The Review of Politics

The Review of Politics

Research Article

Romanticism and the Rise of German Nationalism

Hans Kohn

Romanticism though in its beginning little concerned with politics or the state, prepared the rise of German nationalism after 1800. It was an aesthetic revolution, a resort to imagination, almost feminine in its sensibility; it was poetry more deeply indebted to the spirit of music than the poetry of the eighteenth century had been, rich in emotional depth, more potent in magic evocation. But German romanticism was and wished to be more than poetry. It was an interpretation of life, nature and history—and this philosophic character distinguished it from romanticism in other lands. It was sharply opposed to the rationalism of the eighteenth century; it mobilized the fascination of the past to fight against the principles of 1789. In that indirect way romanticism came to concern itself with political and social life and with the state. It never developed a program for a modern German nation-state, but with its emphasis on the peculiarity of the German mind it helped the growth of a consciousness of German uniqueness.