Consumption and Violence

Radical Protest in Cold-War West Germany
Alexander Sedlmaier
Reveals the relationship between the rise of political violence in West Germany to the unprecedented growth of consumption


Combining the tools of political, social, cultural, and intellectual history, Consumption and Violence: Radical Protest in Cold-War West Germany explores strategies of legitimization developed by advocates of militant resistance to certain manifestations of consumer capitalism. The book contributes to a more sober evaluation of West German protest movements, not just terrorism, as it refrains from emotional and moral judgments, but takes the protesters’ approaches seriously, which, regarding consumer society, had a rational core. Political violence is not presented as the result of individual shortcomings, but emerges in relation to major societal changes, i.e., the unprecedented growth of consumption. This new perspective sheds important light on violence and radical protest in post-war Germany, as previous books have failed to examine to what extent these forms of resistance should be regarded as reactions to changing regimes of provision. Continuing the recently growing interest in the interdependence of countercultures and consumer society, the focus on violence gives the argument a unique twist, making the book thought-provoking and engaging.

“Develops a completely new and convincing approach for our understanding of protest movements from the 1960s onward. By linking the movements with the development of consumer society, we see them as reactions to societal developments beyond the political sphere rather than as individual aberrations . . . In its originality of approach, sources, in-depth-analysis and writing, a brilliant book.”
—Detlef Siegfried, University of Copenhagen

Alexander Sedlmaier is Senior Lecturer in Modern History, School of History, Bangor University, Wales.

Praise / Awards

  • "Consumption and Violence is a fascinating read for every scholar interested in left-wing counterculture, the history of West German postwar society and new approaches to the history of consumption."
    --German History
  • "Makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the political battles over consumption in modern history, and more specifically of the role of Marxist ideas and revolutionary action in the 1960s and 1970s, just as the era of post-war ‘affluence’ was reaching its end."
    --European History Quarterly
  • "What to do when alternative consumerism begets its own gravediggers? Sedlmaier’s book offers a fascinating guide to a half-century of this dilemma, while leaving questions that remain necessarily unanswered."
    --Central European History
  • "Offers an intellectually stimulating, rigorously analyzed, and historically extremely well-informed study of the politics of consumption and violence in postwar Germany."
    --Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature
  • "A stimulating and thought-provoking monograph. It is also a great addition to this new historiographic endeavour to open up the 1960s German radical protest to new historical assessment."
    --Explosive Politics

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 342pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2014
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11941-7

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  • $69.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2014
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03605-9

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  • $29.95 U.S.

  • Open Access
  • 2014
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-90094-7

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  • public goods; political violence; protest; consumer criticism; boycotts; squatting; terrorism; Herbert Marcuse; Red Army Faction; ‘1968’, 1970s, 1980s