Tag Archives: Third Reich

Otto Strasser & National Socialism – Gottfried

“Otto Strasser and National Socialism” by Paul Gottfried (PDF – 714 KB):

Otto Strasser and National Socialism

—————

Gottfried, Paul. “Otto Strasser and National Socialism.” Modern Age, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Spring 1969), pp. 142-151. Retrieved from:  <http://www.mmisi.org/ma/13_02/gottfried.pdf >.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under New European Conservative

Geopolitics of Leviathan – Rix

Geopolitics of Leviathan

By Edouard Rix

Translated by Greg Johnson

 

“Nur Meer und Erde haben hier Gewicht.”
(Only sea and land matter here.)
—Goethe

This article is less concerned with geopolitics than with thalassopolitics, a neologism coined by professor Julien Freund “to call into question certain conceptions of geopolitics that privilege telluric phenomena over maritime phenomena.”

“World history is the history of the fight of maritime powers against continental powers and of continental powers against maritime powers” writes Carl Schmitt in Land and Sea. [1]

In the Middle Ages, the cabbalists interpreted the history of the world as a combat between the powerful whale, Leviathan, and the no less powerful Behemoth, a land animal imagined as looking like an elephant or a bull. [2] Behemoth tries to tear Leviathan with its defenses, its horns or its teeth, while Leviathan, for its part, tries to stop with its fins the mouth and the nose of the land animal to starve or suffocate it. A mythological allegory not unrelated to the blockade of a terrestrial power by a maritime power.

The “Sea Power” of Admiral Mahan

Around the turn of the 20th century, the American Alfred T. Mahan in The Influence of Sea Power upon History (1890), the German Friedrich Ratzel in Das Meer als quelle der Volkergrösse [The Sea as Source of National Greatness] (1900), and the British Halford John Mackinder in Britain and the British Seas (1902), attach a paramount importance to the sea as source of power of the nations.

Admiral, historian, and professor at the US Naval Academy, Alfred T. Mahan (1840–1914) is the most famous geopolitician of the sea, his work comprising twenty books and 137 articles. On the basis of the study of European History of the 17th and 18th centuries, he sought to show how maritime power (Sea Power) appeared determinative of the growth and prosperity of nations.

For him, the sea can act against the land, whereas the reverse is not true and, in the long run, the sea always ends up winning any fight against the land. Mahan is deeply persuaded that the control of the seas ensures the domination of the land, which he summarizes with the formula “the Empire of the sea is without any doubt the Empire of the world.” [3] By thus affirming the intrinsic superiority of the maritime empires, he offers a theoretical justification to imperialism, the great expansionist movement of the years 1880–1914.

In The Problem of Asia, published in 1900, Mahan applies his geopolitical paradigm to Asia, insisting on the need for a coalition of maritime powers to contain the progression towards the open sea of the great terrestrial power of the time, Russia. Indeed, he stresses that its central position confers a great strategic advantage on the Russian Empire, because it can extend in all directions, and its internal lines cannot be crossed.

On the other hand—and here lies its principal weakness—its access to the sea is limited, Mahan seeing only three possible axes of expansion: toward Europe, to circumvent the Turkish blockade of the straits, toward the Persian Gulf, and toward the China Sea. This is why the admiral recommends damming up the Russian tellurocracy through the creation of a vast alliance of the maritime powers, thalassocracies, which would include the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and Japan, the Americans asserting themselves as the leaders of this new Holy Alliance.

Halford John Mackinder

Inspired by Admiral Mahan, the British academic Halford John Mackinder (1861–1947) also believed that the fundamental geopolitical reality is the opposition between continental powers and maritime powers. A fundamental idea run throughout his work: the permanent confrontation between the Heartland, i.e. the central-Asian steppe, and the World Island, the continental mass Asia-Africa-Europe.

In 1887, Mackinder delivered a short public speech to the Royal Geographical Society that marked his resounding debut on the geopolitical stage, declaring in particular “there are two types of conquerors today: land wolves and sea wolves.” Behind this allegorical and somewhat enigmatic utterance is the concrete reality of Anglo-Russian competition in Central Asia. In fact, Mackinder was obsessed by the safety of the British Empire vis-à-vis the rise of Germany and Russia. In 1902, in Britain and the British Seas, he noted the decline of Great Britain and concluded from it that she must “divide the burden” with the United States, which would take over sooner or later.

In his famous essay of 1904, “The Geographical Pivot of History,” he formulates his geopolitical theory. One can summarize it in two principal points: (1) Russia occupies the pivotal zone inaccessible to maritime power, from which it can undertake to conquer and control the Eurasian continental mass, (2) against Russia, maritime power, starting from its bastions (Great Britain, the United States, South Africa, Australia, and Japan) that are inaccessible to terrestrial power, encircles the latter and prohibits her from freely reaching the open sea.

Studying the “pre-Colombian” epoch, Mackinder contrasted the Slavs, who inhabited the forests, with the nomadic riders of the steppes. This semi-desert Asian steppe is the Heartland, surrounded by two densely populated crescents: the inner crescent, encompassing India, China, Japan, and Europe, which are territorially adjacent to the Heartland, and the outer crescent, made up of various islands. The inner crescent is regularly subject to the pressures of nomadic horsemen from the steppes of the Heartland.

Everything changed in the “Colombian” age, which saw the confrontation of two mobilities, that of England which began the conquest of the seas, and that of Russia which advanced gradually in Siberia. For the academic Mackinder, this double European expansion, maritime and continental, found its explanation in the opposition between Rome and Greece. Indeed, he affirms that the Germans were civilized and Christianized by the Roman, the Slavs by the Greeks, and that whereas the Romano-Germans conquered the oceans, the Slavs seized the steppes on horseback.

Mackinder made the separation between Byzantine and Western Empires in 395, exacerbated by the Great Schism between Byzantium and Rome in 1054, the nodal point of this opposition. He emphasized that after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, Moscow proclaimed itself the new center of Orthodoxy (the Third Rome). According to him, in the 20th century, this religious antagonism will lead to an ideological antagonism, between Communism and capitalism: Russia, heiress of the Slavic country village community, the Mir, will choose Communism, the West, whose religious practice privileges individual salvation, for capitalism . . .

For Mackinder, the opposition Land/Sea is likely to lean in favor of the land and Russia. Mackinder noted that if the United Kingdom could send an army of 500,000 to South Africa at the time of the Boer Wars, a performance saluted by all the partisans of the maritime power, Russia at the same time had succeeded in an even more exceptional exploit by maintaining an equivalent number of soldiers in the Far East, thousands of kilometers of Moscow, thanks to the Trans-Siberian Railroad. With the railroad, the terrestrial power was henceforth able to deploy its forces as quickly as the oceanic power.

Enthralled by this revolution in land transportation, which would make it possible for Russia to develop an industrialized space that is autonomous from and closed to trade with the thalassocracies, Mackinder predicted the end of the “Colombian” age and concluded that the telluric power is superior, summarizing his thought in a striking aphorism: “Whoever holds continental Europe controls the Heartland. Whoever holds the Heartland controls the World Island.”

Indeed, any economic autonomy in central-Asian space leads automatically to a reorganization of the flow of trade, the inner crescent thus having an interest in developing its commercial relations with the center, the Heartland, to the detriment of the Anglo-Saxon thalassocracies. A few years later, in 1928, Stalin’s announcement of the implementation of the first Five Year Plan would reinforce the British thinker, who did not fail to stress that since the October Revolution, the Soviets built more than 70,000 kilometers of railways.

Shortly after the First World War, Mackinder published Democratic Ideals and Reality, a concise and dense work in which he recalls the importance of the Russian continental mass, that the thalassocracies can neither control from the seas nor invade completely. Thus, concretely, it is imperative to separate Germany from Russia by a “cordon sanitaire,” in order to prevent the union of the Eurasiatic continent. This prophylactic policy was pursued by Lord Curzon, who named Mackinder High Commissioner in “South Russia,” where a military mission assisted the White partisans of Anton Denikin and obtained from them the de facto recognition of the new Republic of Ukraine . . .

To make impossible the unification of Eurasia, Mackinder never ceased recommending the balkanization of Eastern Europe, the amputation from Russia of its Baltic and Ukrainian glacis, the “containment” of Russian forces in Asia so that they could not threaten Persia or India.

Karl Haushofer’s Kontinentalblock

It was in Germany, under the decisive influence of Karl Haushofer (1869–1946), that geopoliticians, diplomats, and National Revolutionary and National Bolshevik theorists (the Jünger brothers, Ernst Niekisch, Karl-Otto Paetel) would oppose thalassocratic pretentions with greatest force.

A Bavarian artillery officer and professor at the War Academy, Karl Haushofer was sent to Japan in 1906 to reorganize the Imperial Army. During his return to Germany on the Trans-Siberian railroad, he became vividly aware of the continental vastness of Russian Eurasia. After the First World War, he earned a doctorate and became professor of geography in Munich, where connected with Rudolf Hess. In 1924, Haushofer founded the famous Zeitschrift für Geopolitik (Journal of Geopolitics). He was the direct intellectual heir to his compatriot Friedrich Ratzel and the Swede Rudolf Kjellén.

To begin, let us set aside the black legend of Haushofer as fanatical Hitlerist who used geopolitics to justify the territorial conquests of the Third Reich, a legend based in “American propaganda efforts,” according to Professor Jean Klein.[4] This diabolization will astonish only those who are ignorant of the anti-thalassocratic orientation of Haushofer’s geopolitics . . .

Haushofer wished to rise above petty nationalisms. Thus, beginning in 1931, in Geopolitik der Pan-Ideen (Geopolitics of Continental Ideas), he advocated the constitution of vast continental spaces as the only means to go beyond the territorial and economic weakness of traditional States. The first stage could be the sub-continental gatherings theorized in 1912 by the geographer E. Banse, who recommended 12 large civilizational regions: Europe, Greater Siberia (Russia included), Australia, the East Indies, Eastern Asia, the “Nigritie” (the “black lands,” i.e., Africa), Mongolia (with China, Indochina, and Indonesia), Greater California, the Andes, America (Atlantic North America), and Amazonia.

Haushofer’s radically continentalist and anti-thalassocratic thought came into focus in 1941, when he published Der Kontinentalblock-Mitteleuropa-Eurasien-Japan (The Continental Bloc Central Europe-Eurasia-Japan). Written after the Germano-Soviet pact, this work argued for a Germano-Italo-Soviet-Japanese alliance that would radically reorganize the Eurasian continental mass. He stressed that the permanent fear of the Anglo-Saxons is the emergence of a Berlin-Moscow-Tokyo axis, which would completely escape the influence of the commercial thalassocracies, which, he writes, practice the policy of the anaconda, which consists in gradually encircling and slowly suffocating its prey. But a unified Eurasia would be too large for the Anglo-American anaconda. Thanks to its gigantic mass, it could resist any blockade.

The idea of a tripartite alliance first occurred to the Japanese and Russians. At the time of the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, when the British and Japanese united against the Russians, some of the Japanese leadership—including Hayashi, their ambassador in London, Count Gato, Prince Ito, and Prime Minister Katsura—desired a Germano-Russo-Japanese pact against the English seizure of global sea traffic. The visionary Count Gato recommended a troika in which the central horse, the strongest one, flanked by two lighter and more nervous horses, Germany and Japan. In Russia, the Eurasian idea would be incarnated a few years later by the minister Sergei Witte, the creative genius of the Trans-Siberian Railroad who in 1915 advocated a separate peace with the Kaiser.

Needless to say, Haushofer disapproved of Hitler’s wars of conquest in the East, which went against his historical project of creating a Eurasian continental bloc.

The Anaconda Strategy of Spykman and Brzezinski

The fundamental idea, posed by Mahan and Mackinder, to prohibit Russia’s access to the open sea, would be reformulated by Nicholas John Spykman (1893–1943), who insisted on the pressing need for controlling the maritime ring or Rimland, the littoral zone bordering the Heartland and which runs from Norway to Korea: “Whoever controls the maritime ring holds Eurasia; whoever holds Eurasia controls the destiny of the world.”[5]

Interpreting this maxim at that onset of the Cold War, the United States tried by a policy of “containment” of the USSR, to control the Rimland by means of a network of regional pacts: NATO in Europe, the Baghdad Pact then the Organization of the central treaty of the Middle East, SEATO and ANZUS in the Far East.

With the collapse of the Soviet bloc, one might have expected a strategic redeployment of the USA and a break with Mackinderite orthodoxy. But that was not to be. So much so that still today, the (semi-official) foreign policy adviser most heeded by President Obama proves to be a dedicated disciple of Mackinder: none other than Zbigniew Brzezinski, a friend of David Rockefeller, with whom he co-founded the Trilateral Commission in 1973, and Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor from 1977 to 1980. His major theoretical work, The Grand Chessboard, appeared in 1997, at the time of the wars in Yugoslavia undertaken mainly under his initiative, under the aegis of the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Brzezinski’s strategic analysis cynically reprises Anglo-Saxon geopolitical doxa: Eurasia, which comprises half the planet’s population, constitutes the spatial center of world power. The key to control Eurasia is Central Asia. The key to control Central Asia is Uzbekistan. For this Russophobe of Polish origin, the objective of the American Grand Strategy must be to fight against a China-Russia alliance. Considering that the principal threat comes from Russia, he recommends its encirclement (the anaconda, always the anaconda) by the establishment of military bases, or, in the absence of friendly regimes in the former Soviet republics (Ukraine included), insisting in particular on the necessary utilization of Islamists. Paradoxically, it is in the name of the fight against these same Islamists that American forces were deployed Uzbekistan after September 11th, 2001 . . . Machiavelli is not dead!

Notes

1. C. Schmitt, Terre et Mer (Paris: Le Labyrinthe, 1985), p. 23. [See the English translation available on this website here. — Trans.]

2. The names of Leviathan and Behemoth are borrowed from the Book of Job (chapters 40 and 41).

3. A. T. Mahan, The Problem of Asia and its Effect upon International Policies (London: Sampson Low-Marston, 1900), p. 63.

4. Jean Klein, Karl Haushofer, De la géopolitique (Paris: Fayard, 1986).

5. N. Spykman, The Geography of the Peace (New York: Harcourt-Brace, 1944), p. 43.

 

Source: Edouard Rix, Terre & Peuple, No. 46 (Winter Solstice 2010), pp. 39–41. Online: http://tpprovence.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/geopolitique-du-leviathan/

—————

Rix, Edouard. “Geopolitics of Leviathan [Parts 1 & 2].” Counter-Currents Publishing, 10 & 11 August 2011. <http://www.counter-currents.com/2011/08/geopolitics-of-leviathan-part-1/ > ; <http://www.counter-currents.com/2011/08/geopolitics-of-leviathan-part-2/ >.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under New European Conservative

Germany’s Third Empire – Moeller van den Bruck

Germany’s Third Empire by Arthur Moeller van den Bruck (PDF – 873 KB):

Germany’s Third Empire

————–

Moeller van den Bruck, Arthur. Germany’s Third Empire. London: George Allen And Unwin, 1934.

Notes: The print version of this book was translated by Emily O. Lorimer and went through three editions: The first edition was published by George Allen And Unwin (London, 1934), the second edition was published by Howard Fertig (New York, 1971), and the third edition was published by Arktos (London, 2012), including a new foreword and added bibliography by Alain de Benoist.

The online text of this book as used for this PDF file was retrieved from the Australian nationalist website: <http://home.alphalink.com.au/~radnat/moeller/index.html >; It has also been presented at the official Eurasia Movement website: <http://evrazia.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=2068 >.

For an overview of Arthur Moeller van den Bruck’s life and ideas, see Lucian Tudor’s essay on him: <https://neweuropeanconservative.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/arthur-moeller-van-den-bruck-tudor/ >.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under New European Conservative

Jünger: Figure of the Worker Between Gods & Titans – Benoist

Ernst Jünger: The Figure of the Worker Between the Gods & the Titans

By Alain de Benoist

Translated by Greg Johnson

 

Armin Mohler, author of the classic Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918-1933, wrote regarding Ernst Jünger’s The Worker (Der Arbeiter) and the first edition of The Adventurous Heart: “To this day, my hand cannot take up these works without trembling.” Elsewhere, describing The Worker as an “erratic bloc” in the midst of Jünger’s works, he states: “The Worker is more than philosophy, it is a work of poetry.”[1] The word is apt, above all if we admit that that all true poetry is foundational, that it simultaneously captures the world and unveils the divine.

A “metallic” book—one is tempted to use the expression “storm of steel” to describe it—The Worker indeed possesses a genuinely metaphysical quality that takes it well beyond the historical and especially political context in which it was born. Not only has its publication marked an important day in the history of ideas, but it provides a theme of reflection that runs like a hidden thread throughout Jünger’s long life.

I.

Ernst Jünger was born on March 28th, 1895 in Heidelberg.[2] Jünger went to school in Hannover and Schwarzenberg, in the Erzgebirge, then in Brunswick and finally in Hannover again, as well as the Scharnhorst Realschule in Wunstorf. In 1911 he joined the Wunstdorf section of the Wandervogel.[3] That same year published his first poem, “Unser Leben,” in their local journal. In 1913 at the age of 16, he left home. His escapade ended in Verdun, where he joined the French Foreign Legion. A few months later, after a brief sojourn in Algeria, where his training began at Siddi bel Abbes, his father was able to persuade him to return to Germany. He resumed his studies at the Hannover Guild Institute, where he became familiar with the works of Nietzsche.

The First World War broke out on August 1st, 1914. Jünger volunteered on the first day. Assigned to the 73rd regiment of fusiliers, he received his marching orders on October 6th. On December 27th, he left for the front in Champagne. He fought at Dorfes-les-Epargnes, at Douchy, at Moncy. He became squad leader in August 1915, sub-lieutenant in November, and from April 1916 underwent officer training at Croisilles. Two months later, he took part in the engagements on the Somme, where he was twice wounded. Upon his return to the front in November, with the rank of lieutenant, he was wounded again near Saint-Pierre-Vaast. On December 16th he received the Iron Cross First Class. In February 1917, he became Stosstruppfuehrer (leader of an assault battalion). This is when the war bogged down while the human costs became terrifyingly immense. The French prepared Nivelle’s bloody and useless offensive on the Chemin des Dames. At the head of his men, Jünger fought hand to hand in the trenches. Endless battles, new wounds: in July on the front in Flanders, and also in December. Jünger was decorated with the Knight’s Cross of the Oder of the Hohenzollerns. During the offense of March 1918, he again led assault troops. He was wounded. In August, another wound, this time near Cambrai. He ended the war in a military hospital, having been wounded fourteen times! That earned him the Cross Pour le merite, the highest award in the German army. Only twelve subaltern officers of the ground forces, one the future Marshal Rommel, received this decoration during the whole First World War.

“One lived for the Idea alone.”

Between 1918 and 1923, in the barracks at Hannover, Jünger began to write his first books, inspired by his experiences at the front. In Storms of Steel (In Stahlgewittern), first published in 1919 by the author and in a new edition in 1922, was an immediate success. There followed Battle as Inner Experience (Der Kampf als inneres Erlebnis) (1922), Copse 125: A Chronicle from the Trench Warfare of 1918 (Das Wäldchen 125) (1924), and Fire and Blood (Feur und Blut) (1925). Very quickly, Jünger was recognized as one of the most brilliant writers of his generation, even though, as Henri Plard points out in “The Career of Ernst Jünger, 1920–1929,” in Germanic Studies, April–June 1978), he first became known primarily as a specialist in military problems thanks to articles on modern warfare published in Militär-Wochenblatt.

But Jünger did not feel at home in a peacetime army. It no longer offered adventure of the Freikorps. In 1923 he left the Reichswehr and entered Leipzig University to study biology, zoology, and philosophy. On August 3rd, 1925 he married the 19 year old Gretha von Jeinsen. She gave him two children: Ernst in 1926 and Alexander in 1934.

At same time, his political ideas matured thanks to the veritable cauldron of agitation among the factions of German public opinion: the disastrous Treaty of Versailles, which the Weimar Republic had accepted without batting an eye at any of its clauses, was everywhere felt to be an unbearable Diktat. In the space of a few months Jünger had become one of the principal representatives of the national-revolutionary movement, an important part of the Conservative Revolution which extended to the “left” with the National Bolshevik movement rallying primarily around Ernst Niekisch.

Jünger’s political writings appeared during the central period of the Republic (the “Stresemann era”), a provisional period of respite and apparent calm which ended in 1929. He would later say: “One lived for the Idea alone.”[4]

Initially, his ideas were expressed in journals. In September 1925, a former Freikorps leader, Helmut Franke, who has just published a book entitled Staat im Staate (Berlin: Stahlhelm, 1924), launched the journal Die Standarte which set out to “contribute towards a spiritual deepening of the thought of the Front.” Jünger was on the editorial board, along with another representative of “soldatic nationalism,” the writer Franz Schauwecker, born in 1890. Initially published as a supplement of the weekly magazine Der Stahlhelm, the organ of the association of war veterans also called Stahlhelm,[5] directed by Wilhelm Kleinau, Die Standarte had a considerable circulation: approximately 170,000 readers. Between September 1925 and March 1926, Jünger published nineteen articles there. Helmut Franke signed his contributions with the pseudonym “Gracchus.” The whole anti-revolutionary young right published there: Werner Beumelburg, Franz Schauwecker, Hans Henning von Grote, Friedrich Wilhelm Heinz, Goetz Otto Stoffregen, etc.

In Die Standarte Jünger immediately adopted a quite radical tone, very different from that of most Stahlhelm members. In an article published in October 1925, he criticized the theory of the “stab in the back” (Dolchstoss), which was accepted by almost all nationalists, namely that the German army was not defeated at the front but by a “stab in the back” at home. Jünger also emphasized that certain revolutionaries of the far left had fought with distinction in the war.[6] Remarks of this kind caused a violent uproar. Quickly, the leaders of Stahlhelm moved to distance themselves from the young writer who had agitated their side.

In March 1926 Die Standarte was closed. But it was revived a month later under the abridged name Standarte with Jünger, Schauwecker, Kleinau, and Franke as co-editors. At this time, the ties with Stahlhelm were not entirely severed: the old soldiers continued to indirectly finance Standarte. Jünger and his friends reaffirmed their revolutionary calling. On June 3rd, 1926, Jünger published an appeal to all former front soldiers to unite for the creation of a “nationalist workers’ republic,” a call that found no echo.[7]

In August, at the urging of Otto Hörsing, co-founder of the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot Gold, the Social Democrats’ security force, the government, using the pretext of an article about Walther Rathenau, banned Standarte for five months. Because of this, Franz Seldte the leader of Stahlhelm “decommissioned” its chief editor, Helmut Franke. In solidarity, Jünger quit, and in November the two, along with Wilhelm Weiss, became the editors of another journal, Arminius. (Standarte, under different editorship, continued until 1929.)

En 1927, Jünger left Leipzig for Berlin, where he formed close ties with former Freikorps members and with the young “bündisch” movement. The latter, oscillating between military discipline and a very firm esprit de corps, tried to reconcile the adventurous romanticism of the Wandervogel with a more hierarchical, communitarian mode of organization. In particular, Jünger was closely connected to Wer­ner Lass, born in Berlin in 1902, who in 1924 had been the founder, with the old leader of the Rossbach Freikorps unit, of the Schilljugend (a youth movement named for major Schill, who was killed during the struggle for liberation against Napoleon’s occupation). In 1927, Lass left Rossbach and lauched Frei­schar Schill, a bündisch group of which Jünger rapidly became the mentor (Schirmherr). From October 1927 to March 1928, Lass and Jünger collaborated to publish the journal Der Vormarsch, created in June 1927 by another famous Freikorps leader, captain Ehrhardt.

“Losing the War to Win the Nation”

During this time Jünger had a number of literary and philosophical influences. During the war, the experience of the front enabled him to resolve the triple influence of such late 19th century French writers as Huysmans and Léon Bloy, of a kind of expressionism that still shows up clearly in Battle as Inner Experience and especially in the first version of The Adventurous Heart, and of a kind of Baudelairian dandyism clearly present in Sturm, an early novel recently published.[8]

Armin Mohler likens the young Jünger to the Barrès of Roman de l’Energie nationale: for the author of the Battle as Inner Experience, as for that of Scenes et doctrines du nationalisme, nationalism, a substitute religion, a mode of enlarging and strengthening the soul, results above all from a deliberate choice, the decisionist aspect of this orientation rising from the collapse of standards after the outbreak of the First World War.

The influence of Spengler and Nietzsche is also evident. In 1929, in an interview given to an English journalist, Jünger defined himself as a “disciple of Nietzsche,” stressing that Nietzsche was the first to challenge the fiction of an abstract universal man, “sundering” this fiction into two concrete, diametrically opposed types: the strong and the weak. In 1922 Jünger passionately read the first volume of The Decline of the West, then the second volume as soon as it was released in December of the same year, when he wrote Sturm.

However, as we shall see, Jünger was no passive disciple. He was far from following Nietzsche and Spengler in the totality of their positions. The decline of the west in his eyes was not an inescapable fate; there were other alternatives than simply acquiescing to the reign of “Caesars.” In the same way, if Jünger adopts Nietzsche’s questioning, it was first and foremost to bring it to an end.

Ultimately, the war represented the strongest influence. Jünger initially drew the lesson of agonism from it. The war must cause passion, but not hatred: the soldier on the other side of the trenches is not an incarnation of evil, but a simple figure of momentary adversity. It is because there is no absolute enemy (Feind), but only an adversary (Gegner), that “combat is always something holy.” Another lesson is that life is nourished by death and vice-versa: “The most precious knowledge that one acquired from the school of the war,” Jünger would write, “is that life, in its most secret heart, is indestructible” (Das Reich, I, October 1, 1930, 3).

Granted, the war had been lost. But in virtue of the principle of the equivalence of contraries, this defeat also demanded a positive analysis. First, defeat or victory is not the most important issue of the war. Fundamentally activistic, the national revolutionist ideology professes a certain contempt of goals. One does not fight to attain victory, one fights to make war. Moreover, Jünger claimed, “the war is less a war between nations, than a war between different kinds of men. In all the nations that took part in that war, there are both victors and vanquished” (Battle as Inner Experience).

Better yet, defeat can become the ferment of a victory. It represents the very condition of this victory. As the epigraph of his book Aufbruch der Nation (Berlin: Frundsberg, 1930), Franz Schauwecker used this stunning phrase: “It was necessary for us to lose the war to win the nation.” Perhaps remembering the words of Léon Bloy, “All that happens is worthy,” Jünger also says: “Germany was vanquished, but this defeat was salutary because it contributed to the destruction of the old Germany. . . . It was necessary to lose the war to win the nation.”

Defeated by the allied coalition, Germany will be able to return to herself and change in a revolutionary way. The defeat must be accepted as a means of transmutation: in a quasi-alchemical way, the experience of the front must be “transmuted” in a new experience of the life of the nation. Such is the base of “soldatic nationalism.”

It was in the war, Jünger continues, that German youth acquired “the assurance that the old paths no longer lead anywhere, and that it is necessary to blaze new ones.” An irreversible rupture (Umbruch), the war abolished all old values. Any reactionary attitude, any desire to retrogress, became impossible. The energy that had been unleashed in a specific fight of and for the fatherland, can from now on serve the fatherland in another form. The war, in other words, furnished the model for the peace. In The Worker, one reads: “The battle front and the Labor front are identical” (p. 109).

The central idea is that the war, superficially meaningless though it may appear, actually has a deep meaning. This cannot be grasped by rational investigation but only by feeling (ahnen). The positive interpretation that Jünger gives war is not, contrary to what is too often asserted, primarily dependent on the exaltation of “warrior values.” It proceeded from a political concern to find a purpose for which the sacrifice of the dead soldiers could no longer be considered “useless.”

From 1926 onwards, Jünger called tirelessly for the formation of an united front of nationalist groups and movements. At the same time, he sought—without notable success—to change them. For Jünger too, nationalism must be alchemically “transmuted.” It must be freed of any sentimental attachment to the old right and become revolutionary. It must take note of the decline of the bourgeois world apparent in the novels of Thomas Mann (Die Buddenbrooks) or Alfred Kubin (Die andere Seite).

From this point of view, what is essential is the fight against liberalism. In Arminius and Der Vormarsch, Jünger attacks the liberal order symbolized by the literati, the humanistic intellectuals who support an “anemic” society, the cynical internationalists whom Spengler sees as the true authors of the November Revolution and who claimed that the millions who perished in the Great War died for nothing.

But at the same time, he stigmatizes the “bourgeois tradition” invoked by the nationalists and the members of the Stahlhelm, these “petit bourgeois (Spiessbürger) who, because of the war, slipped into a lion’s skin” (Der Vormarsch, December 1927). Tirelessly, he took on the Wilhelmine spirit, the worship of the past, the taste of the pan-Germanists for “museology” (musealer Betrieb). In March 1926, he coined the term “neonationalism,” which he opposed to the “grandfather nationalism” (Altvaternationalismus).

Jünger defended Germany, but for him the nation is much more than a country. It is an idea: Germany is everywhere that this idea inflames the spirit. In April 1927, in Arminius Jünger takes an implicitly nominalist position: he states that he no longer believes in any general truths, any universal morals, any notion of “mankind” as a collective being everywhere sharing the the same conscience and the same rights. “We believe,” he says, “in the value of the particular” (Wir glauben an den Wert des Besonde­ren).

At a time when the traditional right preached individualism against collectivism, when the völkisch groups were enthralled with the return to the earth and the mystique of “nature,” Jünger exalted technology and condemned the individual. Born from bourgeois rationality, he explains, in Arminius, all-powerful technology has now turned against those who engendered it. The more technological the world becomes, the more the individual disappears; neonationalism must be the first to learn this lesson. Moreover, it is in the great cities “that the nation will be won”: for the national-revolutionists, “the city is a front.”

Around Jünger a “Berlin group” soon formed, where representatives of various currents of the Conservative Revolution met: Franz Schauwecker and Helmut Franke; the writer Ernst von Solomon; the Nietzschean anti-Christian Friedrich Hielscher, editor of Das Reich; the neoconservatives August Winnig (whom Jünger first met in the autumn of 1927 via the philosopher Alfred Baeumler) and Albrecht Erich Günther, co-editor with Wilhelm Stapel of Deutsches Volkstum; the national-Bolsheviks Ernst Niekisch and Karl O. Paetel; and of course Friedrich Georg Jünger, Ernst Jünger’s younger brother, who was also a recognized theorist.

Friedrich Georg Jünger, whose own development is of great importance to that of his elder brother, was born in Hanover on September 1, 1898. His career closely paralleled his brother’s. He too volunteered for the Great War; in 1916 he saw combat on the Somme and became the leader of his squad. In 1917 he was seriously wounded on the front in Flanders and spent several months in military hospitals. He returned to Hanover at the end of the hostilities, and after a brief period as a lieutenant in the Reichswehr, in 1920 he decided to study law, defending his doctoral dissertation in 1924.

From 1926 on, he regularly contributed articles to the journals in which his brother collaborated: Die Standarte, Arminius, Der Vormarsch, etc., and published in the collection Der Aufmarsch, edited by Ernst Jünger, a short essay entitled “Aufmarsch des Nationalismus” (Der Aufmarsch, Foreword by Ernst Jünger, Berlin, 1926; 2nd ed., Berlin: Vormarsch, 1928). He was influenced by Nietzsche, Sorel, Klages, Stefan George, and Rilke, whom he frequently quoted and to whom he dedicated a volume of his own poetry. The first study published on him, Franz Josef Schöningh, “Friedrich Georg Jünger und der preussische Stil,” in Hochland, February 1935, 476–77, connects him to the “Prussian style.”

In April 1928, Ernst Jünger entrusted the editorship of Der Vormarsch to his friend Friedrich Hielscher. Hielscher edited Der Vormarsch for a few months, after which the journal, published by Fritz Söhlmann, came under the control of the Jungdeutscher Orden (Jungdo) and took a completely different direction. On Hielscher, to whom he was very attached (and whom he called “Bodo” or “Bogo” in its notebooks), Jünger once said that he presented a curious “mixture of rationalism and naïveté.”

Born on May 31st, 1902 in Guben, after the Great War he joined the Freikorps, then he became involved in the bündisch movement, in particular the Freischar Schill of Werner Lass. In 1928, he published a doctoral thesis, Die Selbstherrlichkeit [Self-glory] (Berlin: Vormarsch, 1928), in which he sought to define the foundations of a German right based on Nietzsche, Spengler, and Max Weber. Moreover, he was, along with his friend Gerhard von Tevenar, passionate about “European social-regionalism” and sought to coordinate the actions of regionalist and separatist movements to create a “Europe of the fatherlands” on a federal model. Also influenced by the thought of Eriugena, Meister Eckart, Luther, Shakespeare, and Goethe, he wrote a “political theology of the Empire” entitled Das Reich (Berlin: Das Reich, 1931) and founded a small neopagan church that sometimes brought him closer to the völkisch movement.

Under the Third Reich, Hielscher played a directing role in the research services of the Ahnenerbe, while he and his students maintained close contact with the “inner emigration.” The Hitlerian regime reproached him in particular for “philosemitism” (cf. Das Reich, p. 332), ordering his arrest in September 1944. Thrown in prison, Hielscher escaped death only because of the intervention of Wolfram Sievers. After the war Hielscher published his autobiography Funfzig Jahre unter Deutschen [Fifty Years under Germans] (Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1954), but the majority of its writings (the “liturgy” of his neopagan church, a verse version of the Nibelungenlied, etc.) remain unpublished. On its role in resistance against Hitler, see Rolf Kluth, “Die Widerstandgruppe Hielscher” [“The Hielscher Resistance Group”], Puis, December 7, 1980, 22–27.

A few months later, in January 1930, Jünger became co-editor with Werner Lass of Die Kommenden [The Coming], the weekly newspaper founded five years before by the writer Wilhelm Kotzde, who then had a great influence over the bündisch youth movement, particularly the tendency that had evolved toward National Bolshevism, with Hans Ebeling and especially Karl O. Paetel, who simultaneously collaborated on Die Kommenden, as well as Die sozialistische Nation [The Socialistic Nation] and Antifaschistische Briefe [Anti-Fascist Letters].

Regarded as one of the principal representatives, with Ernst Niekisch, of German National Bolshevism, Karl O. Paetel was born in Berlin on November 23rd, 1906. Bündisch, then national revolutionary, he adopted National Bolshevism about 1930. From 1928 to 1930 he edited the monthly magazine Das junge Volk [The Young People]. From 1931 to 1933 he published the journal Die sozialistische Nation.

Imprisoned several times after Hitler’s rise to power, in 1935 Paetel went to Prague, then Scandinavia. In 1939, he was stripped of his German nationality and condemned to death in absentia. Interned in French concentration camps between January and June 1940, he escaped, reached Portugal, and finally settled in New York in January 1941.

In the United States, he publishes from 1946 on the newspaper Deutsche Blatter [German Pages]. The same year, with Carl Zuckmayer and Dorothy Thompson, published a collection of documents on the “inner emigration”: Deutsche innere Emigration. Dokumente und Beitrage. Anti­nationalsozialistische Zeugnisse aus Deutschland [German Inner Emigration. Documents and Contributions. Anti-National Socialist Testimonies from Germany] (New York: Friedrich Krause, 1946).

He also devoted several essays to Jünger: Ernst Jünger. Die Wandlung eines deutschen Dichters und Patrio­ten [Ernst Jünger: The Transformation of a German Poet and Patriot] (New York: Friedrich Krause, 1946); Ernst Jünger. Weg und Wirkung. Eine Einfuhrung [Ernst Jünger: Way and Influence. An Introduction] (Stutt­gart, 1949); Ernst Jünger. Eine Bibliographie [Ernst Jünger: A Bibliography] (Stuttgart: Lutz and Meyer, 1953); Ernst Jünger in Selbst­zeugnissen und Bilddokumenten [Ernst Jünger in his Own Words and Pictures] (Reinbek near Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1962).

After having launched a new newspaper, Deutsche Gegenwart [Geman Present] (1947–1948), Paetel returned to Germany in 1949 and continued to publish a great number of works. Decorated in 1968 with the Bundesverdienstkreuz [Federal Service Cross], he died on May 4th, 1975. His personal papers are today in part in the archives of the Jugendbewegung (Burg Ludwigstein, Witzenhausen) and in part in the “Karl O. Paetel Collection” of the State University of New York, Albany. On Paetel, see his history of National Bolshevism: Versuchung oder Chance? Zur Geschichte of the deutschen Nationalbolschewismus [Temptation or Chance? Toward a History of German National Bolshevism] (Göttingen: Musterschmid, 1965) and his posthumous autobiography, published by Wolfgang D. Elfe and John M. Spalek: Reise ohne Urzeit. Autobiography [Journey without Beginning: Autobiography] (London: World of Books and Worms: Georg Heintz, 1982).

Jünger also collaborated on the journal Widerstand [Resistance] founded and edited by Niekisch since July 1926. The two men met in the autumn of 1927, and a true friendship is quickly rose between them. Jünger wrote: “If one wants to put the program that Niekisch developed in Widerstand in terms of stark alternatives, it would be something like this: against the bourgeois for the worker, against the western world for the east.” Indeed, National Bolshevism, which has multiple tendencies and varieties, joins the idea of class struggle to a communitarian, if not collectivist, idea of the nation. “Collectivization,” affirms Niekisch, “is the social form that the organic will must adopt if it is to affirm itself vis-à-vis the fatal effects of technology” (“Menschenfressende Technik” [“Man-Eating Technology”] in Widerstand, 4, 1931). According to Niekisch, in the final analysis, the national movement and the communist movement have the same adversary, as the fight against the occupation of the Ruhr appeared to demonstrate, and this is why the two “proletarian nations” of Germany and Russia must strive for an understanding. “The liberal democratic parliamentarian flees from decision,” declared Niekisch. “He does not want to fight, but to talk. . . . The Communist wants a decision. . . . In his roughness, there is something of the hardness of the military camp; in him there is more Prussian hardness than he knows, even more than in a Prussian bourgeois” (“Entscheidung” [“Decision”], Widerstand, Berlin, 1930, p. 134). These ideas influenced a considerable portion of the national revolutionary movement. Jünger himself, as seen by Louis Dupeux, was “fascinated by the problems of Bolshevism”—but was never a National Bolshevik in the strict sense.

In July of 1931, Werner Lass and Jünger withdrew from Die Kommenden. In September, Lass founded the journal Der Umsturz [Overthrow], which he made the organ of the Freischar Schill and which, until its disappearance in February 1933, openly promoted National Bolshevism. But Jünger was in a very different frame of mind. In the space of a few years, using a whole series of journals as so many walls for sticking up posters—it was, as he would write, a milk train, “that one gets on and gets off along the way”—he traversed the whole field of his properly political evolution. The watchwords he had formulated did not have the success that he hoped for; his calls for unity were not heard. For some time, Jünger felt estranged from all political currents. He had no more sympathy for the rising National Socialism than for the traditional national leagues. All the national movements, he explained in an article of Suddeutsche Monatshefte [South German Monthly] (September 1930, 843–45), be they traditionalist, legitimist, economist, reactionary, or National Socialist, draw their inspiration from the past, and, in this respect, are “liberal” and “bourgeois.” Divided between the neoconservatives and the National Bolsheviks, the national revolutionary groups no longer commanded respect. In fact, Jünger no longer believed in the possibility of collective action. (In the first version of The Adventurous Heart, Jünger wrote: “Today one can no longer make collective efforts for Germany” [p. 153]). As Niekisch was to emphasize in his autobiography (Erinerrungen eines deutschen Revolutionärs [Memories of a German Revolutionary] [Cologne: Wissenschaft u. Politik, 1974, vol. I, p. 191), Jünger intended to trace a more personal and interior way of dealing with the current situation. “Jünger, this perfect Prussian officer who subjects himself to the hardest discipline,” wrote Marcel Decombis, “would never again be able to fit in a collectivity” (Ernst Jünger [Sapwood-Montaigne, 1943]). His brother, who had abandoned his legal career in 1928, evolved in the same direction. He wrote on Greek poetry, the American novel, Kant, Dostoyevsky. The two brothers undertook a series of voyages: Sicily (1929), the Balearic Islands (1931), Dalmatia (1932), the Aegean Sea.

Ernst and Friedrich Georg Jünger continued, certainly, to publish some articles, particularly in Widerstand. (In total, Ernst Jünger published eleven articles in Standarte, twenty-eight in Arminius, twelve in Der Vormarsch, and eighteen in Widerstand. Like his brother, he collaborated on Widerstand until its prohibition, in December 1934.) But the properly journalistic period of their engagement was over. Between 1929 and 1932, Ernst Jünger concentrated all his efforts on new books, starting with the first version of Das abenteuerliche Herz (The Adventurous Heart, 1929), then the essay “Die totale Mobilmachung” (“Total Mobilization,” 1931), and finally Der Arbeiter. Herrschaft und Gestalt (The Worker: Domination and Figure), published in 1932 in Hamburg by the Hanseatische Ver­lagsanstalt of Benno Ziegler and reprinted many times before 1945.

Notes

  1. Preface to Marcel Decombis, Ernst Jünger et la “Konservative Revolution” (GRECE, 1975), 8.
  2. The son of Ernst Georg Jünger (1868–1943), a chemist and assistant to research chemist Viktor Meyer. He had one sister and five brothers, two of whom died very young.
  3. In 1901, a right-wing student named Karl Fischer organized the students at the gymnasium of Steglitz, near Berlin, into a movement of young protesters with idealistic and romantic tendencies, to whom he gave the name “Wandervogel” (“birds of passage”). This movement, subsequently divided into many currents, gave birth to the Jugendbewegung (Youth Movement) and became widely known. In October 1913, the same year Jünger joined, the Youth Movement organized (alongside the commemoration of the hundredth birthday of the “Battle of the Nations” near Leipzig) a great meeting at Hohen Meissner, close to Kassel. There several thousand young “Wandervogel” discussed the problems of the movement, which was pacifist, nationalist, and populist in orientation. On the eve of the First World War, the Jugendbewegung counted approximately 25,000 members. After 1918, the movement could not regain its old cohesion, but its influence remained undeniable. On the Wandervogel, cf. epecially Hans Bliiher, Wandervogel. Geschichte einer Jugendbewegung, 2 vol. (Berlin-Tempelhof: Bernhard Weise, 1912–1913); Fr. W. Foerster, Jugendseele, Jugendbewegung, Jugendziel (München-Leipzig: Rotapfel, 1923); Theo Herrle, Die deutsche Jugendbewegung in ihren kulturellen Zusammenhängen (Gotha-Stuttgart: Friedrich Andreas Perthes, 1924); Heinrich Ahrens, Die deutsche Wandervogelbewegung von den Anfängen bis zum Weltkrieg (Hamburg: Hansischer Gildenverlag, 1939); Werner Kindt, ed., Grundschrif­ten der deutschen Jugendbewegung (Dusseldorf-Köln: Eugen Diederichs, 1963); Bernhard Schnei­der, Daten zur Geschichte der Jugendbewegung (Bad Godesberg: Voggenreiter, 1965); Walter Laqueur, Die deutsche Jugendbewegung. Eine historische Studie (Köln: Wissenschaft und Politik, 1978); Otto Neuloh and Wilhelm Zilius, Die Wandervogel. Eine empirisch-soziologische Untersuchung der frühen deutschen Jugendbewegung (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1982).
  4. Journal, vol. 2, April 20th, 1943.
  5. The Stalhelm association had been founded at the end of 1918 by Franz Seldte, born in Magdeburg in 1882, in reaction to the November revolution. His orientation to the right was intensified the moment the Treaty of Versailles was signed in June of 1919. After the assassinnation of Walther Rathenau, in 1922, Stahl­helm was dissolved in Prussia but the ban was lifted the following year. In 1925, it had around 260,000 members. In 1933, Seldte was named Minister of Labor in Hitler’s first cabinet. The National Socialist regime went on to force Stahlhelm’s integration into the Natio­nalsozialistischer Deutscher Frontkampferbund (NSDFB). Theodor Duesterberg, Seldte’s assistant since 1924, who had immediately abandoned his functions, was arrested and imprisoned in June 1934. In 1935, the “liquidation” of Stahlhelm was complete. Cf. on this subject: Wilhelm Kleinau, Sol­daten der Nation. Die geschichtliche Sendung des Stahlhelm (Berlin: Stahlhelm, 1933); Franz Seldte, ed., Der NSDFB (Stahlhelm). Geschichte, Wesen und Aufgabe des Frontsoldatenbundes (Berlin: Frei­heitsverlag, 1935); Theodor Duesterberg, Der Stahlhelm und Hitler (Wolfenbüttel-Hannover: Wolfenbütteler Verlags­anstalt, 1949); and Volker R. Berghahn, Der Stahlhelm-Bund der Frontsol­daten (Düsseldorf: Droste, 1966).
  6. Ernst Jünger, “Die Revolution,” Die Standarte, 1, October 18, 1925.
  7. Cf. Louis Dupeux, Strategie communiste et dynamique conservatrice. Essai sur les difjerents sens de l’expression «national-bolchevisme» en Allemagne, sous la Republique de Weimar, 1919–1933 (Honore Champion, 1976), p. 313.
  8. Cf. Henri Plard, “Une oeuvre retrouvée d’Ernst Jünger: Sturm (1923),” Etudes germaniques, October-December 1968, 600–615.

 

Source: Alain de Benoist, “Ernst Jünger: La Figure du Travailleur entre les Dieux et les Titans,” Nouvelle Ecole No. 40 (Autumn 1983): 1161.

—————

De Benoist, Alain. “Ernst Jünger: The Figure of The Worker Between the Gods & the Titans.” Originally published in three parts at Counter-Currents Publishing. Part 1: 6 April 2011. Part 2: 13 April 2011. Part 3: 26 July 2011. <http://www.counter-currents.com/2011/04/ernst-junger-the-figure-of-the-worker-part-1/ >; < http://www.counter-currents.com/2011/04/ernst-junger-figure-of-the-worker-part-2/ >; < http://www.counter-currents.com/2011/07/ernst-junger-the-figure-of-the-worker-between-the-gods-the-titans-part-3/ >.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under New European Conservative

Intro to Ernst Jünger – Benoist

Soldier, Worker, Rebel, Anarch: Types & Figures in Ernst Jünger’s Writings

By Alain de Benoist

Translated by Greg Johnson

 

In Jünger’s writings, four great Figures appear successively, each corresponding to a quite distinct period of the author’s life. They are, chronologically, the Front Soldier, the Worker, the Rebel, and the Anarch. Through these Figures one can divine the passionate interest Jünger has always held toward the world of forms. Forms, for him, cannot result from chance occurrences in the sensible world. Rather, forms guide, on various levels, the ways sensible beings express themselves: the “history” of the world is above all morphogenesis. As an entomologist, moreover, Jünger was naturally inclined to classifications. Beyond the individual, he identifies the species or the kind. One can see here a subtle sort of challenge to individualism: “The unique and the typical exclude one another,” he writes. Thus, as Jünger sees it, the universe is one where Figures give epochs their metaphysical significance. In this brief esposition, I would like to compare and contrast the great Figures identified by Jünger.

* * *

The Front Soldier (Frontsoldat) is first of all a witness to the end of classical wars: wars that gave priority to the chivalrous gesture, that were organized around the concepts of glory and honor, that generally spared civilians, and that distinguished clearly between the Front and the Rear. “Though once we crouched in bomb craters, we still believed,” Jünger said, “that man was stronger than material. That proved to be an error.” Indeed, from then on, the “material” counted more than the human factor. This material factor signifies the irruption and dominion of technology. Technology imposes its own law, the law of impersonality and total war—a war simultaneously massive and abstract in its cruelty. At the same time, the Soldier becomes an impersonal actor. His very heroism is impersonal, because what counts most for him is no longer the goal or outcome of combat. It is not to win or lose, live or die. What counts is the spiritual disposition that leads him to accept his anonymous sacrifice. In this sense, the Front Soldier is by definition an Unknown Soldier, who forms a body, in all senses of the term, with the unit to which he belongs, like a tree which is not only a part but an exemplary incarnation of the forest.

The same applies to the Worker, who appears in 1932, in the famous book of that name, whose subtitle is: “Dominion and Figure.”[1] The common element of the Soldier and Worker is active impersonnality. They too are children of technology. Because the same technology that transformed war into monotonous “work,” drowning the chivalrous spirit in the mud of the trenches, has also transformed the world into a vast workshop where man is henceforth completely enthralled[2] by the imperatives of productivity. Soldier and Worker, finally, have the same enemy: the contemptible bourgeois liberal, the “last man” announced by Nietzsche, who venerates moral order, utility, and profit. Also the Worker and the Soldier back from the Front both want to destroy in order to create, to give up the last shreds of individualism in order to found a new world on the ruins of the old “petrified form of life.”

However, while the Soldier was only the passive object of the reign of technology, the Worker aims actively to identify himself with it. Far from being its object, or submitting to its manifestations, the Worker, on the contrary, seeks in all conscience to endorse the power of technology that he thinks will abolish the differences between the classes, as well as between peace and war, civilian and military. The Worker is no longer one who is “sacrificed to carry the burdens in the great deserts of fire,” as Jünger still put it in the The Forest Path,[3] but a being entirely devoted to “total mobilization.”[4] Thus the Figure of the Worker goes far beyond the Type of the Front Soldier. For the Worker—who dreams all the while of a Spartan, Prussian, or Bolshevik life, where the individual would be definitively outclassed by the Type—the Great War was only the anvil where another way of being in the world was forged. The Front Soldier limited himself in order to embody new norms of collective existence. The Worker, for his part, intends to transplant them into civilian life, to make them the law of the whole society.

The Worker is thus not merely the man who works (the most common meaning), any more than he is the man of a social class, i.e., of a given economic category (the historical meaning). He is the Worker in a metaphysical sense: the one who reveals Work as the general law of a world that devotes itself entirely to efficiency and productivity, even in leisure and rest.

The elements of Jünger’s worldview—his aesthetic and voluntarist conception of technology, his decisionism of every moment, the opposition of the Worker to the bourgeois, the Nietzschean will “to transvalue all values” which already underlay Jünger’s “soldatic nationalism” of the Twenties—are sometimes summarized with the phrase “heroic realism.” However, under the influence of events, Jünger’s reflection would soon undergo a decisive inflection, which took it in another direction.

The turn corresponds to the novel On the Marble Cliffs,[5] published in 1939. The heroes of the story, two brothers, herbalists from the Great Marina who recoil in horror at the inexorable outcome of the Great Forester’s enterprise, discover that there are weapons stronger than those that pierce and kill. Jünger, at that time, was not only informed by the rise of Nazism, he was influenced by his brother, Friedrich Georg Jünger, who in a famous book[6] was one of the first to work out a radical critique of the technological framework.[7] As children of technology, the Soldier and especially the Worker were on the side of the Titans. Yet Ernst Jünger came to see that the Titanic reign of the elemental leads straight to nihilism. He understood that the world should be neither interpreted nor changed, but viewed as the very source of the unveiling of truth (aletheia). He understood that technology is not necessarily antagonistic to bourgeois values, and that it transforms the world only by globalizing the desert. He understood that, behind history, timelessness returns to more essential categories, and that human time, marked off by the wheels of the watch, is an “imaginary time,” founded on an artifice that made men forgetful of their belonging to the world, a time that fixes the nature of their projects instead of being fixed by them, unlike the hourglass, the “elementary clock” whose flow obeys natural laws—a cyclic not a linear time. Jünger, in other words, realized that the outburst of the Titans is first and foremost a revolt against the gods. This is why he dismissed Prometheus. The collective Figures were succeeded by personal ones.

Against totalitarian despotism, the heroes of On the Marble Cliffs chose withdrawal, taking a distance. By this, they already announced the attitude of the Rebel, of whom Jünger would write: “The Rebel is . . . whoever the law of his nature puts in relation to freedom, a relation that in time brings him to a revolt against automatism and a refusal to accept its ethical consequence, fatalism.”

One sees by this that the Figure of the Rebel is directly connected to a meditation on freedom—and also on exclusion, since the Rebel is equally an outlaw. The Rebel is still a combatant, like the Front Soldier, but he is a combatant who repudiates active impersonnality, because he intends to preserve his freedom with respect to the cause he defends. In this sense, the Rebel cannot be identified with one system or another, even the one for which he fights. He is not at ease in any them. If the Rebel chooses marginalization, it is above all to guard against the forces of destruction, to break the encirclement, one might say, using a military metaphor that Jünger himself employs when he writes: “The incredible encirclement of man was prepared long ago by the theories that aim at giving a flawless logical explanation of the world and that march in lockstep with the development of technology.”

“The mysterious way goes towards the interior,” said Novalis. The Rebel is an emigrant to the interior, who seeks to preserve his freedom in the heart of the forests where “paths that go nowhere” intersect. This refuge, however, is ambiguous, because this sanctuary of organic life not yet absorbed by the mechanization of the world, represents—to the precise extent that it constitutes a universe foreign to human norms—the “great house of death, the very seat of the destructive danger.” Hence the position of the Rebel can only be provisional.

The last Figure, whom Jünger calls the Anarch, first appeared in 1977 in Eumeswil,[8] a “postmodern” novel intended as a sequel to Heliopolis[9] and set in the third millennium. Venator, the hero, no longer needs to resort to the forest to remain untouched by the ambient nihilism. It is enough for him to have reached an elevation that allows him to observe everything from a distance without needing to move away. Typical in this respect is his attitude toward power. Whereas the anarchist wants to abolish power, the Anarch is content to break all ties to it. The Anarch is not the enemy of power or authority, but he does not seek them, because he does not need them to become who he is. The Anarch is sovereign of himself—which amounts to saying that he shows the distance that exists between sovereignty, which does not require power, and power, which never confers sovereignty. “The Anarch,” Jünger writes, “is not the partner of the monarch, but his antipode, the man that power cannot grasp but is also dangerous to it. He is not the adversary of the monarch, but his opposite.” A true chameleon, the Anarch adapts to all things, because nothing reaches him. He is in service of history while being beyond it. He lives in all times at once, present, past, and future. Having crossed “the wall of time,” he is in the position of the pole star, which remains fixed while the whole starry vault turns around it, the central axis or hub, the “center of the wheel where time is abolished.” Thus, he can watch over the “clearing” which represents the place and occasion for the return of the gods. From this, one can see, as Claude Lavaud writes regarding Heidegger, that salvation lies “in hanging back, rather than crossing over; in contemplation, not in calculation; in the commemorative piety that opens thought to the revealing and concealing that together are the essence of aletheia.”[10]

What distinguishes the Rebel from the Anarch, is thus the quality of their voluntary marginalization: horizontal withdrawal for the first, vertical withdrawal for the second. The Rebel needs to take refuge in the forest, because he is a man without power or sovereignty, and because it is only there that he retains the conditions of his freedom. The Anarch himself is also without power, but it is precisely because he is without power that he is sovereign. The Rebel is still in revolt, while the Anarch is beyond revolt. The Rebel carries on in secret—he hides in the shadows—while the Anarch remains in plain sight. Finally, whereas the Rebel is banished by society, the Anarch banishes himself. He is not excluded; he is emancipated.

* * *

The advent of the Rebel and Anarch relegated the memory of the Front Soldier to the background, but it did not end the reign of the Worker. Admittedly, Jünger changed his opinion of what we should expect, but the conviction that this Figure really dominates today’s world was never abandoned. The Worker, defined as the “chief Titan who traverses the scene of our time,” is really the son of the Earth, the child of Prometheus. He incarnates this “telluric” power of which modern technology is the instrument. He is also a metaphysical Figure, because modern technology is nothing other than the realized essence of a metaphysics that sets man up as the master of a world transformed into an object. And with man, the Worker maintains a dialectic of possession: the Worker possesses man to the very extent that man believes he possesses the world by identifying himself with the Worker.

However, to the precise extent that they are the representatives of the elementary and telluric powers, the Titans continue to carry a message whose meaning orders our existence. Jünger no longer regards them as allies, but neither does he regard them as enemies. As is his habit, Jünger is a seismograph: he has a presentiment that the reign of the Titans announces the return of the gods, and that nihilism is a necessary part of the passage towards the regeneration of the world. To finish with nihilism, we must live it to its end—“passing the line” which corresponds to the “meridian zero”—because, as Heidegger says, the technological framework[11] (Ge-stell) is still a mode of being, not merely of its oblivion. This is why, if Jünger sees the Worker as a danger, he also says that this danger can be our salvation, because it is by it and through it, that it will be possible to exhaust the danger.

* * *

It is easy to see what differentiates the two couples formed, on the one hand, by the Front Soldier and the Worker, and on the other, by the Rebel and the Anarch. But one would be wrong to conclude from this that the “second Jünger,” of On the Marble Cliffs, is the antithesis of the first. Rather, this “second Jünger” actually represents a development, which was given a free course, of an inclination present from the beginning but obscured by the work of the writer-soldier and the nationalist polemicist. In Jünger’s first books, as well as in Battle as Inner Experience [12] and Storm,[13] one actually sees, between the lines of the narrative, an undeniable tendency toward the vita contemplativa. From the beginning, Jünger expresses a yearning for meditative reflection that descriptions of combat or calls to action cannot mask. This yearning is particularly evident in the first version of The Adventurous Heart,[14] where one can read not only a concern for a certain literary poetry, but also a reflection—that one could describe as both mineral and crystalline—on the immutability of things and on that which, in the very heart of the present, raises us up to cosmic signs and a recognition of the infinite, thus nurturing the “stereoscopic vision” in which two flat images merge into a single image to reveal the dimension of depth.

There is thus no contradiction between the four Figures, but only a progressive deepening, a kind of increasingly fine sketch that led Jünger, initially an actor of his time, then a judge and critic of his time, to place himself finally above his time in order to testify to what came before his century and what will come after him.

In The Worker, one already reads: “The more we dedicate ourselves to change, the more we must be intimately persuaded that behind it hides a calm being.” Throughout his life, Jünger never ceased approaching this “calm being.” While passing from manifest action to apparent non-action—while going, one might say, from beings to Being—he achieved an existential progression that finally allowed him to occupy the place of the Anarch, the unmoving center, the “central point of the turning wheel” from which all movement proceeds.

Appendix: On Type and Figure [15]

In 1963, in his book entitled Type—Name—Figure,[16] Jünger writes: “Figure and Type are higher forms of vision. The conception of Figures confers a metaphysical power, the apprehension of Types an intellectual power.” We will reconsider this distinction between Figure and Type. But let us note immediately that Jünger connects the ability to distinguish them with a higher form of vision, i.e., with a vision that goes beyond immediate appearances to seek and identify archetypes. Moreover, he implies that this higher form of vision merges with its object, i.e., with the Figure and the Type. Furthermore, he specifies: “The Type does not appear in nature, or the Figure in the universe. Both must be deciphered in the phenomena, like a force in its effects or a text in its characters.” Finally, he affirms that there exists a “typifying power of the universe,” which “seeks to pierce through the undifferentiated,” and which “acts directly on vision,” causing an “ineffable knowledge: intuition,” then conferring a name: “The things do not bear a name, names are conferred upon them.”

This concern with transcending immediate appearances should not be misinterpreted. Jünger does not offer us a new version of the Platonic myth of the cave. He does not suggest seeking the traces of another world in this world. On the contrary, in The Worker, he already denounced “the dualism of the world and its systems.” Likewise, in his Paris Diaries,[17] he wrote: “The visible contains all the signs that lead to the invisible. And the existence of the latter must be demonstrable in the visible model.” Thus for Jünger, there is transcendence only in immanence. And when he intends to seek the “things that are behind things,” to use the expression he employs in his “Letter to the Man in the Moon,” it is while being convinced, like Novalis, that “the real is just as magical as the magical is real.”[18]

One would also err gravely by comparing the Type to a “concept” and the Figure to an “idea.” “A Type,” Jünger writes, “is always stronger than an idea, even more so than a concept.” Indeed, the Type is apprehended by vision, i.e., as image, whereas the concept can be grasped only by thought. Thus to apprehend the Figure or the Type is not to leave the sensible world for some other world that constitutes its first cause, but to seek in the sensible world the invisible dimension that constitutes the “typifying power”: “We recognize individuals: the Type acts as the matrix of our vision. . . . That really shows that it is not so much the Type that we perceive but, in it and behind it, the power of the typifying source.”

The German word for Figure is Gestalt, which one generally trans­lates as “form.”[19] The nuance is not unimportant, because it confirms that the Figure is anchored in the world of forms, i.e., in the sensible world, instead of being a Platonic idea, which would find in this world only its mediocre and deformed reflection. Goethe, in his time, was dismayed to learn that Schiller thought that his Ur-Plant (Urpflanze) (archetype) was an idea. The Figure is often misunder­stood in the very same way, as Jünger himself emphasized. The Figure is on the side of vision as it is on the side of Being, which is consub­stantial with the world. It is not on the side of verum, but of certum.

Let us now see what distinguishes the Figure and the Type. Compared to the Figure, which is more inclusive but also fuzzier, the Type is more limited. Its contours are relatively neat, which makes it a kind of intermediary between the phenomenon and the Figure: “It is,” says Jünger, “the model image of the phenomenon and the guarantor image of the Figure.” The Figure has a greater extension than the Type. It exceeds the Type, as the matrix that gives the form exceeds the form. In addition, if the Type qualifies a group, the Figure tends rather to qualify a reign or an epoch. Different Types can coexist alongside each other in the same time and place, but there is room for only one Figure. From this point of view, the relationship between the Figure and the Type is comparable to that of the One and the many. (This is why Jünger writes: “Monotheism can know, strictly speaking, only one Figure. That is why it demotes the gods to the rank of Types.”) That amounts to saying that the Figure is not only a more extensive Type, but that there is also a difference in nature between the Figure and the Type. The Figure can also give rise to Types, assigning them a mission and a meaning. Jünger gives the example of the ocean as an expanse distinct from all the specific seas: “The Ocean is formative of Types; it does not have a Type, it is a Figure.”

Can man set up a Figure like he does a Type? Jünger says that there is no single answer to this question, but nevertheless he tends to the negative. “The Figure,” he writes, “can be sustained, but not set up.” This means that the Figure can be neither conjured by words nor confined by thought. Whereas man can easily name Types, it is much more difficult to do anything with a Figure: “The risk is more singificant, because one approaches the undifferentiated to a greater extent than in naming Types.” The Type depends on man, who adapts it by naming it, whereas the Figure cannot be made our own. “The naming of Types,” Jünger stresses, “depends on man taking possession. On the other hand, when a Figure is named, we are right to suppose that it first takes possession of man.” Man has no access to the “homeland of Figures”: “What is conceived as a Figure is already configured.”

Insofar as it is of the metaphysical order, a Figure appears suddenly. It gives man a sign, leaving him free to ignore or recognize it. But man cannot grasp it by intuition alone. To know or to recognize a Figure implies a more profound contact, comparable to the grasp of kinship. Jünger does not hesitate here to speak about “divination.” A Figure is unveiled, released from oblivion, in the Heideggerian sense—released from the deepest levels of the undifferentiated, says Jünger—by the presence of Being. But at the same time, as it reveals itself, as it rises to appearance and effective power, it “loses its essence”—like a god who chooses to incarnate himself in human form. Only this “devaluation” of its ontological status makes it possible for man to know what connects him to a Figure that he cannot grasp by thought or by name. Thus the Figure is the “highest representation that man can make of the ineffable and its power.”

In light of the preceeding, can one say that the four Jüngerian Figures are really Figures and not Types? In all rigor, only the Worker fully answers the definition of a Figure insofar as he describes an epoch. The Soldier, the Rebel, and the Anarch would instead be Types.

Jünger writes that, for man, the ability to set up Types proceeds from a “magic power.” He also notes that nowadays this human aptitude is declining and suggests that we are seeing the rise of the undifferentiated, i.e., a “deterioration of Types,” the most visible sign that the old world is giving way to a new one, whose Types have not yet appeared and thus still cannot be named. “To manage to conceive new Types,” he writes, “the spirit must melt the old ones. . . . It is only in the glimmer of the dawn that the undifferentiated can receive new names.” This is why, in the end, he wants to be confident: “It is foreseeable that man will recover his aptitude to set up Types and will thus return to his supreme competence.”

Notes

  1. Ernst Jünger, Der Arbeiter: Herrschaft und Gestalt [The Worker: Dominion and Figure] (Hamburg: Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt, 1932).
  2. The French is “arraisonne.” Here the verb arraisonner has the sense of “to enthrall,” with the dual sense of “to capture” and “to captivate.” Later in this essay, Benoist uses “arraisonnement” as equivalent to Heidegger’s “Gestell” or “Ge-stell,” which is usually translated into English as “enframing.” According to Heidegger, the Gestell is the view of the world as a stockpile (Bestand) of resources for human manipulation. Heidegger calls the Gestell the “essence” of technology, because it is the worldview that makes modern technological civilization possible. See Martin Heidegger, “The Question Concerning Technology,” trans. William Lovitt, in Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings, ed. David Farrell Krell, 2nd ed. (New York: Harper, 1993)—Ed.
  3. Ernst Jünger, Der Waldgang [The Forest Path] (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1951)—Ed.
  4. Ernst Jünger, Die totale Mobilmachung (Berlin: Verlag der Zeitkritik, 1931); English translation: “Total Mobilization,” trans. Joel Golb and Richard Wolin, in Richard Wolin, ed., The Heidegger Controversy: A Critical Reader (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991)—Ed.
  5. Ernst Jünger, Auf den Marmorklippen (Hamburg: Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt, 1939); English translation: On the Marble Cliffs: A Novel, trans. Stuart Hood (London: John Lehman, 1947).
  6. Friedrich Georg Jünger, Die Perfektion der Technik [The Perfection of Technology] (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1946); English translation: The Failure of Technology: Perfection Without Purpose, trans. F. D. Wieck (Hinsdale, Ill.: Henry Regnery, 1949).
  7. “l’arraisonnement technicien”—Ed.
  8. Ernst Jünger, Eumeswil (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1977); English translation: Eumeswil, trans. Joachim Neugroschel (New York: Marsilio, 1993).
  9. Ernst Jünger, Heliopolis: Rückblick auf eine Stadt [Heliopolis: Review of a City] (Tübingen: Heliopolis, 1949)—Ed.
  10. “‘Über die Linie’: Penser l’être dans l’ombre du nihilisme” [“‘Over the Line’: Thinking of Being in the Shadow of Nihilism”], in Les Carnets Ernst Jünger 1 (1996), 49.
  11. “l’arraisonnement”—Ed.
  12. Ernst Jünger, Der Kampf als inneres Erlebnis [Battle as Inner Experience] (Berlin: Mittler, 1922)—Ed.
  13. Ernst Jünger, Sturm [Storm] (written 1923) (Stuttgart: Ernst Klett, 1978)—Ed.
  14. Ernst Jünger, Das Abenteuerliche Herz: Aufzeichnungen bei Tag und Nacht [The Adventurous Heart: Sketches by Day and Night] (Berlin: Frundsberg, 1929).
  15. The following Appendix is section one of the original lecture, followed by the last paragraph of section three—Ed.
  16. Ernst Jünger, Typus—Name—Gestalt (Stuttgart: Ernst Klett, 1963).
  17. In Ernst Jünger, Strahlungen [Emanations] (Tübingen: Heliopolis, 1949). In English: The Paris Diaries: 19411942, trans. M. Hulse (London: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1992)—Ed.
  18. Ernst Jünger, “Sizilischer Brief an den Mann im Mond” [“Sicilian Letter to the Man in the Moon”], in Blätter und Steine [Leaves and Stones] (Hamburg: Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt, 1934).
  19. The first volume of Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West (1916) already bore the subtitle: Gestalt und Wirklichkeit [Form and Reality]. “Gestalt,” writes Gilbert Merlio, “is the Form of forms, what ‘informs’ reality in the manner of the Aristotelian entelechy; it is the morphological unity that one perceives beneath the diversity of historical reality, the formative idea (or Urpflanze!) that gives it coherence and direction” (“Les images du guerrier chez Ernst Jünger” [“The Images of the Warrior in Ernst Jünger”], in Danièle Beltran-Vidal, ed., Images d’Ernst Jünger [Images of Ernst Jünger] [Berne: Peter Lang, 1996], 35).

 

Source: “Types et figures dans l’oeuvre d’Ernst Jünger: Le Soldat du front, le Travailleur, le Rebelle et l’Anarque,” was originally presented as a lecture in Rome in May 1997.

—————

De Benoist, Alain. “Soldier, Worker, Rebel, Anarch: Types & Figures in Ernst Jünger’s Writings.” Counter-Currents Publishing, 29 March 2011. <http://www.counter-currents.com/2011/03/soldier-worker-rebel-anarch/ >.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under New European Conservative

Kameradschaftsbund: History of Czech-German relationship – Novotný

“Kameradschaftsbund: Contribution to the history of Czech-German relationship” by Lukáš Novotný (PDF – 2.3 MB & 2.4 MB):

Kameradschaftsbund – Contribution to the history of Czech-German relationship (Part 1)

Kameradschaftsbund – Contribution to the history of Czech-German relationship (Part 2)

————-

NOVOTNÝ, Lukáš: “Kameradschaftsbund. Contribution to the history of Czech-German relationship (Part one).” In: Prague Papers on the History of International Relations, Prague – Vienna, Institute of World History, Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Charles University Prague [Filozofická fakulta Univerzity Karlovy v Praze] – Institute of World European History, Faculty of Historical and Cultural Sciences, University of Vienna, 2008, s. 291–309. ISBN 978-80-7308-254-3. <http://usd.ff.cuni.cz/?q=system/files/novotny%20kamerad.pdf >.

NOVOTNÝ, Lukáš: “Kameradschaftsbund. A Contribution to the History of the Czech-German Relationship (Part two).” In: Prague Papers on the History of International Relations, Prague – Vienna, Institute of World History, Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Charles University Prague [Filozofická fakulta Univerzity Karlovy v Praze] – Institute of World European History, Faculty of Historical and Cultural Sciences, University of Vienna, 2009, s. 387–405. ISSN 1803-7356. ISBN 978-80-7308-296-3. <http://usd.ff.cuni.cz/?q=system/files/novotny%20kamarad.pdf >.

Note: See also “Othmar Spann: A Catholic Radical Traditionalist” by Lucian Tudor: <https://neweuropeanconservative.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/othmar-spann-tudor/ >.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under New European Conservative

Intro to Spengler – Borthwick

Historian of the Future: An Introduction to Oswald Spengler’s Life and Works  for the Curious Passer-by and the Interested Student

By Stephen M. Borthwick

 

There have been two resurgences in the popularity of Oswald Spengler since the initial blooming of his popularity in the 1920s; the first in the 1980s and the second most recently, with almost ten major books dealing directly with him or his thought published in the last ten years, and more articles in various academic journals. It is a resurgence in the popular mind that may yet be matched in the academy, where Spengler has hardly been obscure but nevertheless an unknown—a forbidden intellectual fruit for what was, in the words of Henry Stuart Hughes, his first English-language biographer, “obviously not a respectable performance from the standpoint of scholarship” calling Decline of the West, in form typical to Hughes’ species “a massive stumbling block in the path to true knowledge”.[1] This is a pervasive attitude amongst academics, whose fields, especially history, are dominated by a specialisation that Spengler’s history defies with its broad perspective and positivist influences. As such when Spengler’s magnum opus first appeared, it was immediately subject to what in popular parlance can only qualify as nit-picking, which did not cease when the author corrected what factual errors could be found in his initial text. Nevertheless, in the popular mind Spengler has remained an influential if obscure author. Most recently, his unique, isolated civilisations encapsulated in their own history has been observed in Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order, though the development of civilisations from Mediterranean to Western that he paints resembles the dominant theory posited by William McNeill in his Rise of the West rather than Spengler’s Decline of the West. Nevertheless, Spengler’s theory of encapsulated cultural organisms growing up next to one another, advanced by subsequent authors like Toynbee, remains a stirring line of thought, growing more relevant in the rising conflict between Western countries and the resurging Islamic world.

To understand this adversity that Spengler’s ideas struggle against in the academic establishment, and therefore to know why his ideas have filtered through the decades but left his name and book behind, it is necessary to do what very few academics dare to do: to explore and openly discuss the significance of Spengler’s thought. This is the project of this essay; to explain to any who have recently discovered Spengler, especially if they are a college student or college graduate, why they have never heard the name “Spengler” before, and what his thought entails at its most basic level. This discussion will deal not just with Spengler’s most famous work, Der Untergang des Abendlandes (“The Downfall of the Occident”, popularly known as Decline of the West, after C.F. Atkinson’s translation) but also with his numerous political pamphlets and subsequent works of philosophy and history. His philosophical texts include, chiefly: Man and Technics, a specialised focus expanding on the relationship of the human being and the age of technology in which we live already mentioned in Decline, The Hour of Decision, which foresees the overthrow of the Western world by what today would be called the “Third World”, or what Spengler refers to as the “Coloured World”, and Prussianism and Socialism, his first major political text, prescribing the exact form of political structure needed, in his view, to save Germany immediately after the First World War. Numerous other texts, published by C.H. Beck in Munich, also exist, compiled in two primary collections, Politischen Schriften (“Political Writings”) of 1934 and posthumous Reden und Aufsätze (“Speeches and Essays”) of 1936; these are joined by Gedanken (“Reflections”), also of 1936. His unfinished works, posthumously collected and titled by chief Spengler scholar Anton Koktanek in the 1960s, Urfragen and Frühzeit der Weltgeschichte, will not be touched upon in this brief introduction, since they are not available in the English language, but readers fluent in German are encouraged to explore them as well as Koktanek’s other works.

On the assumption that without understanding a man, one cannot grasp his thought, it seems most appropriate to begin any exploration of Spengler the philosopher with Spengler the man. Spengler was a conservative first, then a German nationalist, then a pessimist (though he regarded himself as a consummate realist). Further, he was one of the few men (if not the only man) to meet Adolf Hitler and come away completely unmoved by the demagogue and future dictator of Germany. He openly attacked National Socialism as “the tendency not to want to see and master sober reality, but instead to conceal it with… a party-theatre of flags, parades, and uniforms and to fake hard facts with theories and programmes” and declared that what Germany needed was “a hero, not merely a heroic tenor.”[2] Nevertheless, when voting in the 1932 elections, Spengler, along with some 13.5 million other Germans, cast his ballot for the National Socialist ticket; he explained his choice to friends by saying enigmatically “Hitler is an idiot—but one must support the movement.”[3] At the time people speculated what he meant, and have subsequently continued to speculate to what he was referring when he said “the movement”, especially after his sustained criticisms of National Socialism well into what other Germans were experiencing as “the German Rebirth” in the years between 1933 and his death in 1936.

Spengler’s sustained pessimism about the National Socialist future (he remarked sarcastically shortly before his death that “in ten years the German Reich will probably no longer exist”) is reflective of a realism he had well before the beginning of the First World War, when the idea that would become Decline of the West were first conceived shortly after the Agadir crisis in 1911. Spengler lived and wrote largely in unhappy times; his chief contributions were made in Germany’s darkest hours of the interwar period, dominated by an unstable, incompetent government, extraordinary tributes exacted by the victorious allies, and as a result unrivalled poverty, inflation, and unemployment while the former Allied Powers (save for Italy) were experiencing the so-called “Roaring ‘20s”. He was born and he died, however, in times when things were looking bright. Few regular Germans in 1936 could or did foresee the barbarity of Hitler’s reign, five gruelling years of World War and the planned extermination of non-“Aryans” in conquered territories as well as at home, just as Wilhelmine Germany was oblivious to the consequences of the First World War almost right through it. All that the Germans saw was Germany, their Germany, was on the rise! In 1880, when the young Oswald was born to Bernhard Spengler and his wife Pauline, the German Empire was led by Kaiser Wilhelm I and his Iron Chancellor Bismarck, and the German Reich was still celebrating its formation and the unification of the German nation. Aside from the tribulation of the “year of three emperors” when the young Oswald was eight, there was no reason for the average German to worry about catastrophe: the kindly old Kaiser Wilhelm was replaced by his young, virulent grandson, Wilhelm II, who promised his people “a place in the Sun”. Later, in 1936, when the now established scholar died in his sleep of a heart-attack, the German people were again in good spirits; from the popular perspective, all they could see was that they at last had jobs again, inflation no longer loomed as so painful a memory, their shattered Reich was being rebuilt, and someone had finally reasserted German control over the Rhineland and the Saar—where the memory of the insulting use of colonial occupation forces by the French, and the various abuses civilians suffered during the occupation, still lingered in the German mind.

Early Life (From Youth to Decline, 1880-1917)

All of this blithe cheerfulness and celebration, though, did not affect either the young or the old Oswald Spengler. The opening chapter of Koktanek’s biography of him is titled “Ursprung und Urangst” – “Origin and Original Anxiety”, and not without good reason. Throughout his life, Spengler suffered a nervous affliction and anxiety, leading to chronic headaches in later years so bad that they caused minor short-term memory loss. He would later reflect in his planned autobiography that in his youth he had “no friends, with one exception, [and] no love: a few sudden, stupid [infatuations], fearful of the bond [of relationship]. [I had] only yearning and melancholy.”[4] His home life was similarly dismal. John Farrenkopf characterises it as the typical bourgeois home of the period; his father, a former copper miner turned civil servant, was proud of the Fatherland, conservative in social attitudes, and generally took for granted his loyalty to the Prussian State. It was, in Spengler’s own eyes, a cold place, and an unhappy one. Spengler remarked that his parents were “unliterarisch”—“unlettered, unliterary”—and they “never opened our bookcase nor bought a book”; he himself developed an early love for reading, which earned him ire from his father, of whom he wrote was characterised by a “hatred for all recreation, most of all books”.[5] Despite his newspaper reading and bourgeois sensibilities, though, Bernhard Spengler rarely raised the topic of politics in the household, and young Oswald was only exposed to the workings of the State by outside influences. He would break from this aloofness of politics only once in his life, shrinking after his failure back into scholastic and theoretical efforts to influence the political climate.

Spengler’s mother led an unhappy life; she married Bernhard, it would seem, out of convenience rather than deep feeling, and bitter about her lot. Originally from the famous Grantzow clan of ballerinas and ballet masters, Pauline Spengler was prevented from ballet and the stage because of her figure, and then forced to leave her beloved home town, the quiet hamlet of Blanckenburg in the Harz mountains, for the bustling Hessian city of Halle-an-der-Saale when young Oswald was ten and her husband changed his trade from mining to postal work (a change he was not especially excited about, either). She displayed her dissatisfaction by brooding over her painting (an effort to cling to what artistry she could maintain in competition with her sisters) and playing petty tyrant over her children.

The young Spengler escaped this life through fantasy and fiction, inventing imaginary kingdoms and world-empires and writing childish theatre-plays with echoes of Wagner. He found further escape after he began his schooling at the Latina, administered by the Franckean Foundation in Halle, where he formally studied Greek and Latin, but in his free time devoured Goethe and Schiller, the first of literary influences that would later be joined by such eclectic writers as William Shakespeare, Gerhart Hauptmann, Henrik Ibsen, Maksim Gorky, Honoré de Balzac, Heinrich von Kleist, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Friedrich Hebbel, Heinrich Heine, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Émile Zola, Gutave Flaubert, and others.[6] Spengler complained of the Franckean focus on Greek and Latin that prevented him from learning “practical languages”, and he was forced as a result to teach himself French, English, Italian, and, later, during his university days, Russian, through reading authors in those languages. His fluency in the languages was astounding to many, but he himself never felt comfortable enough with them to correspond with many of the authors he would later read and who would bring to bear influence on his own magnum opus in their own languages. Anton Koktanek blames this anxiety and lack of formal training in modern foreign languages for Spengler remaining “a German phenomenon”.[7]

Spengler’s interest in world history and contemporary history also began here, and added to the fiction he wrote, including a short story set in the Russo-Japanese War titled Der Sieger as well as poetry, librettos, dramatic sketches, and other notes and such, most of which he would commit to the flames in 1911.[8] At University, he read the entirety of Goethe’s corpus and discovered two men who would bear tremendous influence on his later writing: Arthur Schopenhauer, and Friedrich Nietzsche. He would also become a devotee of Richard Wagner during this time, declaring his favourite work to be Tristan and Isolde.[9] His interest in Nietzsche especially would have great bearing on his choice of thesis topic, the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus.

Spengler’s father died in 1901, just as Oswald was beginning University studies. He was by and large emotionally unaffected by the loss, and began all the more focusing on his studies. Like most students at University in those days, Spengler matriculated at several Universities while formally enrolled at the University of Halle. First, he travelled to Munich, a city with which he would fall in love and later make his home. Subsequently he would also study at the University of Berlin and then returned to Halle to complete his dissertation topic, entitled “Heraklit: eine Studie über den energetischen Grundgedanken seiner Philosophie” (“Heraclitus: A Study of the Energetic Fundamental Thought of his Philosophy”). It was, as Klaus Fischer observes, “a daring subject for a young scholar because Heraclitus had only left a few and highly cryptic fragments of his thought.”[10] Spengler, however, dared, and presented the first form of his thesis in 1903, but failed the oral defence. Despite his own typically depressed personality, however, he was not downtrodden at the failure; rather, he agreed with almost every criticism that was offered against his work—in his autobiography he called himself “naïve”. He had not, as most biographers observe, consulted any professors on his thesis before submitting it, and therefore had made errors and omissions that one only really avoids from consultation and discussion of one’s work.[11] The primary complaint was his lack of citations. He would repeat this mistake with the first edition of Decline of the West in 1917, writing the book entirely alone and isolated from the outside world—after initial criticism of the book he would revisit and largely revise the text, such that when it arrived in second edition in 1922 he had fixed most of his errors, but did not, as the academics insisted he should, increase the number of citations.

Spengler received his Ph.D. in 1904 and immediately went on to pass State examinations in a number of subjects that allowed him to become a Gymnasium teacher. His first assignment was a major turning point in his life, when he resolved not to be a teacher after stepping off the train in the little town of Lüneburg, taking a glance about at the town and the school and realising how terribly provincial his life would be. Spengler promptly boarded a train for his home town of Blankenburg and had a nervous breakdown. From this point forward he resolved to use teaching as a support for his true passions of study and writing. He recovered from his breakdown and took a different assignment, this time in Saarbrücken, happy to be so close to the French border that would allow him to take several holidays in France.[12] After a year there, he moved on to Düsseldorf, where he taught for another year before taking on a permanent (or so it appeared at the time) position in Hamburg.

Spengler flourished in these cities of big industry and metropolitan life—despite his writings criticising money power and the soul-stealing metropolis, Spengler remained a cosmopolitan urbanite throughout his life. An attestation to this aspect of his personality is his behaviour while teaching. Spengler remembered his days in the Franckean Latina with mixed disdain for the parochial moralists he had as teachers and gratitude for the training he received. He resolved, in the words of Klaus Fischer, “to avoid the foibles commonly attributed to schoolteachers: pedantry, narrow provincialism, and incivility” and made an effort to keep himself fully attuned to the petty culture of fashion and the latest advances in his scholarly fields (he taught German, mathematics, and geography). He would also frequent the theatre (where he would weep easily at especially moving plots and concertos) and local museums—in Düsseldorf he was even spotted frequently in the casino, a place quite foreign to most schoolteachers![13] His time in teaching, however, was short-lived. By almost all accounts Spengler hated Hamburg, not for itself, nor because he disliked the people, his colleagues or his students—indeed in all these respects he was well-respected and well-loved and returned these feelings of affection—but because of the weather. The cold, wet north German city terrorised him, increasing the acuteness and the frequency of his chronic headaches to such a degree that he took a year sabbatical in 1911 from which he would never return. His immediate plans were a holiday in Italy, where he would sojourn frequently in imitation of Goethe.[14]

His complete departure from teaching, much to the disappointment of both colleagues and students, who regarded him as a superlative teacher and amicable fellow, was by and large decided by his mother’s death in 1910. He had little regard for his mother, who psychologically tortured his sister Gertrude, disdained his other sister Hildegard, and was no kinder to his beloved sister Adele.[15] While he marked his father’s passing in 1901 with reflections of the latter’s loyalty to Prussia, his mother’s death was marked only with his inheritance and departure from his childhood home, leaving his sister Adele to dissolve the household.[16] Adele, a frustrated bohemian and largely talentless aspiring virtuoso, quickly spent the 30,000DM she inherited and committed suicide in 1917. Oswald’s inheritance, on the other hand, was wisely invested and used with some measure of thrift, giving him a comfortable lifestyle in Munich and allowing him to pursue his desire to be a writer.

At first, Spengler hadn’t the slightest idea what to write about. In Heraklit he displayed some of the budding thought which came to fruition as his magnum opus, to be sure. In one of the thicker sections of notes for Eis Heauton, the author proclaims that “my great book, Untergang des Abendlandes, was already emotionally conceived in my twentieth year” (four years before he would submit his doctoral thesis).[17] Farrenkopf observes that Spengler’s dissertation bears the marks of Decline as well, declaring that “what Spengler later attempted as a philosopher of history is analogous to what he claimed Heraclitus had accomplished in Greek philosophy”.[18] The true inspiration for Decline, however, came not from Heraclitus nor from Goethe or Nietzsche; nor did it come to him, as it did with Gibbon and Toynbee, from a physical visit to any landmarks. Rather, the genesis of Decline of the West was in a much different, political work titled Liberal and Conservative, which Spengler began writing in response to the Agadir Crisis of 1911.

Agadir, briefly put, was an attempt on the part of Kaiser Wilhelm II to imitate the American support of the Panamanian rebellion against Columbia, which was accomplished by placing the American fleet off the coast of Panama to prevent Columbian intervention. When Moroccans rebelled against the puppet Sultan Abdelhafid after years of allowing his country to be exploited by European powers, the French offered to support Fez by sending in troops. Wilhelm attempted to assert German interests in the region by sending the gunboat Panther to the harbour of Agadir, much to the chagrin of the French, who would later take over Morocco as part of their colonial Empire, and the British, who viewed the act as a challenge to their own power and a threat to peace in Europe. The end result of the whole event was a strengthened Entente cordiale that would eventually become the Allied Powers in the First World War.

Spengler was keenly aware of the situation at the time, and took on the task of writing a book on the subject that would contrast German and British world-aims and national spirits. The general thrust of this work would become his later work Prussianism and Socialism of 1919, but as he worked on Liberal and Conservative, he found his topic broadening more and more, to the point where he was taking into account not the national rivalries of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but the great trials and tribulations of entire civilisations over the course of millennia. Thus the work transformed into the first volume of his Decline of the West, the title of which he probably derived from discovering Otto Seeck’s Geschichte des Untergangs der antiken Welt (“History of the Downfall of the Ancient World” or The History of the Decline of Antiquity) in a store-front window.[19] He would complete the work over the next few years, well into the World War, about which he maintained a positive outlook, to the extent that his introduction to the first volume of Decline, appearing in 1917, bore the hope of the author (omitted in Atkinson’s translation) that “this book might not stand entirely unworthy next to the military achievements of Germany.”[20]

The book that took shape was sweeping in scale, painting the picture of a broad history of mankind as the life cycle(s) of massive organisms to which Spengler gave two names: Kultur and Zivilisation, each representing the youth and the adulthood of the organism. These organisms passed through four seasons of life—(as Kultur) Spring, Summer, (as Zivilisation) Autumn, and Winter—before passing from existence and leaving the soil to which it is tied to give rise to a new organism. A more detailed discussion of the theory may be required before departing into Spengler’s life after the War and the publication of Decline.

Decline of the West and its Influences

Der Untergang des Abendlandes occurs as a part of a long tradition of German historical writing, dating from the early nineteenth century and in which the giants of the field, both famous and infamous, stand: G.W.F. Hegel, Karl Marx, Heinrich von Treitschke, Leopold von Ranke, Heinrich Friedjung, among others. It also occurs as a part of a long tradition of German philosophy and social thought, dating even further into history and starting, not with the rational Kant, but with the intuitive and romantic, sometimes quasi-mystical writings of Goethe, following to Nietzsche, Ferdinand Tönnies, Max Weber, and still more. More can be said of Spengler’s influences, and has been said in the works of Farrenkopf and Fischer on the subject, but a brief discussion of chief influences will be sufficient for our purposes.

If Spengler was the first to propose a World-Historical view, as he claims in the early pages of Decline, Leopold von Ranke preceded him by for the first time proposing a European-Historical view in his two-volume Deutsche Geschichte im Zeitalter der Reformation (“German History in the Age of Reformation”) of 1845/47.[21] Ranke wrote a history which belongs to a very specific school of historical inquiry, dependent on objectivity and a slice of historical fact drawn from primary source work with bearing only on that exact moment in history, showing things wie es eigentlich gewesen, as he proclaims in his 1824 work Geschichte der romanischen und germanischen Völker von 1494 bis 1514 (“History of the Latin and Teutonic Peoples, 1494-1514”). For all his efforts at objectivity in history, he was a firm believer in the balance of power of nation-states, and his loyalty to this state philosophy bleeds through in his writing. He is significant to Spengler in that both men sought to broaden historical inquiry into an objective rather than national project, and that Spengler was certainly beholden to the school of narrative historicism that Ranke would found, inasmuch as his project was heavily criticised by more loyal Rankeans than himself.

Spengler’s other major historical inheritance was G.W.F. Hegel, who stood with Ranke in his typical nineteenth century fascination with the nation-state but was completely opposed to Ranke’s objective, slice-of-history approach, demanding a broader view, and the ability to see the future in the past. Hegel was also a dedicated Prussian, much like Spengler’s father and Spengler himself—so much so, in fact, that he is among several German historians of preceding centuries who are mentioned by Shirer in his fumbling, attempt to link National Socialism and the Prussian state in Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. His declaration in Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts (“Elements of the Philosophy of Right”) that “the course of God in the world—that is the State—and its foundation is the mighty force of Reason actualising itself as Will” is reflected in Spengler’s own firm belief in the role of fate in the lifespan of Kultur-Zivilisation organisms.[22] Furthermore, like Hegel, Spengler’s history is a designated march to a designated end: for Hegel, the “end of history” is a progressive, linear movement from antiquity to modernity and the pinnacle of mankind’s development—a belief that has earned Hegel accusations of arrogance and stubbornness, among other things, from detractors. He would pass this view onto his student Karl Marx, who proclaimed the same progression, but from a strictly economic view, of modes of production through history, culminating in the elimination of alienation and the realisation of Species-being in Communism. The difference between the Hegelian and Marxian view of history and Spengler, however, is two-fold: while the given lifespan of a Kultur-Zivilisation organism can be viewed as linear, it is a downward motion rather than the upward motion Hegel and Marx see; further, there is no single linear history of all mankind, the way Hegel and Marx see it. Quite the contrary, Spengler echoes Goethe, declaring that “‘Mankind’ is a zoological concept or merely an empty word.”[23]

It seems contradictory, of course, that Spengler would reject that “mankind” exists while attempting very earnestly to write a “world-history.” As much as Spengler reflects Hegel and Ranke as historical predecessors, his views of the organism of society bear the marks of Ferdinand Tönnies, whose famous work Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft would practically found the discipline of sociology, influencing both Max Weber’s seminal The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism as well as Emile Durkheim’s functional theories of society.[24] Tönnies summarises his project in Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft in the very first page, saying “The connexion will be understood either as real and organic – this being the nature of the Gemeinschaft – or in an ideological and mechanistic form – this being the notion of Gesellschaft” and further summarising the difference between the two by saying that, “all that is familiar, private, living together exclusively (we find) is understood as life in a Gemeinschaft. Gesellschaft is the public sphere, it is the World”.[25]

Spengler’s structure of the communal, agrarian Kultur passing into individualised, urban Zivilisation has much in common with Tönnies’ conception of the organic Gemeinschaft and its artificial counterpart Gesellschaft. It is also important to bear in mind that the key to the Gemeinschaft/Gesellschaft schema is two-fold—both the contrast of the private with the public spheres as well as the organic with the artificial—when considering Spengler’s own contrast of the representative of Kultur, which is the “country-town” with the representative of Zivilisation, which is the megalopolis. As Spengler says himself, “long ago the country bore the country-town and nourished it with her best blood. Now the giant city sucks the country dry, insatiably and incessantly demanding and devouring fresh streams of men, till it wearies and dies in the midst of an almost uninhabited waste of country.”[26]

The contrast of the organic with the artificial, the personal with the impersonal, and the village with the city runs throughout Spengler’s whole structure. Spengler’s vision is two-fold: both the binary progression of Kultur crystallising and stagnating into Zivilisation as well the four-phase life cycle that all Kultur-Zivilisation structures (or, more properly, organisms) follow. Describing this, Spengler uses two sets of terms: organic terms, describing the actual birth, growth, decline, and death of the Kulture-Zivilization organism as a life form, and the fatalistic language for which he has been so criticised: he declares “the Civilisation is the inevitable destiny of a Culture… Civilisations are… a conclusion, the thing-become succeeding the thing-becoming, death following life”.[27] The central concept there—Werden and Gewordene, “becoming” and “become”—are ideas for which Spengler is deeply indebted (as he admits) to Goethe, and play strong role in the contrast he makes between the vivacious, developing Kultur and the stagnant, crystallised Zivilisation.[28]

These Kultur-Zivilisation organisms are detailed in three tables he includes in his work: the first details the passage of Spring-Summer-Autumn-Winter, which for the Occident begins in 900, after the Carolingian period and the final death of Antiquity, and ends (or begins to end) with modernity, completely the roughly thousand-year lifespan which Spengler assigns to his Kultur-Zivilisation organisms (except those of the far east). Each Kultur-Zivilisation organism has a symbol which accompanies it in the Kultur phase; for the West it is infinite space; for the Egyptian, the long corridor; the Semitic, the cavern; the Greeks, the idealised statue, etc. Spengler also specifically names three of the “souls” of these organisms with especial bearing on the Occident. The West itself is “Faustian” defined by Goethe’s own character and his constant outward-reaching for knowledge and more; Antiquity, which the West has replaced, is “Apollonian”, a term readily borrowed from Nietzsche, defined by the Nietzschean Apollonian rationality and thirst for worldly perfection; finally, the Semitic, being Jewish, Arabic, etc. is a sort of mixed Kultur-Zivilisation organism called “Magian”, after the mystics who visited the birth of the Christ-child, and is defined by the preoccupation with essence rather than space.

The Magian requires some further discussion, since it represents for Spengler a different “mutation” (to keep with the biological sense of an organism) of the main species of Kultur-Zivilizationen. This is because of a process Spengler describes in the second volume of Decline called “pseudomorphosis”. He asserts in the first volume that the “Arabian soul was cheated of its maturity—like a young tree that is hindered and stunted in its growth by a fallen old giant of the forest,” but after critiques of the work began to circulate back to him, realised that this was inadequate to explain the unique situation that the Magian Kultur-Zivilisation finds itself.[29] He therefore suggests a parallel with mineralogy, pointing the phenomenon of “pseudomorphosis”, by which volcanic molten rock flows into spaces left by washed away minerals in the hollows of rocks; likewise, since the Arabian culture’s pre-historical period is encompassed by Babylonian Civilization, and later as it develops it is stunted by Antiquity with the Roman conquest of Egypt.[30] Spengler sees a similar occurrence with the Russian Kultur-Zivilisation, which is pressed between the Faustian Kultur-Zivilisation and the Asiatic hordes which repeatedly conquer it. He maintains even in his last work, Jahre der Entscheidung, that the Bolshevist revolution represented a part of this pseudomorphosis that Russia is experiencing: “Asia has conquered Russia back from “Europe” to which it had been annexed by Peter the Great”.[31]

This is the structure within which the subject of Spengler’s title exists. Spengler remarked on his title at length in an essay titled “Pessimismus?” (“Pessimism?”) appearing in the Preußischer Jahrbücher in 1921:

But there are men who confuse the downfall [literally “going under”] of Antiquity with the sinking of an ocean liner. The notion of a catastrophe is not contained in the word. If one said—instead of downfall—completion, an expression that is linked in a special way with Goethe’s thought, the “pessimistic” side is removed without the real sense of the term having been altered.[32]

He is not, therefore, discussing a cataclysmic event that would bring about the end of Western civilisation, though no doubt much of the appeal of his work was the recent catastrophe of the Great War. What he sees instead is a general inadequacy in the trends coming out of his contemporary West, which the Great War only compounded. Faustian civilisation had come to stagnate with the rise of bourgeois economists; as he says, “through the economic history of every Culture there runs a desperate conflict waged by the soil-rooted tradition of a race, by its soul, against the spirit of money”.[33] The capitalism and industrialisation of liberal Europe represents the bleeding dry of the soul of Faustian Kultur; it, too, however, shall pass in the coming Ceasarism of the Faustian Winter that Spengler predicts. He speaks of “the sword” being triumphant over money-power and finance capital, bringing about the final period of where violence of spirit triumphs and is marked by the rise of the “Caesars”, demagogues who will bring about a Western World Imperium that Spengler envisioned being headed by Germany. It is worth noting that John Farrenkopf believes this to remain an accurate prediction for America, which Spengler himself discounted, as most Europeans at the time, as an adolescent child of Europe, hardly capable of contributing to Faustian Zivilisation in any great way.

It is, at last, important to note that while Spengler offers this structure that explains history, it is not his intent to “save” the Occident. He participated in politics that would, in his view, further the progression of Faustian Zivilization out of its Autumn and into Winter, but, in true Nietzschean fashion, he encourages his readers to adopt an amor fati toward the decline of their Kultur-Zivilisation. Indeed, the hope one retains after reading Spengler is of a peculiar kind—since all Kultur-Zivilisationen are destined to wither and die, the Faustian man should embrace the destruction of the Occident with an eye to the subsequent Kultur-Zivilisation organism that will take its place, which Spengler predicts will be Russian, a society which due to close contact to both the Occidental and Asian Kultur-Zivilisation organisms has not been able to come into itself—in short, it is not yet Werden, existing in the historyless period that marks the beginning and end of every Kultur-Zivilisation organism.

The Conservative Revolutionary (Political Writings and Speeches, 1919-1924)

The Decline of the West marks a high-point in Spengler’s life, and also a turning point for both his own life and the life of Germany as a whole. Decline appeared complete in two volumes in 1922, four years after Germany’s defeat in the First World War and in the midst of the Weimar Republic struggling to get on its feet. As mentioned above, this contributed greatly to the book’s circulation, though it is unclear how many enthusiasts made an effort to read the entire text. Spengler found himself now ushered into higher intellectual circles, battling with intellectual greats over the value of his work, and once again able to enjoy the delicacies he had to go without for the duration of the War (he wrote that much of the work he did on Decline was done by candlelight). In 1919 he joined such famous names as Hermann Alexander Graf Keyserling (for his seminal work Reisetagebuch eines Philosophen, “Travel-Diary of a Philosopher”) and distinguished Kant scholar Dr. Hans Vaihinger (for his work Philosophie des Als Ob, “The Philosophy of As-If”) in being awarded the Nietzsche Archives’ “Distinguished Scholar Award” with an academic diploma and the sum of 1,500.00DM (roughly $45.00 in 1919).[34]

Despite his acute sense of the depressing reality of his work, Spengler was materially well-off and led a generally comfortable life because of its popularity. He moved from the small flat where he had written Decline during the war to a spacious apartment that overlooked the Isar River. He decorated it with a variety of fine paintings, Chinese and Greek-styled vases, and other pieces obtained at auctions or gifted to him by admirers, and shocked visitors with his vast library, which literally lined the walls of his new home. He covered the fine hard-wood floors with even finer rugs, most markedly a strikingly red carpet in his office upon which he was known to pace endlessly in the night while he worked.[35] He was, though, of relatively modest tastes, and was frugal with his money. He took holidays to Italy frequently, but otherwise only left Germany when another party could pay for his travel; his tastes at home included trips to the theatre, fine wines, and a regular supply of dark cigars. He never hired a housekeeper or married, and his sister Hildegard, widowed by the World War, would keep house for him. He rarely entertained and continued to devote himself to work. His work now, though, was not strictly scholarly.

A well-known name now, Spengler began to take a greater interest in politics than he had hitherto. He wrote to Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz in 1920 regarding the recovery of the flag from the SMS Scharnhorst, which was sunk in the Battle of the Falkland Islands in 1914, taking Admiral Maximillian Graf von Spee to the bottom with it; the flag, Spengler wrote, had fallen into the hands of an anti-German party who wished to send it to Britain to be a trophy of war, something offensive to Spengler as a German nationalist.[36] Admiral von Tirpitz replied that he would refer the matter to the admiralty, but the flag was undoubtedly not that from the Scharnhorst’s main post, which went down flying, and therefore the value of the demands of the original owners for the flag (50,000-60,000DM) was probably not equal even to its sentimental value. The admiral added, probably much to Spengler’s satisfaction, that he had thoroughly enjoyed reading Prussianism and Socialism, and wrote “I only wish that your ideas could find response in the Marxist-infected working classes.”[37]

The work Admiral Tirpitz praised so highly was Spengler’s second attempt to reflect on the Agadir crisis and the significance of German and British relations. Prussianism and Socialism appears in English translation by Donald O. White with a number of other shorter articles that Spengler penned in the early 1920s. The work appears in White’s 1967 collection Selected Essays, which is roughly a translation of Politischen Schriften, but making some omissions and drawing also from Rede und Aufsätze. The overall collection gives a decent introductory glance at Spengler’s social and political thought, which merits it some exposition here. Other works included in it are “Pessimism?”, which was written as a response to the charge levelled against Decline, his two speeches “The Two Faces of Russia and Germany’s Eastern Problems” (delivered to a conference of influential Ruhr industrialists in 1922) and “Nietzsche and his Century” (delivered at a conference hosted by the Nietzsche Archive in 1924 before Spengler severed ties with Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche because of her alignment with Hitler ten years later), another short essay titled “On the German National Character”, published in 1927, and finally a brief response given by Spengler to a query posited internationally by Hearst International’s The Cosmopolitan, titled “Is World Peace Possible?”, which was published in what White calls “barely adequate translation” in 1936 alongside answers from Mohandas K. Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, General Billy Mitchell, and Lin Yu-tang.[38]

Prussianism and Socialism abandons Spengler’s earlier, less informed political alignment with the Kaiser, but beyond this minor change it expresses and sets the tone for almost all of Spengler’s other political writings before and after, including his final major work, Hour of Decision. It is also the work that initiated Spengler’s name into the collection of intellectuals and aristocrats that formed the “Conservative Revolution” movement in Weimar Germany. The names he is included with range from the completely obscure to the internationally famous. Among them are obscure authors like Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, for his work, later appropriated by the Nazis, Das Dritte Reich (1923—available in English as Germany’s Third Empire) and Edgar Julius Jung, who is seen as the leader of the movement, for his work Die Herrschaft der Minderwertigen (“The Reign of the Mediocre”, 1927), and more famously for Franz von Papen’s “Marburg Speech”, the last open condemnation of Nazism made in Weimar Germany. However, members of the movement also included men like the internationally acclaimed Ernst Jünger, for his famous memoir of the World War, In Stahlgewittern (first published in 1920 and having been revised by the author 7 times, it is now available in very good translation by Michael Hoffmann as Storm of Steel), Der Kampf als inneres Erlebnis (“Battle as Inner Experience”, 1922), Das Wäldchen 125 (“Copse 125”, 1925) and Feuer und Blut (“Fire and Blood”, 1925) as well as the famous and widely translated Carl Schmitt, now well known for his works Die Diktatur (1921—now available in translation as On Dictatorship), Politische Theologie (1922—available as Political Theology), Die geistesgeschichtliche Lage des heutigen Parlamentarismus (1923—now available in a good translation by Ellen Kennedy titled The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy), and his extremely significant Der Begriff des Politischen (1926—now available as The Concept of the Political). The unifying feature of the movement was a desire to bridge the gap between nationalist conservatism and socialism, though another major factor was the distaste that all the men had for Adolf Hitler and his, in the words of Moeller van den Bruck, “proletarian primitiveness”.[39]

Spengler’s interactions with other conservatives were largely done through his involvement in the Juniclub (“June Club”) a gathering of Conservatives and Monarchists who shared Spengler’s hatred of the Versailles Treaty (commonly known in Germany as the Versailles Diktat because of the lack of input allowed from the German delegation). Among the group’s founding members was Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, with whom Spengler had many encounters from 1919 until Moeller’s suicide in 1925 through lectures that both gave to the Juniclub. At the Juniclub he also had the opportunity to meet and begin correspondence with Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, Walther Rathenau, Erich Ludendorff, Hans von Seeckt, and create friendships and lasting ties to major industrialists like Paul Reusch, Roderich Schlubach, Alfred Hugenberg, Karl Helfferich, and Hugo Stinnes.[40] Aside from Moeller, however, his encounters with the other major thinkers of the Conservative Revolutionary movement seemed few; he had some contact later with Jung, who wrote him on several occasions. However, his major inclination during his years of involvement with the Juniclub was toward becoming actively involved in conservative politics, not merely being a theoretician. His ambitions during this time were as disparate and far-flung as leading German intellectuals into politics and founding a newspaper cartel in imitation of William Randolph Hearst.[41]

Spengler’s letters during this time are often brief (owing to his preference for meeting people rather than writing them) and to a wide variety of people, including invitations to tea with Erich Ludendorff and his wife, which he maintained as a regular affair until Ludendorff’s involvement in the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. There was also an extended correspondence with the German government regarding interaction with General Jan C. Smuts, who had invited General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck (with whom Spengler also corresponded) to a dinner for African commanders of the war.[42] He also met semi-regularly, it would seem, with the Prussian royal family; Crown Prince Wilhelm wrote him a number of times, and Spengler sent copies of his magnum opus to Huis Doorn. He also managed to elicit a positive response from Gregor Strasser, a prominent rival of Hitler’s in the National Socialist party who was murdered in the Night of the Long Knives.[43]

Spengler, however, remained primarily a theoretician; he met many men with whom he had lasting friendships, but he was not a man of political action and he was acutely aware of that. Throughout his brief political career, he was advised by friends not to waste his genius on petty affairs of state, and he eventually gave in and retreated from public life in 1924 after five years of immense popularity and prolific writing. In addition to the one or two speeches and articles in the White collection, in 1924 alone Spengler published Frankreich und Europa (“France and Europe”), Aufgaben des Adels (“Tasks of the Nobility”), Politische Pflichten der deutschen Jugend (“Political Duties of the German Youth”), Neubau des deutschen Reiches (“Reconstruction of the German Reich”), Neue Formen der Weltpolitik (“New Forms of Global Politics”) all of which were derived from speeches and lectures he had given at the Juniclub or at various Industrial clubs and conferences during his involvement there. Some of them, including Politische Pflichten and Neubau would appear in Spengler’s Politischen Schriften of 1932, the others would only be published together in 1937 in the posthumous Reden und Aufsätze collection. The works, all expressing a common theme of the necessity to “reclaim socialism” from Marx and bring about a new birth of “Prussianism” in the German population, brought Spengler immense notoriety in Germany while Decline was making its way through foreign circles. Other presentations included his Das Verhältnis von Wirtschaft und Steuerpolitik seit 1750 (“The Relationship of Economy and Tax Policy since 1750”, 1924). His lectures drew tremendous crowds and he participated in a number of public debates between 1919 and 1924.

Prussianism and Socialism: A Brief Glance

Of all Spengler’s political writings and speeches, both from his public career and after, the most detailed and the most significant remains Prussianism and Socialism. In the work, Spengler makes two arguments, one unique to his own time and one with far-reaching relevance. The work’s principal argument surrounds the “true German spirit” with “the German Michel”, which Spengler declares “the sum of all our weaknesses: our fundamental displeasure at turns of events that demand attention and response; our urge to criticise at the wrong time; our pursuit of ideals instead of immediate action; our precipitate action at times when careful reflection is called for; our Volk as a collection of malcontents; our representative assemblies as glorified beer gardens.”[44] The thrust of the work is a contrast between “English” parliamentarianism and liberalism, which the “German Michel” typifies, the Marxist socialist movement of the Sparticists, which at least has the integrity that the “German Michel” lacked, and real “German” socialism, which Spengler ties to Prussian military spirit and civic duty to create the “Prussian socialism” that he insists is the only way to bring about a rebirth of the German Reich.

The opening of Prussianism and Socialism declares the same sense of destiny found in Decline, quoting Seneca’s aphorism ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt (“Fate leads along the willing soul and drags the unwilling”).[45] He declares that “the spirit of Old Prussia and the socialistic attitude, at present driven by brotherly hatred to combat each other, are in fact one in the same”, defining “socialism” itself, which he claims “everyone thinks… means something different”.[46] Spengler’s hero of socialism is August Bebel, the Marxist founder of the SPD who was famously born in a Prussian army barracks. He praises Bebels’ party for its “militant qualities…the clattering footsteps of workers’ battalions, a calm sense of determination, good discipline, and the courage to die for a transcendent principle” and damns the SPD in power in the Weimar Republic for abandoning the revolution and throwing in its lot with the “foe of yesteryear” and encouraging the Freikorps to crush the Spartacists, who Spengler felt “retained a modicum of integrity”.[47] It is not the Marxism of the Social Democrats Spengler admires, however; rather, it is their integrity and their dedication to their beliefs—something that simply does not exist for the “German Michel”, the contemporary parliamentarian.

He goes on to condemn the “so-called German Revolution” that took place in November, saying that the Germans “produced pedants, schoolboys, and gossips in the Paulskirche and in Weimar, petty demonstrations in the streets, and in the background a nation looking on with faint interest”—not at all what a real revolution entails, but something feeble, something belonging to the parliamentarian and the “German Michel”.[48] Spengler establishes the foundation of Prussian Socialism with “the real German Socialist Revolution” which he says happened in 1914—a real revolution because it involved “the whole people: one outcry, one brazen act, one rage, one goal”.[49] He further asserts that the revolution is not over—a notion he expands on in later speeches and essays. The Revolution of the German people cannot come to full fruition for Spengler and his fellow conservatives, until the German nation is truly born—for 1918 in Germany was not 1789 in France; the nation and the revolution were not the same.

He concludes that “Socialism is not an instinct of dark primeval origin… it is, rather, a political, social, and economic instinct of realistically-minded peoples, as such it is a product of one stage of our civilisation—not of our culture.”[50] He asserts a thoroughly modern origin and a thoroughly modern role for socialism: the realistic, the enemy of the dictatorship of money and capitalism, defined in socialistic form by a sense of duty to the whole, that whole being the German nation. It is in this way that “all Germans are workers”, so that the failing of Marx, he asserts, is his inability to grasp anything more in Hegel, “who by and far represented Prussianism at its best” than mere method.[51] Marx misleads socialism by creating class antagonism when in reality the bourgeois is a meaningless term, Spengler asserts—and the real enemy is the English spirit of mercantilism and parliamentarianism of the feeble “German Michel”; it is not worker against burgher, nor burgher against elite, but German against the Englishman in himself. This is why the German Revolution is incomplete: because the national revolution that unites and brings about the birth of the German nation has not been achieved.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of this and subsequent political texts is the complete absence of any mention of Germany’s Jews. Spengler did not believe, as many of his day did, that the Jewish people had any connexion to parliamentarianism or Marxism or Capitalism or any other distinctly Western phenomenon; rather Western man was at war with himself and himself alone in the conflict between Prussian Socialism and English Mercantilism, between Revolution and Cowardice. He calls Marx “an exclusively English thinker”, unable to see beyond mere economics and ignoring the notion of everyone working for the whole, but each in his own destined place—the King for Spengler’s socialist is “the first servant of the state”, in the highest place among the rest of the nation serving a single, national goal. It is such a different picture than the typical anti-Bolshevik stance in Germany that never tired of reminding the world of Marx’s Jewish origins (his grandfather was a rabbi). This, for Spengler, was as much a simplification as Marx’s class antagonism, because it directed anger and action toward an invented foe instead of directing it toward corrective measures in the West itself.

The Hermit-Scholar (Return to Private Life 1924-1930)

After he retreated from public life, Spengler returned to the lonely life of the hermit scholar, and rededicated himself to work on the theories put forth in Decline. His re-entry into politics was prevented both my deteriorating health as well as a decrease in opportunity with the rising tide of National Socialism. Of all the Conservative Revolutionary thinkers, only Jünger and Schmitt would live to see the Second World War, and their literary lives were even shorter; Spengler was silenced by the Nazi state as early 1933, Jung was murdered, along with several of Spengler’s friends, in the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, and Moeller van den Bruck had a nervous breakdown and committed suicide as early as 1925. Others, like Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Stefan George (especially famous for his Das Neue Reich of 1928), died of natural causes, Hofmannsthal of a stroke in 1929, George four years later of old age. It is indubitable with his voracious appetite for the latest works that Spengler encountered these men through their writing, but no correspondence between them exists. This is not terribly surprising—Spengler wrote letters when he felt the passion to do so (such as to Admiral Tirpitz), or when it furthered his studies (such as the many letters to academics and professors). This was not out of a dislike of people; rather, it was because he detested the task of writing letters and preferred to grant an interview or meet with friends in person, something he did frequently—his sister, Hilde, who became primary caretaker of his estate after his death, remarked that “he always disliked writing letters, even when he was a child.”[52] Those political letters he did write he wisely burned in 1933 to protect himself and others from the National Socialist state.

The return to private living gave Spengler a tremendous opportunity to begin scholarly work again after some years of pamphleteering (something he himself hated, remarking to a friend in 1919, referring to Prussianism and Socialism that “I am not a born journalist and consequently I wrote out 500 pages of rough draft in four weeks and then started paring to get 100 pages of readable German. I realise now how I ought to work and shall never again accept any assignment that carries a deadline with it”).[53] He never ceased his correspondences with high-level academics and contributors in almost every field of study, but after 1924 he was able to begin to write more widely. He wrote frequently to Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche and it was in 1924 after his departure from public life that he presented his paper “Nietzche and His Century”.

From 1925 onward his time was dominated by lectures, correspondences, and his old reading habits. He took several holidays in Italy and elsewhere, and as early as 1925 was in correspondence with Benito Mussolini, who would write a review of Hour of Decision in 1933 for Il Popolo d’Italia in December of that year. The Italian dictator, it would seem, was somewhat reserved about Spengler, who he felt tread close to Fascism but was not close enough.[54] He was not alone; after Spengler’s retreat from politics, was when his works came under heaviest fire from popular political personalities. His correspondence with Gregor Strasser in 1925 displays the chief dispute with Spengler, which seems to be his dislike of “popular movements”, like National Socialism, which he regarded as vulgar and mob-driven.[55] Aside from these, however, the bulk of his letters are not with political men but with academics.

The reason for this likely had much to do with Germany’s growing stability after 1925. Arthur Helps, who translated Spengler’s letters, suggests that Spengler left the public sphere precisely because of this; however, it is more likely that Spengler simply tired of the time he spent in the public eye—the constant assault of attention from both enthusiastic supporters and detractors of all stripes wore on the man whose sensitivity was well-known only to his sister and perhaps very close friends. He was a man who throughout his life was soft-hearted and sympathetic, ever striving to overcome the little boy whose nightmares in his bedroom in Halle haunted him vividly until he was well into his forties; the image he had inadvertently created of the hard-hearted, iron-willed prophet of doom was not an easy persona for him to fulfil on a constant basis, and put tremendous stress on his body. Fischer observes in his biographical sketch that “he agonised about his weaknesses with the same honesty as Rousseau did in the Confessions, with the difference that Spengler rarely tried to project his shortcomings on society… [he] believed that, in the final analysis, the individual has to assume responsibility for his own weaknesses”.[56]

Spengler’s physical weaknesses became acute during his time in politics, as the stress increased his headaches and other ailments. In 1925, rarely does a letter mention an illness or time of sickness—he seemed to recover from his ailments from getting away from stress of politics and the dismal state in which he perceived his beloved German Reich to be. He took cures in the sun of Italy, writing in February of 1925 from Palermo, after which he travelled to Rome and elsewhere.[57] In 1926, deep in the scholarly world once again, Spengler was invited by the Philosophical Congress in the United States to travel to America and conduct a lecture tour (C.F. Atkinson’s translation of the first volume of Decline appeared that very year). His excuse for declining the offer was that he felt America would leave too deep an impression on him that would disrupt the work he was conducting on his latest book (still unfinished at his death), Urfragen (“Primordial Questions”). His letters are strewn with questions to experts and professors of ancient history after information about Babylonian tablets and other Middle Eastern interests.

These interests, as a preparation for Urfragen, had begun as early as 1924, when Spengler appeared before the Oriental Institute in Munich with a lecture titled “Plan eines neuen Atlas Antiquus” (“Plan for a new Atlas Antiquus”), which detailed the need of a new cartographic project to map the ancient world within the scope of the Apollonian Kultur-Zivilisation organism.[58] The general thrust of his work, whether this lecture or the later letters to colleagues, is a collaborative effort that would overcome the increasing specialisation of history already in its adolescence in Spengler’s day and still increasing in contemporary academic history. During subsequent years he also became first enthralled and then embroiled with the famous archaeologist and ethnographer of Africa, Leo Frobenius, whose initial agreement with cyclical history caught Spengler’s attention, but his argued proofs for slow, gradual development of civilisations drew the censure of the author of Decline, who believed in epochal moments rather than gradual evolution (he detested all forms of Darwinism). His correspondence took him in more positive directions with the famous Assyriologist Alfred Jeremias, who took an immense interest in Spengler’s work.

Most striking about Spengler’s time as a private scholar in the late 1920s was the vast amount of interest being generated in his works abroad. 1927 saw contacts coming from The New York Times attempting to solicit an article from him; the paper had featured him in full-page articles twice before, and after including him in an article “Will our Civilization Survive?” of 1925, hoped he might appear in print with them—they even offered a sum of $100, which was no small sum of money in Germany at the time.[59] No response to their inquest ever came, however, and it does not appear Spengler showed any interest in taking up any journalistic venture. A query that Spengler felt did merit response came from André Fauconnet, a professor at Poitiers whose Un philosophe allemeand contemporain Oswald Spengler. Le prophète du déclin de l’Occident (“A Contemporary German Philosopher: Oswald Spengler, the Prophet of the Decline of the Occident”) appeared in 1925. He also received an invitation to speak at the University of Saragossa, which promised he could speak in German and translations of his speech would be distributed beforehand.[60] Spengler accepted the engagement, spending the entire month of April of 1928 on holiday in Spain; he loved the climate and found the place to have a profoundly positive affect on his demeanour—he even did some mountain climbing. He wrote his sister Hilde from Granada (where he stayed for about a week), “Grenada is beautiful beyond all description… I could live here”, and, later that week, that “here every day pleases me better”.[61]

During all of his touring and international correspondence, Spengler did manage to make one or two forays back into political life; the first occasion was a speech in Düsseldorf before the Industry-Club titled “Das heutige Verhältnis zwischen Weltwirtschaft und Weltpolitik” (“The Contemporary Relationship between World Economics and World Politics”) in 1926, and was solicited by Edgar Julius Jung a year later to make a speech before the German Student Union, historically a hotbed for right-wing politics. 1927 also saw him begin writing on the topic again, with “Zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der Deutschen Presse” (“Toward a Developmental History of the German Press”) appearing in the Der Zeitungsverlag and “Vom Deutscher Volkscharakter” (“On the German National Character”) appearing in Deutschland the same year. After some time of soliciting his attention, Richard Korherr also finally convinced Spengler to write a brief introduction to his thesis “Über den Geburtenrückgang” (“Regarding the Decline of Birthrates”) of two years previous, which the author had dedicated to Spengler. Korherr hounded Spengler with information of the thesis, especially when it was translated into Italian by deputies of Mussolini’s in 1928.[62] Spengler regarded the young student well, and congratulated him on his success; he would probably not have had so positive a view of the young Dr. Korherr twelve years later, when he became one of Heinrich Himmler’s most loyal lieutenants in executing the “Final Solution”.[63]

Cassandra (Last Writings and Death, 1930-1936)

The years of 1929 and 1930 were eventful for Germany, but for Spengler much of the same that he had experienced in the second half of the 1920s. His pessimism was beginning to be proven true, with the stock market crash in 1929 and the swift rise of National Socialist and German Communist party power in the shattered Weimar Republic. In September 1930, the results gave the Nazis 107 seats in the Reichstag, and increased the Communist seats from 54 to 77. When the Reichstag took its seats, no business could be conducted, with the National Socialist “delegates” showing up in full uniform, sometimes with flags, interrupting the proceedings with chants, shouts, and songs; the Communists, not to be outdone, followed suit, and together they made a mockery of what was left of Weimar democracy.[64] Spengler was generally not disappointed with the turn of events, and, having put his Urfragen project on hold, wrote a prolegomena to his planned work titled Der Mensch und die Technik (“Man and Technics”) in 1931.

The work can hardly be said to be of the same calibre as Decline or even of Prussianism and Socialism—but then, it was never meant to be. The most important introductory note that can be given on Man and Technics is that it is fundamentally meant to be a primer for planned works. It is, by and large, a restatement of things said in Decline, and an expansion on the relationship between human beings and the tools they create. Fischer describes the book by saying “Spengler tried to show that primitive man was a magnificent predatory animal who possessed two major advantages over other beasts of prey: a superior brain and ambidextrous hands.”[65] The work is a true experiment in Nietzschean psychology by Fischer’s estimate: a tragic conflict between a naturally savage and predatory human being with the moral codes he makes to contain his savagery, but he cannot flee from it, for as he develops his technology, he also develops his means of savagery, and therefore his savagery itself.[66]

In greater detail, the book develops themes of conflict between man and external nature as well. Farrenkopf highlights that Spengler sees a religious grounding for this conflict—a suggestion not lost on several subsequent environmentalists—declaring that Spengler “claims to have uncovered the ‘religious origins’ of Western technical thought in the meditations of early Gothic monks, who in their prayers and fastings wrung God’s secrets from Him.”[67] Farrenkopf, working at the turn of the twenty-first century, attempts to make Spengler the prophet of “climate change” and “ecological disasters”, and points to a thesis in his own work—that Spengler’s thought changed from Decline to his later works—to say that Spengler was arguing for the inevitable failure of mankind’s struggle against nature. Whether his thesis has merit or not is not really a line of inquiry this introduction need undertake, but the conflict and eventual failure of humankind because of its own “progress” is certainly present in the work. A line from Decline of the West, quoted above, accurately encapsulates the entire purpose of Man and Technics: “the giant city sucks the country dry, insatiably and incessantly demanding and devouring fresh streams of men, till it wearies and dies in the midst of an almost uninhabited waste of country.”[68]

The urban sprawl and disappearance of the “green belt” that contemporary commentators, especially in America, where there is so much of the “green belt”, have witnessed is somewhat captured in this picture. The dangers of an industrial dystopia and plea for an agrarian Reich was one also being preached by the National Socialists at this time—Walther Darré’s 1928 pamphlet “Das Bauerntum als Lebensquell der nordischen Rasse” (“The Peasantry as the Life-source of the Nordic Race”) stands as a testament to that. The Nazis, though, were better at selling their message than Spengler was his own, primarily because of what each promised the German people. Spengler promised that the path of Western civilisation was destined and irreversible, and the coming destruction guaranteed by the very nature of Faustian man of his home-soil should be greeted with a Nietzschean amor fati. The Germans in 1931 were in no mood to hear that they were themselves to blame for their situation, and that it was an inescapable destiny.

The Nazis, on the other hand, gave the Germans an enemy—the Jews—that were causing this industrialisation and destruction of the nation, and if they could just get rid of them, there was a bright hope and future for Germans. The German people declared which message they preferred with dismal sales for Man and Technics, and subsequent tremendous victories at the ballot for the National Socialists. Hitler’s biographer, Lord Bullock gives a deep insight into the exact state of affairs; “taking 1928 as a measuring rod,” he declares, “the gains made by Hitler – close on thirteen million in four years – are still more striking,” adding that by early 1932, “with a voting strength of 13,700,000 electors, a party membership of over a million and a private army of 400,000 S.A. and S.S., Hitler was the most powerful political leader in Germany, knocking on the doors of the Chancellery at the head of the most powerful political party Germany had ever seen.”[69]

Spengler was shocked, if not a little appalled, by this turn of events. To Spengler, as he had been to Moeller, Adolf Hitler was an idiot in the scientific sense of the word: a vulgar proletarian clown shouting and flailing his arms and playing about in the muck, not a statesman who could lead Germany to her rebirth or a realistic forward-thinker. For the time being, though, there were few other options, and Spengler was willing to give the Führer the benefit of the doubt before meeting him—a meeting at which he hoped that his stature as one of Germany’s leading conservative intellectuals might moderate the Austrian firebrand somewhat.[70] He was dreadfully wrong.

Spengler met with Hitler in 1933 at the invitation of the National Socialist Party, hoping to make use of Spengler’s sustained popularity. Fischer describes the meeting, of which little account exists on either side. It was Hitler, characteristically, who did most of the talking when the two men met, and used all of his well-accounted-for charm. Spengler was sufficiently fooled that Hitler, though a clown, was a well-meaning clown who basically wanted what was best for Germany. He nevertheless would remark later that “sitting next to him one did not gain the slightest inkling that he represented anything significant”—the jobless Austrian post-card painter may have built himself up into a powerful and captivating demagogue, but in the end he remained the disaffected young delinquent who wandered the streets of Munich and Vienna building a fantasy world in which he was important.[71] According to a popular anecdote, when the men had finished their encounter, Hitler asked Spengler for advice, to which the scholar enigmatically replied “watch your Praetorian guard!” a comment many have taken to be a bit of advice Hitler acted on in the Night of the Long Knives, when he purged his “praetorian guard” and replaced it—the S.A.—with a new one, the S.S. There is no evidence that this is accurate, but if it is, as Fischer asserts, it would be the first time Spengler had any direct influence on a public leader.[72]

It was not long, however, before the spell of Hitler’s charm over coffee wore off. The Nazis went on to preach a proletarian utopian future founded fundamentally in scapegoating the Jews and answering Germany’s problems with “party-theatre” of mass rallies and a well-tuned propaganda machine. It was in answer to the delusions of the National Socialist political machine that Spengler wrote his final book, Jahre der Entscheidung (“Years of Decision”, more popularly known in translation as Hour of Decision) in 1933. This work, largely considered Spengler’s most overtly political and explicit in its message, was banned by the Nazis as soon as they figured out what was in it—which took them a full year, even after one of their own published a critique of the book (Arthur Zweininger’s Oswald Spengler im dritten Reich), by which time the book had already made it into English translation and had received extensive comment by The New York Times.[73] Spengler also, naïvely, sent a signed copy directly to Hitler, accompanied by an expression of hope that the two might meet and discuss the work in the future.[74] Hitler consented to meet, but disparaged Spengler’s pessimism in what he was selling as Germany’s brightest hour.

Jahre der Entscheidung
deserves some specific attention to be paid to it. The first thing worth mention is that it was originally intended to be the first volume of a several-volume work, but after it was banned in 1934, Spengler abandoned the work, writing Goebbels that he would only write the conclusions of his own mind and that he would “not write books for confiscation”.[75]

The press was especially cruel to the new work, evoking (despite Fischer’s claims to the opposite) a number of highly sympathetic letters to Spengler from old conservative colleagues like Alfred Hugenburg, Crown Prince Wilhelm, Carl Friedrich Goerdeler (later executed as a resistance leader), as well as some new names, including Grand Duke Joseph Franz von Habsburg, who was enthralled by the new work, and Rudolf Graber, a professor of Theology and later Bishop of Regensburg. Despite the press and the Nazis, however, the book was initially a tremendous success, especially compared with Man and Technics. Heinrich Beck wrote to Spengler in November of 1933 that “the success of your Jahre der Entscheidung already surpasses, at least as far as tempo is concerned, The Decline of the West. You will certainly be pleased and I am proud also of publishing such a book.”[76] The Roman Curia was also impressed, and allowed the book to be placed by the Cardinal Hayes Literature Committee in the “First Circle” of their “White List” for Roman Catholics in America; the section was named for the First Circle of Hell in Dante’s inferno, where honest pre-Christian thinkers who were valuable to Christianity resided—on the White List proper for that year were titles like Essays in History by Pope Pius XI.[77]

The contents of the book are significant not just for Spengler’s life, but to his overall philosophy as well. Spengler frequently uses what critics have called “fetishistic” terms in his works like “blood”, “race”, “soul”, etc. The accusations of critics were left largely unanswered until Jahre der Entscheidung, which saw Spengler for the first time seriously take on the task of defining what he meant by “race” especially. Benito Mussolini, at the time still in his virulent anti-racist stage, received a copy of the work almost immediately after it was published, and wrote a review of the work highlighting that “Spengler clearly wishes to differentiate his views from the vulgar, materialistic Darwinism now fashionable among anti-Semites in Europe and America” (words he was in fact borrowing from Spengler) and points to Spengler’s declaration that “ ‘racial unity’ is a grotesque phrase considering that for centuries all types and kinds have mixed.”[78]

Spengler does indeed use the word “race”; however, he defines against the biological racial theories of Chamberlain, Gobineau and the various authors of National Socialism. “Race” to Spengler was captured in a spiritual feeling or will of a culture—thus in Jahre der Entscheidung, even the Russians find themselves included in Spengler’s “Coloured World”. The Faustian soul—and the Faustian will—that is the Faustian “race”. Farrenkopf observes from reading Spengler’s unpublished political writings that “Race for Spengler meant having ‘strong instincts’”, something reflected in Gedanken, where Spengler says “Men without race are without Will. Indeed, the more of a “race” one has, the more resolute is his sense of self”.[79] Spengler references this notion in Man and Technics as well, concluding with the exemplary of a man with “strong race”, the legionary who kept his post in Pompey as Vesuvius erupted because his superiors had forgotten to relieve him; “It is greatness, namely to have race”.[80] This sort of conception of race is one that has fled the English and German languages (and most other languages, really) in the wake of the biological racialist movements of the early twentieth century, but is still present in English when one says “the human race”—but for Spengler, there is no “human race”, there are different spiritual types of humans. Farrenkopf quotes him “There are not any noble races. There are only noble specimens of all races.”[81]

With this sense of “race” in mind, Spengler portrays two revolutions taking place in the coming decades and centuries: a White World-Revolution and a Coloured World-Revolution, the former of which will be a class revolution, and the latter will be a racial revolution. As he suggested in Decline, the Occident is failing, and some other Kultur-Zivilisation organisms must come into itself in order to replace the dying Faustian Zivilisation. This is what is meant in the “Coloured World-Revolution”; a collapse of the Western direct control over the rest of the world and the beginning of a new birth. The “White World-Revolution”, on the other hand, will be one of class: not because of Bolshevism, but because of the liberalism that destroyed the social structure of the West in the Autumnal season and brought about the new sense of egalitarianism. These combined “World-Revolutions” must ultimately arise from a great World War which Spengler foresees in the near future; it is his hope that the War will set the West back on its path toward Ceasarism, and begin the final phase of decay which has been prevented, be believes, by the defeat of the “Prussian Spirit” in the First World War; he therefore proclaims at the end of the work that, “Only the militarist Prussian spirit remains as a shaping force, not only for Germany, but everywhere.”[82]

Farrenkopf offers the critique that Spengler does not sufficiently “probe” into “how geopolitical competition among non-Western powers will interact with the conflict between the West and the non-West”.[83] Nevertheless, for a German in a time of when the general feeling of the nation was one of peace and plenty, to foresee a world-shattering global conflict that would bring about a post-colonial age is hauntingly astute, and speaks to the significance of Spengler’s overall corpus to contemporary political and historical study. Another testament to his skills of prophecy is the very military power gained by the United States subsequent to the Second World War; Farrenkopf also observes that Spengler discounted America but nevertheless may be applied in an American paradigm.

With all the talk of “race” and the “militaristic Prussian spirit” and Spengler’s relationship to National Socialism, it seems fitting that a special word be said of Spengler’s relationship to the Jewish community. He himself found anti-Semitism especially abhorrent, and recognised it for exactly what it was: namely, social and political scapegoating. As Fischer observes, “Spengler observed that the character of the Jew was moulded by his position as an outsider…[who is] generally forced to adopt attitudes that are inimical to the mainstream of society,” which is why they are viewed as threats; the only solution Spengler could see for the Jews to escape this inevitable situation was to assimilate or, though Spengler never suggests it, to leave.[84] A similar conclusion was reached by Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, in his 1896 Der Judenstaat, which proposed the second option: that the Jews remove themselves from European society physically to escape anti-Semitism.

After his name was officially banned from the press and his book taken off the shelves in German bookstores, Spengler once again retreated from the public eye, this time never to return. Unlike other intellectuals of the day, he declined offers to university jobs, including the rectorship of the University of Leipzig’s Institute for Cultural and Universal History and a professorship at the University of Marburg. He was, nevertheless, honoured in 1933 with membership in the Senate of the German Academy, which he maintained even after his work was officially censored by the Nazi state. He was encouraged by friends to flee Germany and emigrate to America or England and continue his studies, but he refused to leave. He did, however, continue his work on Urfragen and his other unfinished book, Frühzeit der Weltgeschichte. He still received some attention from other countries, and in 1935 wrote an article entitled “Zur Weltgeschichte des zweiten vorchristlichen Jahrtausends” (“Toward a World History of the Second Millennium BC”) in the journal Die Welt als Geschichte.

Spengler’s final contribution while he was alive was a reply to a cable from Hearst International Cosmopolitan magazine, which at the time was still a respectable publication that gave attention to serious global political issues. The work, entitled Ist Weltfriede moeglich? (“Is World Peace Possible?”) was translated by editors of the magazine and published in January of 1936. This last work is largely ignored by Spengler biographers, but is rather his last real political offering, in which he expressed that the question was one that “can only be answered by someone familiar with world history… [which] means to know most humans as they have been and always will be.”[85] His next words encapsulate his “strong pessimism”, when he says that “there is a vast difference… between viewing the history of the future as it shall be and as one might like it to be. Peace is the wish, war is an actuality”: he echoes his introduction to Jahre der Entscheidung, “it is the great task of the connoisseur of history to understand the actualities of his age and, using them, to sense the future, to indicate and to sketch out what will come, whether we desire it or not.”[86] He follows it saying that, ultimately, man will always resort to violence in some form or another. He declares that a man may “be branded a criminal, a class can be called revolutionary or traitorous, a people bloodthirsty, but that does not alter the actuality” that violence is in escapable.[87]

He then repeats a his message to the Western world, hoping perhaps for an audience in liberal America where he had lost his in Germany: “It is a deadly reality that today only the white peoples speak of ‘world peace’, not the many coloured peoples. As long as individual thinkers and idealists do this—and they have done it in all ages—it is ineffective. When, on the other hand, entire peoples become pacifistic, it is a symptom of senility. Strong and unspent breeds do not do it: it is abandonment of the future, because the pacifist ideal is a terminal state that contradicts the reality of life.”[88] Spengler would go to his grave convinced that half of the Occident had adopted this very abandonment of the future, and the other half had gone mad on the drunkenness of National Socialism. Fischer observes that “convinced of the truth of his ideas, Spengler seems to have resigned himself to a life of quiet desperation.”[89] His desperation ended before the dawn of the 8th of May 1936, when a sudden heart attack mercifully took him from the world before he could witness his most recent predictions of death and doom become reality.

Eleven days after Spengler’s death, his closest friend, August Albers, who Fischer calls his “philosophical sounding board”, which he had been since Decline in 1917, threw himself in front of a train, unable to cope with the absence of his mentor and friend. His sister collected his papers and would spend the rest of her life handling the publication of his remaining papers; her daughter would devote most of her academic life to studying and publicising his contributions to history, politics, and philosophy. Paul Reusch chose and paid for the grave marker, a simple block of polished black granite with SPENGLER etched across it in stark white letters. Beneath it Spengler rests holding a copy of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Goethe’s Faust.

Notes

[1] H. Stuart Hughes, Oswald Spengler: A Critical Estimate (New York: Charles Scribner Sons, 1952), 1.

[2] Anton Mirko Koktanek, Oswald Spengler in Seiner Zeit (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1968), 435.

[3] Koktanek, Spenger in Seiner Zeit, 427.

[4] Oswald Spengler, Ich beneide jeden, der lebt, ed. Gilbert Merlio and Hilde Kornhardt (Munich: C.H. Beck, 2007), 16. The original title of the text was to be Eis heauton, in imitation of Marcus Aurelius, and the manuscript was originally edited by Spengler’s niece and her mother, both named Hilde Kornhardt.

[5] Spengler, Ich beneide, 14.

[6] John Farrenkopf, Prophet of Decline, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2001), 9.

[7] Koktanek, Spengler in Seiner Zeit, 19.

[8] Farrenkopf, Prophet, 7-8.

[9] Farrenkopf, Prophet, 8-9.

[10] Klaus P. Fischer, History and Prophecy: Oswald Spengler and the Decline of the West (New York: Peter Lang, 1989), 34.

[11] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 35.

[12] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 36.

[13] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 36.

[14] Farrenkopf, Prophet, 11.

[15] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 28.

[16] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 37.

[17] Spengler, Ich beneide, 73.

[18] Farrenkopf, Prophet, 15.

[19] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 45.

[20] Oswald Spengler, Der Untergang des Abendlandes, (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1969), x.

[21] Thomas A. Brady, German Histories in the Ages of Reformations (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2009), 3.

[22] G.W.F. Hegel, Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts (Leiden: A.H. Adriani, 1902), 238.

[23] Oswald Spengler, Decline of the West, trans. C.F. Atkinson (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928), 21. He derives this notion from Goethe, who says in a letter to Heinrich Luden (†1847), “‘Die Menschheit’? Das ist ein Abstraktum. Es hat von jeher nur Menschen gegeben und wird nur Menschen geben.” (“‘Mankind’? It is an abstraction. There have only ever been men and will only ever be men.”) (p 281)

[24] The proper rendering of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft in English is highly disputed among translators; the former is often translated as “community” but may also be understood (perhaps more clearly) as “communion”, while the latter is rendered both as “society” and “association,” with the latter being favoured in recent scholarship. Cf. Ferdinand Tönnies: A New Evaluation, ed. Werner J. Cahnman (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1973).

[25] Ferdinand Tönnies, Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (Berlin: Karl Curtius, 1912), 3-4.

[26] Spengler, Decline, 109.

[27] Spengler, Decline, 31.

[28] Spengler, Decline, 53.

[29] Spengler, Decline, 212.

[30] Spengler, Decline, 191-192.

[31] Oswald Spengler, Jahre der Entscheidung (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1933), 43. He doesn’t, however, make clear what the implications of Stalin’s “modernisation” policies and the five-year plan might be.

[32] Oswald Spengler, “Pessimismus?” in Rede und Aufsätze (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1937), 63-64.

[33] Spengler, Decline, 485. N.B. The notion of “race” here should not be understood as the restrictive biological concept but retaining its nineteenth-century use as a term for a broad cultural unit.

[34] Oswald Spengler, Letters 1913-1936, trans. Arthur Helps (London: George Allen Unwin, 1966), 87.

[35] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 68.

[36] Spengler, Letters, 92.

[37] Spengler, Letters, 93.

[38] Donald O. White, Introduction to Selected Essays, by Oswald Spengler, trans. and ed. Donald O. White (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1967), xiii.

[39] Timothy Ryback, Hitler’s Private Library (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008), 112.

[40] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 61.

[41] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 61.

[42] Spengler, Letters, 133-138.

[43] Spengler, Letters, 181.

[44] Spengler, Selected Essays, 7.

[45] Spengler, Selected Essays, 3.

[46] Spengler, Selected Essays, 1, 3.

[47] Spengler, Selected Essays, 10-11.

[48] Spengler, Selected Essays, 13.

[49] Spengler, Selected Essays, 13.

[50] Spengler, Selected Essays, 29.

[51] Spengler, Selected Essays, 92.

[52] Spengler, Letters, 11.

[53] White, Introduction, xi.

[54] Benito Mussolini, “Anni decisive di Osvaldo Spengler”, Il Popolo d’Italia, 15 December 1933, p. 16.

[55] Spengler, Letters, 184.

[56] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 71.

[57] Spengler, Letters, 180.

[58] Cf. Oswald Spengler, Reden und Aufsätze (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1937), 96.

[59] Spengler, Letters, 211; “Will Our Civilization Survive?” New York Times, 24 May 1925, SM1; “Doom of Western Civilization,” New York Times, 2 May 1926, BR1.

[60] Spengler, Letters, 222.

[61] Spengler, Letters, 229.

[62] Spengler, Letters, 203, 204, 219-220, 235.

[63] Spengler, Letters, 2031.

[64] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 73.

[65] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 66.

[66] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 66.

[67] Farrenkopf, Prophet, 202.

[68] Spengler, Decline, 109.

[69] Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), 217-218.

[70] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 74.

[71] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 74.

[72] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 74.

[73] William McDonald, “Spengler’s New Challenge” New York Times, 11 February 1934.

[74] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 78.

[75] Farrenkopf, Prophet, 238.

[76] Spengler, Letters, 291.

[77] “June ‘White List’ of Books Issued” New York Times, 26 May, 1934, p. 15.

[78] Spengler, Jahre der Entscheidung, 157.

[79] Farrenkopf, Prophet, 256; Oswald Spengler, Gedanken, (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1941), 23.

[80] Spengler, Der Mensch und die Technik (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1931), 89.

[81] Farrenkopf, Prophet, 256.

[82] Spengler, Jahre der Entscheidung, 165.

[83] Farrenkopf, Prophet, 258.

[84] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 76.

[85] Spengler, Reden und Aufsätze, 292.

[86] Spengler, Reden und Aufsätze, 292; Spengler, Jahre der Entscheidung, vii.

[87] Spengler, Reden und Aufsätze, 292.

[88] Spengler, Reden und Aufsätze, 292-293.

[89] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 68.

 

————

Borthwick, Stephen M. “Historian of the Future: An Introduction to Oswald Spengler’s Life and Works for the Curious Passer-by and the Interested Student.” Institute for Oswald Spengler Studies, 2011. <https://sites.google.com/site/spenglerinstitute/Biography >. (See this essay in PDF format here: Historian of the Future (Spengler)).

Note: See also “The Revolutionary Conservative Critique of Oswald Spengler” by Lucian Tudor: <https://neweuropeanconservative.wordpress.com/2014/11/07/conservative-critique-of-spengler-tudor/ >.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under New European Conservative

Othmar Spann – Tudor

Othmar Spann: A Catholic Radical Traditionalist

By Lucian Tudor

 

Translations: Português

Othmar Spann was an Austrian philosopher who was a key influence on German conservative and traditionalist thought in the period after World War I, and he is thus considered a representative of the intellectual movement known as the “Conservative Revolution.” Spann was a professor of economics and sociology at the University of Vienna, where he taught not only scientific social and economic theories, but also influenced many students with the presentation of his worldview in his lectures. As a result of this he formed a large group of followers known as the Spannkreis (“Spann Circle”). This circle of intellectuals attempted to influence politicians who would be sympathetic to “Spannian” philosophy in order to actualize its goals.[1]

Othmar Spann himself was influenced by a variety of philosophers across history, including Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, J. G. Fichte, Franz von Baader, and most notably the German Romantic thought of Adam Müller. Spann called his own worldview “Universalism,” a term which should not be confused with “universalism” in the vernacular sense; for the former is nationalistic and values particularity while the latter refers to cosmopolitan or non-particularist (even anti-particularist) ideas. Spann’s term is derived from the root word “universality,” which is in this case synonymous with related terms such as collectivity, totality, or whole.[2] Spann’s Universalism was expounded in a number of books, most notably in Der wahre Staat (“The True State”), and essentially taught the value of nationality, of the social whole over the individual, of religious (specifically Catholic) values over materialistic values, and advocated the model of a non-democratic, hierarchical, and corporatist state as the only truly valid political constitution.

Social Theory

Othmar Spann declared: “It is the fundamental truth of all social science . . . that not individuals are the truly real, but the whole, and that the individuals have reality and existence only so far as they are members of the whole.”[3] This concept, which is at the core of Spann’s sociology, is not a denial of the existence of the individual person, but a complete denial of individualism; individualism being that ideology which denies the existence and importance of supra-individual realities. Classical liberal theory, which was individualist, held an “atomistic” view of individuals and regarded only individuals as truly real; individuals which it believed were essentially disconnected and independent from each other. It also held that society only exists as an instrumental association as a result of a “social contract.” On the other hand, sociological studies have disproven this theory, showing that the whole (society) is never merely the sum of its parts (individuals) and that individuals naturally have psychological bonds with each other. This was Othmar Spann’s position, but he had his own unique way of formulating it.[4]

While the theory of individualism appears, superficially, to be correct to many people, an investigation into the matter shows that it is entirely fallacious. Individuals never act entirely independently because their behavior is always at least in part determined by the society in which they live, and by their organic, non-instrumental (and thus also non-contractual) bonds with other people in their society. Spann wrote, “according to this view, the individual is no longer self-determined and self-created, and is no longer based exclusively and entirely on its own egoicity.”[5] Spann conceived of the social order, of the whole, as an organic society (a community) in which all individuals belonging to it have a pre-existing spiritual unity. The individual person emerges as such from the social whole to which he was born and from which he is never really separated, and “thus the individual is that which is derivative.”[6]

Therefore, society is not merely a mechanical aggregate of fundamentally disparate individuals, but a whole, a community, which precedes its parts, the individuals. “Universalists contend that the mental or spiritual associative tie between individuals exists as an independent entity . . .”[7] However, Spann clarified that this does not mean that the individual has “no mental self-sufficiency,” but rather that he actualizes his personal being only as a member of the whole: “he is only able to form himself, is only able to build up his personality, when in close touch with others like unto himself; he can only sustain himself as a being endowed with mentality or spirituality, when he enjoys intimate and multiform communion with other beings similarly endowed.”[8] Therefore,

All spiritual reality present in the individual is only there and only comes into being as something that has been awakened . . . the spirituality that comes into being in an individual (whether directly or mediated) is always in some sense a reverberation of that which another spirit has called out to the individual. This means that human spirituality exists only in community, never in spiritual isolation. . . . We can say that individual spirituality only exists in community or better, in ‘spiritual community’ [Gezweiung]. All spiritual essence and reality exists as ‘spiritual community’ and only in ‘communal spirituality’ [Gezweitheit]. [9]

It is also important to clarify that Spann’s concept of society did not conceive of society as having no other spiritual bodies within it that were separate from each other. On the contrary, he recognized the importance of the various sub-groups, referred to by him as “partial wholes,” as constituent parts and elements which are different yet related, and which are harmonized by the whole under which they exist. Therefore, the whole or the totality can be understood as the unity of individuals and “partial wholes.” To reference a symbolic image, “Totality [the Whole] is analogous to white light before it is refracted by a prism into many colors,” in which the white light is the supra-temporal totality, while the prism is cosmic time which “refracts the totality into the differentiated and individuated temporal reality.”[10]

Nationality and Racial Style

Volk (“people” or “nation”), which signifies “nationality” in the cultural and ethnic sense, is an entirely different entity and subject matter from society or the whole, but for Spann the two had an important connection. Spann was a nationalist and, defining Volk in terms of belonging to a “spiritual community” with a shared culture, believed that a social whole is under normal conditions only made up of a single ethnic type. Only when people shared the same cultural background could the deep bonds which were present in earlier societies truly exist. He thus upheld the “concept of the concrete cultural community, the idea of the nation – as contrasted with the idea of unrestricted, cosmopolitan, intercourse between individuals.”[11]

Spann advocated the separation of ethnic groups under different states and was also a supporter of pan-Germanism because he believed that the German people should unite under a single Reich. Because he also believed that the German nation was intellectually superior to all other nations (a notion which can be considered as the unfortunate result of a personal bias), Spann also believed that Germans had a duty to lead Europe out of the crisis of liberal modernity and to a healthier order similar to that which had existed in the Middle Ages.[12]

Concerning the issue of race, Spann attempted to formulate a view of race which was in accordance with the Christian conception of the human being, which took into account not only his biology but also his psychological and spiritual being. This is why Spann rejected the common conception of race as a biological entity, for he did not believe that racial types were derived from biological inheritance, just as he did not believe an individual person’s character was set into place by heredity. Rather what race truly was for Spann was a cultural and spiritual character or type, so a person’s “racial purity” is determined not by biological purity but by how much his character and style of behavior conforms to a specific spiritual quality. In his comparison of the race theories of Spann and Ludwig Ferdinand Clauss (an influential race psychologist), Eric Voegelin had concluded:

In Spann’s race theory and in the studies of Clauss we find race as the idea of a total being: for these two scholars racial purity or blood purity is not a property of the genetic material in the biological sense, but rather the stylistic purity of the human form in all its parts, the possession of a mental stamp recognizably the same in its physical and psychological expression. [13]

However, it should be noted that while Ludwig Clauss (like Spann) did not believe that spiritual character was merely a product of genetics, he did in fact emphasize that physical race had importance because the bodily racial form must be essentially in accord with the psychical racial form with which it is associated, and with which it is always linked. As Clauss wrote,

The style of the psyche expresses itself in its arena, the animate body. But in order for this to be possible, this arena itself must be governed by a style, which in turn must stand in a structured relationship to the style of the psyche: all the features of the somatic structure are, as it were, pathways for the expression of the psyche. The racially constituted (that is, stylistically determined) psyche thus acquires a racially constituted animate body in order to express the racially constituted style of its experience in a consummate and pure manner. The psyche’s expressive style is inhibited if the style of its body does not conform perfectly with it.[14]

Likewise Julius Evola, whose thought was influenced by both Spann and Clauss, and who expanded Clauss’s race psychology to include religious matters, also affirmed that the body had a certain level of importance.[15]

On the other hand, the negative aspect of Othmar Spann’s theory of race is that it ends up dismissing the role of physical racial type entirely, and indeed many of Spann’s major works do not even mention the issue of race. A consequence of this was also the fact that Spann tolerated and even approved of critiques made by his students of National Socialist theories of race which emphasized the role of biology; an issue which would later compromise his relationship with that movement even though he was one of its supporters.[16]

The True State

Othmar Spann’s Universalism was in essence a Catholic form of “Radical Traditionalism”; he believed that there existed eternal principles upon which every social, economic, and political order should be constructed. Whereas the principles of the French Revolution – of liberalism, democracy, and socialism – were contingent upon historical circumstances, bound by world history, there are certain principles upon which most ancient and medieval states were founded which are eternally valid, derived from the Divine order. While specific past state forms which were based on these principles cannot be revived exactly as they were because they held many characteristics which are outdated and historical, the principles upon which they were built and therefore the general model which they provide are timeless and must reinstituted in the modern world, for the systems derived from the French Revolution are invalid and harmful.[17] This timeless model was the Wahre Staat or “True State” – a corporative, monarchical, and elitist state – which was central to Universalist philosophy.

1. Economics

In terms of economics, Spann, like Adam Müller, rejected both capitalism and socialism, advocating a corporatist system relatable to that of the guild system and the landed estates of the Middle Ages; a system in which fields of work and production would be organized into corporations and would be subordinated in service to the state and to the nation, and economic activity would therefore be directed by administrators rather than left solely to itself. The value of each good or commodity produced in this system was determined not by the amount of labor put into it (the labor theory of value of Marx and Smith), but by its “organic use” or “social utility,” which means its usefulness to the social whole and to the state.[18]

Spann’s major reason for rejecting capitalism was because it was individualistic, and thus had a tendency to create disharmony and weaken the spiritual bonds between individuals in the social whole. Although Spann did not believe in eliminating competition from economic life, he pointed out that the extreme competition glorified by capitalists created a market system in which there occurred a “battle of all against all” and in which undertakings were not done in service to the whole and the state but in service to self-centered interests. Universalist economics aimed to create harmony in society and economics, and therefore valued “the vitalising energy of the personal interdependence of all the members of the community . . .”[19]

Furthermore, Spann recognized that capitalism also did result in an unfair treatment by capitalists of those underneath them. Thus while he believed Marx’s theories to be theoretically flawed, Spann also mentioned that “Marx nevertheless did good service by drawing attention to the inequality of the treatment meted out to worker and to entrepreneur respectively in the individualist order of society.”[20] Spann, however, rejected socialist systems in general because while socialism seemed superficially Universalistic, it was in fact a mixture of Universalist and individualist elements. It did not recognize the primacy of the State over individuals and also held that all individuals in society should hold the same position, eliminating all class distinctions, and should receive the same amount of goods. “True universalism looks for an organic multiplicity, for inequality,” and thus recognizes differences even if it works to establish harmony between the parts.[21]

2. Politics

Spann asserted that all democratic political systems were an inversion of the truly valuable political order, which was of even greater importance than the economic system. A major problem of democracy was that it allowed, firstly, the manipulation of the government by wealthy capitalists and financiers whose moral character was usually questionable and whose goals were almost never in accord with the good of the community; and secondly, democracy allowed the triumph of self-interested demagogues who could manipulate the masses. However, even the theoretical base of democracy was flawed, according to Spann, because human beings were essentially unequal, for individuals are always in reality differentiated in their qualities and thus are suited for different positions in the social order. Democracy thus, by allowing a mass of people to decide governmental matters, meant excluding the right of superior individuals to determine the destiny of the State, for “setting the majority in the saddle means that the lower rule over the higher.”[22]

Finally, Spann noted that “demands for democracy and liberty are, once more, wholly individualistic.”[23] In the Universalist True State, the individual would subordinate his will to the whole and would be guided by a sense of selfless duty in service to the State, as opposed to asserting his individual will against all other wills. Furthermore, the individual did not possess rights because of his “rational” character and simply because of being human, as many Enlightenment thinkers asserted, but these rights were derived from the ethics of the particular social whole to which he belonged and from the laws of the State.[24] Universalism also acknowledged the inherent inequalities in human beings and supported a hierarchical organization of the political order, where there would be only “equality among equals” and the “subordination of the intellectually inferior under their intellectual betters.”[25]

In the True State, individuals who demonstrated their leadership skills, their superior nature, and the right ethical character would rise among the levels of the hierarchy. The state would be led by a powerful elite whose members would be selected from the upper levels of the hierarchy based on their merit; it was essentially a meritocratic aristocracy. Those in inferior positions would be taught to accept their role in society and respect their superiors, although all parts of the system are “nevertheless indispensable for its survival and development.”[26] Therefore, “the source of the governing power is not the sovereignty of the people, but the sovereignty of the content.”[27]

Othmar Spann, in accordance with his Catholic religious background, believed in the existence of a supra-sensual, metaphysical, and spiritual reality which existed separately from and above the material reality, and of which the material realm was its imperfect reflection. He asserted that the True State must be animated by Christian spirituality, and that its leaders must be guided by their devotion to Divine laws; the True State was thus essentially theocratic. However, the leadership of the state would receive its legitimacy not only from its religious character, but also by possessing “valid spiritual content,” which “precedes power as it is represented in law and the state.”[28] Thus Spann concluded that “history teaches us that it is the validity of spiritual values that constitutes the spiritual bond. They cannot be replaced by fire and sword, nor by any other form of force. All governance that endures, and all the order that society has thus achieved, is the result of inner domination.”[29]

The state which Spann aimed to restore was also federalistic in nature, uniting all “partial wholes” – corporate bodies and local regions which would have a certain level of local self-governance – with respect to the higher Authority. As Julius Evola wrote, in a description that is in accord with Spann’s views, “the true state exists as an organic whole comprised of distinct elements, and, embracing partial unities [wholes], each possesses a hierarchically ordered life of its own.”[30] All throughout world history the hierarchical, corporative True State appears and reappears; in the ancient states of Sparta, Rome, Persia, Medieval Europe, and so on. The structures of the states of these times “had given the members of these societies a profound feeling of security. These great civilizations had been characterized by their harmony and stability.”[31]

Liberal modernity had created a crisis in which the harmony of older societies was damaged by capitalism and in which social bonds were weakened (even if not eliminated) by individualism. However, Spann asserted that all forms of liberalism and individualism are a sickness which could never succeed in fully eliminating the original, primal reality. He predicted that in the era after World War I, the German people would reassert its rights and would create revolution restoring the True State, would recreate that “community tying man to the eternal and absolute forces present in the universe,”[32] and whose revolution would subsequently resonate all across Europe, resurrecting in modern political life the immortal principles of Universalism.

Spann’s Influence and Reception

Othmar Spann and his circle held influence largely in Germany and Austria, and it was in the latter country that their influence was the greatest. Spann’s philosophy became the basis of the ideology of the Austrian Heimwehr (“Home Guard”) which was led by Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg. Leaders of the so-called “Austro-fascist state,” including Engelbert Dollfuss and Kurt Schuschnigg, were also partially influenced by Spann’s thought and by members of the “Spann circle.”[33] However, despite the fact that this state was the only one which truly attempted to actualize his ideas, Spann did not support “Austro-fascism” because he was a pan-Germanist and wanted the German people unified under a single state, which is why he joined Hitler’s National Socialist movement, which he believed would pave the way to the True State.

Despite repeated attempts to influence National Socialist ideology and the leaders of the NSDAP, Spann and his circle were rejected by most National Socialists. Alfred Rosenberg, Robert Ley, and various other authors associated with the SS made a number of attacks on Spann’s school. Rosenberg was annoyed both by Spann’s denial of the importance of blood and by his Catholic theocratic position; he wrote that “the Universalist school of Othmar Spann has successfully refuted idiotic materialist individualism . . . [but] Spann asserted against traditional Greek wisdom, and claimed that god is the measure of all things and that true religion is found only in the Catholic Church.”[34]

Aside from insisting on the reality of biological laws, other National Socialists also criticized Spann’s political proposals. They asserted that his hierarchical state would create a destructive divide between the people and their elite because it insisted on their absolute separateness; it would destroy the unity they had established between the leadership and the common folk. Although National Socialism itself had elements of elitism it was also populist, and thus they further argued that every German had the potential to take on a leadership role, and that therefore, if improved within in the Volksgemeinschaft (“Folk-Community”), the German people were thus not necessarily divisible in the strict view of superior elites and inferior masses.[35]

As was to be expected, Spann’s liberal critics complained that his anti-individualist position was supposedly too extreme, and the social democrats and Marxists argued that his corporatist state would take away the rights of the workers and grant rulership to the bourgeois leaders. Both accused Spann of being an unrealistic reactionary who wanted to revive the Middle Ages.[36] However, here we should note here that Edgar Julius Jung, who was himself basically a type of Universalist and was heavily inspired by Spann’s work, had mentioned that:

We are reproached for proceeding alongside or behind active political forces, for being romantics who fail to see reality and who indulge in dreams of an ideology of the Reich that turns toward the past. But form and formlessness represent eternal social principles, like the struggle between the microcosm and the macrocosm endures in the eternal swing of the pendulum. The phenomenal forms that mature in time are always new, but the great principles of order (mechanical or organic) always remain the same. Therefore if we look to the Middle Ages for guidance, finding there the great form, we are not only not mistaking the present time but apprehending it more concretely as an age that is itself incapable of seeing behind the scenes. [37]

Edgar Jung, who was one of Hitler’s most prominent radical Conservative opponents, expounded a philosophy which was remarkably similar to Spann’s, although there are some differences we would like to point out. Jung believed that neither Fascism nor National Socialism were precursors to the reestablishment of the True State but rather “simply another manifestation of the liberal, individualistic, and secular tradition that had emerged from the French Revolution.”[38] Fascism and National Socialism were not guided by a reference to a Divine power and were still infected with individualism, which he believed showed itself in the fact that their leaders were guided by their own ambitions and not a duty to God or a power higher than themselves.

Edgar Jung also rejected nationalism in the strict sense, although he simultaneously upheld the value of Volk and the love of fatherland, and advocated the reorganization of the European continent on a federalist basis with Germany being the leading nation of the federation. Also in contrast to Spann’s views, Jung believed that genetic inheritance did play a role in the character of human beings, although he believed this role was secondary to cultural and spiritual factors and criticized common scientific racialism for its “biological materialism.”

Jung asserted that what he saw as superior racial elements in a population should be strengthened and the inferior elements decreased: “Measures for the raising of racially valuable components of the German people and for the prevention of inferior currents must however be found today rather than tomorrow.”[39] Jung also believed that the elites of the Reich, while they should be open to accepting members of lower levels of the hierarchy who showed leadership qualities, should marry only within the elite class, for in this way a new nobility possessing leadership qualities strengthened both genetically and spiritually would be developed.[40]

Whereas Jung constantly combatted National Socialism to his life’s end, up until the Anschluss Othmar Spann had remained an enthusiastic supporter of National Socialism, always believing he could eventually influence the Third Reich leadership to adopt his philosophy. This illusion was maintained in his mind until the takeover of Austria by Germany in 1938, soon after which Spann was arrested and imprisoned because he was deemed an ideological threat, and although he was released after a few months, he was forcibly confined to his rural home.[41] After World War II he could never regain any political influence, but he left his mark in the philosophical realm. Spann had a partial influence on Eric Voegelin and also on many Neue Rechte (“New Right”) intellectuals such as Armin Mohler and Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner.[42] He has also had an influence on Radical Traditionalist thought, most notably on Julius Evola, who wrote that Spann “followed a similar line to my own,”[43] although there are obviously certain marked differences between the two thinkers. Spann’s philosophy thus, despite its flaws and limitations, has not been entirely lacking in usefulness and interest.

Notes

1. More detailed information on Othmar Spann’s life than provided in this essay can be found in John J. Haag, Othmar Spann and the Politics of “Totality”: Corporatism in Theory and Practice (Ph.D. Thesis, Rice University, 1969).

2. See Othmar Spann, Types of Economic Theory (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1930), p. 61. We should note to the reader that this book is the only major work by Spann to have been published in English and has also been published under an alternative title as History of Economics.

3. Othmar Spann as quoted in Ernest Mort, “Christian Corporatism,” Modern Age, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Summer 1959), p. 249. Available online here: http://www.mmisi.org/ma/03_03/mort.pdf.

4. For a more in-depth and scientific overview of Spann’s studies of society, see Barth Landheer, “Othmar Spann’s Social Theories.” Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 39, No. 2 (April, 1931), pp. 239–48. We should also note to our readers that Othmar Spann’s anti-individualist social theories are more similar to those of other “far Right” sociologists such as Hans Freyer and Werner Sombart. However, it should be remembered that sociologists from nearly all political positions are opposed to individualism to some extent, whether they are of the “moderate Center” or of the “far Left.” Furthermore, anti-individualism is a typical position among many mainstream sociologists today, who recognize that individualistic attitudes – which are, of course, still an issue in societies today just as they were an issue a hundred years ago – have a harmful effect on society as a whole.

5. Othmar Spann, Der wahre Staat (Leipzig: Verlag von Quelle und Meyer, 1921), p. 29. Quoted in Eric Voegelin, Theory of Governance and Other Miscellaneous Papers, 1921–1938 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2003), p. 68.

6. Spann, Der wahre Staat, p. 29. Quoted in Voegelin, Theory of Governance, p. 69.

7. Spann, Types of Economic Theory, pp. 60–61.

8. Ibid., p. 61.

9. Spann, Der wahre Staat, pp. 29 & 34. Quoted in Voegelin, Theory of Governance, pp. 70–71.

10. J. Glenn Friesen, “Dooyeweerd, Spann, and the Philosophy of Totality,” Philosophia Reformata, 70 (2005), p. 6. Available online here: http://members.shaw.ca/hermandooyeweerd/Totality.pdf.

11. Spann, Types of Economic Theory, p. 199.

12. See Haag, Spann and the Politics of “Totality,” p. 48.

13. Eric Voegelin, Race and State (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997), pp. 117–18.

14. Ludwig F. Clauss, Rasse und Seele (Munich: J. F. Lehmann, 1926), pp. 20–21. Quoted in Richard T. Gray, About Face: German Physiognomic Thought from Lavater to Auschwitz (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2004), p. 307.

15. For an overview of Evola’s theory of race, see Michael Bell, “Julius Evola’s Concept of Race: A Racism of Three Degrees.” The Occidental Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Winter 2009–2010), pp. 101–12. Available online here: http://toqonline.com/archives/v9n2/TOQv9n2Bell.pdf. For a closer comparison between the Evola’s theories and Clauss’s, see Julius Evola’s The Elements of Racial Education (Thompkins & Cariou, 2005).

16. See Haag, Spann and the Politics of “Totality, p. 136.

17. A more in-depth explanation of “Radical Traditionalism” can be found in Chapter 1: Revolution – Counterrevolution – Tradition” in Julius Evola, Men Among the Ruins: Postwar Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist, trans. Guido Stucco, ed. Michael Moynihan (Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2002).

18. See Spann, Types of Economic Theory, pp. 162–64.

19. Ibid., p. 162.

20. Ibid., p. 226.

21. Ibid., p. 230.

22. Spann, Der wahre Staat, p. 111. Quoted in Janek Wasserman, Black Vienna, Red Vienna: The Struggle for Intellectual and Political Hegemony in Interwar Vienna, 1918–1938 (Ph.D. Dissertion, Washington University, 2010), p. 80.

23. Spann, Types of Economic Theory, pp. 212.

24. For a commentary on individual natural rights theory, see Ibid., pp.53 ff.

25. Spann, Der wahre Staat, p. 185. Quoted in Wassermann, Black Vienna, Red Vienna, p. 82.

26. Haag, Spann and the Politics of “Totality,” p. 32.

27. Othmar Spann, Kurzgefasstes System der Gesellschaftslehre (Berlin: Quelle und Meyer, 1914), p. 429. Quoted in Voegelin, Theory of Governance, p. 301.

28. Spann, Gesellschaftslehre, p. 241. Quoted in Voegelin, Theory of Governance, p. 297.

29. Spann, Gesellschaftslehre, p. 495. Quoted in Voegelin, Theory of Governance, p. 299.

30. Julius Evola, The Path of Cinnabar (London: Integral Tradition Publishing, 2009), p. 190.

31. Haag, Spann and the Politics of “Totality, p. 39.

32. Ibid., pp. 40–41.

33. See Günter Bischof, Anton Pelinka, Alexander Lassner, The Dollfuss/Schuschnigg Era in Austria: A Reassessment (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2003), pp. 16, 32, & 125 ff.

34. Alfred Rosenberg, The Myth of the Twentieth Century (Sussex, England: Historical Review Press, 2004), pp. 458–59.

35. See Haag, Spann and the Politics of “Totality, pp. 127–29.

36. See Ibid., pp. 66 ff.

37. Edgar Julius Jung, “Germany and the Conservative Revolution,” in: The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, edited by Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), p. 354.

38. Larry Eugene Jones, “Edgar Julius Jung: The Conservative Revolution in Theory and Practice,” Conference Group for Central European History of the American Historical Association, Vol. 21, No. 02 (1988), p. 163.

39. Edgar Julius Jung, “People, Race, Reich,” in: Europa: German Conservative Foreign Policy 1870–1940, edited by Alexander Jacob (Lanham, MD, USA: University Press of America, 2002), p. 101.

40. For a more in-depth overview of Jung’s life and thought, see Walter Struve, Elites Against Democracy: Leadership Ideals in Bourgeois Political Thought in Germany, 1890–1933 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University, 1973), pp. 317 ff. See also Edgar Julius Jung, The Rule of the Inferiour, 2 vols. (Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellon Press, 1995).

41. Haag, Spann and the Politics of “Totality, pp. 154–55.

42. See our previous citations of Voegelin’s Theory of Governance and Race and State; Armin Mohler, Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918–1932 (Stuttgart: Friedrich Vorwerk Verlag, 1950); “Othmar Spann” in Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner, Vom Geist Europas, Vol. 1 (Asendorf: Muth-Verlag, 1987).

43. Evola, Path of Cinnabar, p. 155.

 

—————-

 

Tudor, Lucian. “Othmar Spann: A Catholic Radical Traditionalist.” Counter-Currents Publishing, 19 March 2013. <http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/03/othmar-spann-a-catholic-radical-traditionalist/>.

Note: This essay was also republished in updated form in Lucian Tudor’s From the German Conservative Revolution to the New Right: A Collection of Essays on Identitarian Philosophy (Santiago, Chile: Círculo de Investigaciones PanCriollistas, 2015).

 

2 Comments

Filed under New European Conservative

German Conservative Revolution – Tudor

The German Conservative Revolution & its Legacy

By Lucian Tudor

 

Translations: Suomi, Română

During the years between World War I and the establishment of the Third Reich, the political, economic, and social crises which Germany suddenly experienced as a result of its defeat in the First World War gave rise to a movement known as the “Conservative Revolution,” which is also commonly referred to as the “Conservative Revolutionary Movement,” with its members sometimes called “Revolutionary Conservatives” or even “Neoconservatives.”

The phrase “Conservative Revolution” itself was popularized as a result of a speech in 1927 by the famous poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who was a Catholic cultural conservative and monarchist.[1] Here Hofmannsthal declared, “The process of which I am speaking is nothing less than a conservative revolution on such a scale as the history of Europe has never known. Its object is form, a new German reality, in which the whole nation will share.”[2]

Although these phrases give the impression that the Conservative Revolution was composed of people who shared the same worldview, this was in fact not the case because the thinkers and leaders of the Conservative Revolution often had disagreements. Furthermore, despite the fact that the philosophical ideas produced by this “new conservatism” influenced German National Socialism and also had links to Fascism, it is incorrect to assume that the people belonging to it are either Fascist or “proto-Nazi.” Although some Revolutionary Conservatives praised Italian Fascism and some also eventually joined the National Socialist Movement (although many did not), overall their worldviews were distinct from both of these political groups.

It is difficult to adequately summarize the views held by the Revolutionary Conservatives due to the fact that many of them held views that stood in contradistinction to certain views held by others in the same movement. What they generally had in common was an awareness of the importance of Volk (this term may be translated as “folk,” “nation,” “ethnicity,” or “people”) and culture, the idea of Volksgemeinschaft (“folk-community”), and a rejection of Marxism, liberalism, and democracy (particularly parliamentary democracy). Ideas that also were common among them was a rejection of the linear concept of history in favor of the cyclical concept, a conservative and non-Marxist form of socialism, and the establishment of an authoritarian elite. [3]

In brief, the movement was made of Germans who had conservative tendencies of some sort but who were disappointed with the state into which Germany had been put by its loss of World War I and sought to advance ideas that were both conservative and revolutionary in nature.

In order to obtain an adequate idea as to the nature of the Conservative Revolution and its outlook, it is best to examine the major intellectuals and their thought. The following sections will provide a brief overview of the most important Revolutionary Conservative intellectuals and their key philosophical contributions.

The Visionaries of a New Reich

The most noteworthy Germans who had an optimistic vision of the establishment of a “Third Reich” were Stefan George, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, and Edgar Julius Jung. Stefan George, unlike the other two, was not a typical intellectual but a poet. George expressed his Revolutionary Conservative vision of the “new Reich” largely in poetry, and this poetry did in fact reach and affect many young German nationalists and even intellectuals; and for this he is historically notable.[4] But on the intellectual level, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck (who popularized the term “Third Reich”) and Edgar Julius Jung had a deeper philosophical impact.

1. Arthur Moeller van den Bruck

Moeller van den Bruck was a cultural historian who became politically active at the end of the First World War. He was a founding member of the conservative “June Club,” of which he became the ideological leader.[5] In Der preussische Stil (“The Prussian Style”) he described what he believed to be the Prussian character, whose key characteristic was the “will to the state,” and in Das Recht der jungen Volker (“The Right of Young Peoples”) he presented the idea of “young peoples” (including Germany, Russia, and America) and “old peoples” (including England and France), advocating an alliance between the “younger” nations with more vitality to defeat the hegemony of Britain and France.[6]

In 1922, he contributed, along with Heinrich von Gleichen and Max Hildebert Boehm, to the book Die neue Front (“The New Front”), a manifesto of the Jungkonservativen (“Young-conservatives”).[7] A year later, Moeller van den Bruck produced his most famous work which contained a comprehensive exposition of his worldview, Das Dritte Reich, translated into English as Germany’s Third Empire.[8]

In Germany’s Third Empire, Moeller made a division between four political stances: Revolutionary, Liberal, Reactionary, and Conservative. Revolutionaries, which especially included Communists, were unrealistic in the sense that they believed they could totally brush aside all past values and traditions. Liberalism was criticized for its radical individualism, which essentially amounts to egotism and disintegrates nations and traditions. Reactionaries, on the other hand, were criticized for having the unrealistic position of desiring a complete revival of past forms, believing that everything in past society was positive. The Conservative, Moeller argued, was superior to the former three because “Conservatism seeks to preserve a nation’s values, both by conserving traditional values, as far as these still possess the power of growth, and by assimilating all new values which increase a nation’s vitality.”[9] Moeller’s “Conservative” was essentially a Revolutionary Conservative.

Moeller rejected Marxism because of its rationalism and materialism, which he argued were flawed ideologies that failed to understand the better side of human societies and life. “Socialism begins where Marxism ends,” he declared.[10] Moeller advocated a corporatist German socialism which recognized the importance of nationality and refused class warfare.

In terms of politics, Moeller rejected republicanism and asserted that true democracy was about the people taking a share in determining its destiny. He rejected monarchy as outdated and anticipated a new form of government in which a strong leader who was connected to the people would emerge. “We need leaders who feel themselves at one with the nation, who identify the nation’s fate with their own.” [11] This leader would establish a “Third Empire, a new and final Empire,” which would solve Germany’s political problems (especially its population problem).

2. Edgar Julius Jung

Another great vision of a Third Reich came from Edgar Julius Jung, a politically active intellectual who wrote the large book Die Herrschaft der Minderwertigen, translated into English as The Rule of the Inferiour,[12] which has sometimes been called the “bible of neo-conservatism.”[13] This book presented a devastating critique of liberalism and combined ideas from Spann, Schmitt, Pareto, and other thinkers.

Liberal democracy was rejected by Jung as the rule of masses which were manipulated by demagogues and also the rule of money because it had inherent tendencies towards plutocracy. The French Revolutionary ideas of “liberty, equality, fraternity” were all rejected as corrosive influences harmful to society and sources of individualism, which Jung viewed as a key cause of decay. Jung also rejected Marxism as a corrupt product of the French Revolution. [14] The Conservative Revolution for Jung was, in his words, the

Restoration of all those elementary laws and values without which man loses his ties with nature and God and without which he is incapable of building up a true order. In the place of equality there will be inherent standards, in the place of social consciousness a just integration into the hierarchical society, in the place of mechanical election an organic elite, in the place of bureaucratic leveling the inner responsibility of genuine self-government, in the place of mass prosperity the rights of a proud people. [15]

In the place of liberal and Marxist forms, Jung envisioned the establishment of a New Reich which would use corporatist economics (related to the medieval guild system), would be organized on a federalist basis, would be animated by Christian spirituality and the power of the Church, and would be led by an authoritarian monarchy and an elite composed of selected qualified members. In Jung’s words, “The state as the highest order of organic community must be an aristocracy; in the last and highest sense: the rule of the best. Even democracy was founded with this claim.”[16]

He also critiqued the materialistic concept of race as “biological materialism” and asserted instead the primacy of the cultural-spiritual entity (it was on this basis, rather than on biology, that the Jewish Problem was to be dealt with). Furthermore, he rejected nationalism in the normal sense of the term, supporting the concept of a federalist, supra-national, pan-European Empire, while still recognizing the reality and importance of Volk and the separateness of ethnic groups. In fact, Jung believed that the new Reich should be formed on “an indestructible volkisch foundation from which the volkisch struggle can take form.”[17]

Edgar Jung, however, was not content with merely writing about his ideas; he had great political ambitions and actively worked with parties and conservatives who agreed with him in the 1920s up until 1934.[18] The necessity of battle was already part of Jung’s philosophy: “If the German people see that, among them, combatants still live, then they become aware also of combat as the highest form of existence. The German destiny calls for men who master it. For, world-history makes the man.” [19]

During his political activity, he came to dislike the National Socialist movement due to a personal dislike for Hitler as well as his view that National Socialism was a product of modernity and was ideologically linked with Marxism and liberalism. Jung was highly active in his opposition to the NSDAP and was eventually responsible for writing Papen’s Marburg address which criticized Hitler’s government in 1934, which resulted in Jung’s death on the Night of the Long Knives.[20]

Theorists of Decline: Spengler and Klages

1. Oswald Spengler

The most famous theorist of decline is Oswald Spengler, the “doctor-prophet” who predicted the fall of the Western High Culture in his magnum opus, The Decline of the West. According to Spengler, every High Culture has its own “soul” (this refers to the essential character of a Culture) and goes through predictable cycles of birth, growth, fulfillment, decline, and demise which resemble that of the life of a plant.[21] To quote Spengler:

A Culture is born in the moment when a great soul awakens out of the proto-spirituality of ever-childish humanity, and detaches itself, a form from the formless, a bounded and mortal thing from the boundless and enduring. It blooms on the soil of an exactly-definable landscape, to which plant-wise it remains bound. It dies when the soul has actualized the full sum of its possibilities in the shape of peoples, languages, dogmas, arts, states, sciences, and reverts into the proto-soul. [22]

There is an important distinction in this theory between Kultur (“Culture”) and Zivilisation (“Civilization”). Culture refers to the beginning phase of a High Culture which is marked by rural life, religiosity, vitality, will-to-power, and ascendant instincts, while Civilization refers to the later phase which is marked by urbanization, irreligion, purely rational intellect, mechanized life, and decadence. Spengler particularly focused on three High Cultures which he made comparisons between: the Magian, the Classical, and the present Western High Culture. He held the view that the West, which was in its later Civilization phase, would soon enter a final imperialistic and “Caesarist” stage – a stage which, according to Spengler, marks the final flash before the end of a High Culture.[23]

Perhaps Spengler’s most important contribution to the Conservative Revolution, however, is his theory of “Prussian Socialism” which he expressed in Prussianism and Socialism, and which formed the basis of his view that conservatives and socialists should unite. In this short book he argued that the Prussian character, which was the German character par excellence, was essentially socialist. For Spengler, true socialism was primarily a matter of ethics rather than economics.[24]

This ethical, Prussian socialism meant the development and practice of work ethic, discipline, obedience, a sense of duty to the greater good and the state, self-sacrifice, and the possibility of attaining any rank by talent. Prussian socialism was differentiated from Marxism and liberalism. Marxism was not true socialism because it was materialistic and based on class conflict, which stood in contrast with the Prussian ethics of the state. Also in contrast to Prussian socialism was liberalism and capitalism, which negated the idea of duty, practiced a “piracy principle,” and created the rule of money.[25]

2. Ludwig Klages

Ludwig Klages was a less influential, although still noteworthy, theorist of decline who focused not on High Cultures, but on the decline of Life (which stands in contrast to mere Existence). Klages’s theory, named “Biocentrism,” posited a dichotomy between Seele (“Soul”) and Geist (“Spirit”); two forces in human life that were in a psychological battle with each other. Soul may be understood as pure Life, vital impulse, and feeling, while Spirit may be understood as abstract intellect, mechanical and conceptual thought, reason, and Will.[26]

According to Biocentric theory, in primordial pre-historic times, man’s Soul and body were united and thus humans lived ecstatically in accordance to the principle of Life. Over time, human Life was interfered with by Spirit, which caused humans to use conceptual (as opposed to symbolic) thought and rational intellect, thus beginning the severing of body and Soul. In this theory, the more human history progresses, the more Life is limited and ruined by the Spirit in a long but ultimately unstoppable process which ends in completely mechanized, over-civilized, and soul-less people. “Already, the machine has liberated itself from man’s control,” wrote Klages, “it is no longer man’s servant: in reality, man himself is now being enslaved by the machine.”[27]

This final stage is marked by such things as a complete disconnection from Nature, the destruction of the natural environment, massive race-mixing, and a lack of true Life, which is predicted to finally end in the death of mankind due to damage to the natural world. Klages declared, “. . . the ultimate destruction of all seems to be a foregone conclusion.”[28]

Spann and the Unified State

Othmar Spann was, from 1919 to 1938, a professor at the University of Vienna in Austria who was influential but who, despite his enthusiastic support for National Socialism, was removed by the Third Reich government due to a few ideological disagreements.[29] He was the exponent of a theory known as “Universalism” (which is entirely different from universalism in the normal sense of the term). His Universalist view of economics, politics, society, and science was expounded in numerous books, the most important of which was his most memorable work, Der wahre Staat (“The True State”).[30]

Spann’s Universalism was a corporatist theory which rejected individualism. To understand Spann’s rejection of individualism it is necessary to understand what “individualism” is because different and even contradictory definitions are given to that term; individualism here refers to the concept that the individual is absolute and no supra-individual reality exists (and therefore, society is nothing more than a collection of atoms). The reader must be aware that Spann did not make a complete denial of the individual, but rather a complete denial of individualist ideology.[31]

According to Universalist theory, the individual exists only within a particular community or society; the whole (the totality of society) precedes the parts (individuals) because the parts do not truly exist independent from the whole.[32] Spann wrote, “It is the fundamental truth of all social science . . . that it is not the individuals that are the truly real, but the whole, and that the individuals have reality and existence only so far as they are members of the whole.”[33]

Furthermore, society and the State were not entirely separable, because from the State comes the rights of the individual, family, and other groups. Liberalism, capitalism, democracy, and Marxian socialism were all rejected by Spann as individualist or materialist and corrupt products of French Revolutionary ideas. Whereas in past societies the individual was integrated into community, modern life with its liberalism had atomized society. According to Spann, “Mankind can reconcile itself to poverty because it will be and remain poor forever. But to the loss of estate, existential insecurity, uprootedness, and nothingness, the masses of affected people can never reconcile themselves.”[34] As a solution to modern decay, Spann envisioned the formation of a religious Christian, corporatist, hierarchical, and authoritarian state similar to the First Reich (the Holy Roman Empire).[35]

A lesser-known Revolutionary Conservative academic, Hans Freyer, also held similar views to Spann and challenged the ideas and results of the “Enlightenment,” particularly secularism, the idea of universal reason, the concept of a universal humanity, urbanization, and democratization. Against modern society corrupted by these things, Freyer posed the idea of a “totally integrated society” which would be completed by a powerful, non-democratic state. Culture, Volk, race, and religion would form the basis of society and state in order to restore a sense of community and common values. Freyer also joined the National Socialists believing that the movement would realize his aims but later became disappointed with it because of what he saw as its repressive nature during the Third Reich.[36]

Zehrer and Elitist Theory

Hans Zehrer was a notable contributor to and editor of the “neoconservative” magazine Die Tat, and thus eventually also a founding member of a group of intellectuals known as the Tat-Kreis (“Tat-Circle”). Zehrer held the view that “all movements began as intellectual movements of intelligent, well-qualified minorities which, because of the discrepancy between that which is and that which should be, seized the initiative.”[37] His theory was somewhat related to Vilfredo Pareto’s concept of a “circulation of elites” in that he believed that intellectuals, in most cases gifted and intelligent men emerging from any social class, were crucial in determining the succeeding social order and its ideas.

In Germany at that time, the middle class, which made up a large segment of society and of which Zehrer was a member, was facing a number of economic problems. It was Zehrer’s dream that a new political order could be established by young intellectuals of the middle class which he attempted to reach. This new order would result in the abolishment of the insecure Weimar republic and the establishment of an authoritarian elite made up largely of such intellectuals. This elite would not be subject to control by the masses and would choose its own members based on the criterion of personal quality and ability without regard to social class or wealth.[38]

Zehrer’s vision was not fulfilled due to a series of failures to establish a new state by a “revolution from above” as well because of the rise of the NSDAP, which he attempted to influence in the early 1930s despite his disdain for party rule and, after being unsuccessful, retreated from political activity. However, although most Revolutionary Conservative thinkers did not envision an elite composed almost solely of intellectuals, it is notable that they shared with Zehrer the view that an authoritarian elite should have its membership open to qualified individuals of all classes and ranks.[39]

Sombart and Conservative Socialism

Socialists with nationalist and conservative leanings such as Paul Lensch, Johann Plenge, Werner Sombart, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, and Oswald Spengler to the rise of a new, national, conservative socialism. Of course, it should be remembered that non-Marxist socialism already had a long history in Germany, including such people as the Kathedersozialisten (“socialists of the chair”), Adolf Stöcker, and Ferdinand Tönnies.[40] Werner Sombart himself began as a Marxist, but later became disillusioned with Marxist theory, which he realized was destructive of the human spirit and organic community much in the same way capitalism was.

Sombart is for the most part remembered for his work on the nature of capitalism, especially his works linking the materialistic character of the Jews with capitalism. The obsession with profit, ruthless business practices, indifference to quality, and “the merely rationalizing and abstracting characteristics of the trader” which were key products of capitalism, destroy any “community of labor” and disintegrate bonds between people which were more common in medieval society.[41] Sombart wrote, “Before capitalism could develop, the natural man had to be changed out of all recognition, and a rationalistically minded mechanism introduced in his stead. There had to be a transvaluation of all economic values.”[42]

Sombart’s major objections to Marxism consisted of the fact that Marxism aimed to suppress all religious feelings as well as national feelings and the values of rooted, indigenous culture; Marxism aimed not at a higher mankind but mere base “happiness.” In contrast to Marxism and capitalism, Sombart advocated a German Socialism in which economic policies would be “directed in a corporative manner,” exploitation would be ended, and hierarchy and the welfare of the whole state would be upheld.[43]

Radicalism and Nationalism: Jünger and Niekisch

1. Ernst Jünger

Ernst Jünger is well-known for his work on what he saw as the positive effects of warfare and battle, with himself having experienced these in World War I. Jünger rejected the bourgeois civilization of comfort and security, which he saw as weak and dying, in favor of the hardening and “magnificent” experience of action and adventure in war, which would transform a man of the bourgeois world into a “warrior.” The warrior type battled “against the eternal Utopia of peace, the pursuit of happiness, and perfection.”[44] Jünger believed that the crisis and restlessness of Germans after the World War was essentially a good thing.

In his book Der Arbeiter, the “warrior” was followed by the “worker,” a new type which would become dominant after the end of the bourgeois order. Jünger had realized that modern technology was changing the world; the individual man was losing his individuality and freedom in a mechanized world. Thus he anticipated a society in which people would accept anonymity in the masses and obedient service to the state; the population would undergo “total mobilization.”[45] To quote Jünger:

Total Mobilization is far less consummated than it consummates itself; in war and peace, it expresses the secret and inexorable claim to which our life in the age of masses and machines subjects us. It thus turns out that each individual life becomes, ever more unambiguously, the life of a worker; and that, following the wars of knights, kings, and citizens, we now have wars of workers. The first great twentieth-century conflict has offered us a presentiment of both their rational structure and their mercilessness.[46]

Ernst Jünger’s acceptance of technology in the “worker” stage stands somewhat in contrast to the position taken by his brother, Friedrich Georg Jünger, who wrote critiques of modern technological civilization (although Ernst would later in life agree with this view).[47] Ernst Jünger later changed in his attitudes during World War II, and afterwards nearly inverted his entire worldview, praising peace and individualism; a change which had not come without criticism from the Right.[48]

2. Ernst Niekisch

Another notable radical nationalist in the Conservative Revolution was Ernst Niekisch, who began as a Communist but eventually turned to a seemingly paradoxical mixture of German nationalism and Russian communism: National Bolshevism. In accordance with this new doctrine, Niekisch advocated an alliance between Soviet Russia and Germany in order to overcome the Versailles Treaty as well as to counter the power of the capitalist and anti-nationalist Western nations. However, this deviant faction, in competition with both Communists and anti-Communist nationalists, remained an unsuccessful minority.[49]

Political Theory: Schmitt and Haushofer

1. Carl Schmitt

Carl Schmitt was a notable Catholic philosopher of politics and jurist who was a major influence on political thought and who also supported the Third Reich government after its formation. His most famous book was The Concept of the Political, although he is also the author of numerous other works, including Political Theology and The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy.

The “political,” for Schmitt, was a concept distinct from politics in the normal sense of the term, and was based on the distinction between “friend” and “enemy.” The political exists wherever there exists an enemy, a group which is different and holds different interests, and with whom there is a possibility of conflict. This criterion includes both groups outside of the state as well as within the state, and therefore both inter-state war as well as civil war is taken into account. A population can be unified and mobilized through the political act, in which an enemy is identified and battled.[50]

Schmitt also defended the practice of dictatorship, which he distinguished from “tyranny.” Dictatorship is a form of government which is established when a “state of exception” or emergency exists in which it is necessary to bypass slow parliamentary processes in order to defend the law. According to Schmitt, dictatorial power is present in any case in which a state or leader exercises power independently of the approval of majorities, regardless of whether or not this state is “democratic.” Sovereignty is the power to decide the state of exception, and thus, “sovereign is he who decides on the exception.”[51]

Schmitt further criticized parliamentary or liberal democracy by arguing that the original basis of parliamentarism — which held that the separation of powers and open and rational dialogue between parties would result in a well-functioning state — was in fact negated by the reality of party politics, in which party leaders, coalitions, and interest groups make decisions on policies without a discussion. Another notable argument made by Schmitt was that true democracy is not liberal democracy, in which a plurality of groups are treated equally under a single state, but a unified, homogenous state in which leaders’ decisions express the will of the unified people. In Schmitt’s words, “Every actual democracy rests on the principle that not only are equals equal but unequals will not be treated equally. Democracy requires, therefore, first homogeneity and second – if the need arises elimination or eradication of heterogeneity.”[52]

2. Karl Haushofer

Karl Haushofer was another philosopher of politics who is well-known for his theoretical work on “geopolitics” which aimed to advance Germany’s understanding of international politics and geography. Haushofer asserted that nations not only had the right to defend their land, but also to expand and colonize new lands, especially when experiencing over-population. Germany was one nation in such a position, and was thus entitled to Lebensraum (“living-space”) for its excess population. In order to overcome the domination of the Anglo-American power structure, Haushofer advocated a new system of alliances which particularly involved a German-Russian alliance (thus Haushofer can be viewed as a “Eurasianist”). Haushofer joined the National Socialists but his ideas were eventually rejected by Third Reich geopoliticians because of their hostility to Russia.[53]

The Influences of the Conservative Revolution

The thinkers of the Conservative Revolution had not only an immediate influence in Germany during the early 20th Century, but also a deep and lasting impact on right-wing (and in some cases even left-wing) thought up to the present day. Aside from the obvious influence on National Socialism, and if we assume that Otto Strasser cannot be included as part of the Conservative Revolution, then Strasserism was still clearly influenced by Arthur Moeller van den Bruck and Oswald Spengler.[54]

Francis Parker Yockey, the author of Imperium, also revealed influence from Spengler, Schmitt, Sombart, and Haushofer.[55] Julius Evola, the famous Italian traditionalist, is yet another writer who was affected by Revolutionary Conservative intellectuals, as is clear in such major works as Men Among the Ruins[56] and The Path of Cinnabar.[57]

More recently, the European New Right shows a great amount of inspiration from Revolutionary Conservatives. Armin Mohler, who may himself be considered a part of Germany’s Conservative Revolution as well as the New Right, is well-known for his seminal work Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918–1932.[58] In addition, Tomislav Sunic also draws many intellectual concepts from Revolutionary Conservatives in his highly important book, Against Democracy and Equality, including Schmitt, Spengler, and to a lesser extent Spann and Sombart. [59]

Yet another intellectual in league with the New Right, Alexander Jacob, is the translator of Jung’s The Rule of the Inferiour and is also responsible for multiple works on various Revolutionary Conservatives.[60] When one considers these facts, it becomes apparent that much can be learned by studying the history and ideas of the German Conservative Revolution. It is a source of philosophical richness which can advance the Conservative position and which leaves its mark on the thought of the Right even today.

 

Notes

[1] On Hofmannsthal’s political views, see Paul Gottfried, “Hugo von Hofmannsthal and the Interwar European Right.” Modern Age, Vol. 49, No. 4 (Fall 2007), pp. 508–19.

[2] Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Das Schrifttum als geistiger Raum der Nation (Munich, 1927). Quoted in Klemens von Klemperer, Germany’s New Conservatism; Its History And Dilemma In The Twentieth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), p. 9.

[3] Armin Mohler, Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918–1932 (Stuttgart: Friedrich Vorwerk Verlag, 1950).

[4] Robert Edward Norton, Secret Germany: Stefan George and his Circle (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002).

[5] Klemperer, Germany’s New Conservatism, pp. 102–111.

[6] Klemperer, Germany’s New Conservatism, pp. 156–159.

[7] Mohler, Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland, p. 329.

[8] Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, Germany’s Third Empire (New York: Howard Fertig, 1971).

[9] Ibid. p. 76.

[10] Ibid. p. 245.

[11] Ibid. p. 227.

[12] Edgar Julius Jung, The Rule of the Inferiour, trans. Alexander Jacob (Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellon Press, 1995).

[13] Larry Eugene Jones, “Edgar Julius Jung: The Conservative Revolution in Theory and Practice,” Conference Group for Central European History of the American Historical Association, vol. 21, Issue 02 (June 1988), p. 142.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Edgar J. Jung, Deutsche uber Deutschland (Munich, 1932), p. 380. Quoted in Klemperer, Germany’s New Conservatism, pp. 121–22.

[16] Jung, The Rule of the Inferiour, p. 138.

[17] Jung, “Sinndeutung der konservativen Revolution in Deutschland.” Quoted inJones, “Edgar Julius Jung,” p. 167. For an overview of Jung’s philosophy, see: Jones, “Edgar Julius Jung,” pp. 144–47, 149; Walter Struve, Elites Against Democracy; Leadership Ideals in Bourgeois Political Thought in Germany, 1890-1933 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University, 1973), pp. 317–52; Alexander Jacob’s introduction to Europa: German Conservative Foreign Policy 1870–1940 (Lanham, MD, USA: University Press of America, 2002), pp. 10–16.

[18] Jones, “Edgar Julius Jung,” pp. 145–48.

[19] Jung, The Rule of the Inferiour, p. 368.

[20] Jones, “Edgar Julius Jung,” pp. 147–73.

[21] Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West Vol. 1: Form and Actuality (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1926).

[22] Ibid. p. 106.

[23] Ibid. For a good overview of Spengler’s theory, see Tomislav Sunic, Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right (Third Edition. London: Arktos, 2010), pp. 91–98.

[24] Oswald Spengler, Selected Essays (Chicago: Gateway/Henry Regnery, 1967).

[25] Ibid.

[26] See: Joe Pryce, “On The Biocentric Metaphysics of Ludwig Klages,” Revilo-Oliver.com, 2001, http://www.revilo-oliver.com/Writers/Klages/Ludwig_Klages.html, and Lydia Baer, “The Literary Criticism of Ludwig Klages and the Klages School: An Introduction to Biocentric Thought.” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Jan., 1941), pp. 91–138.

[27] Ludwig Klages, Cosmogonic Reflections, trans. Joe Pryce, 14 May 2001, http://www.revilo-oliver.com/Writers/Klages/515.html, 453.

[28] Ibid., http://www.revilo-oliver.com/Writers/Klages/100.html, 2.

[29] Klemperer, Germany’s New Conservatism, pp. 204–5.

[30] Othmar Spann, Der Wahre Staat (Leipzig: Verlag von Quelle und Meyer, 1921).

[31] Barth Landheer, “Othmar Spann’s Social Theories.” Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 39, No. 2 (Apr., 1931), pp. 239–48.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Spann, quoted in Ernest Mort, “Christian Corporatism.” Modern Age, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Summer 1959), p. 249. http://www.mmisi.org/ma/03_03/mort.pdf.

[34] Spann, Der wahre Staat, p. 120. Quoted in Sunic, Against Democracy and Equality, pp. 163–64.

[35] Janek Wasserman, Black Vienna, Red Vienna: The Struggle for Intellectual and Political Hegemony in Interwar Vienna, 19181938 (Saint Louis, Missouri: Washington University, 2010), pp. 73–85.

[36] Jerry Z. Muller, The Other God that Failed: Hans Freyer and the Deradicalization of German Conservatism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988). The single book by Hans Freyer to be translated into English is Theory of Objective Mind, trans. Steven Grosby (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1998).

[37] Hans Zehrer, “Die Revolution der Intelligenz,” Tat, XXI (Oct. I929), 488. Quoted in Walter Struve, “Hans Zehrer as a Neoconservative Elite Theorist,” The American Historical Review, Vol. 70, No. 4 (Jul., 1965), p. 1035.

[38] Struve, “Hans Zehrer as a Neoconservative Elite Theorist.”

[39] Ibid.

[40] Klemperer, Germany’s New Conservatism, pp. 57–58. On Tönnies, see Christopher Adair-Toteff, “Ferdinand Tonnies: Utopian Visionary,” Sociological Theory, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Mar., 1995), pp. 58-65.

[41] Alexander Jacob, “German Socialism as an Alternative to Marxism,” The Scorpion, Issue 21. http://thescorp.multics.org/21spengler.html.

[42] Werner Sombart, Economic Life in the Modern Age (New Brunswick, NJ, and London: Transaction Publishers, 2001), p. 129.

[43] Jacob, “German Socialism as an Alternative to Marxism.”

[44] Ernst Jünger, ed., Krieg und Krieger (Berlin, 1930), 59. Quoted in Klemperer, Germany’s New Conservatism, p. 183. See also Ernst Jünger’s Storm of Steel, trans. Basil Greighton (London: Chatto & Windus, 1929) and Copse 125 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1930).

[45] Klemperer, Germany’s New Conservatism, pp. 185–88.

[46] Ernst Jünger, “Total Mobilization,” trans. Joel Golb, in The Heidegger Controversy (Boston: MIT Press, 1992), p. 129. http://anarchistwithoutcontent.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/junger-total-mobilization-booklet.pdf.

[47] Alain de Benoist, “Soldier Worker, Rebel, Anarch: An Introduction to Ernst Jünger,” trans. Greg Johnson, The Occidental Quarterly, vol. 8, no. 3 (Fall 2008), p. 52.

[48] Julius Evola, The Path of Cinnabar (London: Integral Tradition Publishing, 2009), pp. 216–21.

[49] Klemens von Klemperer, “Towards a Fourth Reich? The History of National Bolshevism in Germany,” The Review of Politics, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Apr., 1951), pp. 191–210.

[50] Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, expanded edition, trans. G. Schwab (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007).

[51] Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, trans. G. Schwab (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), p. 1.

[52] Carl Schmitt, The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy, trans. E. Kennedy, (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1985), p. 9.

[53] Andrew Gyorgy, “The Geopolitics of War: Total War and Geostrategy.” The Journal of Politics, Vol. 5, No. 4 (Nov., 1943), pp. 347–62. See also Mohler, Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland, p. 474.

[54] Otto Strasser, Hitler and I (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1940), pp. 38–39.

[55] Francis Parker Yockey, Imperium: The Philosophy of History and Politics (Sausalito, Cal.: Noontide Press, 1962).

[56] Julius Evola, Men Among the Ruins (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 2002).

[57] Evola, The Path of Cinnabar, pp. 150–55.

[58] See note #3.

[59] See Sunic, Against Democracy and Equality, pp. 75–98, 159–64.

[60] See Jacob, Europa; “German Socialism as an Alternative to Marxism”; Introduction to Political Ideals by Houston Stewart Chamberlain (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2005).

 

—————–

Tudor, Lucian. “The Conservative Revolution of Germany & its Legacy.” Counter-Currents Publishing, 14 August 2012. <http://www.counter-currents.com/2012/08/the-german-conservative-revolution-and-its-legacy/ >.

 

1 Comment

Filed under New European Conservative

Hans Freyer – Lucian Tudor

Hans Freyer: The Quest for Collective Meaning

By Lucian Tudor

Translations: Čeština

Hans Freyer was an influential German sociologist who lived during the early half of the 20th century and is associated not only with his role in the development of sociology in German academia but also with the “Far Right.” Freyer was part of the intellectual trend known in Germany during the 1920s and 30s as the Conservative Revolution, and had also worked in universities under the Third Reich government for much of its reign, although it should be clear that Freyer was never an “orthodox” National Socialist.[1] However, outside of Germany he has never been very well known, and it may be of some benefit for the Right today to be more aware of his basic philosophy, for the more aware we become of different philosophical approaches to the problems facing modern society the more prepared we are intellectually to challenge the dominant liberal-egalitarian system.

Community and Society

Classical liberal theory was individualist, holding that the individual human being was the ultimate reality, that individuals existed essentially only as individuals; that is, that they are completely independent from each other except when they choose to “rationally” associate with each other or create a “social contract.” While this notion has been increasingly criticized in more recent times from different academic positions, in much of the 19th and 20th centuries liberal theory was very influential.[2] One of the most important thinkers in early German sociology to provide a social theory which rejected individualism was Ferdinand Tönnies, who was a crucial influence on Hans Freyer.

Tönnies’s work established a fundamental distinction between Gemeinschaft (“Community”) and Gesellschaft (“Society”), a distinction which Freyer and many other German intellectuals would agree with. According to this concept, Gemeinschaft consists of the organic relations and a sense of connection and belonging which arise as a result of natural will, while Gesellschaft consists of mechanical or instrumental relations which are consciously established and thus the result of rational will. As Tönnies wrote:

The theory of Gesellschaft deals with the artificial construction of an aggregate of human beings which superficially resembles the Gemeinschaft insofar as the individuals live and dwell together peacefully. However, in Gemeinschaft they remain essentially united in spite of all separating factors, whereas in Gesellschaft they are essentially separated in spite of all uniting factors. [3]

Tönnies emphasized that in modern urban society the sense of organic solidarity or Gemeinschaft was increasingly reduced (with Gesellschaft having become the more dominant form of relationship), thus harming human social relations. However, it should also be remembered for the sake of clarity that he also clarified that these were types of relationships that are both always present in any human society; the issue was that they existed in varying degrees. Although sociological theory did not reject the importance of the individual person, it clearly revealed that individuals were never completely disconnected, as classical liberal theory so foolishly held, but rather that they always have a social relationship that goes beyond them.

Philosophy of Culture

Hans Freyer’s definition of culture included not only “high culture” (as is the case with Spengler’s work), but as the totality of institutions, beliefs, and customs of a society; that is, the term culture was utilized “in the broadest sense to indicate all the externalized creations of men.”[4] More specifically, Freyer identified culture as “objective spirit,” a concept derived from Simmel’s philosophy. This concept denotes that the creations of human beings – everything which culture comprises, including tools, concepts, institutions, etc. – were created by human minds (the “subjective domain of the psyche”) at some point in history in order to fulfill their needs or desires, and following their creation they obtained an “objective value,” became “objectified.”[5] That is, as a result of being manifested and used over time, concrete cultural creations over time obtained a fixed value independent of the original value given to them by their creator(s) and also of the situation in which they were created.[6]

In Freyer’s theory, culture and its traditions are created, first of all, to provide “stability in the face of the natural flux of life,” for if culture changed as quickly as Life then cultural forms would be constantly replaced and would therefore lose their value for providing stability.[7] Furthermore, traditions gained value with an increase in their “depth” and “weight” (metaphorical terms used by Freyer), i.e. their permanence among the changes of life and human conditions.

Traditions gained “depth” by being re-appropriated over generations; while cultural objects gained a new meaning for each new generation of a people due to changes in life conditions, the subsequent generation still retained an awareness of the older meanings of these objects, thus giving them “weight.” Because of this historical continuity in the re-appropriation of culture, cultural forms or traditions acquire a special meaning-content for the people who bear that culture in the present.

It is also very important to recognize that Freyer asserted that the most crucial purpose of a culture and the social groups associated with it was to “convey a set of delimiting purposes to the individual” in order to provide a sense of “personal meaning,” which was “linked to collective stability, collective integration was linked to collective purpose, and collective purpose was linked to the renewal of tradition.”[8]

Culture, Race, Volk

Additionally, it should be noted that another significant aspect of Freyer’s philosophy is that he held that “the only viable cultural unity in the modern world was the Volk,”[9] which means that although culture exists on multiple levels, the only entity which is a reliable source of cultural identity and which carries relatable traditions is the Volk (a term which is oftentimes translated as “nation” or “people” but is in this sense better rendered as “ethnicity”). The Volk was the collective entity from which particular cultures emerged, which bore the imprint of a particular Volksgeist (technically, “folk spirit”) or collective spirit.

The Volk as an entity was created by an interaction between two forces which Freyer termed Blut (“Blood”) and Heimat (“Home”). Home is the landscape or environment in which the Volk formed, “that place from which we come and which we cannot abandon without becoming sick,” while “Blood is that which comprises our essence, and from which we cannot separate ourselves without degenerating,”[10] meaning the racial constitution of the people whose biological integrity must be upheld. While in order to be healthy, a Volk must have the characteristic of Bodenständigkeit (“groundedness in the soil,” as opposed to the “groundlessness” of liberal society), a key foundation of the Volkstum (“Folkdom”) is race:

It is here [at the Volkstum] that all the talk of race originates and has its truth. When one objects that this is pure biology, that after all spiritual matters cannot be derived from their natural basis, or when one objects that there are no pure races – these objections fail to grasp the concept of race that is a component of the new worldview. Race is understood not in the sense of “mere” biology but rather as the organic involvement of contemporary man in the concrete reality of his Volk, which reaches back through millennia but which is present in its millennial depth; which has deposited itself in man’s bodily and psychic existence, and which confers an intrinsic norm upon all the expressions of a culture, even the highest, most individual creations.[11]

The Loss of Meaning and Particularity

Hans Freyer was, like G. W. F. Hegel and Wilhelm Dilthey (two of his major influences), a historicist, although unlike Hegel he did not believe that history was entirely rational or that positive “progress” would be necessarily determined in history.[12] As a historicist, Freyer believed that all human cultures and values are created by historical circumstances and thus change over time, and also therefore that no Volk or culture is, objectively speaking, superior or inferior to another, and that essentially each culture and tradition is just as valid as any other. That is, “history thinks in plurals, and its teaching is that there is more than one solution for the human equation.”[13]

As result, the question of which cultural tradition would form the basis of collective meaning came into question. Freyer, in the German historicist line of thought, rejected the notion that one could scientifically or rationally choose which culture is better (due to the fact that they are all equally legitimate), and furthermore people in modern times held an awareness of the existence of the multiplicity of human cultures and their historical foundations. This awareness caused many modern people to feel an uncertainty about the full validity of their own culture, something which served as a factor in the loss of a sense of meaning in their own traditions and therefore a loss of a sense of personal meaning in their culture. That is, a loss of that sense of guidance and value in one’s own traditions which was more common in ancient and Medieval societies, where human beings tended to recognize only their own culture as valid. Freyer noted: “We have a bad conscience in regard to our age. We feel ourselves to be unconfirmed, lacking in meaning, unfulfilled, not even obligated.”[14]

However, there was also another source of the lack of a sense of collective meaning in modern societies: the development of industrial society and capitalism. The market economy, without any significant limits placed upon it, along with the emergence of advanced technology, had a universalist thrust, not recognizing national boundaries or cultural barriers. These inherently universalist tendencies in capitalism created another factor in the loss of a sense of cultural uniqueness, collective meaning, and particularity in human beings in the West.

The modern economy was the source of the formation of “secondary systems,” meaning structures which had no connection to any organic ethnic culture and which regarded both the natural world and human beings in a technical manner: as objects to be used as resources or tools to be utilized to increase production and therefore also profit. Because of this, the systems of production, consumption, and administration expanded, resulting in a structure controlled by a complex bureaucracy and in which, “instead of membership in a single community of collective purpose, the individual was associated with others who occupied a similar role in one of the secondary systems. But these associations were partial, shifting, and ‘one-dimensional,’ lacking deeper purpose of commitment… [leaving] the individual lonely and insecure.”[15]

Freyer asserted that history is divisible into three stages of development: Glaube (“Faith”), Stil (“Style”), and Staat (“State”). In the stage known as Glaube, which corresponded to the concept of ancient Gemeinschaft, human beings were “completely surrounded, encircled, and bound up in a culture that ties [them] closely to other members of [their] society.”[16] In the stage known as Stil, society would become hierarchical as a result of the domination of one group over another. While ancestry and a belief in the natural superiority of the ruling class would be valued in the resulting system, in later stages the source of social status would become wealth as a result of the rise of economic motives and capitalistic class society would form. As a result, the loss of meaning previously described occurs and history enters “critical epochs in which the objective cultural forms were unable to contain the flux of life.”[17] This would give rise to the necessity of a revolutionary transformation of the cultural reality: the third impending stage, Staat.

Revolution from the Right

Hans Freyer studied the problem of the failure of radical Leftist socialist movements to overcome bourgeois society in the West, most notably in his Revolution von Rechts (“Revolution from the Right”). He observed that because of compromises on the part of capitalist governments, which introduced welfare policies to appease the workers, many revolutionary socialists had come to merely accommodate the system; that is, they no longer aimed to overcome it by revolution because it provided more or less satisfactory welfare policies. Furthermore, these same policies were basically defusing revolutionary charges among the workers.

Freyer concluded that capitalist bourgeois society could only be overcome by a revolution from the Right, by Right-wing socialists whose guiding purpose would not be class warfare but the restoration of collective meaning in a strong Völkisch (“Folkish” or “ethnic”) state. “A new front is forming on the battlefields of bourgeois society – the revolution from the Right. With that magnetic power inherent in the battle cry of the future even before it has been sounded…”[18] This revolutionary movement would be guided by a utopian vision, yet for Freyer the significance of belief in utopia was not the practicality of fully establishing its vision, “utopia was not a blueprint of the future but the will to actively transform the present… Utopias served to transmute critical epochs into positive ones.”[19]

The primary purpose of the new State which Freyer envisioned was to integrate human beings belonging to the Volk into “a closed totality based upon the reassertion of collective particularity.”[20] Freyer asserted that the only way to restore this sense of collective particularity and a sense of community was to create a closed society in which the state ensures that foreign cultural and ideological influences do not interfere with that of the Volk, for such interferences would harm the unity of the people. As Freyer wrote, “this self-created world should completely, utterly, and objectively enclose a particular group; should so surround it that no alien influences can penetrate its realm.”[21] Freyer’s program also carried with it a complete rejection of all multiculturalism, for the state must be composed solely of one ethnic entity in order to have cultural stability and order.

The state which Freyer anticipated would also not do away with the technological achievements of capitalism but rather make use of them while bringing the economic system under its strict control (essentially “state socialism”), eliminating the existence of the economy as a “secondary system” and reintegrating it into the organic life of the Volk. This Völkisch state also served the necessary purpose of unifying the Volk under a single political force and guidance, for, along with Machiavelli and Carl Schmitt, Freyer believed it was essential that a people is capable and ready to defend itself against the ambitions of other states. For the sake of this unity, Freyer also rejected democracy due to the fact that he believed it inherently harmed the unity of the Volk as a result of the fact that it gave rise to a multiplicity of value systems and interest groups which competed for power; the state must be politically homogeneous. “The state is… the awakening of the Volk out of timeless existence [Dasein] to power over itself and to power in time.”[22]

Freyer also believed in both the inevitability and the importance of conflict in human existence: “War is the father of all things . . . if not in the literal sense then certainly for the thing of all things, the work of all works, that structure in which the creativity of Geist [“Spirit”] reaches its earthly goal, for the hardest, most objective and all-encompassing thing that can ever be created – for the state.”[23] The act of war or the preparation for war also served to integrate the people towards a single purpose, to give meaning to the individual by his duty to a higher power, the State. War was not something to be avoided, for, in Freyer’s philosophy, it had the positive result of intensifying the sense of community and political consciousness, as Freyer himself experienced during his time as a soldier in World War I.[24] Thus, “the state as a state is constituted by war and is continuously reconstituted by the preparation for war.”[25] Of course, this did not imply that the state had to constantly engage in war but rather in the preparation for war; war should be waged when diplomacy and strategy fails to meet the state’s demands.

Freyer’s Later Transformation

Hans Freyer believed, before its rise to power, that Hitler’s National Socialist movement constituted the force which would create the state of which he had written and hoped for. However, by the late 1930s he was disappointed by the repressive and basically “totalitarian” nature of the regime, and after World War II began to advocate a drastically different approach to the problems of modern society. He essentially became a moderate and partially liberal conservative (as opposed to being a “radical conservative,” which is a descriptor for his pre-war views), a change which was probably a result of his disappointment with the Third Reich coupled with the Reich’s downfall and the ensuing political changes thereafter.

Freyer concluded that the state was itself a “secondary system” (like those created by the market economy) and if used to organize the re-appropriation of tradition it would negatively distort cultural life. His new line of thought led him to the conclusion that the state should be limited (hence his subsequent support for democracy) and that welfare-state capitalism should be practiced because “it was less likely to create the degree of concentration of power characteristic of a socialist economy.”[26] Freyer still advocated the necessity of creating a sense of value in one’s own particular culture and traditions and a sense of collective meaning, but he believed that this should be done in the private sphere of life and through “private” institutions such as the family, the church, and local communities. Likewise, he no longer advocated a complete closure of society and he also recognized that the existence of a plurality of groups in the state was unavoidable.

We may conclude by pointing out that this transformation in Freyer’s position, while undoubtedly partly influenced by the existence of a new political regime, was also certainly not unjustified, for there is much to criticize in his earlier work. For example, it is certainly not unreasonable to question whether an authoritarian regime, a constant engagement or preparation for warfare, and a society completely closed to other societies are necessary to restore a sense of community and a value in one’s own culture and ethnicity.[27] On the other hand, one does not necessarily have to agree with all of Freyer’s later conclusions, for one could argue they are also not without imperfections. However, ultimately we gain from a view of his thought and its transformation with a wider, more informed philosophical perspective.

The Relevance of Freyer’s Thought Today

There is much in Freyer’s philosophy which is relevant to the current problems our world is facing (although we make no implication that his ideas are entirely unique to him), in some cases even more relevant today than in the time they were written. While his earlier notion of a complete cultural closure of society may be too extreme, in the face of the complete opening of society experienced in the later 20th Century and early 21st Century, it is quite clear that a partial level of closure, that is some (although not absolute) barriers, are necessary to return to a healthy cultural reality.[28] Likewise, his recognition of the importance of race in the cultural and social realm, going beyond the simplistic notion of race as being merely one’s genetic makeup, is pertinent today as far too many people do not even consciously understand the full role of race in culture and society.

Moreover, in light of the fact that the majority of former radical Leftists in most Western and also some Eastern nations have shifted towards the “Center” and have become merely defenders of the political status quo, Freyer’s commentaries on the compromises made by socialists in his time correspond with the present day situation as well. One may also argue that Freyer’s recognition of the importance of a “utopian” vision to guide political movements is necessary to change societies, for without a dream for a better world to motivate people it is not likely that the status quo could be overcome.

Finally, considering the exacerbated “individualism” (which, we must stress, is not merely recognizing the value of the individual, which is perfectly normal, but rather something extreme and anomalous) common in modern Western societies, Freyer’s stress on “collective meaning,” the most crucial concept at the center of his philosophy, is probably of the greatest importance. For today it is indeed the obsession with the individual, and the placing of the individual over ethnicity and culture, which is undoubtedly one of the most significant roots of the ethnic, cultural, and racial downfall of Europe and European-derived nations. Thus, our own quest corresponds to Freyer’s, for like him we must aim to re-establish collective meaning in order to salvage our ethnic and cultural integrity.

Notes

[1] For more in-depth information on Hans Freyer’s life, see Jerry Z. Muller, The Other God That Failed: Hans Freyer and the Deradicalization of German Conservatism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988). We should note here to our readers that Muller’s book, despite its liberal bias, constitutes the single most important and extensive work on Freyer in the English language thus far.

[2] For an explanation of classical liberal theory concerning the individual as well as a critique of it, see Michael O’Meara, New Culture, New Right: Anti-Liberalism in Postmodern Europe (Bloomington, Ind.: 1stBooks, 2004), pp. 57 ff. On the forms of liberalism through history, see also Paul Gottfried, After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001).

[3] Ferdinand Tönnies, Community and Society (London and New York: Courier Dover Publications, 2002), pp. 64–65.

[4] Muller, The Other God That Failed, p. 93.

[5] Hans Freyer, Theory of Objective Mind: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Culture (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1999), p. 79. This is the only book by Freyer to be translated into English.

[6] Note that this entire general theory was expounded by Freyer in Theory of Objective Mind.

[7] Muller, The Other God That Failed, p. 94. Note that this notion is comparable to the theory of culture and the nature of human beings provided by Arnold Gehlen, who was one of Freyer’s students. See Arnold Gehlen’s Man: His Nature and Place in the World (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988) and also his Man in the Age of Technology (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980).

[8] Muller, The Other God That Failed, pp. 93 and 96.

[9] Colin Loader and David Kettler, Karl Mannheim’s Sociology as Political Education (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2002), p. 123.

[10] Hans Freyer, Der Staat (Leipzig, 1925), p. 151. Quoted in Muller, The Other God That Failed, p. 99.

[11] Hans Freyer, “Tradition und Revolution im Weltbild,” Europäische Revue 10 (1934) pp. 74–75. Quoted in Muller, The Other God That Failed, p. 263.

[12] On Freyer’s concept of progress as well as some of his thoughts on economics, see Volker Kruse, Methodology of the Social Sciences, Ethics, and Economics in the Newer Historical School: From Max Weber and Rickert to Sombart and Rothacker (Hannover: Springer, 1997), pp. 196 ff.

[13] Hans Freyer, Prometheus: Ideen zur Philosophie der Kultur (Jena, 1923), p. 78. Quoted in Muller, The Other God That Failed, p. 96.

[14] Freyer, Prometheus, p. 107. Quoted in Muller, The Other God That Failed, pp. 100–101.

[15] Muller, The Other God That Failed, p. 345.

[16] Ibid., p. 101.

[17] Loader and Kettler, Mannheim’s Sociology, p. 131.

[18] Hans Freyer, “Revolution from the Right,” in: The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, edited by Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), p. 347.

[19] Loader and Kettler, Mannheim’s Sociology, pp. 131–32.

[20] Muller, The Other God That Failed, p. 106.

[21] Freyer, Der Staat, p. 99. Quoted in Muller, The Other God That Failed, p. 110.

[22] Hans Freyer, Revolution von Rechts (Jena: Eugen Diederich, 1931), p. 37. Quoted in Loader and Kettler, Mannheim’s Sociology, p. 126.

[23] Freyer, Der Staat, p. 143. Quoted in Muller, The Other God That Failed, p. 113.

[24] See Muller, The Other God That Failed, p. 64.

[25] Freyer, Der Staat, p. 143. Quoted in Muller, The Other God That Failed, p. 113.

[26] Muller, The Other God That Failed, p. 348.

[27] On a “right-wing” perspective in contradistinction with Freyer’s earlier positions on the issue of democracy and social closure, see as noteworthy examples Alain de Benoist, The Problem of Democracy (London: Arktos, 2011) and Pierre Krebs, Fighting for the Essence (London: Arktos, 2012).

[28] On the concept of a balance between total closure and total openness, see also Alain de Benoist, “What is Racism?” Telos, Vol. 1999, No. 114 (Winter 1999), pp. 11–48. Available online here: http://www.alaindebenoist.com/pdf/what_is_racism.pdf.

—————–

Tudor, Lucian. “Hans Freyer: The Quest for Collective Meaning.” Counter-Currents Publishing, 22 February 2013, <http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/02/hans-freyer-the-quest-for-collective-meaning/ >.

Note: Although very little is available by or about Hans Freyer and his thought in English, more translations of his works can be found in other languages, as recorded at the World Catalogue: <http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=Hans+Freyer&fq=dt%3Abks+%3E+ap%3A%22freyer%2C+hans%22&dblist=638&fc=ln:_25&qt=show_more_ln%3A >.

Additional Note: This essay was also republished in updated form in Lucian Tudor’s From the German Conservative Revolution to the New Right: A Collection of Essays on Identitarian Philosophy (Santiago, Chile: Círculo de Investigaciones PanCriollistas, 2015).

 

Leave a comment

Filed under New European Conservative