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Saturday, January 12, 2013

America -- The Heir to German Socialism


The other day I had posted about Oswald Spengler. One issue I sidestepped at the time, although central to Robert Merry's article, was Spengler's views on the resolution of the conflicts between England and Germany. Merry notes:
In 1911, he watched with mounting alarm as his country entered into a tense confrontation with France in what was known as the Second Moroccan Crisis. War was averted when Germany backed down—in humiliation—after Britain threw her weight behind France. But the episode left young Spengler with an indelible fear that war between Germany and the French-British alliance had become inevitable. He saw this looming conflict as a clash of epic proportions with profound consequences for Western civilization.

He set out to write a book predicting this conflagration and exploring the existential rivalry between Great Britain, the trade empire of democratic capitalism, perceived by many Germans as intrinsically decadent; and Germany, a rising socialistic empire widely viewed in Spengler’s country as representing a more hallowed Prussian Kultur. The question was which power would dominate the West during its civilizational phase.
Of course, as Merry describes, Spengler's efforts turned from merely a book about Britain and Germany to one analyzing the rise and fall of civilizations generally. But Spengler returned to his original question:
But, concluded Spengler, all that yearning, probing, exploration and artistic expression was finished in the West of a century ago. Signs of the new civilizational phase, he wrote, were evident in the new pseudoartistic expression that no longer celebrated the West’s fundamental cultural ideas but rather assaulted them; in the rise of impersonal world-cities whose cosmopolitanism overwhelmed the folk traditions of old; in the preoccupation with the money culture; in declining birthrates and the rise of the Ibsen woman who belongs to herself; and finally in the death struggle that had emerged between the democratic state of England with its ethic of success and the socialist state of Germany with its ethic of duty.

Spengler felt certain that Germany would win this struggle and emerge as “the last nation of the West,” spawning ground for that future Caesar who would lead the West to its final civilizational glory of world dominance. It was all written in the historical analogies he had studied so carefully. But he was wrong about that death struggle, and he died in 1936, too soon to see his native land crushed by the awesome force of the Anglo-Saxon world, led by a surging America, with its focus on liberal democracy, free markets and the control of the individual over his own destiny. He did not die too soon, however, to reject German fascism as an alien force incapable of taking Germany to the intracivilizational triumph he desired—or to be rejected by the early Nazis in turn after they took power in 1933 and banned Spengler’s book. In any event, it was America, not Germany, that emerged as the last nation of the West, that would define Western civilization and determine its fate as it made its way through its civilizational phase.
 But was Spengler really wrong? Or did German socialism transmit itself somewhere else?

A few days ago, Ed Driscoll published an article entitled "Scientists Discovery Unbreakable 90-Year-Old Mobius Strip." He writes:
I’ve written several posts over the years noting that modern art — at least the “shocking the bourgeois” brand of modern art — is a genre permanently trapped in the 1920s. Modern architecture often seems similarly trapped in the same decade, endlessly recycling the forms and styles created by Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. Sarah Hoyt has an interesting post this weekend that describes much of today’s bourgeois intellectual life as permanently trapped in that decade as well, as a byproduct of WWI and its aftermath....
The 1920s was the debut of the modern intellectual, as Tom Wolfe wrote in his essay “In the Land of the Rococo Marxist”:
After the First World War, American writers and scholars had the chance to go to Europe in large numbers for the first time. They got an eyeful of the Intellectual up close. That sneer, that high-minded aloofness from the mob, those long immaculate alabaster forefingers with which they pointed down at the rubble of a botched civilization-it was irresistible. The only problem was that when our neophyte intellectuals came back to the United States to strike the pose, there was no rubble to point at. Far from being a civilization in ruins, the United States had emerged from the war as the new star occupying the center of the world stage. Far from reeking of decadence, the United States had the glow of a young giant: brave, robust, innocent and unsophisticated.
But young scribblers roaring drunk (as Nietzsche had predicted) on skepticism, cynicism, irony, and contempt were in no mood to let such … circumstances … stand in the way. From the very outset the attempts of this country cousin, the American intellectual, to catch up with his urbane European model was touching, as only the strivings of a colonial subject can be. Throughout the twentieth century, the picture would never change (and today, a hundred years later, the sweaty little colonial still trots along at the heels of… sahib). In the 1920s the first job was to catch up with the European intellectuals’ mockery of the “bourgeoisie,” which had begun a full forty years earlier. ...
... Similarly, as the late Allan Bloom wrote in The Closing of the American Mind, America in general transformed itself into the post-WWI-era Weimar Republic on a mammoth scale:
This popularization of German philosophy in the United States is of peculiar interest to me because I have watched it occur during my own intellectual lifetime, and I feel a little like someone who knew Napoleon when he was six. I have seen value relativism and its concomitants grow greater in the land than anyone imagined. Who in 1920 would have believed that Max Weber’s technical sociological terminology would someday be the everyday language of the United States, the land of the Philistines, itself in the meantime become the most powerful nation in the world? The self-understanding of hippies, yippies, yuppies, panthers, prelates and presidents has unconsciously been formed by German thought of a half-century earlier; Herbert Marcuse’s accent has been turned into a Middle Western twang; the echt Deutsch label has been replaced by a Made in America label; and the new American life-style has become a Disneyland version of the Weimar Republic for the whole family.
In Germany, Nietzsche declared “God is Dead” in 1882; in the States, Time magazine would attempt to confirm the diagnosis 84 years later, in 1966. David Frum’s history of the 1970s is essentially a book about America’s decade-long collective effort at discarding its puritan roots and becoming 1920s Weimar in polyester pants and a Disco Stu shirt. Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism approaches the same transformation, but over a much longer timetable.
So if we’re trapped in the Weimar Era Mobius Loop, can we head for the exits in a different and infinitely more peaceable fashion than Germany itself did? ...
(Interestingly, Driscoll updated his article since I had first read it to include a reference to Merry's article).

Of course, no discussion of the transplant of German socialism to America would be complete without pointedly noting the impact of the Frankfurt School.  The best explanation is the video (below) by Bill Whittle:


Thus, we see that American leftism is the descendant of German socialism. And, per Spengler's theories, will be (or rather, is) the source of the "that future Caesar who would lead the West to its final civilizational glory of world dominance."

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