A plea for detached involvement: Norbert Elias on intellectuals and political imagination in inter-war Germany
History of the Human Sciences 18 (2): 43--61 (May 2005)

Elias's view of democracy and German Sonderweg is discussed by looking at his analysis of intellectuals. How should the figuration of culture and politics be conceived at a time when the civilizing process could trigger both democracy and autarchy? It is argued that Elias's answer was that democracy is always accompanied by discontinuity in existence, and that the Weimar Republic therefore needed intellectual spokespersons promoting tolerance of political uncertainty. Such democratic culture demanded a fair balance between involvement and detachment. Elias claimed that intellectuals ought to act as defenders of chance and a fragmented society, and moreover as critics of political romanticism and utopian myths.
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