Authoritarianism and Democracy: Austria, Germany and Europe, 1918-2018

Sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf wrote in 1997 that “a century of authoritarianism is by no means the least likely prognosis for the 21st century”. Due to economic globalization and digitalization, changes in the realms of life and work are vast and far-reaching, with profound consequences for democracy. This development, however, is not new—a look at globalization from the end of World War I to post-1945 Europe reveals comparable crises. Bridging literary, historical, economic and technological perspectives, this two-day conference examines the successes, and failures, of democracies, and analyzes a possible return of anti-democratic trends, both in present-day Europe and internationally.

9:00 Opening Remarks

Jeroen Dewulf, UC Berkeley

Oliver Rathkolb, Universität Wien

Wolfgang Petritsch, Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation

Morning Sessions

Literary responses

Session moderator: Makoto Fukumoto (PhD Candidate in Political Science, UC Berkeley)


Norbert Christian Wolf (German Studies, Universität Salzburg): “Ideas of Europe in Austrian Interwar Literature”


Peter Rosei (Author, Vienna): “A Story from the Past, Briefly Told”

This reading presents aspects of the Austrian past, particularly the social, political and ethical conditions brought about by the end of the Habsburg Empire and the two World Wars.


Session moderator: Jon Aaron Cho-Polizzi, PhD Candidate in German, UC Berkeley

10:45-11:10 Klemens Renoldner (German Studies, Universität Salzburg / Director, Stefan Zweig Centre, Salzburg): “Stefan Zweig: The Uses of European Nationalism”

The paper discusses how Stefan Zweig assimilated the loss of his home country in several literary projects. Thinking of Zweig’s mission for a European unification from the thirties, we now have to look at persons, which are interested, from in and outside this continent, in destroying Europe once more.

11:10-11:35 Hinrich Seeba (Department of German, UC Berkeley): “’The moral conscience of Europe’: Stefan Zweig and Robert Menasse”

This talk considers Robert Menasse’s largely satirical portrayal of the dysfunctional EU in his contemporary novel Die Hauptstadt (2017), against the background of the renewed popular interest in Stefan Zweig.

11:35-12 Jeroen Dewulf (Department of German / Director, Institute of European Studies, UC Berkeley): “Stefan Zweig’s Brazilian Exile: Montaigne’s Noble Savage and the Reinvention of Humanity in Response to Nazi Barbarism”

In this presentation, we look at Stefan Zweig’s exile in Brazil and at the influence of the concept of the ‘noble savage’ on his attempt to reinvent humanity from a humanitarian perspective in response to Nazi barbarism.

Afternoon Sessions

Historical perspectives

Session moderator: Kevin Kenjar (PhD Candidate in Anthropology, UC Berkeley)

1:45-2:10 Thomas Olechowski (Institute for Legal and Constitutional History, Universität Wien): “The Essence and Value of Democracy”: Hans Kelsen and the rise of Communism and Fascism”

Though Hans Kelsen is known throughout the world as the founder of a legal theory model, called the “Pure Theory of Law,” he also penned significant works on the theory of democracy, including “The Essence and Value of Democracy” (1920). This talk discusses Kelsen’s rejection of the idea that an individual could represent a whole people, as he pointed out the weaknesses of an estate assembly as propagated by the Austro-Fascists.

2:10-2:35 Florian Wenninger (Institute for Contemporary History, Universität Wien): “The duty to express value judgments”: In Memoriam of UC Berkeley Professor Charles A. Gulick as a Major Historian of Interwar Austria”

The lecture combines a biography of Charles Adams Gulick, focusing on his scientific work and interests, with an analysis of the historiographic debate he motivated around the discourse of domestic politics in Austria with his two-volume magnum opus “From Habsburg to Hitler” (1948).

Postwar legacies

Session moderator: Marcus Owens (PhD Candidate in Environmental Design, UC Berkeley)

2:50-3:30 Gunter Bischof (Department of History, University of New Orleans) and Hans Petschar (Austrian National Library): “The Marshall Plan and the Survival of Democracy in Postwar Austria: US Foreign Aid and Economic and Political Reconstruction in Austria”

The Marshall Plan quickly became part of the American Cold War Communist containment strategy of supporting democratic governance and building a security framework in Western Europe; the launching of the European Recover Plan in 1948 firmed up the tenuous division of Europe in East and West. We will also emphasize ERP’s successful media campaigns and communication strategies.


4-5:30 Keynote Lecture

Barry Eichengreen (Department of Economics, UC Berkeley): “The Marshall Plan @ 70”