Beginning in the 18th century, the question of what makes a nation has occupied a prominent place in German politics. From the national theories of the 18th-century German Romantics, who identified cultural and ethnic factors as being the key determinants, to modern civic nationalists and postnationalists, who point to liberal civic values and institutions, the importance of collective identity and how it is oriented has remained an important topic for German scholars and policymakers. Using survey research, I assess the accuracy and relevance of these theories in contemporary German society. I find that, contrary to the optimism of modern thinkers, German collective identity remains aligned with the national theories of the Romantics, resulting in ethnic discrimination and heightened fears over the loss of culture through external ideological and ethnic sources.



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