Friday, Jun 30, 2023, 12:00 PM

Thomas Meaney


The Use and Abuse of Zeitenwende as a Concept

To great acclaim, the concept of a Zeitenwende has been enlisted by the German Chancellor in the war between the West and Russia. We have, according to official report, entered into nothing less than a new dimension of European time. But what has the Zeitenwende actually meant? For Germany, at least, it’s a license for Social Democrats to build up weapons, for Greens to scour the earth for fossil fuels, and for Liberals to accommodate fiscal largesse. But what about for contemporary Europe as a whole? What are the uses, risks, and illusions of the Zeitenwende concept? Beginning with some reflections on past candidates for Zeitenwende, the idea is treated historically with the help of Reinhart Koselleck and other thinkers about time. Much like the contemporary fanfare around the concept of a “polycrisis,” the notion of a Zeitenwende represents an elite-led effort at Western refuge-taking from political responsibilities and a conveniently revised picture of historical causality.

Thomas Meaney
is the editor of Granta magazine. He was an Einstein Fellow in residence at Caputh.

The event will be held in English