Disappointment in the 20th Century: Lost Utopia – Rejection – Renegotiation

The Leibniz Graduate School “Disappointment in the 20th century: Lost Utopia – Rejection – Renegotiation” brought together the Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History and the Faculty of History at LMU Munich in an innovative joint project from 2012 to 2015. The successful completion of the project reflects on the academic value of systematic cooperation between university and non-university research institutions. Under the direction of Andreas Wirsching and Margit Szöllösi-Janze, the Graduate School provided excellent framework conditions for groundbreaking historical research with a complex investigatory perspective.

Investigating the concept of disappointment, the Graduate School placed at the center of focus the constitutive tensions – yet to be systematically examined – between pluralized horizons of expectation and complex consensus-building and decision-making processes. Five doctoral dissertations and one postdoctoral Habilitation thesis emerged from the project, examining the individual and collective experiences of disappointment, what effects they had and how they were overcome. The studies looked into which patterns of individual and collective disappointment built up within a particular historical constellation and what effects it had, in turn, on the patterns of interpretation and attribution in politics, society, and culture. The studies opened up new approaches towards the analysis of political, sociocultural, communicative, and emotional dissonances in modern mass societies.

The results of the studies demonstrate that disappointment constitutes a category of historical experience all of its own. They strongly underscore how collective expectations and dealing with disappointments – whether previously experienced or anticipated for the future – loomed large in determining political culture all throughout the 20th century. The perspective of contemporary history is focused here on how individuals and collectives are able to overcome disappointments emotionally, modify their expectations, adapt their goals, and pursue new paths.


Erwartungen so hoch wie die Häuser selbst
Enttäuschung in der Demokratie: Bundesrepublik Deutschland in den 1960er bis 1980er Jahren
Engagement, Erwartung und Enttäuschung bei britischen NGO-Aktivisten
Erwartungs- und Erfahrungsräume deutscher Juden 1914-1938
Marinegeschichte als Enttäuschungsgeschichte. Enttäuschung – Planung – Experten und die deutsche Marine 1871-1928
Osteuropäischer Reformsozialismus und westdeutsche Linke

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