opportunity to modernise, represented a paradigmatic, indeed a ‘classical’ case, of modernity. An advanced capitalist economy, a welfare state that was even enshrined in the constitution, a large and growing service sector, bureaucracy and administrative systems, a shared belief in science and scientificity as a kind of cure-all — these are among the hallmarks of ‘classical modernity’ as he defined it.


Centre Party Constitutional Reform Parliamentary Democracy Weimar Republic Nazi Party 
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© Peter Lambert 2013

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  • Peter Lambert

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