Culture and Political Crisis in Vienna: Christian Socialism in Power, 1897-1918

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Culture and Political Crisis in Vienna: Christian Socialism in Power, 1897-1918. By John W Boyer. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1995. Pp. xvi, 702. $37.50.)

Like its predecessor, this second and final volume of John Boyer's history of the Christian Social Party in Habsburg Austria can be described as detailed, exhaustive, and definitive. In terms of its scholarship alone, Culture and Political Crisis in Vienna verges on the monumental, and when viewed in tandem with the earlier Political Radicalism in Late Imperial Vienna, it provides the conclusion for what collectively is now the standard work on the subject. That having been said, however, it must also be pointed out that this volume is more interpretively ambitious than the first and, therefore, contains more points for potential disagreement and debate.

Boyer argues that the period from 1897 to 1918 is one of dramatic social, political, and cultural transition in which the Christian Socials played a significant and sometimes determinant part. Central to this process is the Christian Social Party's own transformation from an urban to a provincial political movement and its ultimate adoption of a more clerical and conservative character such that after 1918 it would no longer be recognizable as the party of Karl Lueger. This change was linked to Albert Gessmann and his vision of a Christian Social Reichspartei that would go beyond controlling Vienna and Lower Austria to encompass all of the German Crownlands. Such a party could more effectively defend the supranational character of the state, combat the revolutionary threat represented by social democracy, and push for parliamentary-based ministerial government. All these goals were partially realized, but at the ultimate cost of compromising Christian Socialism's urban and moderate liberal origins in favor of a provincial and Catholic conservative character. After the party's loss of its Viennese parliamentary constituency to the Social Democrats in 1911 its provincial character became more pronounced and its control of Vienna less important until it was completely eroded by the war and lost to the socialists in 1919.

While Boyer's main argument is convincing, his handling of related issues is more uneven. Central among these is that of state reform. Aside from the inconclusive results of universal manhood suffrage and Franz Ferdinand's problematic plans for change by fiat, Boyer lays heavy responsibility for the failure to solve the Monarchy's political and nationality problems on the state administration, i. …


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