Andreas Killen

in Berlin Electropolis

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780520243620
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520931633 | DOI:

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This chapter presents some concluding thoughts. Virtually since the moment of German unification, the new nation's social policy assumed a relation between modernization and risk and assumed, moreover, that it lay within society's ability to manage rationally the shocks, accidents, and afflictions of the modern era. The cornerstone of this program was social insurance, which proponents saw as the answer to the social question: a means of addressing the social pathologies associated with industrialization and urbanization; a means of creating a productive, risk-free society; and ultimately an expression of the civilizing process. Despite mounting stresses and criticisms, the new “insurance community” forged by this legislation remained intact up to the Great War. But in the wake of total war, military defeat, and revolution, followed later by economic catastrophe, German society's faith in its ability to manage its own discontents within the existing framework was badly shaken. The Germans emerged from the war traumatized by the sense that the production of wealth promised by the nineteenth-century gospel of progress had been overtaken by the production of risk. Even as the nation embraced a new cult of modernization—Americanism—the aftermath of the war unleashed a tremendous debate over the source and nature of risk in the modern world and the limits of society's responsibility for its own discontents.

Keywords: Germany; social insurance; Great War; social policy; modernization; risk

Chapter.  3002 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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