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Arnold, H.A. (2016). The Burdens of Culture and Era: An Emotional State: The Politics of Emotion in Postwar West German Culture. By Anna M. Parkinson. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2015, viii + 251 pp., $70.00 hardcover, $30.00 paperback.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 64(6):1289-1294.

(2016). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 64(6):1289-1294

The Burdens of Culture and Era: An Emotional State: The Politics of Emotion in Postwar West German Culture. By Anna M. Parkinson. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2015, viii + 251 pp., $70.00 hardcover, $30.00 paperback.

Review by:
Herbert A. Arnold

This interesting study proposes to investigate “the dialogue between the history of emotions and affect theory” (p. vi) in the context of West German history during the years between the end of World War II and the beginning of the Wirtschaftswunder, or “economic miracle,” of the fifties and early sixties. Or, as the author indicates in a footnote, “the modest objective of this book is to study the politics of emotion in postwar West German culture” (p. 173, n. 26). Ideally, such an undertaking would involve a theory of emotions applicable to a large population, which would then be applied to or measured against the historical record. That immense project is, quite understandably, not undertaken here. What we have instead is a detailed reading of texts generated by three primary sources working in very different areas of text production: an existentialist philosopher, Karl Jaspers; a nihilistic Prussian Junker with a violent pro-Nazi past, Ernst von Salomon; and two iconic postwar social scientists, Margarete and Alexander Mitscherlich. The writings of these four authors stand in, pars pro toto, for the vast literature generated during those years in a variety of fields. Newspapers and journals, literary productions from poetry to novels, personal accounts, and documentary collections on de-Nazification, of course, would also yield significant insights into the state of emotions in West Germany at that time, and on a sociological level different from that of the three academics and one political activist studied here. This is not a criticism of the book or its author but merely a delineation of the parameters within which this study operates.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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