Christoph Steding: The struggle of the Reich against the decadent West, Part 1

Christoph Steding (1903–1938) was born in the village of Waltringhausen in Lower Saxony to a peasant family that had been settled in the region for several centuries. Much like Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia — which lost political animation ever since the Thirty Years’ War was concluded with the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 — the area in which Steding grew up was more or less politically neutral since the decline of the Hanseatic League at the end of the seventeenth century. Only its incorporation into the North German Confederation of 1867, after Prussia’s victory in the Austro-Prussian War, granted it some continued political significance. This fact may have influenced Steding’s later decision to write his magnum opus on the contest between neutral states and imperial ones like Bismarck’s Reich and the Third Reich.

Steding attended the universities of Freiburg, Marburg, Munich and, again, Marburg. For his doctoral thesis he first wished to present a study of mediaeval Javanese culture but later had to change the subject of his dissertation to the bourgeois liberalism of sociologist Max Weber. He obtained his doctorate in 1931 and, at the end of 1932, he won a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation that enabled him to undertake extensive travels in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Scandinavia that lasted for two years.[1] The subject of his researches during this period was the role played by these neutral states in the Bismarckian Reich.

In 1935, Steding returned to Germany and worked on the long study which was called Das Reich und die Krankheit der europäischen Kultur (The Reich and the Disease of European Culture). It found the support of Walter Frank, director of the Reichsinstitut für Geschichte des neuen Deutschlands[2] (Reich Institute for the History of the New Germany) whom Steding met in November 1935, and, in the summer of 1937, he was invited to deliver a talk at Frank’s institute titled “Kulturgeschichtsschreibung und politische Gesichtsschreibung” (Cultural and Political History).

Although Steding never joined the NSDAP, he was an enthusiastic supporter of Adolf Hitler. He first heard Hitler speak at meetings in October 1935 and, in 1937, following a meeting he attended at which Hitler and Mussolini were speakers, Steding noted in his diary that the Führer reminded him immediately of Hegel’s words in 1806 about Napoleon — that the latter seemed to Hegel like the “world-soul” on horseback. In January 1938, however, Steding died of a renal illness.

Since he had strongly supported Steding’s project, Frank worked on Steding’s manuscript from June to September 1938 and published it in the form in which it now exists, unfinished in spite of its extraordinary length (around 760 pages), but with a completed Introduction by Steding himself (written in the autumn of 1937), and a Foreword by Frank. The publication of the book was a success since it was reprinted five times during the Reich, until 1944, while a short extract from it called Das Reich und die Neutralen (The Reich and the Neutrals) was also published in 1942 as an encouragement to the front soldiers. However, Alfred Rosenberg was opposed to Steding’s work[3] and his collaborators criticized it sharply in their various reviews of it.[4]

Steding’s work is, in Frank’s edition, divided into two parts, the first dealing with the ideological consequences of the political neutralisation of the border states and the second with the diverse cultural attacks conducted by these neutral states against the Reich. The aim of Steding’s work is to reverse what Steding himself describes in the opening lines of his Introduction as “a withdrawal of the Germanic peoples from world history” ever since the French Revolution. Already the decline of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation from the end of the Thirty Years’ War signalled the end of the dominance of the Germans as the organizing force of the Holy Roman Empire:

The victory of the Western powers, of the Swedes and the French, was at that time (in 1648) as much the beginning of the disintegration of their kingdoms as the so-called victory of 1918. The liquidation of the ancient Frankish empire in the French Revolution, the withdrawal of Sweden, the decomposition of Austria, the destruction of the Germanically infused Russia of Peter the Great, and the modern destruction, issuing from within, of the Anglo-Saxon world — of the Empire, are only consequences of that process of the crippling of Central Europe that emerged most visibly with the Thirty Years’ War.[5]

Not only did Switzerland withdraw into a sterile neutrality but the English and the Dutch too turned away from the Germanic core in Central Europe through their wide-ranging colonial enterprises. France, meanwhile, sought to steadfastly reduce the European influence of Germany from the time of Louis XIV up to the French Revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte. Bismarck’s Second Reich was the first attempt to reverse the process of Germanic decline and, when Bismarck’s efforts were undermined by the Westernising Kaiser Wilhelm II, Adolf Hitler arose to restore Germany to its rightful role as the authentic anti-liberal leader of Europe.

Whereas the Western European states, including Scandinavia, may rejoice at the growing prosperity that they experienced in relation to the Germanic centre, Steding points out that economic considerations cannot obscure the fact that the Germans remain the most highly developed politically since they have been prepared and matured “by God in a quite special way through endless suffering in order to be able to cast the deepest glance into the structure of our world.” The Bismarckian Reich and the Prussian state were thus the most potent sources of the political renewal of Europe and Hitler’s Reich must be considered a continuation of the Prussian insofar as it had the same political discipline and expansionist impulse.

*   *   *

                   The social condition of Europe after 1918, sealed by the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations, was one of corruption and degeneracy that served as a preparation for the Bolshevist invasion from the East:

And to this degeneration of European man, this threat to all of Europe from within, there corresponded a threat from outside, through Tartar-Jewish Bolshevism, such as did not exist up to now. For, this external threat receives its character of extreme dangerousness only through the fact that European man, as a result of his corruption, becomes the condition of the possibility of the self-consciousness of the Tartar steppe against Europe and at the same time encourages the latter covertly to advance to an attack. … Material well-being seems to have been lent by fate only to anesthetize Western Europe via the sensuality of material pleasure and to then conduct it so much more surely to perdition.

We see that what Steding is describing here is the cancerous corruption of European society that is today called “Modernism” and “Cultural Marxism.” And it is one of the merits of Steding’s work that he pinpoints the cultural centers where this movement of degeneracy was initially located, in Basel, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and the other metropolises of Western Europe. Basel is, in Steding’s synoptic view of European history, the center most responsible for the dissemination of cultural historiography that revolted against the manly spirit of the Prussian Reich. This influence of Basel spread to German academic centers, primarily Heidelberg:[6]

For that reason, Heidelberg — which not wrongly was considered the city of Max Weber — had with an inevitable necessity to become a “cultural centre” of the first rank. Here, especially in the field of the sciences, the division and fragmentation characteristic of modern culture into disciplines that became autonomous was realized in a quite exemplary manner.

German emigrants like writer Thomas Mann (1929 Nobel Laureate for Literature) and Hugo Ball (the founder of the Dadaist movement in Zürich) as well as the numerous other literary and philosophical figures based in Basel and Zürich discussed in Steding’s work, represent a stage that is incommensurate with the living Reich of Bismarck or that of Hitler, since they belong to a past that the Reich has “banished” from its domain and that is naturally opposed in its decadence to the Reich. For Steding, the Western states are in a state of degeneration since they have become apolitical, neutral, and the Reich is the only source of political as well as cultural health within Europe, for politics precedes culture and the latter cannot become independent of the former as it has in the Western states.

Steding considered Thomas Mann and Max Weber as particularly pronounced embodiments of bourgeois decadence, the latter especially for his Puritanism and Protestantism and his Neo-Kantian rationalism:

Puritanism was the religion suited to the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois culture which was especially classically realized in the neutral intermediate states at the mouth of the Rhine and at the source of the Rhine; and even in Denmark, Lutheranism since the nineteenth century stands closer to the spirit of Dutch Puritanism than to that of German Lutheranism. Further, Puritanism and Neo-Kantianism stand especially close to each other, because in Kant himself the classical sources continue to have an effect, and indeed, in a passionate Neo-Kantian such as Max Weber, was the close connection of this philosophical orientation to the spirit of the Puritan Protestant ethic is palpable.

Another reason for Steding’s opposition to Weber is the fact that his circle was often frequented by Jewish Bolshevist writers like Georg Lukács and Ernst Bloch.

In fact, Steding’s targets are all the intellectuals emergent from the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution and the Wilhelmine Reich who encouraged the “Helvetization” and “Hollandization” of Germany and Europe. The decadence of the neighboring Western states is represented not only by the cultural historian Burckhardt in Switzerland and his disciple Huizinga in Holland but by intellectuals like philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in Denmark, who exerted a major influence on what is called Existentialist philosophy, and the Jews Husserl and Freud in Vienna, while through the influence of the Jewish literary critic Georg Brandes, the alien worlds of Zola and Dostoevsky were imported in translations into Germany. Even Norwegian writers like Knut Hamsun who are celebrated as champions of the Reich do not really represent the political substance of the Reich since their works are marked by an irony and hopelessness that are alien to the positive impulses of the Reich.

The Dutch cultural historian Johan Huizinga[7] in particular exemplifies the Romantic obsession with the decline of Germanic culture, with the “autumn of culture” as he called it in the title of his famous book Herfsttij der Middeleeuwen (Autumn of the Middle Ages). The end result of the spreading liberal culture of the bourgeois and Judaized intelligentsia is the withdrawal into a Romantic world of historical reflections that no longer has any political vitality in it:

[T]he “culture” protesting against Bismarck and Hitler is essentially characterized by the fact that it looks backwards and lives on the political past, which is so distant that one no longer understands it, so that life has become literary, interpretative, collecting and conserving, and is able to bring forth only ornamental squiggly forms or unimaginative photography as its type of productivity (cf. Thomas Mann, [Swedish playwright August] Strindberg, [Norwegian writer Knut] Hamsun), one therefore considers Goethe and Schiller only in a “literary” way and therefore one hates in Bismarck and Hitler precisely that they act as such because it cannot be misinterpreted so easily as Goethe and Schiller and because its efficient reality is too real for it to be understood — like the efficient reality of Schiller and Goethe or Hegel — only as “culture” in the sense of a literary culture of words.

The opposition between the moribund aesthetic culture of Western Europe and the rising political vitality of the Third Reich is evident even in the lack of depth that characterises the Western European cultural historical writing:

It is extremely significant that there is, in this world of neutral culture, nothing corresponding to the German word “destiny.”[8] Neither in Holland nor in the North. And no doubt even German Switzerland knows nothing of the meaning that every political man associates with this word. There is therefore nothing corresponding to this word in the domain of the states of neutral aesthetic culture because, [in those states] there has for a long time been no more history, which as such is always destiny and fate, and because, consequently, these states, like the old Western European states in general, can no longer represent any genuine destiny that engraves new features into the face of Europe. That is why the aesthetic culture, which also sees itself as a pioneer fighter for “justice,” opposes “power” because it must, being history-less and aesthetic, that is, moribund and impotent, fight to the death against the new creative principle that arose with the consolidation of the Reich in the center, in the heart of Europe. 

*   *   *

The major defects of liberalist culture, according to Steding, are indeed its aestheticism and feminism. Two major objects of Steding’s critique in the initial chapter of the cultural historical section of his study are Jacob Burckhardt[9] and Johann Bachofen.[10] While Burckhardt adheres to the Greek version of the irrationalism promoted by Nietzsche, Bachofen rather sympathises with the Asiatic and African peoples:

To be sure, Bachofen fights with extreme fierceness against the modern democratizing of the world since he sees its consequences. But he is one of its chief pathfinders since he has, according to his essence and attitudinal constitution, reached “materialistically” — and with his Basel and his Switzerland — such a stage of maturity that he has been able to give up his naïve peasant innocence of materialism and matriarchal naturalness, his voluntary self-restriction, and now assert matter as matter in an unrestricted manner.

The danger of the preoccupation with these exotic cultures is that it leads to an increasingly materialistic worldview:

That is indeed why Switzerland became ever “freer,” ever more democratic, that is, ever more materialistic in the sense of Marxism. That is why it had to, precisely with the foundation of the Reich, represent the rights of matter, that is, of “culture,” especially harshly. It could not do that more unequivocally than when it answered the overcoming of Marxism in the Reich with a special victory of Marxism within its own borders, naturally especially in the cities like Basel, Zurich and Geneva, whose present spirit is the linear continuation of the Bachofen “culture” and Dionysian-democratic-liberal spirit of freedom.

Bachofen’s focus on the matriarchal and the feminine in Nature is inextricably tied to the desire to develop a country in an industrial and capitalistic manner:

Not by accident does Bachofen explain to us that among matriarchal peoples, industrial activity is especially developed.[11] The capitalistic “character” of a culture that necessarily behaves in a way hostile to the Reich is even more especially supported by the matriarchal, gynecocratic quality of these areas, if indeed there is not in general an inner connection between the public and the secret world-rule and capitalism, which can be concluded from Bachofen’s remarks. And nobody will maintain that the Western European world, which was realized in a more classical manner in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark than in actual Western Europe — especially in the Anglo-Saxon countries — is an objection to the theses of Bachofen. Rather, the mores existing there as regards the position of the woman impels the search for as many connections between this phenomenon and the total urbanization and industrialization of all of life. For the two determine the public and private life of this world.

Indeed, cultural historiography in general exhibits a feminine character:

Cultural history is the actual feminine approach to the historical world. Its essential art is the art of the exclusion of the essential by discarding the event, destiny, deeds, from history and, instead of these, the cultural historian gathers together a colourful “tapestry of life” from the private, as it were, “beautiful,” side of the past, the arts, sciences, cosmetic arts. And it is further significant that the representation of these subjects that should be treated especially in salons is determined by intuitions, feelings, sympathies and antipathies, in short, by moods. The selection of the material results from a mood, the representation in itself is moody, playful, alinear, even “painterly,” so that coherence in this sort of historical writing must be sought especially in its lack of coherence, just as fine chats with beautiful women are necessarily distinguished by inconsequential zigzag courses, anecdotes and games. The perfect woman is able to realise herself primarily especially in the arts, stringing together with nimble, clever fingers that which has no intrinsic connection and making an apparent whole with ideas that diverge one from the other.

While it may be true that Steding is excessively prejudiced against whatever cultural merits the literary movements that militated against the Bismarckian as well as the Hitlerian Reich may have possessed, the central argument of his work remains sound: no organizational power can emerge from emotional expressiveness and feminine sentimentality. This political energy is characteristic only of the German Reich and, without it, there will no longer be any real politics but only diffuse individualism and nihilism.

It is true also that Steding does not dwell at any length on the fine arts and the excellence of non-Germanic Italy in this regard. However, in his discussion of the monumental style, he rightly points to the fact that the latter could be developed only in states that did not encourage individualism — as Julius Langbehn had contrarily maintained in his Rembrandt als Erzieher [Rembrandt as Educator](1890)[12] — but rather the overarching architectonic of empire. He cites as examples the case of Egypt and Rome as creators of the monumental style:

The most blatant example of a disciplined state system was the Egyptian empire. And if one scrutinises Burckhardt carefully one will discover that the Egyptian, Babylonian, and Assyrian art is not culture, that culture in the proper sense is characteristic of Athens, Venice, the Renaissance, and naturally of Switzerland, especially Basel, insofar as it also, deviating from the Confederation, sets itself up independently. If Bachofen is enthusiastic about the Egyptian world, this is not the world of Egyptian state socialism but the chthonic world of the dark, materialistic, orgiastic religions that sprouted from the swamp and the miry religion of the Nile as growths of the swamps and rushes as it were and are still very closely allied to matter.


When [Abraham] Kuyper[13] understands the great world empires of the East, of Rome, the Middle Ages as embodiments of Satanic aspirations of the men belonging to them, even the “culture” belonging to these empires cannot be considered by him as “culture” in the characteristic sense of aesthetically beautiful flower-bulb small businesses, even if he has not expressly stated that.

Thus Steding concludes that “Everything monumental is essentially anti-subjective, just as it signifies also the overcoming of all purely aesthetic culture.”

*   *   *

The danger of the aesthetic view of the world, on the other hand, is that it reduces culture to mere play, sexuality and economic materialism:

The secret sense of all these efforts is indeed to “reduce” life in its highest cultural stage itself to such an extent that of it, only a shadow-play, or the pure matter of the sexual, erotic, economic, etc., remains.

It is this general atmosphere of frivolity that is exploited with great success by the Jews:

   It also becomes understandable that the Jews exhibit a special talent for “culture” in its aesthetic-playful aspect. For, among them, often through the excess of endogamy and inbreeding, that de-naturalisation is achieved which is the precondition for the delight in mere deft game-playing and which, as such, naturally requires a quite special neutral talent for nimbleness that the doubtless often clumsy fundamental seriousness of the hard, grounded, political Germans does not dispose of. It does not because, typical of the Reich as the European center and point of gravity, is solidity and tenacity, which a political organism requires in order to be able to be respected as the “foundation” of the European political system.

Unfortunately, the degeneracy of “frivolity, cynicism, overindulgence, pretence, irony, wastefulness, unrestricted sexuality” spawned in the Western states has not only manifested itself in the West but it has spread to the Central European German lands too, sometimes through symptoms that may seem to be the reverse of the above traits, thus in “rigid morality … prudery and austerity” that betoken an internal emptiness. Whereas the imperial Austrian elites were marked by the former sort of degeneracy, the Prussian bureaucratic ones were characterised by rigidity and a tendency to ossification. The degeneration of politics to aesthetics is evident also in Kaiser Wilhelm II’s adoption of Dutch fashions and his penchant for theatrical play-acting.

The neutralisation of German man was thus present also in the Wilhelmine-Stresemann interim Reich and the defeat of Germany in the First World War was only the external culmination of an internal illness. This illness is concentrated in the aversion of the liberalized neighbouring states to the Prussian state as a political and military formation:

Perhaps one will be able to expect of an impartial observer that he would understand the phenomenon of Prussian militarism, the wonderful architectonic of the German army, as a very stylistic formation, as the product of a very high culture whose creation doubtless involves more intellectual work than the composition of a brilliant essay, of an artistic historical work when indeed the proviso is not stated — as in Langbehn, Pierson, Nietzsche, Burckhardt and all the men subject to him in the neutral zone around the Reich — that “culture” and “style” exist only where individualism prevails and that, further, “culture” is understood necessarily as aesthetic, indeed especially as only literary!

The neutrality of the Western states with regard to the fate of the whole of the European continent with its Central European center meant that the entire life of these states is neutralized, in internal as well as external politics, in the arts and in the sciences, to such an extent that these states are virtually moribund. As Steding summarises,

The old definition of man, that he is a “zoon politikon” [political animal] implies also that man is man only when he is political. The submergence into the apoliticization of neutralised life thus destroys the humanity of man itself.

The political concomitant of this process of the aestheticization of politics is Liberalism:

It too develops in its late, thus modern, forms an unmistakable tendency towards neutralization of all life relations, which again signifies the aestheticization of the same.

And this process of social disintegration is observed most acutely in the army, which in the Wilhelmine Reich loses its organizational and directive force by becoming a mere ornament of politics:

If, in Bismarck’s, Moltke’s and Roon’s[14] times, the army was still in complete harmony with the entirety of the people, there entered very quickly, in the Wilhelmine age, a separation and a being-for-itself of one part of the officer corps away from the people that alienated this stratum of the substance of the nation and drove it increasingly into an artificial, groundless position. And in this way was developed that aesthetic playful instinct that let the army exist for its own sake. It was understood especially by the Kaiser as a mere cultural value in the sense of the aesthetic culture of the neutral neighbours so that it became a mere “glistening weapon.” It reached the point of the big gestures of that gesturing boastfulness characteristic of neutral culture – here in the form of saber rattling behind which there was no serious will to take drastic action.

Go  to Part 2.

[1] His travels took him to Basel, Zürich, Bern, Geneva, Leiden, The Hague, Copenhagen, Oslo, Uppsala, Stockholm and Helsinki.

[2][2] Walter Frank (1905-1945) was a National Socialist historian who wrote studies on the anti-Semitic court chaplain Adolf Stoecker as well as on the Dreyfus Affair in France. His institute, established in 1935 by Bernhard Rust, Reichsminister für Wissenschaft, Erziehung und Volksbildung, cooperated with Alfred Rosenberg’s Institut für Forschung der Judenfrage, which was established in 1939.

[3] See Helmut Heiber, Walter Frank und sein Reichsinstitut für Geschichte des neuen Deutschlands, Stuttgart, 1966, p.527.

[4] See, for instance, Theodor Heuss, ”Politische oder polemische Wissenschaft. Zu Christoph Stedings Werk,” in Das deutsche Wort, XV, 1939, pp. 257-260, and Heinrich Härtle, “Steding neutralisiert Nietzsche,” in Nationalsozialistische Monatshefte, September, 1939.

[5] C. Steding, Das Reich, “Einleitung.” All quotes from Steding are from this Introduction as well as from the first chapter of the second part of the book entitled “Cultural Historiography.” All translations are mine.

[6] Other universities that Steding cites as having fallen to the foreign influences of the neutral states are those of Freiburg im Breisgau, Frankfurt am Main, Bonn and Cologne.

[7] Johan Huizinga (1872—1945) was a Dutch cultural historian and professor of history at the University of Leiden. His most famous work Herfsttij der Middeleeuwen (The Autumn of the Middle Ages, 1919) stressed the importance of spectacle and ceremony in mediaeval French and Dutch society while his later work Homo Ludens (1938) maintained that play was the primary formative element in human culture.

[8] Schicksal

[9] Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897) was a Swiss art historian whose works on the Italian Renaissance, Die Cultur der Renaissance in Italien (1860) and Geschichte der Renaissance in Italien (1867) established his reputation as one of the earliest and most influential cultural historians in the West.

[10] Johann Jakob Bachofen 1815-1887) was a Swiss anthropologist and professor of Roman Law at the University of Basel. His work on prehistoric matriarchy Das Mutterrecht (1861) posited an initial “lunar” stage in human cultural evolution that was matriarchal. This was later superseded by a transitional Dionysian stage of societal masculinisation and by a final “solar,” or Apollonian, stage of patriarchy.

[11] Bachofen, Mutterrecht..

[12] See my English edition, Rembrandt as Educator, London: Wermod and Wermod, 2017.

[13] Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) was a Calvinist theologian and served as Prime Minister of the Netherlands between 1901 and 1905.

[14] Albrecht Emil, Graf von Roon (1803-1879) was a distinguished Prussian statesman and Minister of War from 1859 to 1873.

7 replies
  1. Michael Fury
    Michael Fury says:

    From Weimar’s broken humiliation

    Noble Germany had arisen

    Like a captive lion remembering

    His strength and made of the circus ring

    A reckoning for his spirit’s sake.

    For his pride the Enemy vowed to make

    Him cower, and marshaling all his proxies

    Bled him, beat him down in democracy’s

    Name. But in their rise and furious going down,

    Germany’s sons like Leonidas had shown

    A bold Aryan few, unbowed, unbought,

    Could by true inspiration be wrought

    Into lightning and his nemesis.

    They reminded him of sacred justice,

    And for this between the jaws of his vise

    Of hate-blind armies in his service

    He seized their fatherland. From the air

    He razed their cities with satanic fire

    And burned their homes and loved ones alive

    While in the sky and fields and streets they gave

    Their last. His fictions assured his minions

    Their cause was just, his orders starving millions,

    His occupiers defiling mothers and daughters

    In marathons of lust and hate. With laughter

    They vandalized anything beautiful.

    Monuments, churches, museums full

    Of statuary they made rubble,

    Become in victory his lawless rabble.

    In the desolation they called peace

    He determined never, never to release

    Any Aryan soul from the affliction

    Of his reckless hate and its direction

    To the end of demoralization.

  2. Strange World
    Strange World says:
    What looks like a cartoon from the Stür-
    mer is actually a drawing from a 1932 is-
    sue of the “liberal satirical German-lan-
    guage magazine” Kladderadatsch, which
    was founded and run by a Jew. What is
    really very remarkable about this is that
    what was apparently intended as a spoof
    of “xenophobic nightmares” has actually
    almost come true! The caption above the
    image reads: “The negroization of France
    in 100 years.” Below the image it reads:
    “The last non-colored French are the great
    attraction of the Paris Zoo.” I suspect it was
    an adoption of an essay title by this guy.

    I guess, he took the funny term “Juden-
    dämmerung” from Esser’s “The Jewish
    World Plague: Twilight of the Jews”

  3. Strange World
    Strange World says:

    The provisional nadir of the cultural decay and degeneration of the so called “West”.

    “the best new German-language novel of the year”

    Quotes by Junge Freiheit:

    “The blurb writes that author Kim de l’Horizon was born in 2666, studied witchcraft and transdisciplinarity. The pictures of the award ceremony show a man with a beard, dress and chest hair. He had spent ten years writing the book. Sample: ‘Because I want to stand at the big beech with my legs already spread. Come on Inku bee-demon. Gimme your Mummy-Semen. The spores of the night I will receive willingly. And I’ll hatch mules, scrambles from mouth, howl, from decay.'”

    “The awarding of the German Book Prize to Kim de l’Horizon paints a breathtaking picture of the clown’s world in which the aloof cultural chicery lives. That the laureate compares himself to courageous Iranian women takes the bullshit to the extreme.”

    “A scene that only listens to each other, invites and awards prizes in the self-referential realm seems like a parallel universe, while the average citizen thinks about how to pay his electricity bill. Meanwhile, on the gender Titanic, the music on deck continues unabated. It’s the book fair again, the anti-racist, climate-neutral, animal-loving, transfeminist writing collective is sending ‘awareness’ teams against ‘right-wing’ across the book fair, celebrating themselves and those who can hardly get to sleep anymore because of their perceived identity disorders, now that they are constantly in demand in the media because of it.

    Here, authors make it to the perceptible surface who are only known because they constantly proclaim where they do not write, do not perform and do not read, because those who think differently are also allowed to present themselves there. Who has nothing to say and is nothing, is today a skin color, a gender, a handicap. Whereby ‘being black’ has long since ceased to be a skin color among true connoisseurs, but rather ‘describes a social position affected by racism’. Anyone can be black, except whites. Which is consistent, because everyone is now allowed to be a woman, except women themselves.”

  4. Strange World
    Strange World says:

    “Mateschitz was a right-wing populist who slammed the ‘blindness’ of European nations for welcoming the migrant crisis that engulfed the continent in 2015, saying that “it was clear from the start that most of the people weren’t refugees, at least not according to the definition of the term in the Geneva Conventions.

    Mateschitz blasted political correctness from ‘intellectual elites’ and said he fervently opposed being told what to think.”

  5. Strange World
    Strange World says:

    Chabad Mafia associated civil rights leader Roy Innis can be heard (1:31 second mark) telling the Lubavitcher Rebbe Schneerson that the civil rights revolution of the 1950s and 1960s was a revolution of BLACKS and JEWS.

    Whether it was the judeo-Soviet civil rights revolutions including the BLM riots of today, or the Perestroika Deception in the USSR which overall lulled the Western powers to sleep, you will always find the Chabad Mafia puppeteering behind the scenes…

  6. James J. O'Meara
    James J. O'Meara says:

    “… the numerous other literary and philosophical figures based in Basel and Zürich discussed in Steding’s work, represent a stage that is incommensurate with the living Reich of Bismarck or that of Hitler, since they belong to a past that the Reich has “banished” from its domain and that is naturally opposed in its decadence to the Reich.”

    “I would rather be a professor at Basel than God.” — Nietzsche

  7. Cotard
    Cotard says:

    An Astute Political Thinker by Richard Sigurdson

    from Jacob Burckhardts Social and Political Thought

    Burckhardt is an undoubtedly important figure in intellectual history, especially in the history of historiography and of the academic analysis of European culture, art, and architecture. But he is also a noteworthy and astute political thinker. He brings to light observations and arguments about the nature of modernity that illuminate certain as-pects of the human condition in its political dimension. As a commentator on the politics of his own day, he identified unfettered individualism, mass democracy, and the erosion of culture as constitutive elements of the modern age. In addition, his profound and scathing culture critique of his time reveals a critical lucidity that is not always present in nineteenth-century German-language writings on freedom, individuality, the state, and culture. It is indeed because he can orient himself to the past that he is able to criticize the present with such acumen and realism, thereby transcending the limitations of a mere rhetorician or ideologue.

    To the extent that he advocates a historical perspective, Burckhardt teaches us to rely on our own capacities for independent thought and judgment as a means of counterbalancing the specific trends of our own time, including the universalist and increasingly anti-historical tendencies of the late modern age. More than a mere negation of the dominant experiences of his time, Burckhardt’s historical perspective provides a positive conception of the ends of human life and of hu-man association. For instance, his central political idea – that the foundation for a sense of political community or collective identity lies not in our association as members of an artificial nation-state supported by sheer power but rather in our sharing of a common culture – af-fords a new basis for social and political thought that is outside positivism, Hegelianism, or other forms of optimistic rationalism.

    Burckhardt’s cultural approach adds a unique dimension to modern political theory. His emphasis on culture, art, creativity, and self-creation stimulates a desire for freedom from crude rationality that is at the same time opposed to a simple return to the coercion of religious thought. For Burckhardt, it is always culture rather than politics or religion that allows individuals to experience genuine human freedom. This potential for freedom involves our common desire for self-creation, for private autonomy, and for liberty from the coercion that he sees inherent in all metaphysics and theology. An admitted sceptic, Burckhardt champions culture in order to help us substitute ‘freedom’ (manifest most exquisitely in art and culture) for ‘truth’ or ‘goodness’ (as understood by philosophers and theologians) as the goal of thinking and acting.

    This scepticism extends into the political sphere. Consequently, Burckhardt says things such as, ‘power is of its nature evil/ and distinguishes between the state, as a repressive instrument of brute force, and society, as the rightful repository for all those attributes that make people truly human. It is the survival of this realm of social life that Burckhardt finds endangered in modernity. According to him, ours is an age of radical discontinuity in which the values and imperatives of past ages no longer hold. It is for this reason that he defends theoreti-cally an interpretation of history – what he calls Kulturgeschichte – that is intended as a remedial response to the perceived needs of his age.

    The only meaningful justification for life in this modern world, according to him, is an aesthetic one (rather than, for example, a metaphysical, moral, philosophical, or otherwise supra-historical justification). Culture thus becomes the key normative standard in his social and political thought. His cultural histories demonstrate his ideal of human life by depicting exemplary models of private excellence -autonomous, self-created, freely self-disciplined, objective individuals.

    Though he shares many traits with a diverse group of intellectual fellow travellers, Burckhardt’s social and political thought is difficult to pigeonhole. From one angle, he is a conventional conservative who distrusts human nature, is sceptical of human reason, believes in a natural inequality or hierarchy of individuals within an organic society, values order, and puts his faith in tradition and established custom to provide guidance for the future. In his historical analysis, as well, Burckhardt emphasizes habitual conservative concerns about such matters as the consequences of the French Revolution and its democratic egalitarianism. In this regard, he has much in common with Edmund Burke. And like the Irishman, Burckhardt has tendencies that appear familiar to Romantic political thinking, especially in its German version. Like Schiller, Goethe, Herder, and others, he envisions an ‘aesthetic state’ and seeks to overcome the crass materialism and rationalism of modernity through an aestheticized stance towards collective political life. Yet he also shares many of the ideals of the so-called aristocratic liberals – thinkers such as Tocqueville and Mill, as well as Humboldt. In several dimensions, his analysis of freedom and individuality is liberal, and his prescriptions for a limited state are also classically liberal. Finally, Burckhardt’s aestheticism, his advocacy of private excellence, and his attack on the spirit of the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and the entire modern age remind many readers of the ideas of an equally ‘unseasonable’ thinker, Friedrich Nietzsche. In its emphasis on the importance of genius, the redemptive powers of human creativity, the uniqueness of the individual, and the preeminence of culture, Nietzsche’s social and political thought flows from concerns voiced by Burckhardt. And yet, as we have seen, Nietzsche had little of the older man’s reserve and caution and lacked as well his refined historical sense.

    In the years since his death, the difficulties of categorizing Burckhardt’s thought have not been eased by those who have found him inspiring. His mode of aestheticized culture critique of modernity has been attractive to some intellectuals throughout the last century.

    But the width and breadth of this critique allow for an eclectic following. Burckhardt is admired by those who decry the loss of tradition and lament the levelling tendencies of modern ‘mass’ democratic culture; his portrayal of politics as separate from, and subordinate to, ‘culture’ – politics as the business of dirty hands – appeals to some artists, scholars, poets, and self-chosen members of the cultural avant-garde in whatever society; and his passionate depiction of the dehu-manizing spirit of contemporary politics and culture strikes an especially responsive chord in many who wish to join in the fight to overthrow repressive cultural values and institutions.
    At the same time, this form of culture critique shocks democratic critics who desire the deliberate creation of a more just, egalitarian, and participatory political community. These critics despair at the ‘irrationalism’ and ‘aestheticism’ of Burckhardt’s approach and criticize his models of private excellence on the basis that the goal should be the training of the good citizen, not the creation of the genius or the nurturing of a cultural elite. Burckhardt’s aesthetic mode of cultural historiography contributes to political theory, they say, a depoliticized and aestheticized historical self-understanding of the modern age. According to these critics, the process of culture critique from his point of view is entirely destructive of any effort to make our institutions and practices less cruel and more just.

    Much of this criticism is well-founded. Burckhardt could not, by virtue of his culture critique, provide much more than a preparatory service for the rebirth of culture. History might produce the desired conditions, he thought, but there is no guarantee that the breakdown of existing structures will not merely lead to increased barbarism and banality. In the meantime, the truly human being should seek individuality and differentiation away from the anti-world of the power-state and conventional religious institutions. There is in Burckhardt a deep mistrust of humans’ ability to get together and try to solve ratio-nally the problems posed by this or that obstacle to human happiness.

    His answer to the question of how one should live one’s life during the ‘dark times’ of modernity is invariably to seek a private, aesthetic pleasure in art and thought. Only if society were to become more balanced in its distribution of power between cultural, religious, and political forces would Burckhardt then urge active participation in the various aspects of one’s community.

    Burckhardt justifies this anti-political view on the grounds that well-educated and highly cultivated individuals are best able to serve their communities in a prudent, wise, and humane fashion. In the age of industry and revolution, however, this sort of intellectual freedom can be found in just a few pockets of cultural and intellectual life that are pure only to the extent that they escape the infection of the state’s influence. Freedom of the mind is constantly in danger in a society that is oriented overwhelmingly towards material and political needs rather than towards cultural and spiritual ones. Thus the rare bastions of independence must be protected, and the highest spiritual values that they represent must by preserved in thought. Unfortunately, in-tellectuals in mass society – those people whose proper task must include the maintenance of individuality and the remembrance of the spiritual values passed down from earlier times – either are drawn into a public life that renders them subservient to the powers of industry and the state or become so disillusioned by life that they retreat into their academic cubby-holes and pursue careers as narrow specialists.

    The essential goals of broad cultural sympathy, preservation of the beautiful, and remembrance of truly human achievement are lost if the academic’s central job is no longer to teach and to communicate to the young the importance of the cultural continuum of human history.

    Burckhardt, for his part, threw himself into teaching and, after a while, abstained from writing for publication. This decision was based on his pessimistic cultural analysis and on a certain philosophy of education. First, as we have just seen, he was convinced that the last glimmer of the European tradition could be kept alive only by a direct communication between a wise judge of culture and his or her audience. Second, he had a view of education somewhat similar to that of the Platonic Socrates in the Phaedrus – writing is a dangerous narcotic that distracts both writer and reader from the noble enterprise of con-templation. Thus he would work on his performance as a lecturer and attempt to demonstrate personally that despite the decadence around them there was a greater cultural spirit to which he and all his listeners were tied.

    The efficacy of this position within the mass world is not self-evi-dent. Ironically, for someone who put little store in writing and publishing, it is as a writer and philosopher of history that Burckhardt now contributes to human self-understanding. His books have endured as classics in their fields, and his Renaissance thesis in particu-lar has spawned its own academic industry. More recently, Burckhardt has been increasingly recognized as an important commentator on social and political matters.

    There is much to recommend, I think, in Burckhardt’s hostile assessment of modernity’s solutions to traditional political concerns. He points out the shortcomings of our drive for material advancement, of our faith in progress, and of our trust in technological solutions to problems that are constant and recurring throughout human history.

    Yet there is a danger that this hostility to a particular set of historical circumstances, to a specific form of human solidarity described in modern democratic thought, could translate into hostility towards all forms of solidarity and into lack of sympathy for the mass of humankind. In Nietzsche, for instance, we find a cultural criticism that in many ways mirrors Burckhardt’s own. However, it is based on such a low overall estimation of humanity that it will stop at nothing in its desire to overcome the sickness of humans and make them anew. In his thought, the quest for the great individual renders insignificant the achievements and struggles of ordinary people living in ordinary times.

    Consequently, we are left to ask whether the aesthetically reconstructed ideal of a unified style of life, possible under certain forms of aristocratic social organization, can be justified by the alleged decadence of modernity. Burckhardt of course does not go as far as Nietzsche in his proposals for the positive overturning of the current situation. Burckhardt’s culture critique exposes several unsolved problems of our age, and he points the way to various creative solutions that are less disturbing than Nietzsche’s. But before arguing in favour of even the less radical conservative politics of Burckhardt, we might want to consider the yet-unfulfilled promises of modern politics and culture. Must the heady ideals of autonomous intellectual and cultural life be severed from the political ideals of equality, liberty, and human and civil rights? While struggling to free ourselves from the instru-mental, ideological, and functional restraints on human expression in a mass society, must we forget the needs of the majority of the community while remembering so vividly the creative spirit of the few creative geniuses or ‘great’ individuals?

    What we perhaps need to do is to attempt to bring together the human requirements for private autonomy, creativity, individuality, and self-discipline, which Burckhardt articulates, with the equally im-portant needs for justice, fair treatment, and a solidarity of human interests, which Burckhardt largely ignores. Thus our highest hopes should be for a culture that combines in a concrete fashion the as-yet-unrealized aims of justice and freedom, as expressed by thinkers with a greater commitment to social justice than Burckhardt, with the goal of a civil society that allows its citizens to be as excellent, as creative, as aestheticist, and as ‘irrational’ as they want. The individual can be free in such a society to the extent that he or she is able to judge freely and to express himself or herself freely. In this sense, as Burckhardt insists, human freedom depends on the ability to make and shape one’s own life and to create a society that is open enough to accommodate a variety of individual choices and diverse points of view.

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