War, Welfare, and Social Citizenship: The Politics of War Victim Welfare in Austria, 1914-1925

TitleWar, Welfare, and Social Citizenship: The Politics of War Victim Welfare in Austria, 1914-1925
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsHsia, Ke-Chin
Academic DepartmentUniversity of Chicago, Department of History
Number of Pages528
UniversityUniversity of Chicago
CityChicago, United States

This dissertation examines the politics of welfare for Austrian war victims (specifically disabled soldiers, widows, and orphans) during and after the First World War. The research answers three interrelated questions: Who established, participated, and contributed to wartime and immediate postwar welfare and care provision for war victims, how did they do (or fail) it, and for what purpose? How did the state and citizenship become "social" both during the war and especially in the aftermath of the Revolution of 1918? How did war victim welfare shape the fortunes and the political culture of the successor First Republic? Based on a detailed examination of archival sources and contemporary publications, this dissertation argues that the catastrophic losses suffered by the Habsburg Army and the subsequent social-economic consequences for wounded soldiers and surviving dependents were a catalyst in redefining the state-citizen relationship and the basis of the Austrian state's legitimacy. Under the circumstances of a totalizing mobilization, continuing social and economic dislocation, and the military's "domestic imperialism," welfare provision for war victims also became an alternative realm of political engagement for civil society actors. Crossing the traditional historiographical divide of 1918, this dissertation shows that the war compelled Imperial Austrian officials to undertake a desperate but ambitious welfare state-building project starting in 1917, as the multinational Habsburg Empire, unlike other belligerents, could not deploy nationalism to effect a mid-conflict "second mobilization" or even just to sustain a "patriotic gloom." 

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