Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2014


Klaus Mollenhauer was born in 1928 in Berlin. Like other Germans born at the end of the 1920s (e.g., Jürgen Habermas), Mollenhauer was forced to join the German army as a teenager at the end of the Second World War. After he was captured by the Soviets and imprisoned for almost seven weeks by British forces, Mollenhauer returned to school in 1946. Then he attended the College of Education in Göttingen in what was then West Germany. When asked about an underlying theme in his life’s work, Mollenhauer responded by re-stating a question originally formulated by hermeneutician Friedrich Schleiermacher: “I can only say [or ask], with Schleiermacher: ‘What does the older generation want with the younger?’” (as quoted in Friesen, 2014, p. xvii). The passing on of language and culture, of course, is common to all human societies, making this question one relevant to any reflection on “being human.” At the same time, this process is highly political – questions about exactly what is passed on and why it is being passed on are paramount. Such questions are especially important in the intergenerational strains characteristic of rapidly changing modern societies. This question of the relationship between older and younger generations, and by implication, between the needs of the present and the claims of the past, is also central to Mollenhauer’s thought and life. The purpose of this short paper, then, is to provide a brief sketch of Mollenhauer’s thought and life, highlighting the political and historical dimensions of his book, Forgotten Connections.

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This document was originally published by Phenomenology & Practice in Phenomenology & Practice. Copyright restrictions may apply.