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Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  602 ratings  ·  35 reviews
First published in 1968, Weimar Culture is one of the masterworks of Peter Gay's distinguished career. A study of German culture between the two wars, the book brilliantly traces the rise of the artistic, literary, and musical culture that bloomed ever so briefly in the 1920s amid the chaos of Germany's tenuous post-World War I democracy, and crashed violently in the wake ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published December 17th 2001 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1968)
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Dec 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: German Students, German History Teachers, Historians
Recommended to Michael by: Richard Beyler
While this book is little more than a reflective essay on certain key points its author is interested in, it remains a profoundly interesting and influential text. It also has the advantage of being very accessible and well-written, so can be readily used by non-specialists. It is rather old now, so it certainly doesn't represent the most current
research on its subject, but it remains a point of departure for much recent work as well.

Writing in 1968, Gay was concerned to make his work also a mes
Dec 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Peter Gay's short book--he calls it an essay--on the cultural underpinnings of the Weimar Republic is an excellent primer on why it failed: catastrophic economic difficulties imposed by both Versailles-mandated reparations and the Great Depression, a lack of conviction on the part of the German intellectual elite, an electorate fractured into too many places from right to left, and the simmering-to-boiling resentment of Germans who could not accept responsibility for the consequences of WWII in ...more
Jan 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: germany, history, politics
What I did not like about Peter Gay's Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider is that it ignored many of the aspects of Weimar Culture which interested me and concentrated, instead, heavily on the politics. There was, for instance, almost no mention of the horrible inflation that gripped Germany, nor of the cabaret life that had such a great influence throughout Europe and the U.S.

Also, I was dismayed to find that Gay did not think anything of Fritz Lang and went to considerable lengths to denig
Carla Remy
Feb 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Despite the title and the cover, to me this book was more about Weimar politics than culture. A lot of interesting facts and delightful, long, German names. It just was a heavy read for me.
Peter Mcloughlin
Like many people in these growingly authoritarian times, I have found interest in the Weimar Republic. Looking at a time and a culture caught in the same drift. Basically, a lot of people are trying to figure out how to avoid their fate. It was an interesting and fruitful moment in culture and art but it came before a very bitter frost. I know it is a bit of Monday morning quarterbacking as it may already to be too late but at least we will understand our times better. The first time is a traged ...more
Jul 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
Gay’s book, "Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider", is a chronological study of the artistic and intellectual life of the Weimar Republic that emphasizes the contributions of Wilhelmian era “outsiders” and their rise to influence as Republican era “insiders.” Drawing his sources from various autobiographies, memoirs, and diaries; numerous written records, letters, and correspondence; and personal interviews and recollections, Gay documents the creative culture that flourished in the Weimar Re ...more
Barnaby Thieme
Jun 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art, germany, history
Peter Gay delivers a whirlwind tour of the social and cultural realities of Weimar Germany in this extraordinary little book. What an astonishing time, when the country was electrified and torn every which way by incredible forces driving the country both forward and back. In the words of Visouct d'Abernon, quoted in this book, it was "as if all the eminent artistic forces were shining forth once more, importing to the last festive symposium of the minds a many-hued brilliance before the night o ...more
Jim Dooley
A historical study of the Weimar Republic that governed Germany from the end of World War I to early 1933 when Hitler came to power. Along the way, it also discusses the polarized political philosophies, various aspects of the Weimar culture, the education system, the many organizations that arose as people traditionally on the “outside” gained influence, and the actions of world governments that raised the ire of almost all Germans. The great strength of the book is the overview of the elements ...more
Oct 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Ah, the Weimar Republic. What can you say? Short lived, 14 years in all, but packed with incident, and cultural extravagance. It seems to be impossible to avoid, it confronts us at every step. Reading how the decline of the Republic gave way, collapsed in the face of Nazism, it is hard not to feel that if only something had been done. From the viewpoint of our own unsettled age there is a terrible sense of deja vu.

This is an excellent introduction to the subject. It has an extensive bibliograph
Mardel Fehrenbach
May 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
My copy of Peter Gay's Weimar Culture was given to me by my father when I was in high school. I read it at the time, but it was perhaps a little more scholarly and dense than what I was looking for at that time. I read it again in college and then I appreciated the fact that it although it is quite scholarly there are times in the book when it is quite imaginative and gripping, unlike many historical tracts I had to read for coursework. I read it again this time after encountering a quote from M ...more
Apr 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Disappointing compared to other books of his that I've read. Hsi psycho-analytical approach to history is interesting, but he's much too obsessed with the Nazis. I wanted to read about Weimar Germany, not the Nazis.
Aug 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: history buffs.
A great book on Weimar culture. Most books I've read on this tumultuous time period have been dry as dust. Gay's writing gives the period the color that you need to get a feel for Weimar culture.
Jul 31, 2012 is currently reading it
I am a little obsessed with German Expressionist art.
Claudia  Ciardi
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Weimar fu una stagione di grande vitalismo politico e culturale ma anche di tensioni e difficoltà di ordine sociale ed economico che finirono per produrre molte delle fratture esiziali alla sua sopravvivenza.
Questa coraggiosa fabbrica dell’alternativa sociale, nata dal dramma della guerra, ebbe un cammino affatto agevole e fece non poca fatica a sfuggire ai bassi tiri del conservatorismo e ai maneggi di certi professionisti della politica e delle arti, il cui unico obiettivo era servire il propr
Jack Hrkach
I recently re-read Gay's excellent book on the vital, turbulent Weimar Republic. I read it first as a young-ish fellow, then again about 12-14 years ago when I was concocting a seminar on the Avant-Garde from 1890 to 1940 for my theatre students at Ithaca College. And I just finished the third and probably last read as partial preparation for a trip to Germany I'll be making in June.

The research is detailed and accurate, the writing is scholarly but at the same time eminently readable, and the s
B. Rule
This is a decent if arbitrary history of Weimar Germany. Gay clearly wrote it as a passion project, and it's littered with interesting observations of the root causes of the political and cultural turmoil that characterized the brief period, along with plenty of hot takes on figures of both enduring popularity (Gay really doesn't like Fritz Lang), and more obscure (he's got Thoughts on how well certain ladies' magazines were edited back in the day). Even driven by Gay's enthusiasms, it's a bit o ...more
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I do like the Weimar Republic, as it means European progress towards democracy. Freedom for German citizens in the early 20th century was not necessarily predetermined after the authoritarian rule of the Prussians.

One could argue that even todays German laws, in so far as they are derived from Hitler's law are illegal. Hitler's actions are legally wrong and have destroyed the Weimar Republic.

The book gives a good account of German culture under the influence of this sudden freedom. All the arts
Sep 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: weimar-republic
Must admit, too much German name dropping for me. Not a student of German history, I admit that I did not know many of the German 20th century luminaries that Gay mentions other than the "big" names. And Gay doesn't give much insight into who these people are other than mentioning solely in the context of their "cultural" sphere--history, politics, art, academia, etc. Gay does not seem to be writing for a casual audience. His final three chapters were more in line with a more descriptive narrati ...more
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful insight into the life of Weimar Germany, which elaborates on the complex relationship between the cultural and intellectual life with the political situation of a struggling regime, that constantly looked for support in contrarian forces. Throughout the book, one is placed by Peter Gay in the thick of the debates, and sites of a cultural revolution that tried (and succeded) in translate the zeitgeist and meaning of what was happening to them: the destruction of the old world, and the ...more
Mark Schisler
Apr 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
The subject appeals to me, but the implementation here was way to academic.
Ari Eris
Oct 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
An extremely interesting, and important, book. Gay makes a strong argument for his thesis that Weimar culture was a culture of outsiders operating on the inside, and for that reason was doomed to fail. I especially liked his scathing critique of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" at the end of the book. I hadn't thought of the film in the context presented by Gay. I'll have to watch it again from this new perspective. Recommended.
Barbara Heisey
Jul 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Peter Gay's "Weimar Culture" is hailed as the classic, definitive short treatment on Weimar history, from the vantage point of culture: intellectual, political, and artistic.

It is an extremely dense, hectic, but generally, elegant read on what made the Weimar Republic such a heady, flimsy, and tragic affair. Gay shows the perilous effect of cultural disaffection and political moderation (or apathy as motivating moderation).

The general narrative goes like this: the German Empire having effectual
It was said that Berlin was more, not less, cosmopolitan and brilliant, place for art and music and learning, high society and thinkers and intellectuals, for the brief time period after the first world war and before the beginning of nazi blot on the escutcheon of Germany. When the blot began most part of good German people waived it off as unimportant until it was too large to ignore and it took over, and those that still did not go with the wave and were not caught for that serious disagreeme ...more
Dec 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Just as the Weimar style was older than the Weimar Republic, so was it larger than Germany." (6)

"Yet if Weimar needed anything, it need rational politics. With the advent of the Republic, the possibility of political action, like the need for it, increased, suddenly and spectacularly. But the possibility was not realized, the need not fulfilled. Not all the trouble lay with the unpolitical; many who had been unpolitical adopted politics of a kind that makes one long for a little apathy." (74)

Prooost Davis
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This fine, though very short, description of cultural and political currents in Germany between the end of WWI and the beginning of Nazi rule is a guide to what was right, as well as what went wrong, during the Weimar Republic.

Peter Gay's analysis is readable, compelling, and nourishment for the intellect.
Moira Downey
Aug 01, 2012 rated it liked it
An interesting, if rather more academic than I was expecting (a good deal of untranslated German that my single collegiate semester of the language was unable to make fully comprehensible), look at the various major hallmarks of Weimar culture, particularly in relation to and contrast with the strains of reaction that would come to characterize Nazi Germany.
Geoffrey Rose
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Peter Gay's classic - if brief - account of Weimar culture is fun and relevant if devoid of much seriousness in terms of politics, society, and economy. That said, it's still a good place to start for anyone interested in Germany in the Weimar years. Recommended with the above caveats.
Oct 23, 2008 is currently reading it
Progressive thought eclipsed by the Extreme Right. Will update when I finish.

Not for fiction lovers.
Jeffrey Greggs
Mar 26, 2007 rated it liked it
Excellent "essay" that shows how political trends in interwar Germany led to the ascension of Nazism, while, intellectually, the era was almost Periclean.
a sudden intrest in heritage, I must be getting old
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The son of a glassware maker, Peter Joachim Fröhlich grew up in Germany as the Nazis rose to power. Escaping in 1938 with the rest of his family on the last boat of refugees admitted to Cuba, he gained entry with them to the United States two years later, whereupon he changed his name to Gay. He graduated from the University of Denver in 1946 and earned a master's and doctorate in history from Col ...more
“the Vernunftrepublikaner the Republic was, in a sense, the punishment that the Germans, aristocrats and bourgeois, deserved; it was infinitely preferable to the barbarism of the right and the irresponsibility of the left;” 1 likes
“The austere empiricism and scholarly imagination of the Warburg style were the very antithesis of the brutal anti-intellectualism and vulgar mysticism threatening to barbarize German culture in the 1920s; this was Weimar at its best.” 1 likes
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