1 Followers
2 Following
sologdin

sologdin

Currently reading

Middlemarch: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds, Reviews and Criticism (A Norton Critical Edition)
Bert G. Hornback, George Eliot
The Magic Mountain
Thomas Mann, John E. Woods
Love in the Time of Cholera
Gabriel García Márquez

Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture, and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich

Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture, and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich - Jeffrey Herf Very strong presentation of the Weimar rightwing and its transition into the NSDAP.

The study proceeds from Frankfurt School assumptions, and develops a lukewarm critique of Adorno & Horkheimer by book's end. In disagreeing with the general conclusion of [b:Dialectic of Enlightenment|85812|Dialectic of Enlightenment Philosophical Fragments|Max Horkheimer|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348518467s/85812.jpg|1035334], Herf opines that the German rightwing suffered not from too much Enlightenment, but too little, noting the lack of a liberal tradition in Germany, which industrialized without a bourgeois revolution on behalf of the industrialists.

Attempts to explain the NSDAP as romantic anticapitalism from the perspective of medieval pastoral idealism--(i.e., the market is too progressive, too liberal, too international), finding capitalism filled with parasites (foreigners, Jews, bankers, the unemployed, &c.), ugly materialism, ludicrous libertarianism & egalitarianism--but wedded to a dangerous technophilia that normal pastoral conservatives did not possess. NSDAP explained as expressly irrationalist or antirationalist, unable to make means-ends calculations, relying instead on mystical doctrines regarding the will that arose out of idealist philosophy.

Interesting that the German rightwing position, inclusive of the NSDAP, was that marxism is merely an extension of "Manchester Liberalism," with a simple change in the law of property to distinguish them. NSDAP anticapitalism would undo all of liberalism's gains, but would not change the ancient property law on which German authoritarianism rested--keep your large estates, keep your means of production in private hands, and so on. The NSDAP accordingly allows the wealthy to maintain their assets and class position, even while denouncing capitalism's other benefits, which the NSDAP equated with marxism. (That is, anyone who draws an equivalence between marxist international socialism and German national socialism is manifestly erroneous.)

Meat of the volume are the specific readings of Weimar figures, then Junger, Sombart, Heidegger, Schmitt, Spengler, inter alia, as well as of German engineering professional journals, rounding out with NSDAP theorists. Very well accomplished, overall.

Draws out some noteworthy principles: rightwing anticapitalism rests upon a producerist distinction between producers and parasites. Entrepreneurs are producers, as are working workers. Merchants, bankers, the unemployed--all parasites. Rightwing anticapitalism employs Weber's politics of absolute ethics rather than a politics of responsibility--wherein political praxis abhors bargaining, negotiating, governing, and is beneficial simply to the individual, who might demonstrate the authenticity of one's own convictions. Watching the teabaggers drive the US off the alleged fiscal cliff, I can't help but be reminded of Weimar rightwing romanticism.

Also of note: Benjamin's thesis that fascism aestheticizes politics is fully borne out by this text. Technology is seen, in the eponymous sythesis of rightwing romanticism with technophilia, as part of the long tradition of German volkish artisanal efforts; engineers are aesthetic workers, in touch with the pure germanic soul; technology is an immaterialist expression of the Volk; &c. &c. &c. It's all fairly nauseating, but laid out in both gross form and in particular examples.

Although Herf does not make the association explicit, this text allows us to shoehorn the NSDAP into the "true socialism" described in the Manifesto of the Communist Party (in section III.1.C).

There's plenty more that might be said here, but I leave off with: Highly Recommended.