in Kulturkampf

Kulturkampf: A Definition

Some knowledge of German is quite nearly mandatory for those who study military history. I borrow this particular German word because of its history and applicability to the study of politics as the continuation of warfare by other means. Which is our definition:

(kl-trkämpf): n 1. The struggle (1871-1883) between the Roman Catholic Church and the German government under Bismarck for control over school and ecclesiastical appointments and civil marriage. 2. A conflict between secular and religious authorities: “The 1920s proved to be the focal decade in the Kulturkampf of American Protestantism” (Richard Hofstadter). 3. Politics as the continuation of warfare by other means.

OK, I added that third entry to the definition of The Free, I admit. We might also coin the phrase “kulturkampf studies” to describe the content of this blog.

A disambiguation: Kulturkrieg, literally culture war, is what emerges at the fringe of right-wing politics. Head-stompers and “patriot” militias are two examples. Kulturkampf translates as “culture struggle” and was coined to describe Bismarck’s oppressive anti-Catholic laws. Germany, like so many European nation-states, struggled with the issues of church and state; but that kulturkampf is as unique as our current American one.

Kulturkampf is recognizable in rhetoric. Palin’s “targets,” Allen West’s “battlefield,” and the eliminationism cataloged here and at Crooks and, are the plenteous examples of homicidal imagery invoked by right-wing authoritarian Republicans. Kultur-zealotry also manifests itself in C-Street admiration of Mao and Hitler and Stalin as examples of will-to-power philosophy and the projection of those same attributes on Democrats.

Make no mistake: if the tea party has achieved anything, it is the near-wholesale destruction of conservative Democrats. Obeying the calculus of pure power, the party of the right has consumed its allies and seeks to turn Democrats into the “outer party” of Washington. Moreover, in attitude and voting behavior the Republican party has learned the utility of lockstep behavior and is now encouraged to double-down: Big Money + big noise + fearmongery = victory, so why not?

You’ll be seeing more kulturkampf in the future. Count on it. They do it because it works; and until some group of people rallies to an opposing set of ideas it will own the struggle by default.

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