Rebecca Wennberg – Beyond Totalitarianism: Images of the National Socialist ‘New Man’ in New Perpetrator Research

Event Date: 26 – 27 September 2014
Teesside University Darlington
Vicarage Road
Darlington
DL1 1JW

The Centre for Fascist, Anti-Fascist and Post-Fascist Studies at Teeside University presents:

The ‘New Man’ Symposium

Conveners: Jorge Dagnino (de los Andes) & Matthew Feldman (Teesside)

The ‘New Man Symposium’ will examine fascist movements and regimes through the lens of an attempted anthropological revolution. This attempt to create a ‘homo fascistus’ during the fascist epoch is approached via a comparative angle, with presentations by leaders in the field of Fascist Studies. Taking different perspectives and looking at national movements across Europe, as well as in Latin America, it is hoped that this interdisciplinary conference will revive interest in this much neglected topic.

Rebecca Wennberg (Royal Holloway) – Beyond Totalitarianism: Images of the National Socialist ‘New Man’ in New Perpetrator Research

Two parallel and at times competing conceptions of ‘the new man’ in Nazi Germany have emerged in historiography on Nazism since the 1990s. The paper positions the conventional image of the fascist ideological utopia of forging a new man against a ‘second new man’ in Nazi Germany: The ‘new Holocaust perpetrator’ that emerged from an increased scholarly emphasis on agency, Nazi subjectivity and self-reflection. Different from the instrumentalism in Hannah Arendt’s image of the banal perpetrator, scholars now talk about an uncompromising ideologue. On the face of it, then, the ‘new perpetrator’ in Nazi Germany appears to be not as much a result of totalitarian ambition as it was of individual will. It is the argument of the paper that the trajectory of ‘the new man’ as a comparative concept in fascist studies is better understood in the light of these ‘voluntarist’ developments in perpetrator research. The paper further describes the relation between the ‘two new men’; between the focus on individual construction of a Nazi identity from below and the making of a ‘new man’ as a totalitarian political project from above. Ultimately, this interplay of personal ambition and political structures in perpetrator research deserves to be more clearly emphasised in future approaches to the ‘new man’ in Nazi Germany.

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