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This book examines how democracy was rethought in Germany in the wake of National Socialism, the Second World War, and the Holocaust. Focusing on a loose network of public intellectuals in the immediate postwar years, Sean Forner traces their attempts to reckon with the experience of Nazism and scour Germany's ambivalent political and cultural traditions for materials with which to build a better future. In doing so, he reveals, they formulated an internally variegated but distinctly participatory vision of democratic renewal - a paradoxical counter-elitism of intellectual elites. Although their projects ran aground on internal tensions and on the Cold War, their commitments fueled critique and dissent in the two postwar Germanys during the 1950s and thereafter. The book uncovers a conception of political participation that went beyond the limited possibilities of the Cold War era and influenced the political struggles of later decades in both East and West.