This book compares the influence of the Nazi past in contemporary German and Austrian politics.
Art does not focus on structural or institutional factors in order to explain the differences between the German and the Austrian ways of dealing with the Nazi past. His thesis is that "coming to terms with the past" involves "a series of punctuated elite-led debates over the lessons of history." These debates create mental "frames," produce changes in public opinion, and "shift the boundaries of legitimate discursive space in the larger body politic." In Germany, such debates created a culture of contrition, whereas in Austria (Hitler's first conquest), the prevailing myth and culture of victimhood went unchallenged. This book is a careful (hence at times a bit laborious) and well-researched blend of political science and history. Art is less convincing in his brief references to right-wing populism in other European countries, where debates about the past had little or no influence; but it can be hoped that in his future work he will examine those cases with the same emphasis on public debates that has served him so well here.