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‘Political Tyranny and Ideological Crime’. Rereading ‘Anatomy of the SS State’

  • Rereading a book is always an uncanny experience in multiple temporalities. If the linguistic turn has taught us anything, it is that the context of reading shapes the meaning of the text that is read. The historicist impulse to reconstruct the original context on the basis of the text itself is at best an asymptotic, at worst a quixotic, pursuit. Yet texts remain, some more so than others. Those texts which continue to be read and reread long after their original context has passed we call ‘classics’. This is a term most frequently applied to literature, of course, but also to philosophy and other scholarly works animated by a generalising impulse. It pertains to works, in other words, which lay claim to a significance transcending their original context. It is rarely applied to works whose principle value is empirical or narrowly scholarly. These are presumed to be only temporarily useful interventions into an ongoing scholarly debate, in which later works draw on and ‘supersede’ the insights of earlier ones, rendering their predecessors superfluous. (Rather the reverse of Jove and his children.) Consequently, relatively few works of historical scholarship are considered classics in the full sense. History’s emphasis on the particular, its frequent skepticism of theoretical generalisations, and its embrace of archival empiricism have all tended to preclude the emergence of a broad canon of ‘historical classics’. There have, however, been exceptions to this rule.

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Author:Devin O. Pendas
Parent Title (English):Zeithistorische Forschungen – Studies in Contemporary History
Publisher:ZZF – Centre for Contemporary History: Zeithistorische Forschungen
Place of publication:Potsdam
Document Type:Journal Article
Date of Publication (online):2009/10/14
Date of first Publication:2009/10/14
Release Date:2020/08/31
Volume Number:5
First Page:475
Last Page:480
ZZF Regional-Classification:Europa
Europa / Westeuropa
Europa / Westeuropa / Deutschland
ZZF Topic-Classification:Nationalsozialismus
ZZF Chronological-Classification:1940er
Portal:Zeithistorische Forschungen
Zeithistorische Forschungen: Originalbeiträge:3 / 2008 NS-Forschung nach 1989/90
Licence (German):License LogoZZF - Clio Lizenz