OVERRIDE

The Culture of Defeat

On National Trauma, Mourning, and Recovery

Wolfgang Schivelbusch; Translated by Jefferson Chase

Picador

History may be written by the victors, Wolfgang Schivelbusch argues in his provocative new book, but the losers often have the final word. Focusing on three seminal cases of defeat—the South after the Civil War, France in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War, and Germany following World War I—Schivelbusch reveals the complex psychological and cultural responses of vanquished nations to the experience of military defeat.

Drawing on reactions from every level of society, Schivelbusch investigates the sixty-year period in which the world moved from regional to global conflagration, and from gentlemanly conduct of war to total mutual destruction. He shows how conquered societies question the foundations of their identities and strive to emulate the victors: the South to become a "better North," the French to militarize their schools on the Prussian model, the Germans to adopt all things American. He charts the losers' paradoxical equation of military failure with cultural superiority as they generate myths to glorify their pasts and explain their losses: the nostalgic "plantation legend" after the collapse of the Confederacy, the new cult of Joan of Arc in vanquished France, the fiction of the stab in the back by "foreign" elements in postwar Germany. From cathartic epidemics of "dance-madness" to the revolutions that so often follow battlefield humiliation, Schivelbusch finds remarkable similarities across cultures.

REVIEWS

Praise for The Culture of Defeat

"It may seem strange, just after an American military victory, to submit to the brooding brilliance of The Culture of Defeat. But that sort of irony is one of the book's points. Schivelbusch incorporates a cautionary note....[into this] wide-ranging...compelling account." --The New York Times

"Inspired...Call him nervy, call him eccentric, but, above all, call Schivelbusch the Clausewitz of defeat...Schivelbusch's anticipation of so many current front-page issues is only one of its many delights." --The Philadelphia Inquirer

"A book of detours, eddies, and fascinating asides...A feast of ideas, many of them strikingly appropriate to our own, bellicose times." --San Francisco Chronicle

"Fresh and provocative...A novel and thought-provoking book, one that deserves special attention at this moment." --Houston Chronicle

Reviews from Goodreads

BACK

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Wolfgang Schivelbusch; Translated by Jefferson Chase

  • Wolfgang Schivelbusch is an independent scholar who lives in New York and Berlin. His books include The Railway Journey, Disenchanted Night, and Tastes of Paradise.
BACK

COMMUNITY

TheHistoryReader.com

    MORE BLOG POSTS
    BACK

    BUY THE BOOK

    Available Formats and Book Details

    The Culture of Defeat

    On National Trauma, Mourning, and Recovery

    Wolfgang Schivelbusch; Translated by Jefferson Chase

    BOOKS FOR COURSES AVAILABLE

    BACK

    FROM THE PUBLISHER

    Picador

    BACK