National Liberals and their Progeny. Approaching the Peculiar Developments in Central European Liberal Party Traditions, 1867–1918
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This paper addresses patterns of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century structural and ideological transformations of liberalism in Central European party politics that might be perceived as region-specific. Focusing on the Czech, German, and Slovene speaking lands of the Cisleithanian half of the Habsburg Monarchy, it also shortly discusses the Imperial German, Hungarian and Polish Galician contexts. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the complex interplay between ideologies, organized political movements, and political languages within the context of rapidly changing political cultures during the last third of the nineteenth century and first quarter of the twentieth was the changing relationship between the national and liberal components within the national liberal traditions. By 1900 the national came to visibly prevail over the liberal: nationalism was gaining in strength and intensity and was adopting new, more aggressive and integralist forms. From the turn of the century onwards it is therefore more proper to talk about heirs of liberalism in terms of party politics rather than simply liberals. The nationalist turn of the Central European national liberals and their political heirs, reached its peak by the turn of the century and continued to develop further into the interwar period. Partial abandonment of classical liberal tenets largely distinguished the contemporary organized liberalism to the West as well. What makes the Central European developments specific in this regard is their direction, which unlike the emergence of currents of new or social liberalism in the West, to a notable degree led towards adoption of anti-liberal and radically nationalist positions and therefore partial vanishing of liberal traditions.
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