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Re: Nationalism and German History

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  • Frank Thomas Smith
    ... ___________ I have read everything by Shirer (written in books, not his many newspaper articles) and, although he may have written something to give the
    Message 1 of 4 , Feb 3, 2012
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      --- In anthroposophy_tomorrow@yahoogroups.com, "ted.wrinch" <ted.wrinch@...> wrote:
      >
      > Nationalism and German History
      >
      > I've taken a look at some of the Der Staudi scholarly references cited for his Steiner nationalism thesis, a typical example of which can be seen in WC message 21184, September 2011. He of course cites Fischer, the German historian who came to prominence in the 60s with his popularising within Germany of the negative 'sonderweg' thesis (it had been a potentially positive one before WW2) that there is a direct path from early German history to the Third Reich. On the the 'sonderweg' thesis:
      >
      > "Until the mid-1960s, the Sonderweg debate was polarized with most non-German participants at one pole and German participants at the other. Historians like Léon Poliakov, A. J. P. Taylor, and Sir Lewis Bernstein Namier, echoed by journalists like the American William L. Shirer, portrayed Nazism as the inevitable result of German history, reflecting unique flaws in "German national character" that went back to the days of Martin Luther, if not earlier."
      ___________

      I have read everything by Shirer (written in books, not his many newspaper articles) and, although he may have written something to give the impression that he believed German character made the Third Reich inevitable, I don't think it was his considered POV. Considering that he was witnessing the Rise (and Fall) of the Third Reich and all its horrors, he was fair in his depictions of the German people. Nazism was, imo, a unique evil phenomenon which could have occurred somewhere else (The Ottoman Empire fe). What made it so lethal was German efficiency, which the Turks famously lacked and lack.
      Frank
    • ted.wrinch
      Interesting. Thanks for that comment. T. Ted Wrinch
      Message 2 of 4 , Feb 3, 2012
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        Interesting. Thanks for that comment.

        T.

        Ted Wrinch

        --- In anthroposophy_tomorrow@yahoogroups.com, "Frank Thomas Smith" <fts.trasla@...> wrote:
        >
        >
        >
        > --- In anthroposophy_tomorrow@yahoogroups.com, "ted.wrinch" <ted.wrinch@> wrote:
        > >
        > > Nationalism and German History
        > >
        > > I've taken a look at some of the Der Staudi scholarly references cited for his Steiner nationalism thesis, a typical example of which can be seen in WC message 21184, September 2011. He of course cites Fischer, the German historian who came to prominence in the 60s with his popularising within Germany of the negative 'sonderweg' thesis (it had been a potentially positive one before WW2) that there is a direct path from early German history to the Third Reich. On the the 'sonderweg' thesis:
        > >
        > > "Until the mid-1960s, the Sonderweg debate was polarized with most non-German participants at one pole and German participants at the other. Historians like Léon Poliakov, A. J. P. Taylor, and Sir Lewis Bernstein Namier, echoed by journalists like the American William L. Shirer, portrayed Nazism as the inevitable result of German history, reflecting unique flaws in "German national character" that went back to the days of Martin Luther, if not earlier."
        > ___________
        >
        > I have read everything by Shirer (written in books, not his many newspaper articles) and, although he may have written something to give the impression that he believed German character made the Third Reich inevitable, I don't think it was his considered POV. Considering that he was witnessing the Rise (and Fall) of the Third Reich and all its horrors, he was fair in his depictions of the German people. Nazism was, imo, a unique evil phenomenon which could have occurred somewhere else (The Ottoman Empire fe). What made it so lethal was German efficiency, which the Turks famously lacked and lack.
        > Frank
        >
      • ted.wrinch
        More evidence on the bias of Blackbourn s book can be found in his treatment of Wilhelm von Humboldt. There s one reference in the book: This larger moral
        Message 3 of 4 , Feb 5, 2012
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          More evidence on the bias of Blackbourn's book can be found in his treatment of Wilhelm von Humboldt. There's one reference in the book:

          "This larger moral imperative ['rewarding merit rather than birth'] is hard to separate from the belief in education as a 'practical need of the state' [Wilhelm von Humboldt]"

          p 63

          But Humboldt was of far more significance than this. His essay 'The Sphere and Duties of Government' is described by Steiner:

          "There is among German literature a work which deeply penetrates the question of the relationship between the overall power of the state and the freedom of the individual, not only the freedom living in the individual soul, but freedom as it can be realized in social life. I know of no other work in world literature which penetrates so deeply into this question. It is entitled The Sphere and Duties of Government and is by Wilhelm von Humboldt,[ Note 2 ] the friend of Schiller and brother of the writer Alexander von Humboldt. This work, written at the turn of the eighteenth to the nineteenth century, defends most beautifully the human personality in its full, free unfolding, against every aspect of state omnipotence. It is said that the state may only intervene in the realm of the human individual to the extent that such intervention leads to the removal of obstacles standing in the way of the personality's free unfolding.

          This work stems from the same source as Schiller's wonderful Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man. [ Note 3 ] I could say that Wilhelm von Humboldt's work on the limitations of the state is the brother of Schiller's Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man. It stems from an age when people were endeavouring to assemble every thought from cultural life capable of placing the human being firmly on the soil of freedom. For various reasons it was not much used during the nineteenth century, yet it was often enough consulted by those who, during the course of the nineteenth century, were endeavouring to reach an understanding of the more external aspects of the concept of freedom. Of course the nineteenth century was in one way the time when in many respects the concept of freedom was laid in its grave. But people were still keen to come to an understanding of the concept of freedom, and in this connection Wilhelm von Humboldt's work The Sphere and Duties of Government gained a degree of international importance in Europe.

          Both the Frenchman Laboulaye [ Note 4 ] and the Englishman John Stuart Mill [ Note 5 ] took it as their point of departure. This work was an important point of departure for both these thinkers. Both, in their turn, and each in his own field, endeavoured to come to grips with the concept of freedom. Laboulaye considered that the institutions of his country, in so far as they concerned the relationship between state and individual, were suited only to the smothering of any true freedom, any free unfolding of the personality, by the state. John Stuart Mill, once he had discovered Wilhelm von Humboldt's work, took his departure from it and argued forcefully, in his own work on freedom, that English society could only undermine a true experience of freedom. With Laboulaye it is the state, with John Stuart Mill society. John Stuart Mill's work poses the question: How can an unfolding of the personality be achieved in the atmosphere of unfreedom generated by society?"

          http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/KarmUntru2/19170113p01.html

          And Liberty Fund Inc, providers of the download of the essay, say this:

          "A mid-19th century translation of this work. "The grand, leading principle, towards which every argument … unfolded in these pages directly converges, is the absolute and essential importance of human development in its richest diversity." This description by Wilhelm von Humboldt of his purpose in writing The Limits of State Action animates John Stuart Mill's On Liberty and serves as its famous epigraph. Seldom has a book spoken so dramatically to another writer. Many commentators even believe that Humboldt's discussion of issues of freedom and individual responsibility possesses greater clarity and directness than Mill's. The Limits of State Action, by "Germany's greatest philosopher of freedom," as F. A. Hayek called him, has an exuberance and attention to principle that make it a valuable introduction to classical liberal political thought. It is also crucial for an understanding of liberalism as it developed in Europe at the turn of the nineteenth century. Humboldt explores the role that liberty plays in individual development, discusses criteria for permitting the state to limit individual actions, and suggests ways of confining the state to its proper bounds. In so doing, he uniquely combines the ancient concern for human excellence and the modern concern for what has come to be known as negative liberty."

          http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=589

          T.

          Ted Wrinch

          --- In anthroposophy_tomorrow@yahoogroups.com, "ted.wrinch" <ted.wrinch@...> wrote:
          >
          > Nationalism and German History
          >
          > I've taken a look at some of the Der Staudi scholarly references cited for his Steiner nationalism thesis, a typical example of which can be seen in WC message 21184, September 2011. He of course cites Fischer, the German historian who came to prominence in the 60s with his popularising within Germany of the negative 'sonderweg' thesis (it had been a potentially positive one before WW2) that there is a direct path from early German history to the Third Reich. On the the 'sonderweg' thesis:
          >
          > "Until the mid-1960s, the Sonderweg debate was polarized with most non-German participants at one pole and German participants at the other. Historians like Léon Poliakov, A. J. P. Taylor, and Sir Lewis Bernstein Namier, echoed by journalists like the American William L. Shirer, portrayed Nazism as the inevitable result of German history, reflecting unique flaws in "German national character" that went back to the days of Martin Luther, if not earlier."
          >
          > A key to its popularity is perhaps given by this:
          >
          > " After Bismarck's dismissal in 1890, Vermeil wrote "It was after his fall, under William II, that this nationalism, breaking all barriers and escaping from the grip of a weak government, gave rise to a state of mind and a general situation that we have to analyze, for otherwise Nazism with its momentary triumphs and its terrible collapse will remain incomprehensible"[14]"
          >
          > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonderweg
          >
          > The need to explain Nazism is ongoing; this is one of the reasons for the plethora of books on the topic being continually produced, that dominate the German history section in bookshops today. This need will, I reckon, be an ongoing one for a long time to come, and, as I've said before, the current attempts at explanation I regard as the merest beginnings.
          >
          > Another German historian he cites is David Blackbourn in his "The Long Nineteenth Century: A History of Germany, 1780-1918". The impression from dipping into this is of one long moan against the Germans: he doesn't like them. Whether it's the Romantic period or the end of the C19. You could not imagine that anything good could come out of such a nation of jingoistic, nationalist militarists - and indeed he doesn't. His work is weak on evidence and strong on opinions.
          >
          > On German Romanticism and Idealism
          > ==============================
          >
          > "..They [Sturm und Drang writers] embodied what is often called 'Romantic idealism', and looked to break through the confines of desiccated, well tempered reasonableness (they called it mediocrity) in the name of the individual genius, inspiration and feeling. This meant following the spontaneity of the heart, but it also had a model that was both literary and French - not the dry Voltaire, but the wet Rousseau, with his (artful) emphasis on simplicity, self-revelation and sensibility. For these writers, has for Herder, the vital qualities of 'popular culture' also proved a stimulus, even if (like writers for the next 200 hundred years) they were always chasing something that had been commercialized just before they caught it"
          >
          > "The Enlightenment could accommodate 'enemies' [the Sturn und Drang movement] like these; it was its rational friends who proved most problematic. …The cranky fads and byways of German enlightenment thought have been less well explored than their French counterparts. It is surely significant, though, that the pseudo medieval charlatanry of Rosicrucianism developed out of the masonic lodge…"
          >
          > p 28
          >
          > This is the opposite of the historical reality: Rosicrucianism was founded independently of Freemasonry. Some claim that Freemasonry has been influenced by Rosicrucianism, however.
          >
          > "Where tradition did not exist, rulers tried to manufacture it. They were helped in this by the cult of monarchy among Romantic artists and intellectuals, with its emphasis on the 'historic' and its fondness for an (imaginary) stable past. An example would be the painters within the Nazarene School. The impulses within Romanticism, it is true, did not always have to sit comfortably with power. Celebrating ruins, losing oneself in Nature, or praising 'sincerity' above everything - all lent themselves to a variety of political conclusions "
          >
          > P 73
          >
          > "…contrasting these qualities with French and artificiality and refinement. Foreign stereotypes of the unworldly, metaphysical German also correspond to a widespread native view that contrasted German 'inwardness' and idealism with the…"
          > [sorry, there's no further preview for this excerpt but I think the gist is clear]
          >
          > p 204
          >
          >
          > His general dismissal of German Idealism, which he doesn't even refer to directly, calling it various forms of 'romanticism' instead, as a significant force in German history is indicated by his negligible references to its leading figures: there are: two references to Fichte (one negative on his 'Speeches…'); none on Schelling; 4 on Herder (one describing him as being of 'enormous importance' for German nationalism); none on Novalis; 2 list only references to Lessing; several references to Schiller, only 2 more than a listing. Most of these references are little more than one line citations; none of them provide any insight into the topic outside his perceived significance of it for politics. It would be hard to find a more threadbare and inadequate description of 'Romanticism' than this. The work in general views culture as an epiphanomenon of politics and power: Ludwig 1 created his aesthetic, medieval world of castles and wall paintings to 'project monarchical authority'. It's not that this isn't true, as far as it goes, it's that the author believes this is the *only* truth. Steiner said that most Germans did not any longer understand German Idealism by the end of the C19; this seems to have only got worse in the subsequent years.
          >
          > On 1880-1900
          > ===========
          >
          > "What produced this chauvinist bile. A lead was certainly given by the men at the top. Governments required school books to adopt a 'German' perspective, built statues and monuments to German heroes, and asserted national interests with a new intensity. ..Official nationalism was especially important in initiating the harsh policy towards the Poles in the Prussian frontier provinces of Posen and West Prussia. This began with Bismarck's expulsions in the mid-1880s and continued through Bethmann Hollweg's willingness to expropriate Polish land shortly before the war, a pattern of attempted Germanisation broke only under Caprivi, and centred on the 'struggle for land' and enforced used of German in schools. But militant nationalist sentiment also has an independent life of its own. Schoolteachers needed little encouragement to press the German cause: along with university professors they were at the forefront of beating the national drum. Nor did prices and governments have a monopoly on national monuments: many were built by subscription, including the Kyffhauser Memorial (1897) constructed on a mountain in which the medieval emperor Barbarossa was supposedly sleeping until former German glories were restored, the hundreds of Bismarck towers built in the years after the former chancellor's death in 1998, and the centenary memorial of the Battle of Leipzig. There were several reasons for the broad appeal of chauvinism. Partly, it expressed a long-standing German sense of cultural superiority, made harsher by the achievement of nation-statehood and the power that went with it.'We have turned the Poles into human beings', observed Max Weber in 1896, a view widely shared among German liberals.
          >
          > ...
          >
          > Who joined he nationalist mass organisations?…Among the major groups, the Society for the Eastern Marches was the exception that proved every rule: for obvious reasons it was restricted to Prussia, its support stretched into estates and small towns, and it picked up Catholic members (mainly in Silesia), who gave their German identity pride of place over solidarity with Polish coreligionists. "
          >
          > p 323 et seq
          >
          > We've seen from the Harvard Phd thesis that I quoted from recently how biased this account is for the Silesian situation. The Posen situation is more complicated than he suggests and had been part of Bismarck's Kulturekampf movement against Catholicism. I have little confidence in the rest of this being much more accurate.
          >
          > I think that blaming the Germans and castigating everything about them is going to be a favourite occupation for some historians for centuries to come. And, post the Nazis, perhaps this is how things have to be. In this sense, Der Staudi has his work done for him and need do little more than step on the prejudicial bandwagon to get to where he wants to go.
          >
          > T.
          >
          > Ted Wrinch
          >
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