New Book Network Podcast Features Prof. Wheatland’s Latest Work on Franz Neumann 

Aug 22, 2019

Assumption Associate Professor of History Thomas Wheatland, Ph.D., and his co-author of a recently published book about the legal and political theorist Franz L. Neumann, were interviewed for the New Books Network podcast with Marshall Poe

Prof. Wheatland and David Kettler’s book, Learning from Franz L. Neumann (Anthem Press), according to Prof. Wheatland, “examines Neumann’s social and political theory in the context of his career as a learner and teacher. A labor lawyer and publicist of weight in the Weimar Republic, Franz Neumann devoted his 21-year exile, after 1933, to understanding the failure of arrangements supposed to be in the line of social progress. He sought to delineate a new conception of democracy as a vehicle of social change,” he said. 

“This is the first comprehensive intellectual biography of Franz L. Neumann,” said Prof. Wheatland. “While much has been written about this famous legal and political theorist, prior works typically focus on episodes in his life and are limited to intellectual contributions that he made in very specific circumstances. This is the first book to look at all of his major writings and looking at the threads that interconnect all of these writings, as well as some of the major contradictions and changes in his views that emerged over the course of his short but dramatic life.”

Prof. Wheatland added that it is also the first book to comprehensively make sense of Neumann’s work and influence as a member of the famous Office for Strategic Services (or O.S.S.). As the leading figure on the team of analysts studying Nazi Germany for the U.S. government, Neumann helped to advise U.S. officials about how to effectively combat the Third Reich, as well as how to think about facilitating the transition to a post-Nazi Germany after the war. “He wrote numerous secret reports dissecting every aspect of the Third Reich, and he even oversaw the preparation of general guidebooks for U.S. troops conquering and later occupying Germany,” he explained. “As a member of the team of prosecutors for the Nuremberg trials, Neumann not only helped to craft their prosecutorial strategy, but also had the opportunity to be one of the first German exiles to return after the war.”

The book is also the first to grapple with Neumann’s short post-war career. After Neumann’s masterpiece, Behemoth, was published, he was recognized as the leading U.S. authority on Nazi Germany and one of the most important contributors to the emerging field of political science. “As a post-war architect of political science, Neumann became a tireless and important advocate for the central place of political theory within that discipline in both the U.S. and Europe,” said Prof. Wheatland. 

He added that the book serves as an object lesson in how Neumann taught and wrote about legal theory, political theory and intellectual history. “Neumann was a disciple of no one, and he sought no devoted followers of his own,” said Prof. Wheatland, adding that Neumann viewed legal and political thought as an ever-changing entity, continuously needing recalibration and requiring evaluation based on social and historical circumstances.  “We have endeavored to apply the same standard to not only Neumann’s own analyses of famous legal and political scholars from the past, but we have also applied the same methodology to our analysis of Neumann’s own thinking.”

This is the second time Prof. Wheatland has been featured on the New Book Network; he was first featured in 2009, when his first book, The Frankfurt School in Exile, was published. The podcast was downloaded over 100,000 times, piquing the interests of readers beyond the academic circle, including journalist Adam Kirsch who reviewed the book, “causing it to get recognition as a public intellectual contribution to more general readers,” said Prof. Wheatland, adding that he is hoping for a similar result with his latest book on Neumann.