The New Squares Challenged

First we had the Germans who wanted a return to the happy, comfortable values of the 1950s. They wanted a Neue Buergerlichkeit (roughly: "new bourgeois sensibility"). People like Udo di Fabio, a judge on the Federal Constitutional Court, who wrote a book praising patriotism and good old family values called the Culture of Freedom (subtitle: "The West is in Danger Because a False Idea of Freedom is Destroying Everyday Common Sense"); Eva Herman, some sort of TV hostess who told German women to "shut up once in a while," and return to cooking and decorating; and TV star and Bild columnist Peter Hahne, who wrote a book called "Forget about Funny: The End of the Fun-Society." He apparently wants Germans to end their addiction to fun and laughter, and return to tried-and-true notions of duty, honor, country, and family. Or something like that. (I haven’t read these books).

Now comes the backlash, in the form of Christian Rickens’ "The New Squares: On the Fatal Yearning for an Outdated Society" (He actually uses the word Spiesser, which I’ve translated as "Squares." More on this word here).

Courtesy of Themenblog (G), the book blurb (my translation):

Family, Faith, Fatherland: the advocates of the ‘new bourgeois consciousness’ tirelessly trumpet their views throughout the country — and nobody challenged them. Until now. A long-overdue debt.

The new squares are on the attack. They want us to believe that the Zeitgeist of our times is conservative, and a return to bourgeois values and virtues is absolutely necessary — otherwise, Germany’s collapse cannot be stopped. But is there really anything to these ideas of the ‘new bourgeoisie’? How much of it is provocation, how much of it irrational doom-mongering? Where are Schirrmacher, Hahne, and the others wrong? With analytical precision and clear-headedness, Christian Rickens, for the first time, looks behind the ideas and positions of the prophets of the new bourgeoisie and points out their prejudices, myths, and mistakes. His thesis: the New Squares are attempting the impossible: solving the problems of today with the recipes from yesteryear.

I heard the interview (G) with Rickens yesterday on WDR5, and I must say, I think he’s on to something. His problem with the New Squares is not that they prefer to live a life determined by traditional bourgeois values. He has no problem with that.  His problem is that these people insist, loudly and repeatedly, that everyone should live this way — otherwise, Germany will collapse. It’s this intolerance that spurred Rickens to write the book. He reports as well that the New Squares have exaggerated the various problem facing Germany and, in any event, never actually show why returning to traditional values would solve those problems.

Anyway, I found the interview interesting and will probably read the book and tell everybody what I think. For now, though, it’s off to lovely Wiesbaden to visit friends. Active blogging will resume on Monday, probably.

5 thoughts on “The New Squares Challenged

  1. Huh? Someone saw a few conservatives on TV somewhere who are advocating undoing 50 years of progress. That’s the way conservatives work, everywhere, all the time, film at 11, and hardly worth of any news. The best medicine, as usual, is ignoring them to death.
    Seems like the author of this blog should watch less ZDF and stop absorbing the rants of his deluded professor colleagues and go out and get in touch with the real world a bit more. You know, “people”, like, those warm fuzzy things in the pub around the corner.

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  2. “He apparently wants Germans to end their addiction to fun and laughter”

    Addicted to fun and laughter. Germans. Living in Germany, land of 10,000 depressing TV documentaries a year.

    Is it that he wants Germans to become even more depressed than they currently are – or am I missing something here?

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  3. Maybe. Or maybe it is that you are just an overly-self-important fellow who happens to believe that his stereotype worldview (Germans are depressed and unable to have fun, period) reflects nothing but the naked truth. Congratulations. Weren’t you one of those who criticized Germans’ stereotyping of Americans?

    I’m off to indulge in a little personal depression before I puke on my floor as I just realised that I, being German, am incapable of having fun or laughing.

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  4. Have fun cleaning your floor, Erwin. And whilst you are doing it you might reflect that at least one German is utterly unable to recognize leg-pulling when they read it…. 😉

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  5. I did not read any of the books either. But I find the biography of Di Fabio remarkably in the context of the German immigration debate.
    His Italian father (some say: a member of impoverished landed gentry) came to post-war Germany to work as a steel worker in Duisburg. So you could say that Di Fabio is a “Ruhrpott” kid from the working class with immigration background. He worked for 10 years as a “Verwaltungsfachangestellter” (government employee), made his high school diploma at a second chance college (“Abend-Gymnasium”), made his degree in law and sociology with doctoral level in both fields of study, to become a law professor and youngest ever judge at the Federal Constitutional Court.
    That is a true success story like the “from dish-washer to millionaire” American Dream.

    By example he could be the godfather for a new German immigration campaign: “The German Dream”, with newspaper ads like “My father was an Italian steel worker in Duisburg. I became judge at the Federal Constitutional Court”.
    It is also worth mentioning that despite his working class and immigration background, we skip his aristocratic ancestry here, he choose to become a Conservative. Some people claim that first, second and third-generation immigrants would automatically tend to be left-leaning.

    His love for family values can possibly be explained by his Italian ancestry. You know, where Grandma is in the kitchen cooking the classic Italian 5 hours Sugo for the extended family.

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