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.