Helmut Lethen

in Cool Conduct

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2002 | ISBN: 9780520201095
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520916418 | DOI:

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This chapter talks about the fact that during the 1930s and 1940s action theories of balance—conduct codes and handbooks to help new objectivity individual compensate for a basic lack of equilibrium—were put to the severest tests. It notes that in the shadow of dictatorship, the only possible basis for authentic decisions could be the conscience. It adds that intellectuals in exile reacted by recasting codes of conduct that allowed them to reassert the value of humanism. It explains, as taught by Brecht, that codes of conduct can indeed guarantee sheer survival, if at the cost of a joyful spirit. It discusses that to the succeeding generation of the 1960s there seemed nothing better than a fatherless society. It explains that this generation as well took the path of polarization, disintegrating in the 1970s into counterculture, which reinvigorated the cult of authenticity by negation of the fathers, and marginal groupings, which lost themselves for a time in paramilitary political formations.

Keywords: dictatorship; conscience; humanism; polarization; counterculture; political formations

Chapter.  632 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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