The book has important implications for understanding both subsequent German history and the history of nationalism in general. The author shows that the so-called authoritarian tendencies in Prussia's political culture resulted from its distinctive response to the challenges of the French Revolution and Napoleonic era, rather than from the persistence of premodern cultural or socioeconomic patterns. Likewise, by showing how nationalist activists drew on the cultural legacy of the Enlightenment, Levinger demonstrates that German nationalism cannot be understood as a uniquely pathological political phenomenon.
Inspired by recent work exploring the role of discourse in historical change, the book analyzes how the word "nation" functioned in day-to-day debates and how this limited and shaped political options. Enlightened nationalism produced a mixed legacy: it promoted the reform of the education system, popular participation in local self-government, and administrative rationalization. But it also resulted in exaggerated fears of political dissent, reinforcing the authority of the monarchical state and inhibiting the formation of a vibrant system of parliamentary rule.
Keywords: HISTORY / Europe / Germany HIS014000