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The "Feudalization of the Bourgeoisie?" Part II: Heinrich Mann, The Loyal Subject [Der Untertan] (1918)

Set in Wilhelmine Germany, Heinrich Mann’s (1871-1950) novel The Loyal Subject follows the life of Diederich Hessling, an ordinary and somewhat hapless German who mimics aristocratic behavior, blindly reveres authority, and knowingly employs his own patriotism and pro-monarchical sentiments to advance his career. Mann’s detailed account of Diederich’s encounter with the spectacle of fin-de-siècle Berlin includes characters drawn from a wide range of social classes – with all their attendant distinctions – from the abject and colorless unemployed to the object of Hessling's uncritical loyalty, Kaiser Wilhelm himself. Mann originally subtitled this novel History of the Public Psyche under Wilhelm II [Geschichte der öffentlichen Seele unter Wilhelm II].

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While Diederich maintained a disturbed silence, there was a ring and Herr von Barnim said:

"This is my barber; I must work on him as well."

He noticed Diederich's look of disappointment and added: "Of course with such a man I talk differently. But each one of us must do his bit against the Social Democrats, and bring the common people into the camp of our Christian Emperor. You must do yours!"

Thereupon Diederich took his leave. He heard the barber say:

"Another old customer, sir, has gone over to Liebling just because Liebling now has marble fittings."

When Diederich reported to Wiebel the latter said:

"That is all very well, and I have a particular regard for the idealistic viewpoint of my friend, von Barnim, but in the long run it will not get us anywhere. Stöcker, you know, also made his damned experiments with democracy at the Ice Palace. Whether it was Christian or un-Christian democracy, I don't know. Things have got too far for that. Today only one course is still open: to hit out hard so long as we have the power."

Greatly relieved, Diederich agreed with him. To go around converting Christians had at once struck him as a rather embarrassing task.

"'I will attend to the Social Democrats,' the Emperor has said." Wiebel's eyes gleamed with a catlike ferocity. "Now what more do you want? The soldiers have been given their orders, and it may happen that they will have to fire on their beloved relatives. What do you think of that? I tell you, my dear fellow, we are on the eve of great events."

Diederich showed signs of excited curiosity.

"My cousin, von Klappke—"

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