History 513, European Cultural History 1880-1930

The following list includes lectures given by George L. Mosse in the Fall of 1979. They were recorded in the classroom by Mosse student Sydney Iwanter in 1979. Most of the lectures are audible, but some discussions are difficult to hear.

Lecture #1

Lecture #1 - 47:32 - Lecture 1 Audio (mp3)
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George Mosse calls the fin-de-siecle, 1880-1914, the “Indian summer of the bourgeois world”, the last flourishing of a comfortable middle-class bourgeois life. In London, a part of the population was still employed as servants. But there also developed the first revolt against the bourgeois age. Throughout the 19th century, what had been taken for granted was questioned, as Western and Central Europe became a developed continent. A new feeling of movement accompanied industrialization and communication revolution at the beginning of the 19th century. Even Walter Scott realized this change and reflected it in his novels. The first novel about bourgeois life in Germany in the 1840s was F. W. Hacklaender’s “Handel und Wandel.” The rise of Nationalism, a search for roots characterized by ancestor worship, went along with a constant emphasis on restraint. The harmfulness of excess was exemplified in two ways: the idea of beauty as harmony in the classical revival, in which the European concept of beauty was one of restraint, and in a new idea of beauty through which the nation expresses itself. It hit peoples’ perception through a sense of the change of time. Time was perceived to move slower in the country than in the city. One of the terms that will come back is that of nervousness; it was a symptom of the bourgeoisie’s fear of itself. Restraint was to slow the process of uprooting, an attempt to seek rest. The basic consensus on government, god and ideology that had existed up until the French Revolution and industrialization would never exist again.

Doubt, which questioned the “fundamentals”, and the unsettling of ideology marked the beginning of modern morality and was met with the training of the body. Morality was an attempt to stop the loss of control that came with the rush of time. This change in morality was very rapid. Shame of the body, which according to Mosse did not exist before, was is only the tip of the iceberg. In Theodor Fontane’s “Jenny Treibel”, manners and morals are at the core of the novel; appearance and behavior are restrained. Masturbation was believed to ruin one’s nerves and was thus a menace to society that had to be constantly restrained. Ideology was questioned, for example by John Stuart Mill.

The whole nexus of culture changed in what Le Bon called “the age of crowds.” If up to the French Revolution court culture had dominated and other classes were not thought to have culture, at the beginning of 19th century, elite culture began to meet in the drawing rooms of the high middle class. Yet this did not last; the beginning of mass culture also meant the diffusion of culture. Newspaper started to appear day by day, no time remained for rest, which resulted in a fear of mass culture. Culture was broadened through modern intellectual elite, not through courtiers and those who did not have to work. Now, professionals like teachers, doctors, lawyers, or politicians took their place. They still comprised a cultural elite, but one of a much more diverse profile. Furthermore, paper and printing became cheap. Popular culture, though, never changes much: even today it is still largely comprised of the same sentimental culture of utopia and of fairy tales, characterized by a love of hierarchy. The reason for this is that high culture penetrates downwards only very slowly; the reading of mass culture tends to be narcotic. A sense of hierarchy was very deeply engrained among the lower classes; domestic servants were loyal to their masters and often more conservative. A soothing lack of change is the nature of fairy tales, as are strong stereotypes in popular culture. But the spread of culture brought the beginning of self-education, which became stronger during the 19th century. This broadening of the cultural nexus and its arena resulted in the yearning of the elite for “art for arts sake”, as expressed by Oscar Wilde or Matthew Arnold. A lot of this trend is present in “Jenny Treibel”; it went hand in hand with the idea of respectability. Two things interlocked in “Jenny Treibel”: the novel’s rich middle-class set themselves up as the authority on manners; arbiters of doing the right thing. Their respectability encompassed not only manners, but the contents of the interior of the house, such as furniture. Before the French Revolution, what was “in” was determined by what the Court did.

Having said all of this, it must be clear that the bourgeois world continued into the end of the century. Bourgeois living was by that time settled as a life style that not only became ever more pronounced, but was besieged by attacks against it, for example by writers like Wilde and by mass politics. Though the bourgeois life style was a totality that rejected non-conformity, it had some tolerance for eccentric outsiders, like Jews and homosexuals. At the same time, imagination was condensed to clarity. Attacks directed against modern art and literature came through the perception that everything modern was a threat against the Bourgeois life style which, although new, was insecure, and already on the defensive. Max Nordau’s famous concept of “Degeneration” captured that fear. We have to remember however that “Jenny Treibel” portrayed the upper bourgeoisie; Max Nordau was newly arrived. The years 1880 to 1914 are the climax of the bourgeois world - and the rebellion against it. The bourgeois life style was embraced by the working class, which was always conservative. In that time, called “Gruenderzeit” (founders’ time) in Germany, an age when many people did indeed advance, most of the great modern fortunes were made. Mosse uses the life of his own grandfather Rudolf Mosse as an example.

It was also the age of the first mass movements and strikes. Attacks by writers like Frank Wedekind (Springs Awakening) were more painful to the bourgeoisie than striking workers, because they came from within, from their own children. Plays about murdering one’s own father exemplified a revolt that had lasting consequences. Freud would have been unthinkable without it. We must understand the world that these people rebelled against: it was the world of “Jenny Treibel.”


Lecture #2

Lecture #2 - 47:71 - Lecture 2 Audio (mp3)
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Out of the revolt against bourgeois society came what we know as “modern culture.” The revolt was directed against the world of the dominant life style that set the tone of culture in general in Europe. Theodor Fontane’s “Jenny Treibel” is important, because this novel depicts this style of life and the problems it involved. Obviously, Jenny Treibel lives in a confident bourgeois world, with its historical novels, preparations for dinner parties, its admiration of the middle ages, architecture, and the like, a world of respectability and restfulness. The idea of control is very important in the novel. Religious vocabulary is applied to a class hierarchy, and the revolt against it is “impiety.” Jenny Treibel’s is a life style based on positivism, disguised materialism, as a philosophical justification, Manners and morals were the cement of bourgeois society. Marriage was very important; and spas were the watering places of the bourgeoisie. Already around 1800, spas emerged as the new marriage markets that maintained the class structure and its manners and morals. Marriages were symbols of the prevalent hierarchies, both socially and politically. Political parties were part of the old hierarchy and all it involved. Life commenced in orderly fashion. But matters were not really that simple: it is quite clear that hierarchies are contingent. Jenny herself has strong sentiments; her materialism is disguised by sentimentality and romanticism. She condemns marriages that lack romance. But this sentimentality has its limits, especially when the marriage of Jenny’s son is concerned. In the end, Jenny’s sentimentality disguises bourgeois materialism. Women have a very active role in this bourgeois society through the safeguarding of the marriages of their children.

The important difference between Jenny Treibel and Philip Roth’s Mrs. Portnoy is that the latter has no pretension of culture, of higher taste. At the time of industrialization, when, unlike in court society, everything is in flux, it is more important than ever to maintain hierarchy. Mistresses became irreconcilable with bourgeois respectability, though – for men - affairs with servants were permissible. Women could enjoy respectable excitement through travel and tourism, and through the support, though not the production, of culture and art. The ambivalence of Fontane himself is expressed in a kind of irony, of distance, as in the figure of the Professor in the novel. But on the other hand he is enamored of the bourgeoisie. Fontane treats with irony what he loved. Eventually, “Jenny Treibel” is an optimistic novel, subtly permeated with a certainty that this style of life will go on. Note several important things: the neo-romantic idea of the bourgeois woman and mother, the linchpin of an orderly universe; just as in nationalism, the word “crime” is irreverent; Berlin, not just Paris or London, is important. In all of the great novels, for example the novels of Balzac, we encounter the same kind of bourgeoisie. By that time, bourgeois life had become ritualized. One of the rituals is the dinner party, where the same people always met the same people, ate the same food, served by the same servants. This represented the cement of bourgeois society, connected to the idea of refinement and upward mobility. However, there were many other social rituals, involving dress, furniture, music, and cleanliness. All these distinguished the bourgeois from the lower classes and gave him a sense of an orderly world. At the conclusion of “Jenny Treibel”, we see that bourgeois society has not changed that much. But as far as the times are concerned, disguised materialism is integrated into the whole ritual of respectability. Now it becomes clear why the time was ripe for a revolt of youth, a revolt not against the mother, but against the father, culminating in the desire to symbolically, “kill the father.” It was a revolt against respectability, against arranged marriage. The life style of Jenny Treibel was accompanied by a system of thought which was optimistic, materialistic, involved both with toleration (it is a polite society, another great difference with Portnoy’s society) and style. The great difference between Jenny Treibel’s liberal world and the conservative world of the nobility is that the nobility has a historical conscience, tied to the role of Christianity. The life style of the bourgeoisie is different: liberal ideas have replaced ancestor worship. The modern bourgeoisie has its roots in the Enlightenment, not in Christianity. By that time, reason meant restraint, which was an inheritance of the Enlightenment. Unreason is eccentricity. In Proust’s novels, the homosexual and the Jew are tolerated because they are amusing, and the nobility had always been tolerant of the amusing. Not so in “Jenny Treibel” were liberals are much less tolerant of differences in manners and morals, including eccentricity. For them, eccentrics had to be described in scientific, medical terms, as people who were ill and could therefore not be socialized with.


Lecture #3

Lecture #3 - 44:47 - Lecture 3 Audio (mp3)
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The bourgeois system of thought that took the place of religion became ever more anti-theological and materialistic. It was centered on a revival of interest in Greek history and culture, and the primacy of the body. Immorality, conceived of in theological terms, became obsolete. Now, with the rise of the medical profession, immorality becomes a disease: conversion was no longer possible. Medicine emancipated itself from theological concerns of sin and absolution. Pasteur and Koch furnished the germ theory of disease, which was thus no longer a “moral failure”. In many ways, the medical profession became the custodian of the manners and morals underlining the materialism of that kind of thought. This could also be seen in the idea of criminality put forward by the Italian criminologist Cesare Lombrozo. According to his theory, criminals are diseased and can be identified by physical signs. It involved the idea of physical disease as a language of the internal and the external. The word “degeneration” was invented at about the same time. Crimes were a sign of degeneration, and degeneration itself was in fact a disease. All of this rendered the father confessor useless. The poisoning of the bodily system by alcohol and stimulants- but also the surrounding polluted physical environment- lead to a deterioration of the nervous system. Another Italian doctor, Broca, believed mental diseases were curable by a prefrontal lobe operation. In Freudian psychoanalysis, the doctor is still the guardian of normality; all sexual activity that does not further reproduction is seen as perverted. Here, the influence of Darwin is important: “The Origin of the Species” greatly encouraged environmentalism, the material basis of this system of thought. In “The Origin of the Species”, everything is due to the influence of the environment. Normalcy is adjustment through progress, that is, through evolution; the abnormal is just the contrary. Following progress means strength. It is this kind of materialism on which the ideas of middle class societies were based. Darwin’s followers were more extreme, however. In England, T. H. Huxley maintained that man was determined by his juices. Yet if one’s material circumstances (or juices) determine everything, where is man’s volition? The latter played into the hands of the positivists. Lombrozo believed that genius is madness.

Mosse introduces Max Nordau’s book “Degeneration”: Nordau himself was an interesting man. He changed his real name, Erwin Suedfeld, meaning “southern field” to Nordau, meaning “northern meadow” in German. He became a Zionist organizer. The cornerstone belief in “Degeneration” is in ordered, natural progress. Accordingly, the future of mankind lay in the natural sciences. Human thought had to be based on science and progress (which went together), not on superstition. In “Degeneration” he explains how science operates through unchanging laws, whose creatures we are. We can discover these laws because they are based on reason, on cause and effect, leaving no room for romanticism and mysticism. For Nordau, Tolstoy was one of the degenerates. According to Nordau, man can achieve clarity mostly through observation, knowledge, and discipline. The absence of discipline is the enemy of progress. Evolution is terminated by the survival of the fittest. That means that man must face the problems of existing reality and adjust himself. “Degeneration” was written above all against modernism and modern art, which stood for an egomania that did not care about the end result.

Nordau thought that one cannot invent artistic forms, or for that matter political ones, but everything must be due to organic growth. The idea that egomaniacs would be the losers was part of bourgeois thinking from Lloyd George to FDR. Modern art was utter chaos to Nordau; people who wanted to change or abolish manners and morals, including egomaniacs, mystics, and misleaders, hindered human progress. These ideas grew, and intensified over a century; they came from the Enlightenment and corresponded to the realities of bourgeois life, and the disorientation caused by industrialization. This system of thought, tied to positivism, is still very strong in America according to Mosse, because America is the last truly intact bourgeois society in the Western world. It is another attempt at discipline and explanation in a world that is disturbed, a phenomenon inherent in industrialization in which the rationalizing, technologically based process manifests itself. Jenny Treibel wants higher things. A national culture of positivism made sentimentalism and positivism compatible.

Therefore, we must now look at Haeckel’s “Riddle of the Universe.” His theory answered nicely the need of the bourgeoisie: that matter had another, mystical dimension. Only science could answer the mysteries of faith. After all, we do not know how matter came about. This goes back to the 1770s, to Diderot, who claimed that the mystical component of matter was transmitted to the human soul without abrogating the natural law, which entailed a sense of wonder. Materialism, the soul, and religion can exist side by side. Not only for the bourgeoisie: much more that Marxism, eventually, this became the doctrine of the working classes in Germany. The idea of the progress of the working class, of natural law reinforced by the New Man, took root. The religious dimension Haeckel added to Darwin goes back to the origins of matter. Perverts, the criminal, the abnormal, were children of darkness who had no soul. In that sense, degeneration had a moral dimension that eventually developed into a racist idea.


Lecture #4

Lecture #4 - 32:44 - Lecture 4 Audio (mp3)
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Mosse now turns to strikes and the labor movement: these were perceived through the new speed of time and the communications revolution, because it tied in with positivism itself. In “Degeneration Nordau attacks the communication revolution because the customs of everyday life had been turned upside down. Positivists believed that modern society led to a loss of nerve: every moralist explains this by reference to “nervous conditions.” Sickness explained deviance, and required the doctor rather than the priest.

Railway travel as well was faulted for the exhaustion of one’s nerves. (Railway travel, we should note, was an essential part of the communications revolution.) Among the effects of railway travel was the requirement to find a new way of looking at nature. So far, people had traveled in coaches, as described by Goethe. The immediacy of nature dropped away with railway speed, leading to an alienation from nature. Nature, therefore, became abstract. The consequences of railway travel as described in an English medical journal of 1852 included fatigue of the eye and the brain through a constant re-adjustment of the brain and retina that had a destructive effect on these organs. This served as an explanation for modern art, for impressionism and expressionism, since all attempts to look at nature in the traditional way were rendered impossible. It also gave rise to a new literary genre: the shallow popular entertainment of railway literature. A search for the immediate now became necessary, because everything was mediated. The bicycle was seen as a similar threat as railway. As a disturbance of traditionalism, the individualized speed of the bicycle was perceived as a part of the revolt of youth. The first cyclist association was founded in1807. Mass tourism was another modern innovation. Both were important because the quest for immediacy of experience began now: the young, especially, wanted to get back to real experience. Hence, writing of expressionist verse and bicyclist culture were connected. Mass tourism differed from the earlier pilgrimage model in that tourism was travel out of curiosity and pleasure, not a quest for culture.

By 1876, we find a new definition of travel in the Oxford English Dictionary. We can trace this to the foundation of the first tourist office in 1851, which took advantage of the railroads. The first Alpine climbing clubs followed soon, and the Swiss vacation industry was established in 1870s (as was the Swiss character, Mosse remarks). According to a French historian, the landscape became tailored to tourism, to the picturesque, the human type. Tourism categorizes; nature was now for domination by climbing or other means. The same was also true for people, who become “types” for tourists. Tourism, however, was a nostalgia trip, an escape from modern industrial society to innocence, an 18th century recapturing of innocence, but not in an 18th century way. The significance of all of this lies in the new importance of nature and of a certain typology. Mass tourism, which meant tribalization and co-optation of nature, was not the immediacy of experience for which youth longed and which could be better captured by bicycle rides. A final event of essential importance was the invention of the telephone in 1896, which rather than mere communication, was regarded as another way of traveling. In the communication revolution, we find abstraction against immediacy, the need for mediation of the bourgeoisie, but also the need for immediacy of youth.

Out of this grew the problem of war for the younger generation. It became the main motor of youth and of modern art. Restlessness was co-opted by cheap novels and mass tourism, but youth did not want to be co-opted. The new literature and art of the avant garde testified to the need for excitement and restlessness, while Jenny Treibel had satisfied her restlessness by tourism, by travels from one place to another.


Lecture #5

Lecture #5 - 49:44 - Lecture 5 Audio (mp3)
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Grasping the last lecture is crucial for what is to come now: the question that now arises is why was the revolt of youth so culturally oriented? Why was it a matter of literature, not of the barricades? There was a social revolution-the rise of socialism-to which we will come, but the cultural phenomenon we are concerned with takes place within a bourgeois framework, and modern art and literature comes out of the revolt of bourgeois youth against their bourgeois elders. Socialism never had any relation to modern culture; the early socialists read the classics of the 18th century. They stood apart from the trends of modern culture and at best accepted popular culture. Obviously, Positivism has a system of thought, of art and literature, but it is not so simply characterized. Positivism had to do with the rise of naturalism in art. Naturalism called for realistic representation of things as they were-the kind of pragmatism present in Positivism, including its literature. But the problem of its art was that it tended to become a kind of descriptive environmentalism that described the factory worker and the slums. Its social criticism went beyond Positivism, as for example Gerhard Hauptmann’s “The Weavers”, or Emile Zola’s novel “Money”. As Zola put it 1878: “Why is a railroad station thought to be ugly? As a station, it is in fact beautiful.” The acceptance of the results of industrialization was bent to an accusation in Naturalism.

What came out of Naturalism in Germany and France was the popular theater, the “Volksbuehne”, theater for the masses. Typically enough, Socialism rejected it since it did not have the “vogue of the future” within it, and so socialists went back to read the classics. For Socialism, Naturalism was not enough of an accusation. Eventually most of the Naturalist writers were integrated into other movements: Hauptmann turned to the right and became romantic, as happened to many Naturalists. Socialism was correct in this. Real Positivist art had to combine the two things that Jenny Treibel combined: naturalism and sentimentalism. Art must be at once sacred and near to reality. An example is a 1901 speech by William II: his great artistic project was to transform a promenade in Berlin into a monument to the glory of the house of the Hohenzollern, the “promenade of victory” (Mosse gives thanks to God that it was destroyed in the Second World War). When William II opened the “Siegesallee”, he said: “Art draws on nature, and Mother Nature is not undisciplined; it works according to laws, and the laws are the laws of harmony and order, but art must also be upbeat, it must give heroes to the toiling masses…” But this hope did not have to be marble. It could be light and soft in painting, as evident in the rediscovery of the Renaissance painter Raffael by a whole series of painters, now mostly forgotten, who combined realism with sentimentality to create “romantic realism”. Bourgeois art and literature now became popular taste, the kind of art your landlady hangs up in her living room, and eventually provided the basis of fascist art. Hitlers favorite painter was Marquart, whose sentimentalism was meant to give hope to young people. Though it featured nakedness, Marquart’s paintings were de-eroticized. Young people sought to express their joy in the immediate experience, in sheer speed and in freedom, which was abstracted again in this romantic realism; in naturalism: it was anti-individual.

This yearning of the young had several levels of intensity, two of which are the most important: one was Impressionism; the next level of it we call Expressionism, and both are known in art history as Secessionism, because these young artists seceded from official academies and made their own exhibitions outside the official (sentimental) art. Mosse calls official art is “the artistic side of Jenny Treibel”. In France, Monet and Renoir started the Impressionist movement in 1874. Impressionism was viewed by the official artists in France and Germany as common and vulgar, because the Impressionists chose scenes from everyday live. Like the Naturalists, they were tired of sentimentality. They wanted to paint life, but they were not Naturalists, because they accepted the speed of time. Like the Positivists, they thought that life is a series of rapidly fleeting sense impressions. Therefore they looked upon the world through a railway carriage, and saw the new speed of communication and life. Though they used Naturalism as a form of protest, they went further. Zola defined Impressionism as a study of light [life??] in its thousand compositions and decompositions, which was exactly what bothered Nordau: the trouble with railway travel was that we must always adjust our senses. The Impressionists accepted this; art for them had to represent the adjustment of the senses through the transitory; speed and light. Their view was also de-eroticized, as evident in their realistic nudes. This revolt was just one stage, an early revolt not by naughty children, but by smutty children. Therefore, Impressionism was soon accepted. Unlike Expressionism, it integrated speed into an ordered composition. Impressionism stressed sense impression, but not yet the senses as erotic. It attacked manners and morals in a partial, gentle way.

Therefore we must now add to it the second “gentle attack”, Dandyism. Dandyism was a literary, not an artistic phenomenon, a resurrection of individualism against mass industrialist society, a kind of narcissism, emphasizing art for art’s sake. It was an even gentler protest because it could be labeled “eccentric.” It is best described in Martin Gilbert’s “Children of the Sun.” This cult of young men was an artistic revolt that was turned into estheticism. Superiority was achieved through dress and behavior, and through preoccupation with oneself. Profound cynicism and cleverness were Oscar Wilde’s stock in trade. This form of revolt against positivism was also the beginning of the homosexual movement, of a “gay identity.” Even further removed from revolution, estheticism was clearly not very threatening. While Impressionism was regarded as smut, Wilde was accepted in the best society as an eccentric, just as ten years ago no academic cocktail party could do without its black and twenty years ago without its Jew. Bourgeois society tolerates eccentricity as long as it does not go too far. But Dandyism had another side: the idea of individual death, the slogan that the individual must die because it had nothing else to live for, the quest for experience. When one had had every experience in life –you have slept with women, men, goats, donkeys- there is only death. Its importance lay in its association in literature with innocence; innocence, in English literature, is associated with flowers, as in the cliché of the dying youth with a rose in his hand. The aesthetes wanted every experience, which in the end entailed death, but they would die with the symbol of innocence, of return. If this was a kind of cynicism, it comprised the ultimate worship of youth: no matter what the young have done, at the end they come out innocent because they represent youth. Red, the color of dying youth, eventually became the color of the fallen soldier, and roses or poppies decorated the monuments for the fallen soldier in Europe. We have thus two kinds of protest against the bourgeoisie: one is artistic, which really was more philosophical. The second was Dandyism, the individualist protest of “flaming youth”, concerned with speed in a different way: Speed was individualized, not a way to look at nature, but a means to experience everything life had to offer and then to die. This protest was invoked by the exultation of youth, the exultation of men, an attack on manners and morals through homosexuality, and a deep cynicism. It was continued in the 30s in England by the Bloomsbury Group, Christopher Isherwood and W. H. Auden.

The third and much more portentous kind of protest was Expressionism. Expressionism was a real revolt: its representatives really wanted to kill their fathers. They were undisciplined and prided themselves in being so. Second, the Expressionists considered themselves as both a group and as individuals. They accepted the speed of time without reservation. Their revolt was based on a revolt against their parents, not on art for art’s sake, even though they were concerned with beauty. Expressionism revolted against the canvasses of the Naturalists, but above all against the bourgeois artist and their historical paintings. The name was coined in 1910, an important year to remember for the beginning of Expressionism in Germany and everywhere else, and that of Futurism in Italy. In fact, these were related movements. Like all young people, they loved big gestures: They walked out of the art exhibitions, seceded, and began to organize their own exhibits. Impressionists were eventually regarded as eccentrics, but the Expressionists, who wrote plays in which fathers were killed on stage, and who painted abstract art, were forbidden for a long time. The principle of Expressionism was stated by a chief Expressionist painter, Ludwig Kirchner: “Grasping everything while it is in motion.” The essence of Expressionism is the restlessness of a generation that wanted to escape the age of respectability and a set social structure. In 1914, three quarters of the Expressionist painters and writers were under the age of 30. A real movement of youth, it ended with the war. In Ivan Goll’s words, “Expressionism is not just a counter-movement; it is a state of mind.” Unlike Expressionism, Impressionism mediated. Impressionism’s main idea was speed through sense impression; the Dandy was an eccentric who defined speed in individual terms of experience. But Expressionism was a totality. Impressionists painted, Wilde only wrote, but the Expressionists did both: they engaged in writing, in plays, painting, in every kind of activity. Expressionism was the war between generations that for the Expressionists would lead to change. Older generation were opposed to the movement that pitted young against old, vigorous against tired, virility against complaisance. Eventually, people would even talk about “young” and “old” nations. Furthermore, Expressionists exulted in violence, partly to shock the bourgeoisie. One of their driving motors was simply boredom: Bourgeois youth was bored enough to murder their fathers.


Lecture #6

Lecture #6 - 50:09 - Lecture 6 Audio (mp3)
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Last time, Mosse retraced the steps of the cultural revolt against bourgeois society: Impressionism, Dandyism, and Expressionism. While Impressionism was mostly French and Dandyism English, Expressionism was almost exclusively German. The reasons for this are complex: one insight is that the difference between French and German culture is that between Debussy and Wagner. Dandyism was possible in England because of the tolerance for eccentricity and individualism. But these insights are, he admits, more speculation than analysis. The French and English rebellions were individualistic as well.

Because Expressionism was a German phenomenon (and Futurism an Italian one), the “pay-off” came after 1918, when France became a cultural backwater compared to Germany- perhaps because the French and British anti-bourgeois rebellions were not violent but passive. The term “Expressionism” was coined in 1910 to describe young artists who seceded from the official German art exhibitions. One Expressionist, Kirchner, maintained Expressionism meant grasping everything while it is in motion. There was nothing refined about the Expressionists. It was a youth movement, an attitude of mind, a totality, directed against Wilhelminian culture. The emphasis on youth is crucial; Expressionists repudiated the past and wanted to live in the present. While the “Treibels” enjoyed their antique furniture, Expressionists hurried from one experience to another, unlike the French, who hurried from one sense experience to the other. These experiences were focused on the war between generations, of sons against fathers. The aim was freedom: the freedom to experience. Mothers were not targeted in the same way, because they did not have the powerful” final say” like the fathers.

This “war” was a brutal war, as can be seen in a collection of Expressionist poetry, titled “Menschheit in Daemmerung.” There, it is described in staccato language as a battle against reality: the Expressionists wanted to destroy the world and create a new one. The battle was executed by murdering the father, a battle that was executed on stage. A similar plot can be found in a play by Arnold Bronnen, “Der Vatermoerder” (The Patricide). Bronnen, who later “became a kind of Nazi, then a Communist, and then he died.” As will become apparent later, the attraction between Expressionism and Nazism was mutual. Both rebelled against structures and the father, but longed for both. “Vatermoerder” ends with “freedom” sparked by having incest with his mother and homosexual relations with his friends. A more important play yet was Hasenclever’s “The Son.” It expressed a longing to live in ecstasy and the freedom to have one experience after the other. In contrast, the father in the play does not want any experience. The final experience was the experience of brutality, the art of brutality. This love of brutality was part of a revolt against manners and morals, in which speed was a crucial element.

In his paintings, Emil Nolde tries to capture speed and experience through color on the canvas. Expressionist art was abstract, trying to paint “out of one’s soul”. One of the wellsprings of rebellion was boredom, which was plentiful in bourgeois culture. The father and his society were boring, while sorrow and pain was the mark of having a real soul. Important here is the need for both joy and pain; Expressionists wanted the dialectic of both. Their constant cry for war and brutality was a call for the extraordinary. The problem for the youth of this generation was that it was not deprived and never experienced any hunger or hardship: rather pathetically, at the end of “Vatermord” the protagonist aims the gun at his father, but dies of a heart attack. The Expressionist had no real plan for a future society. In much of their poetry, war is the creator of a new society, which is one reason why the Italian Futurists supported Italian intervention in the war. But they suffered from a lack of clarity: the talk about the “New Man,” (the expressionist New Man was “flaming youth”, ruthless, brutal, activist) after all only expressed a longing for immediacy. Secondly, although all the Expressionists fought eventually in the First World War, they did not like it; their enthusiasm for brutality and war simply evaporated. Consequently, key Expressionists moved to something else: not brutality, but camaraderie.

Their Great War experience was the camaraderie of the trenches, a camaraderie that they loved and a place where they had some working class friends – something that every bourgeois kid wants. This idea of camaraderie meant a kind of individualistic socialism. This comradely affinity in which no one gives up his individuality became for intellectuals the alternative to both the dictatorship of the Bolsheviks and bourgeois social democracy. They were the direct ancestors of the New Left of the 1960’s. But more importantly, some of the more distinguished poets turned to Fascism because they wanted direction: they wanted the father. The new father in the end was Hitler or Mussolini. Fascism not only gave them direction: it integrated them. The Fascists were drawn to Expressionism because it was an expression of the chaos of the soul. Yet the Expressionists, unlike the Futurist followers of Mussolini, were never the allies of Hitler himself: In the end, they could not stomach violence or racism. To sum up, because it was a chaotic revolution, Expressionism was a prototype of the bourgeois revolution that suffered from a contradiction between individualism and typology. The “new man” of Expressionism was in the end a type. Eventually, the Expressionists either went the cultural way, the way of socialism, or that of camaraderie.

Unlike Expressionism, Italian Futurism became an important political movement. The second difference, which was also a national difference, was that the Futurists were obsessed with technology and less interested in chaos of the soul. Though they were bored too, they did not choose the Romanticism of the German tradition. Italian Futurists were activist and violent. And: the Futurists were patriotic, the Expressionists were not. In Germany, patriotism was a bourgeois characteristic. Since in Italy, bourgeois nationalism was aimed at the eventual unification of mankind, Italian Futurists never found their way back to humanity, which was too much bound up with their fathers and the past. In Germany, it was the other way around. 


Lecture #7

Lecture #7 - 41:02 - Lecture 7 Audio (mp3)
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In the revolt against the bourgeoisie, Jews and women above all became typical symbols of bourgeois society. From the beginning, nationalism had a tremendous homoerotic element. A passive image of women, reinforced by the pervasive culture of war-where soldiers met women either as prostitutes or nurses, is basic to our culture. In this lecture, Mosse turns to Nietzsche. He asks the students why Nietzsche is so difficult to read. The major reason is because he is a poet, and “you’re not used to poetry.” He was not a systematic philosopher like Hegel or Schopenhauer. But another reason is that he writes in paradox- the way theologians write in paradoxes- because to write in contradictions is to write existentially.

Poets and religious leaders are not concerned with rational constructions; poets are concerned with inspiration, religious leaders are concerned with divine inspiration. This holds true for Nietzsche, Luther, and most modern theologians and explains one basis of their attraction. Existential dilemmas are based on intuitive realization rather than on logical construction. In Nietzsche, everything is a paradox. What is true and absolute is the world of the strong against the weak. An illustration is the controversy regarding Nietsche’s assertion “God is dead”: God is dead, yet God is a lie. What we call “world” shall be created only by you. Paradoxically, there is no God, but you are the God. The greatest paradox in Nietzsche, though, lies in individualism, the paradox of being an individual and accepting something external to you, namely the life force.

It is important to understand that Nietzsche was a Darwinian. We must enjoy chaos, speed, and the force of life, but on the other hand, we must make our own values. The solution to the paradox is always the same: it is that there is no distinction between the real and the apparent world. The distinctions we make are false and thus become bourgeois prisons. Nietzsche, in one sense, makes everything relative, yet on the other hand he relativizes nothing. There is no truth, but there is a truth: it is your self, your senses, your understanding that there is no truth. The essence of poetry and of theology is that the world is shaped by contradictions, contradictions which can be solved by the process of overcoming. Boehme overcame them through Jesus and divine grace; Nietzsche through the self and the power of the will. Another paradox is his claim that the will to love is the will to die, which was built in the whole atmosphere of the search for experience (see “Dorian Gray”). Nietzsche means it in a more heightened sense: love and death are not really opposites, they are resolved by overcoming, accepting, and enjoying them through your power of will. That is what we mean by existentialist philosophy: the philosophy of the acceptance of life’s contradictions.

Nietzsche himself came from a disciplined background. He also came from what Mosse calls “the most reactionary town in the world, Basel, where all people do is eat their muesli.” And so, Nietzsche’s first important books were “screwball” interpretations of the classics, such as “The Birth of Tragedy.” The concept of the Apollonian meant an inner world of fantasy, the dream of beauty, restraint, balance, harmony, and knowledge. This was essential to man’s self-discovery, which in the end leads to the trans-evaluation of values. To be a superman, man needs to have the self insight that comes with time and reflection/waiting that precedes action. By accepting the chaos of life, the individual becomes a true superman. It’s opposite; the Dionysian is the power and ecstasy of the world, the life force, the combination of horror and ecstasy, another paradox. Acceptance of horror and ecstasy is possible through knowing yourself. In “Zarathustra”, Nietzsche is concerned to show that everything that goes on is wrong. Two great admirers of Nietzsche believed that the poet should also be a leader: Stefan George, who with his disciples had homoerotic, pagan festivals, and the Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio. Society, according to Nietzsche, made it impossible to become a superman. As Mosse says, he wrote the most un-American statement ever made: “For the value of a human being does not consist in his usefulness, for he would continue to exist even if there were nobody for whom to be useful.” Christianity stood for everything Nietzsche despised. For this reason, he broke with Richard Wagner, whose “Lohengrin” indulged in sentimental Christianity and the praise of moral virtues. The alternative to Christianity for Nietzsche was the Old Testament patriarchs, who lusted, slept around, and lied about it. A second alternative was the barbarians. Christianity means slavery; the state built walls around you, and the inculcated manners and morals were based on fear. By making the individual withdraw from the horror and the ecstasy of life, fear meant self slavery through Christianity, and bourgeois society. Zarathustra is a muscular figure: he examines himself and has knowledge, which in the end leads him to action and acceptance of the world. The power of his will could now unfold and free others as well. The superman wants companions, but above all, he embodies active individualism beyond nationalism: “Action is not reaction.”


Lecture #8

Lecture #8 -  49:17 - Lecture 8 Audio (mp3)
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Mosse wants to emphasize a point that he made last time: in one sense, Nietzsche is above all a poet and not a systematic thinker. He made claims that are very hard to accept, especially for young people: Life consists of contradictions, and these contradictions do not go away; the only way to transcend them is to accept them. Since the value of a human being does not consist in his usefulness, you have to find it in yourself. Furthermore, Nietzsche makes no distinction between the outer and the inner world. There is only one world. The Dionysian receives the outward into his inward world. Mosse remarks that all this is better expressed in German; English does not have the German Idealistic vocabulary. Nietzsche accepted everything the Positivists did not like; Old Testament patriarchs and barbarians were his favorite people. These were for him masculine figures. Nationalism was for Nietzsche just another wall people built around them. Accordingly, he was full of contempt for it and for his fellow Germans.

Another critique of the bourgeoisie that became important was that it was nothing more than equivocation and compromise, “a hodgepodge” in which everything was mixed up. Nietzsche attacked the mob and the bourgeoisie for the same reasons: their longing for a consensus, their lack of decisiveness, and the attempt to reconcile un-equals. The superman accepts inequality. Nietzsche was highly philo-Semitic, since the Jews for him were the patriarchs. Mosse now turns to the “taming” of Nietzsche. A whole generation of writers, like Ezra Pound, were drawn to Nietzsche because of his clarity, fear of the “formless wobble” (Pound), and longing for classical form. Fascism for these poets came to stand for clear forms, and a strong decisiveness became the hallmark of conservatism. Nietzsche was also influenced by Eastern thought and the idea that life was destined to return, which appears also in Schopenhauer and in Greek philosophy. Yet this was an agonizing thought for Nietzsche: Out of this realization, he was lead to the thought that one had to accept life. The apotheosis which for Christians came after life had to come inlife for Nietzsche. The superman comes about by accident. He obviously cannot be educated, since education leads to becoming a slave. The Nazis believed the superman to be the Arian who would be born from a thunderstorm. For Nietzsche, the superman was an end in itself, the will to power was the source of creativity. While the mass-man blamed his parents for his shortcomings, the superman blamed his weak will. However, Nietzsche shared the German prejudice against the Slavs. He declared that Europe had to make up its mind to become as threatening as Russia and stressed the compulsion to great politics, a politics of domination. This passage was often quoted by the Nazis. In the last resort, Nietzsche believed that there is no objectivity, no objective man. The objective man, the bourgeois, lacked purpose and was therefore on a level with women and all of those who do not model themselves on the patriarch and the barbarian. When Nietzsche speaks of a “race” of supermen, he does not mean elite, rather single individuals who act in a certain way and by their very nature cannot form a group. The three elites in modern times that modern elites modeled themselves on - the Storm Trooper of WWI, the mountain climber, and the aviator - are not Nietzsche’s elites. They are tamed, because they are supermen only if they have courage and daring.

This misconception of the superman is typical of the process by which Nietzsche’s, ideas were tamed: His ideas are turned around to claim that the superman is virile because he is virtuous, constituting a direct tie between the superman and bourgeois virtue. Virtue becomes the foundation of virility. Mosse underlines this by reminding the students: “When your parents told you to be a man, they didn’t mean to go off to the red light district…or perhaps they did-if they were progressive parents?”

(The rest of the lecture is questions, mostly inaudible, and answers.) 


Lecture #9

Lecture #9 - 50:11 - Lecture 9 Audio (mp3)
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Mosse starts by talking about the film “The Blue Angel” which the class had watched the day before. Prof. Unrath is a typical bourgeois, the tyrant-teacher who disintegrates when he follows his nature. He is a very un-Nietzschean figure because he fails; he does not dominate Marlene Dietrich, rather Marlene dominates him. Nietzsche’s influence on the literary and artistic imagination was very great. His influence became pervasive only after 1900 mostly because of his sister, who edited his works according to her own nationalistic ideas, a process that undermined his impact. The “true” Nietzsche was revived only in the 1950s. A whole generation of young artists was influenced by him that included Andre Gide who in the “Immoralist” portrays struggle between holiness and following your nature. This “struggle” is evident in a whole series of books. In D. H. Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover, ” the by LC for a real virility cannot be met by her husband, since men of her time and place are scared by life. In that young generation of writers active at the beginning of the twentieth century, we encounter a longing for virility and leadership, an urge towards action. The fact that there are no images of positive women in expressionist literature also shows Nietzsche’s influence; yet their longing to break out of the Jenny-Treibel society always had a Nietzschean element.

Nietzsche’s Zarathustra hungers for true experience, experience outside of bourgeois society. These ideas influenced the generation of young men who enthusiastically welcomed the First World War which promised to give them an outlet for their virility. The element of cruelty, the tendency towards inflicting pain, towards domination that is also found in Nietzsche influenced Wedekind and other artists of his time. Niceness was regarded as false and hypocritical. The longing for the genuine means the acceptance of “the war of all against all.” This importance of cruelty in the search for the genuine would later become hatred directed at the “other”.

[The questions in the now following Q&A are hardly audible; therefore I include the essence of Mosse’s answers.]

-Mosse points out that Nietzsche himself was hardly a Nietzschean figure.

-Zarathustra wants disciples, not equals. The elite he thought of was not an elite of Germans but an elite of Jews, identified with the patriarchs. The interesting question is, what would Nietzsche have thought of WWI?

-The taming of Nietzsche by Nationalism was almost inevitable. The greater tolerance in our society is not due to him, though he contributed to it to a certain extent. Nietzsche directly played into the hands of those people who wanted an anti-bourgeois bourgeois revolution, a “revolution of the spirit,” most importantly, the Nationalists. This revolution is the revolution that never ends: we find it again in the 1960s, and it repeats itself again and again. Nietzsche and Freud have in common that they make personal liberation without Socialism possible, which is why Socialists don’t like them.

How important are manners and morals? If they collapse, does that mean a basic change in society? This is an open question. If you answer in the affirmative, you are with Nietzsche and the Expressionists. Is it a symptom, or is it something else? Economic change in communism did not bring about personal liberation and a change of manners and morals. Such a claim is crude Marxist determinism. Nothing is more petty bourgeois than Soviet morals. The revolution we are talking about today was in the arts and letters, but is has not affected the basic life style. A cultural revolution cannot change society; no minority can change society without making alliances. You must get away from the simple crudity of historical analysis, which is new kind of positivism. “That’s for American meshuggas.”

You will never perceive how people perceived their society when you come from the outside. The Germans had a choice 1933. There isn’t a time when people don’t have some choice. The interesting question is why people made the choices they made. There is no proletariat, except as symbol: Lifestyle is more important. When Nietzsche talked about “the chaos of life” he believed that the life force was evolutionary and that it constantly changes: This shows Darwin’s influence.

Mosse considers Nietzsche cruel, or that he had a cruel edge. This is apparent already in the way he writes, his choice of vocabulary. This cruelty had a literary influence on later writers, especially the notion than virility is domination over the earth and over women. It also included a certain kind of egoism and narcissism without scruples. The literary imagination is integrated with the idea of revolt. But, revolts against life style are easily corrupted: All the student leaders who wanted to tear down Bascom Hall on the UW campus are now professors or business people with families like the rest of us.

Mosse closes by talking about the upcoming exam and reassures the students that though he does not have great hope for humanity, he applies 18th-century Enlightenment standards when grading, “for some idiotic reason.” 


Lecture #10

Lecture #10 - 40:37 - Lecture 10 Audio (mp3)
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Mosse continues with an analysis of the changing conception of normality around the turn of the century. Abnormality is now a matter of sickness, of cure, not punishment. As in Freud’s “Dora”, one cannot blame the person who is perverted. When doctors began taking over the control of sexuality in the 19th century, Freud pleaded for tolerance. In Freud, we always find the limits of tolerance and tolerance. Another revolutionary aspect of Freud was that for him, there was no longer such a thing as innocence. This was already anticipated by the “great shock of Schopenhauer”, who claimed that children are not innocent, but uncivilized and still un-human; this at a time when children were seen as epitomizing innocence, even Arcadia. For Freud, there were no innocent children; their will was simply untamed. In that sense, he abolished innocence.

Freud’s revolutionary notion of the sexuality of children rocked bourgeois life. Freud is thus linked very much to the revolt that we have discussed. For Freud, the difference between revolutionary impulse and no revolutionary impulse came from one’s childhood. Decisive for Freud was the emergence of a mass anti-Semitic movement in Vienna: When he wrote about mass movements, he simply copied Le Bon. Freud connected bourgeois life to liberalism. He thought rightly that liberalism vanished with the masses. For him, Vienna at the end of the century was basically insecure, more so than Berlin; its population tripled, accompanied by the influx of many Jews. We find this insecurity no only in Freud, but in all of this kind of Viennese culture, for example in Schnitzler, who also wrote about sexuality. In this period, discrimination, mass movements, and the decline of liberalism made Vienna stand apart from the rest of Europe. The reaction against all of this was a reaction typical of the Jewish bourgeoisie: a clinging to reason and liberalism.

The reaction against insecurity was a Jewish reaction. Since the workers’ movements, as well as the democratic populist movements were anti-Semitic, the mental landscape of Freud was that of a liberal Jew who would see political life as a struggle between reason and irrationality. It resulted in a struggle to preserve reason, which meant a struggle to preserve control, bourgeois life, and liberalism. It meant, in fact, a struggle between the Ego and the Id.

Both the history of art and intellectual history are Jewish inventions. Intellectual Jews attempted to tame the irrational by explaining it. For Freud, esthetic sensibility was too close to the irrational. Freud clung to reason with the help of the “Super-ego”, the prohibiting agency, because the Ego did not prove strong enough. Fortunately for the Id, it disregarded the Ego for the satisfaction of its impulses. The Ego provides consciousness, the link to the external world. Freud believed that the bourgeois world was a world of rationality. After 1900, the more irrational the world became, the more he believed that it must be made rational through sublimation. The Ego and the Id were in a kind of civil war that could only be decided with the help of the ally from without. In the end, even for Freud, the psychoanalyst becomes the ally of the Ego.

The difference between the early and the late Freud is a difference of tolerance, of limits, because Freud was deeply disappointed by the world. With Carl Gustav Jung, this never happened: Jung accepted the irrational. Jung’s Father was a Swiss Protestant Clergyman, which made sure nothing ever happened. (Later, Jung became the chief Nazi psychoanalyst.) Freud slowly and reluctantly accepted the irrational, A Freud, who embodied the embattled, and in the end loosing Jewish bourgeoisie of Vienna. The way Freud arrived at results was through clinical neurology. Freud was a positivist, who thought that everything had a medical explanation. His discoveries were in a way too positivist. Yet he slowly abandoned clinical, neurological ( see Lombrozo) psychology and came to see, very reluctantly, the irrational.

In 1882, he came to his first great breakthrough, working with a patient named “Anna O.”(Bertha Pappenheim). She was a woman who simply related stories about her childhood experiences. In 1892, through the influence of Charcot, he abandoned hypnosis for the method of free association. In 1897, “the year one of modern psychoanalysis”, he discovered that the stories his patients told were not true, never happened, that they had nothing to do with reason or reality, which was a terrible discovery for someone who was a bourgeois and lived in reality. What mattered about people is not their reality, but their mental landscape. The cure is through strengthening the Ego and the Superego, the tender strings by which one is tied to reality. In other words, one had to fight the Id, through sublimation. According to this, the more the Id is sublimated, the more useful a person is for society, the more adjusted and happy. In the last resort, Freud equated psychoanalysis with cure and therefore with happiness. Like every doctor he assumed that when you are cured you are happy, that nobody likes to be sick. Thus, happiness through health meant a strengthening of society. In a sense, sickness was for Freud a normal state, or rather a usual state. Every child has an Oedipus Complex, every child had homosexual experiences, because it is part of the irrational.

Freud’s most important book of was “The Interpretation of Dreams,” though it did not sell many copies; Freud was still too unknown. Dreams are an individual’s unconscious and reveal to the psychoanalyst the state of his patient’s family life. The results were very ambivalent for Freud, because it entailed the interpretation of reality by myth, by lies, and by the irrational.


Lecture #11

Lecture #11 - 49:29 - Lecture 11 Audio (mp3)
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Last time, Mosse talked about Freud and his setting. His concern was not whether Freud was right or wrong, but that psychoanalysis was a product of a particular history that grew out of the particular situation of the Jewish middle-class in Vienna and of the influence of Positivism. Though Freud was a scientist, he concluded that what counted was not reason, but what is primary is the landscape of the mind; the civil war that is waged within it between the Ego and the Id. Here, if you will, the Ego corresponded to the Jewish Bourgeoisie, the Id to Lueger’s mass movement.

Psychoanalysis had to be an analysis of myths and symbols, acknowledging that there was in fact a difference between the real and apparent reality through which one could obtain insight through dream interpretation. Freud had to explain how elements of the dream were constructed out of elements of the patient’s childhood, a method that can be used in interpreting the folklore of primal peoples, in legends, or in jokes. For example, the number 3 represents male genitalia, vermin unwanted children etc. For Freud, the proof was in the cure. In order to be as close to Positivism as possible, he attempted to apply scientific medical criteria to his analysis. He tried to make the irrational rational. This was a general response of Jewish intellectuals, also apparent in art history (that as a field of study was established after WWI) and in philosophy. Analyzing the irrational to cure the symptoms was a method Freud himself tried to apply to literature and art. Freud and, eventually, art history and philosophy all tried to cure the irrational. According to this approach, culture came through repression, just as dreaming was wish fantasies. Poetry and art are a kind of exchange, trying to find a way out, a wish fantasy of the Id that breaks through the Ego end Superego, just like dreams. Culture was only possible through sublimation. Freud assumed that culture is rational, the result of this adjustment.

For Freud, WWI was an expression of the Id, a sign that there had not been enough strengthening of the Ego. Until 1918, Freud tended to combine the Id with the pleasure principle. Pleasure had to be repressed for the sake of civilization (sublimation). Already by 1912, the pleasure principle tended to be a principle of violence and aggression, as can be seen in the killing of the father in “Totem and Taboo” and in “Moses and Monotheism”. The Oedipus complex is an aggressive complex, turning the libido, which has to be restrained, into violence. The killing of the father becomes an important new factor of personal violence that is introduced into the mental landscape in 1912. The sacrifice is no longer one of pleasure, but one of aggression. (Mosse remarks that psychoanalysis becomes absurd when one tries to explain history by using this method of analysis). Freud had a hostile attitude to all religion, which for him meant hysteria, apparent in the hysterical repetitiveness of prayer. Religion was for him getting to heaven by repetition, and accordingly, Freud equated atheism with critical thinking.

At the end of his life, influenced by developments around him and his own illness, he developed the idea of the death instinct, to which the libido was ever close. Attachment to the father, present everywhere in Europe, showed man had not outgrown childhood. (It is telling that Freud said he had never been concerned with anything but security). In his book “Civilization and its Discontents” he writes that order and cleanliness are the essential cultural demands. His definition of culture is liberal, but combined with an order necessary to help Ego and Superego to defeat the Id. The sublimation of instincts was a feature of cultural evolution. After 1918, in his despair after World War One, Freud came to admire strong leaders and his opposition to socialism became much more pronounced, as illustrated by his claim that private property is a necessary restraining element that helps the Ego. The irrationalism of the Left was to him just as bad as the irrationalism of the Right, a typical attitude for the Jewish middle class. (Mosse speaks of a conflict in his own home when his sister had a Socialist boyfriend and his mother feared she would soon have an illegitimate child, because she saw Socialism and illegitimate children as somehow connected.)

Mosse calls Freud’s artistic taste banal: He realized his own limitation when he admitted that he could never “rationally” grasp the artist. In fact, he could not cope with the irrational. The prudent superior class –the liberal bourgeoisie- had to take control, but when it lost it in the end, as it of course did, Freud had to emigrate. The dilemma of the civilized, Mosse maintains, was looking at the abyss of the irrational by coming to the irrational through science, through medicine. The failure of Freud is as important to us as his success: he brought the concept of sexuality as the basic force out into the open, which was an attack on the very order and adjustment he so valued. It became fashionable to talk about sickness and sexuality in modern theater, literature and art; in short, it became fashionable to be sick. This is something Freud could not foresee: Psychoanalysis was not meant to liberate the irrational; it was to suppress it. Jung, when he broke with Freud, understood the new century much better than Freud. His idea of the archetype became important because Jung is the psychoanalyst of the irrational.


Lecture #12

Lecture #12 -  49:47 - Lecture 12 Audio (mp3)
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In this lecture, Mosse turns to Carl Gustav Jung and Jung’s break with Freud. Coming from a different background, Jung had always felt uncomfortable with the Jewish influence in Vienna. The religious son of a Protestant pastor, he had lived in Zurich, in a much more secure world than Freud. He was not a positivist and claimed to have little contact with the culture in which he lived. Jung changed the entire direction laid down by Freud, beginning with something as basic as the relationship between the conscious and the subconscious. What Freud had defined it as a rider and horse was for Jung the image of consciousness as an island in the ocean of the unconscious. This turns Freud on his head. For Jung, the unconscious is not the bad, anti-Semitic, irrational forces attacking liberal Vienna. For him, it is neutral when not “pushed to the wall.”

Jung developed the concept of the archetype, which comes forth once one gets out of the positivistic world and starts to care about history, the past, and the irrational, or the “spiritual” as Jung called it. Archetypes can be described as channels or riverbanks, coming from the historical past to which the individual will come sooner or later through his unconscious, and that past will determine the nature of one’s unconscious. Based on a strong element of primitivism, the archetype is expressed by a kind of religious symbolism. Jung attributed positive values to all religions. Dream analysis was for him the return to a suppressed archetype. Not sexuality, but history and religion are central to Jung’s theory. Thus, he moved very far away from science, and far from the individualism that was so important to Jewish liberal intellectuals founded in the Enlightenment.

The archetype, the unconscious is by its very nature collective; there is no individual unconscious. Man’s problem is the increase of artificial consciousness. Alienation is not alienation from one’s sexual past or from one’s individuality. On the contrary, it is alienation from the collective unconscious because individual rationality has increased too much. Mosse notes that there is nothing more anti-Nietzschean than Jung. Alienation is loneliness, the loneliness of modern man who has detached himself from the collective unconscious and cut himself off from his (collective) archetype. The crime of modernity is “the de-spiritualization of the world.” The psychoanalyst’s task, according to Jung, was to strengthen the soul, a word that Freud would never use. For Freud, symbols were transparent, while for Jung, symbols are reality because they come from the archetype. They cannot be rationalized away and must be taken seriously because they are the symbols of one’s past.

Like Le Bon, Jung associates everything with magic: the symbol is a redeeming power. An effective symbol must have a nature that is unimpeachable and frustrate every effort to grasp it critically. Symbols and the collective mind cannot be rationally analyzed, since rationality led to loneliness in the first place. The lack of roots, and those who are too individualistic, becomes the enemy. But if the archetype is shared, it ends up in the notion of a shared race. If the archetype is determined by instinct and collective memory, it is what racism is all about. Not surprisingly, Jung became a National Socialist. Modernity was condemned because modern man was uprooted and shallow. The Jews, whom he blames for modernity, have no collective unconscious, because they do not share the memory of Wotan or Christ, or primitive religion or Christianity (which, Mosse remarks, was what it boiled down to for Jung). They were what he called in 1934 “cultural nomads.”

Jung’s psychoanalysis fit in, as Freud’s did not, with the loneliness of modern man. Jung adjusted the patient by turning back his critical faculties. In Jungian psychoanalysis, the patient has to accept his irrationality. To that mindset, Nazi culture was a perfectly proper culture, the culture that everybody liked. In neo-romantic fashion, Jung idealized primitives, while Americans did not share a collective unconscious; Jung never knew what to do with America or for that matter, Australia. Condemning all positivism and also, the Weimar Republic, Jung’s archetype of the German was the Faustian man. In every sense, Jung was less of a scientist than Freud. Whether one type of analysis helps or cures more than the other is another matter. Freud believed in culture, order, and civilization. For Jung, one could have an individual consciousness, but it had to be wedged into a collective unconscious. He was concerned with community, camaraderie, the community of affinity and of the nation, while Freud despised the nation. Yet, Jung addressed himself to much more relevant problems than Freud. Jung’s definition of personality was that it was one of the highest realizations of distinctiveness, an act of the greatest courage, but one that had to be connected to the collective unconscious - like Hitler’s. It was a “German personality” or an “Italian personality” more than anything else.

Creativity, too, was much more important to Jung than to Freud. Unlike Freud, he believed in the romantic genius. The essence of a work of art for him is that it rises above the person. Art and creativity had to be related to the collectivity. Jung longed for the Dionysian man; he rejected anything artificial, and the rational mind for him was artificial. Jung became disillusioned with Nazism, but initially he thought it to be the cure for Germany. There was finality to Freud’s words when he called Jung “the destroyer of reason.” But Freud mistook his own cultural position with the cultural position of everyone else. After the war, Jung’s theories were somewhat modified, though Jungian ideas basically did not change before 1963. Psychoanalysis, one way or another, was trying to build a bridge between life as it is, and a kind of revolt against positivism. Freud recognized that his was an age of irrationality. Turning to Le Bon, Mosse states that the analysis Le Bon made of the first mass movements (on Boulanger) was going to last: not only did Freud copy from Le Bon’s book; so did Hitler, and so did Mussolini. Le Bon “remains a man for all seasons” because Hitler and Mussolini put him into practice, but also because his analysis tried to fuse the rising tide of irrationality with psychoanalysis. Because Le Bon and the other analysts still came out of positivism, they captured the irrational rationally. This is the clue to all modern politics, which is what the students of the 1960s did not understand. 


Lecture #13

Lecture #13 - 47:37 - Lecture 13 Audio (mp3)
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The foundation of modern culture lay in the period from 1880 to 1929. It was a period when the groundwork was laid for everything that was to come in art and literature are concerned; moreover, it was the time of Freud, Jung, Le Bon, and Expressionism, Futurism, and Socialist culture. The end of the nineteenth century was “the beginning of the beginning of the foundation of the essential cultural problem of modern times.” Even modern Bolshevism is nothing more than the ideas of Karl Kautsky. That is why we are spending so much time on this period. What frightened everyone was not the working classes; it was the first modern mass movements. For the first time, there were mass movements in Europe. This is what Jung accepted, and what Le Bon analyzed. Le Bon’s analysis is essential, because like Freud, he tried to make a rational analysis of the irrational, to capture the irrational rationally for the purpose of manipulating it. As pointed out in the last lecture, Hitler, Mussolini and even Lenin were aware of Le Bon. Therefore, he really laid the basis of mass politics.

Le Bon and Freud wrote out of fear that those who lack reason would revert to primitive times, a fear that is inherent in Nordau’s idea of degeneration, of an atavistic return to primitive times that could already be seen in the physiognomy of criminals. It is also connected to the rise of anthropology: crowds were savages. In none of these intellectuals do we find an admiration for the Third World that is evident among intellectuals today; rather there was a fear that the world was becoming more primitive: The conditions of modern industrial life exposed the savage under the civilized veneer. Yet there was a whole literature of people who welcomed this, and who praised WWI for bringing the “true German” the ‘true Italian” to the fore. Not unrelated to this, Le Bon’s and Freud’s fear of crowds coincided with The Dreyfus Affair. 

To be sure, to many on the left the proletarian was the “most reasonable”, the crowd the “hope for the future.” A distinction was drawn between the industrial crowd and the crowds of the French Revolution. Rousseau was the first to see that one had to give the crowd myths, symbols, and festivals. Mosse claims that you cannot have democracy without myths and symbols. Speeches on reason were not enough; you needed a statue of the “goddess of reason.” Myths and symbols are taken up by Nationalism; Socialism already imitated it, realizing that people cannot understand what they cannot see and touch; the masses cannot think in abstract terms. That is the greatness of Christianity: everything can be seen and touched and eaten. Le Bon was the first who realized that crowds were heterogeneous and could not be appealed to with slogans like “you are all proletarians.” This is the reason why socialism can only be imposed from above and never from below. Obviously, Le Bon came to the conclusion that what was required to shape a crowd to a movement was not parliamentary democracy: the crowd had to be spoken to directly. It needed a religious ideology, a myth, something that cannot be questioned or critically examined. Le Bon said that an individual ceases to be one inside a crowd, something that Hitler quoted a lot. The difference between a crowd acting or not acting is the density of the images. For a myth to work, it had to be atavistic and appeal to the archetype, to a shared past.

Myth is a technique; the content is something shared, such as a shared nationality. George Sorel, Le Bon’s Socialist contemporary, put it differently: the myth must be “battle.” You cannot appeal to a crowd to strike; you have to appeal to the underlying archetype of battle. The leader was the one who had to make the appeal; according to Le Bon, he had to be one of the crowd. He was the leader only by the fact that he had “magic”, or charisma. Politics is part of the motivating symbolism. What Le Bon could not see was that there were in fact intermediary institution between the crowd and the leader: not parliamentary government, but an intermediary political liturgy. Marching, dancing, monuments, and the like are intermediary political institutions, which for most people are the substitute for parliamentary government and give people a semblance of participation. Speeches were of importance as well, but much more than their content, people cared about their rhythm, which must blend with the rhythm of the march. This is Mosse’s second criticism of le Bon: he thought that modern politics is nothing but rhythm; content is not important. However, Le Bon pioneered in recognizing that the whole contract idea of government was obsolete. What is left of it in some nations like the US is the law.

The contract theory of government was abolished for the sake of the politics of the masses. The leader of the masses must have magic and share a necessarily conservative myth. The latter was perhaps Le Bon greatest insight: crowds are essentially conservative: No crowd ever has marched for more industrialization. A certain anti-modernity is built into every crowd, because myths go back to the past “as it once was” rather than project to a future utopia. If the idea of a utopia is to succeed, it has to be imbedded into an age of innocence that will be recaptured. At the same time, Le Bon and Jung discovered the archetype, because it was a resting place in the speed of time. Le Bon, unlike Freud, believed that reason was a very thin veneer: What Le Bon was really afraid of was the unconscious that ruled the crowd. Differing from Jung, he tried to tame the unconscious through a political theory. To Le Bon, there was a difference between a mob and a crowd: a mob is an unorganized crowd. The Socialists tried to combat the anti-intellectualism of the crowd by workers’ (self) education, an endeavor Le Bon never attempted. But the Socialists were attached to reason. They founded the Socialist theater, and there were many skilled workers who educated themselves. Whether this succeeded is an important question; is it possible to have mass democracy on an educated basis (which was necessary for the Socialists)? All that Mosse can say is that until 1939, Le Bon was correct. Still today, the urge to touch political leaders, to name one example, is proof of our archaic nature. Standing in line to be touched by Jimmy Carter goes back to the touch of the king. The very real, atavistic anthropological desire to touch a person that is more charismatic is not just an American need; we also find it in Europe, and even in Israel.


Lecture #14

Lecture #14 - 47:25 - Lecture 14 Audio (mp3)
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As Mosse has explained, Expressionism was a direct reaction of young people to the bourgeois world that marked modern art and literature. Yet these young people, as Le Bon realized, could not become a movement; they took spontaneous actions that were of short duration. Socialism and Nationalism would be more effective in that regard. The problem we have to deal with is the fact that Socialism, thanks to Engels, had already become a new positivism under the influence of Darwinism. Later, this was true of Bolshevism as well. Another problem is that all the other parts of Socialism at the time did not want to be a “final railway station”, but to have a station through which trains could pass. The third problem is related to the relationship of Socialism to culture. Engels had preached that Marx was the Darwin of the social sciences, and Marx himself tried to create a science. The question was: if the victory of the proletariat was inevitable, why fight and riot? Marx, for whom human nature was very important, answered this by claiming that it was part of human nature to fight. He had three presuppositions on which he built his theory: rationality, progress, and will to fight for liberty. Marx’ family and ideas were immersed in 18th century. For Engels, human nature had become a scientific law. Progress, for Engels and Kautsky, was now also becoming a scientific law.

As Mosse remarks, everything becomes science in the age of positivism. But this brings us to the problem of human cognition. Marx had refused to say what the classless society would look like; he merely assumed that un-alienated work would give the worker pleasure, and he also had no concept of the leader. Utopian Socialist, unlike Marxist Socialists, did not presuppose inevitability. The alleged inevitability of progress replaced the idea of utopia. The problem, however, was whether people would see and act upon necessity. If they did, if these were indeed natural laws, there was no need for violence and bloodshed. But this was not the only problem. Thomas Muenzer, the radical reformer, wrote that you could not have a revolution without utopia, without an apocalyptic vision. Yet Scientific Socialism did not offer the excitement of utopian thinking. According to Marx, there could be no revolution until capitalism had lived itself out.

One criticism raised against Marx claimed that he ignored internal ethical standards. In his book “History and Class Conscience”, George Lukacs raised the question whether cognition was involved in the historical process, not only the economic law, as Kautsky had said. Lukacs maintained that first, we have to raise consciousness before we expect any action, or, as Marcuse would later say, consciousness must come before action. Revisionism arose on the Right as well, in the person of Eduard Bernstein and the rise of Social democracy. The latter relied on parliamentary democracy and unionism instead of revolution, which would make it easier for Socialists to take over. Nevertheless, Kautsky’s ideas of Socialist orthodoxy did not stand alone. German social democracy (which would become European social democracy) was a mixture of the ideas from the Revolution of 1848 and Kautsky.

Ferdinand Lassalle was a friend of Marx and Engels, but he was at first, in 1848, he was a revolutionary. He believed in nationalization and state-introduced Socialism. Lassalle died in a duel, “the most unsocialist death imaginable.” He was important for two reasons: German Socialism was a fusion of Lassalle and Marx; the working class strove for emancipation within the framework of the present state. And, Lassalle was the only German Socialist leader who believed in mass action. The leadership cult that grew around Lassalle is a ubiquitous phenomenon in Socialism, whether in Germany or elsewhere, as mass culture is a problem in Socialism as well. In 1892, August Bebel, a friend of Kautsky, said that Socialism did not know what to do with intellectuals; they should have a probationary period. They watered down Marxism, gave up science and even the class struggle, because they believed in ethical standards, with themselves as the “conscience” of the working classes. Yet all of the intellectuals that Mosse is going to talk about next, whether on the right or the left, believed in the class struggle and the triumph of the proletariat.


Lecture #15

Lecture #15 - 50:16 - Lecture 15 Audio (mp3)
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Mosse begins by saying that the period we are about to study that (up to the 1920s) is not devoid of a certain amount of pain for the Left. His own analysis has little to do with the effect of the analysis of this history by the New Left in the early 1960’s, yet this part of the course is the part most directly influenced the American New Left. In fact, this course -together with the course taught by Carl Schorske at Berkeley- were the only courses in the U.S. that dealt directly with this history. (He and Schorske were fascinated by a problem in U.S. history: what is called “the great evasion,” the evasion of the effective influence of Marxism on American thought.) As a result, all of the journals and reviews that rediscovered Marx (the non-Soviet, non-Kautsky Marx) came out of Madison. If up to now, the course has dealt with the bourgeoisie and the opposition against bourgeois society that came from within the bourgeoisie itself, and out of which developed the artistic avant-garde, we now move to Marxist orthodoxy. This orthodoxy was not just German – Lenin was as influenced by Kautsky as anyone – we are dealing with the opposition within Marxism. What Mosse will discuss now is materialistic Marxism, and the Marxist revolution against materialism. What eventually triumphed was the orthodoxy.

What Mosse now means by Socialist intellectualism is what Socialists (who were themselves intellectuals, like Lenin) meant when they talked about intellectuals, namely, those that criticized orthodox Marxism. In Mosse’s view, the whole term “intellectual” becomes from the end of the 19th century to be equivalent to “a critical mind.” Coming from the bohemians, it was generalized, so that it is almost assumed by now that nobody in the establishment can be an intellectual. Mosse doubts that you will think of Kissinger as an intellectual, though of course he is; intellectualism became - and it still is today - associated with opposition, with those outside orthodoxy. (Mosse now interrupts himself to answer a student’s question on Mosse’s dislike of marching.) 

There were three categories of opposition: the Kantian socialists, who would become left wing intellectuals; the utopian socialists; and the third category, with which Mosse will sum up the lecture, is the one that includes Brecht. The problem of the Kantians is the problem of ethics against economic determinism. The controversy began in the 1880s in an attempt to give Marxism an echo in philosophy. The consensus was that Marx and Engels fell under the influence of Hegel rather than Kant, which ended in determinism. (With Kant, they might have considered ethics and the categorical imperative). The connection between Marx and Kant led to the great debates that raised the problem of determinism and individualism. But, Mosse reminds the students that the people who lead the controversy were Marxists: they believed in class struggle and in the nationalization of production, but they also believed in ethical standards. In their view, the revolution could only come about through certain ethical imperatives. Moreover, they were not idealists in the way that they thought of immediate utopia; they were also part of a Hegelian revival. For them, the class struggle was a protest that would lead to the classless society, but a protest that had to take place according to the Kantian categorical imperative, meaning that no means could be used that were against personal freedom, or that implied tactics of discipline. The Socialism that they wanted was in reality a socialism of affinity.

The first great controversy took place between Kautsky and the leading theoretician of Kantian-influenced Austro-Socialism, Rudolf Most. Another controversy flared up in 1890 between Kautsky and Bruno Bauer. According to Bauer, it was not enough to be a proletarian; one had also to be right. According to Kautsky, if you were a proletarian you were already right because the proletariat was the innocent class not involved in the class struggle. Bauer meant “right” within the Kantian categorical imperative, because Bauer believed that the laws of morality were [inaudible, cough]. Like Kant himself, Bauer and his followers had an optimistic view of human nature, believing the basis of human nature to be reason and the laws of morality. The main problem of the revolution was to activate the categorical imperative that was in every man. Not according to Marx, who thought that man is simply reasonable. But, if morality is tied to class, how could there be a universal categorical imperative? Bauer answered that morality was relative in a given situation; human nature would triumph in a classless society. This reflected a mixture of Kant and Hegel: Hegel believed that as history went on, man would get closer and closer to the ideal. But by no means is the proletarian leading in Hegel’s theory. Kautsky insisted that ethics must be tied to a social analysis, which was wrong according to Kantian Socialists; for them, ethics went beyond the social. In this, they go back to Hegel, with the idea of an ever-present idea to which history strives. But according to the categorical imperative, the innate human nature must never be betrayed in the struggle. That is why Socialists discussed whether intellectuals should not have a one-year testing period before being admitted to the Socialist party.

The Kantian and Hegelian premise is important because Kautsky and Stalin omitted both. Neither Bolshevism nor Kautskyism gave room to a process that had to do with a process within human consciousness. For the Kantians, human consciousness stood still; for Marx, it progressed. At first, the Kantian renaissance was stronger than the Hegelian. The Hegelian renaissance of Marxism took place in Germany. All this is summed up in a famous essay of 1904 by Kurt Eisner, “Marx and Kant”: “Kant’s ethics is a form of human action that at one and the same time is outside and inside history. It is a permanent, internal standard of human action.” On the other hand, it is used in the class struggle. There is in every man a constant standard of what should be and thus no need for revolutionary tactics and discipline. All one should do is to awaken people’s categorical imperative. The revolution would follow. That is what happened in the Bavarian revolution of 1918. Eisner addressed a huge crowd, and, as Mosse puts it, “before he knew it, he found himself the leader of the revolution.” Eisner was eventually assassinated, though, and the Bavarian revolution became Bolshevik. His end was indicative of the constant problem of how to handle the counter revolution. Eisner could not bring himself to kill his enemies, and was himself killed in the end. The categorical imperative implies a consensus, as if we all agree on what should be.


Lecture #16

Lecture #16 - 48:53 - Lecture 16 Audio (mp3)
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Mosse remarks that he has spent some time in Tahiti, and “thank God,” nobody there had heard of Kant and Hegel. This class should read about them, though. The young Socialists who wanted to break out of the “iron cage of dogmatism” went back to Kant and Hegel, the great inspirations of 19th -century philosophy. They realized that in order to break out of Kautsky, they had to combine Kant and Hegel and to reconnect Marx and philosophy, whereas Engels and Kautsky had linked Marx to Darwin and science. The Young Socialists wanted a piece of eternity; they believed in ethical standards and that the means do affect the end. That meant believing in the goodness of man, not just in his reason, and in the Kantian imperative. They turned also to Hegel because of the inter-relationship between man’s consciousness and reality in Hegel’s work. Engels and Kautsky had made Socialism a mechanical social theory, taking out the human element of Marxism. The proletariat was not virtuous simply because it was not corrupted by capitalism (See Trotsky, Engels, and to a certain degree to Marx), rather, the proletariat also had to act ethically. The Proletariat was for them more than a class idea; it had to be the ethical leadership in the class struggle, as summed up in Eisner’s essay “Marx and Kant.” The Bavarian revolution was the only spontaneous revolution ever. Eisner was killed only two months later. The whole revolutionary process was both an anti-capitalist and an ethical process. Eisner’s strong idealism inspired writers more than it did the revolutionaries. The most famous novel that posed this problem was Leon Feuchtwanger’s “Thomas Wendt” (1918). When the counterrevolution becomes active after the revolution, Wendt is unable to deal with it, because he is not able to be unjust. For him, the means determine the ends.

What to do with the counterrevolution brings to a head the questions of Kant and Hegel. The ethical man must interact with history in order to bring about the classless society. Another Kantian Socialist who joined the Bavarian revolution was Ernst Toller. The only Jew before Ben Gurion to have won a battle (ironically the battle of Dachau) that Toller lead in the Bavarian revolution. In his statement “unholy is the cause that demands things, that demands the spilling of human blood”, we again encounter the idea of the sacredness of the individual. The individual is sacred because the individual has within the categorical imperative. Revolution was necessary, but based on goodness and respect of humanity, without taking lives. At the same time, it had to be made by those who had realized the evils of capitalism. Leadership must be won through personal example. Much of this took place in the Bavarian revolution. Gustav Landauer-one of the Bavarian revolutionaries who were killed by the counterrevolutionaries-combined these ideas with a kind of anarchism; the ideal society was for him the society of small groups. “The mass itself is evil.” It was created by capitalism and by violence. Mosse points out that all the names he mentioned are Jewish. The attempt to break out of the orthodoxy was carried by “yahoo Jews.” It gave them a place in the labor movement. They wanted to lead the labor movement and the class struggle, but they were always outsiders because they were Jews and came from the bourgeoisie. Yet, their theories were expected to give them a place in the working class. Intellectual and Jew became coterminous (for Bebel etc.), bound up with “troublemakers.” Secondly, it is clear that it gave them a kind of emancipation. They typify a more general Jewish idea, the idea of humanity in general, in which nothing matters but whether one had the ethical imperative in oneself. This was also one of the trends within Zionism.

Another Kantian Socialist (who, Mosse says, knocked to pieces “Mosse’s Law” i.e. if you are a racist or a fascist, you live into your 80s or 90s) was Ernst Bloch. In the end, Bloch taught for a while in the GDR, but then fled the country. He wanted to restore an apocalyptic, messianic fervor to Marxism, linking not Marx and philosophy, but Marx and the old Christian and Jewish apocalyptic traditions. Bloch believed that capitalism was so evil and so corrupt that the present was completely insignificant. What was important therefore was not the corrupt capitalist present; we have to wait for redemption through the class struggle and the nationalization of property. Bloch introduced a Christian element of redemption into Socialism. His most famous book was “Thomas Muenzer” (1921). Luther was the Kautsky of his day, while Muenzer led the peasants to struggle. That was Bloch’s contribution to the outbreak from the iron cage. Bloch’s most important book, “The Principle of Hope” examines European culture through the lens of redemption. The third and, (because he is still very influential in modern Marxist debate) more important of the three intellectuals is George Lukacs. A Hungarian Jew who wrote in German, he was a part of German culture. Like the Kantians, Lukacs initially believed in an ethical revolution. Later on he became a Stalinist and wrote “the most dreadful nonsense.” He participated in the Hungarian revolutions of 1918 and 1956 and even became the Hungarian minister of culture. Lukacs’s influence has lasted longer because he is a more complex thinker, accepting more of rationalism and reason than Bloch, who gives it up altogether.

Before the war, he was a sort of German idealist who converted to Marxism. According to Lukacs in 1922, the problem was that we are caught between alienation and reification. Marx had written that under capitalism everything becomes an object, the “fetishism of goods.” There was no more beauty in the world, since everything was judged by its price. Lukacs went one step further: not only are we alienated; everything in life was a mere object. Under capitalism, whatever one saw, including living beings became an object, a thing that can be bought and sold. He coined the famous word “Reification” (which Mosse does not like because today, every student sits in his dormitory and talks about reification). Mosse prefers the German “Verdinglichung”, a term that makes the object denser. In his main accusation against capitalism - that it leads to reification - Lukacs goes to Max Weber’s view that under capitalism, everything is rationalized. Capitalism, then, means de-personalization, which is reification. The rationalization of labor under high capitalism is a typical process that leads to fragmentation, alienation, and reification. Man can only hope to understand the world because he can recapture his consciousness by recognizing the corruption of capitalism in its totality. This will enable him to further the class struggle. Becoming an individual in this way, he will interact with reality and understand the present stage of history. A Hegelian man, he will lead history to a higher stage. Capitalists, according to Lukacs, and all those who cannot see the reality (the totality of the evil of capitalism) have a false consciousness.


Lecture #17

Lecture #17 - 49:00 - Lecture 17 Audio (mp3)
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Mosse now turns to Berthold Brecht. Brecht’s play “The Young Comrade” was an attack upon all the intellectuals Mosse has recently discussed: The Young Comrade-who could be Eisner, Bloch or Lukacs-is shot in the end because he wanted to do what is human, not scientific: he wanted an immediate revolution. He refused to compromise with tactics and thereby spoils the revolution. He has to be shot because he was in the way of reality, which is scientific, which is in accord with the Kautsky analysis of the situation. The Young Comrade believed in feeling when it is in fact the science Kautsky talked about that is needed. By rejecting small injustices, he helps great injustice. In the play, history has an impersonal course. As in all of Brecht’s work, only the impersonal forces of scientific socialism count. Revulsion against injustice is not the right reason to become a socialist: only the knowledge of the scientific workings of socialism-as in Leninism-Stalinism- are valid. In Brecht’s plays, people are types; he consciously avoids character portrayal. He suggested crude solutions, solutions that were meant to be crude. Mosse quips that “Brecht was a failure; otherwise he would never have lasted” i.e. he would have been eliminated. Mosse does not share the widespread admiration for Brecht; he finds him boring to the extreme. Brecht was never able to get out of naturalism. His and all other Marxists’ cultural efforts tended to be naturalistic. In fact, Minna Kautsky (Karl’s mother) wrote one of the most popular naturalist novels. It gives a good description of proletarian life, but it is artificial and schematic, a love story set in a proletarian milieu.

The Hegelian synthesis (which people like Lukacs tried) was increasingly denied. When it came to workers’ culture-to the gap between the intellectuals and what the workers actually read- popular Darwinism replaced Marx. From the beginning of workers’ culture, popularizations of Darwin were widespread. In the calendar sent out by the Socialist Party, evolution is a happy progression within the temple of nature; injustice would eventually be abolished. The most popular book of early Socialism was written by August Bebel. “Women under Socialism” (1883) was the most widely read non-fiction book before, and possibly after, WWI (the most popular work of fiction was Minna Kautsky’s). The book blurs natural and historical evolution. Change was an internal part of human history because it was a part of the animal world. It had to improve. This was to give workers the certainty that Socialism was simply another stage in the history of the earth. Under capitalism, the class struggle inhibits natural selection (an idea usually associated with Social Darwinism), while potentiality for excellence would get to the top if natural evolution was allowed to work. (Mosse remarks that workers, too, were a part of bourgeois society; there was no other culture to adopt. If the bourgeoisie was interested in Darwinism, so were the workers.) Socialism would be part of the temple of nature. It would be replaced by an Arcadia, a classless society, the end of industrialism that workers rightly hated. The image of the Socialist utopia that spread throughout Europe originated not in Marx and Engels, but in Bebel’s “Women and Socialism.” The complete equality that was implied here was also one between men and women. It would, just like the bourgeois utopia, remove the nervousness of the age and safeguard the family.

To summarize: Bebel mixed Marxism and a sentimental, not a scientific, theory of Darwinian evolution. With the abolishment of capitalism, the road would be free. Mosse claims that one cannot have popular culture without a Cinderella story. Socialism was connected with the standard utopia of innocence and nature. Workers’ plays were by and large written from above. Brecht’s were a continuation of didactic workers’ plays, based on the doctrine of surplus value. Significantly, many of these plays have a sort of historical analysis. Workers were put not only into evolution, but also into a historical dimension. Workers’ culture was based on bourgeois culture; bourgeois pop-culture and popular art was adapted to fit the quest for excellence in the class struggle. One part of workers’ culture was mass culture. The Socialist leadership, however, was afraid of these kinds of cultural products; they wanted to educate. Therefore, they did not like workers’ mass organizations, such as singing or sports associations: They only favored cyclists because they were good at election time. Though workers’ mass culture was split from that of the bourgeoisie, it was not different: how could you do gymnastics differently? Workers did not define themselves by going to party meetings, but by going to the Red Football Club. The first Socialist football clubs split from the bourgeois ones because they had a kind of fellowship in the factory: Some became professionalized by the 1930s. Sports could be combined with national education; the Socialist, of course, tried the same with Socialist education. Workers’ culture has the same features as the culture of everybody else, though with Socialist symbols. The result was that no real Marxist culture ever came about, only a certain subculture of “red Cinderellas” instead of “bourgeois Cinderellas”.


Lecture #18

Lecture #18 - 47:42 - Lecture 18 Audio (mp3)
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Mosse says his description of workers’ culture from the last lecture completes the picture of the fin-de-siècle period before 1914; the problems faced by Socialism and the culture of youth verses bourgeois life on the one hand and on the other, the attempt by bourgeois youth to break it open without going into economics. In this lecture, Mosse addresses World War I. Many viewed the Great War as their chance for self-renewal. There had not been a real war in a hundred years, and people had forgotten what it meant. In addition, in Germany the last war (the War of Liberation) had a myth about it, a “good reputation.” World War I was greeted with enthusiasm. The “Generation of 1914” (though it was not a generation at all) created the myth of the War. Educated youth flocked to the colors as a solution for the problems they faced, and to get out of the “cage” of bourgeois life. These and earlier war volunteers always sought almost the same thing: self-fulfillment and the renewal of society: There was a kind of myth about them in songs and poetry. In contrast, conscripts sang quite different songs. In Germany, all this “sentimental nonsense” goes back to Schiller who wrote the song “Only the Soldier is Free.” (Mosse interjects that he has just been to the Cowboy Hall of Fame; and before doing that, “you are not really an American.”)

The volunteer’s quest for the extraordinary was rewarded in the war, when they immediately became second lieutenants. In Germany, the volunteers of the war were modeled into an ideal type, a particular kind of hero, symbolizing the extraordinary, but also innocence and genuineness of character. The rhetoric of sacrifice was linked to self-renewal and the idea of being sacred. War, with its notions of chivalry and virility, transcended daily life and family responsibility. With these volunteers, we have a double process: a quest for personal AND national and renewal. The idea of life as personal and as participating in a national festival, of a spirit both patriotic and personal, was expressed in the slogan: “One must conquer one’s own spirit before one can defeat the enemy.” Ideas of virility and freedom were combined with ideas of innocence and arcadia, of cleanliness, of the national stereotype, and of vulnerability.

Poet Rupert Brooke’s idea of a “golden-haired Apollo, magnificently unprepared for life” is an image of vulnerability. These images were combined with cruelty. The most famous English war poem by Brooke is called “Peace.” War is associated with flaming youth, and “children of the sun. (sonnenkinder)” The emphasis on purity, cleanliness, youth and hope goes together with the ideal type of volunteer. In all of this, there was also a kind of simplicity for which bourgeois society yearned. (The “Boys-Bathing”-poem in England was a kind of homosexual poetry; in Germany, similar forms came from the youth movement.) The horrible fighting in the trenches was connected with Arcadia. The result was a general refutation of maturity, of growing up and becoming husbands after 1918. Not only the fascist movement catered to this; in England, the Bloomsbury Group continued the worship of the “children of the sun.” Rupert Brooke died of blood poisoning, and to this day, there is a kind of pilgrimage to his grave. Indeed, the idea of innocence became important in the design of military cemeteries. Churchill wrote an obituary for Brooke that emphasized all the said stereotypes. Another stereotype was that of youth going into battle singing. The common stereotype that comes out of all modern wars is so identical because it is a bridge to domesticate war in one’s mind, a symbol of innocence, symmetry and beauty important for national renewal. Nudity was presumably stripped of its sensuality because it too becomes a symbol. Someone like Brooke would never have fought an impure war. The long-range importance of the stereotype is that youth must be right (something that lives on even today, especially in the student riots of the sixties). It strengthens the national stereotype and makes war more acceptable. Finally, it is important to note that for the male society of war, women on the front were nurses or whores, in other words, only limited, negative women images of women.

The myth of the war experience tried to come to terms with the fact that it was a trench war, with all its horrors, and with great loss of life. The crux of what Mosse wants to talk about is that the war was integrated into people’s life in two ways: by lifting war into a shared sacred experience (that had to do with camaraderie and with the cult of the dead soldier), and by trivializing the war by cutting it down to size. WWI was the first war that was filmed and photographed. Sacrifice, like the self-sacrifice of Christ, was not only meaningful, but not a “real” death at all. The war was integrated not only into the sacred, but also into secular traditions. Yet there was a difference between the war as it was, and how people integrated it into their life. Mosse tells the students that the reason why their fathers bore them with the stories of their war experience is that it was the highlight of their dreary lives. 


Lecture #19

Lecture #19 - 47:38 - Lecture 19 Audio (mp3)
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Mosse starts the lecture by showing a series of pictures about the rediscovery of the body and the male stereotype. The common feature of the first three pictures is that the sensuousness is taken away by light and sun, by making the figures transparent.

The war was lifted into the sphere of the sacred by the volunteers who rushed to the colors, believing already that they were exceptions: They were blessed in church and connected with sacredness and with the search far an extraordinary experience: with the festival and with the search for personal and national rejuvenation. The center of the sacred was the cult of the fallen soldier. In trench warfare, they came immediately into contact with death. The dead were everywhere. The cult of camaraderie went back to the wars of liberation at the beginning of the nineteenth century and Uhland’s poem “I Had a Comrade,” which every soldier knew. In extreme situations, everyone took recourse to religion, to the well-known familiar rhythms of Christianity. The next picture shows a fresco in the Hall of the Heroes of the biggest Italian military cemetery that features a soldier, literally resting in the lap of Christ. Another one, from the same cemetery, presents the three crosses of Calvary. The next picture, a postcard of a military cemetery in Poland, shows a soldier awakened by Christ. Mosse states that military cemeteries are much alike everywhere. The function of the stone is to represent the fatherland by something unmovable. In the middle of the war, the longing for arcadia became very strong. In England, this took the form of Rupert Brooke’s poems, flowers, and village church crosses. In Germany it was different, manifesting itself in a new kind of cemetery that came about in the war. It used the graves of the dead to symbolize closeness to nature by using wood and the German national tree. In park cemeteries, as the Munich Waldfriedhof, designed in 1910, the landscape disguises the graves. Also in Italy, the idea of arcadia, nature, and innocence disguised a death beside the woods. Trees, with a pilgrimage path in the middle, received names of fallen soldiers to make them outlive death. The next image shows a British military cemetery. After the war, its wooden crosses were replaced by stones. Relatives could send for the wooden crosses free of charge. Eventually, those that were left were taken to a Church and burned there in the Easter fire.

These efforts were part of a strategy to assure that the soldiers “never died.” In the defeated nations, the cult of the dead soldiers became especially strong: the dead soldier came to visit the living to remind him to take revenge, and not to become part of the mass. It should be clear that in the military cemetery all of the ideas that make death “meaningful” are present, and all are connected to the idea of camaraderie. The idea of camaraderie was connected to the volunteer and his stereotype. When he died, he became a part of every soldier. The next picture shows Rupert Brooke. Mosse asks the students to see in it a connection with the German youth movement and its ideas of fragility and purity. (Brookes’ mother was afraid that the photo was too homoerotic). This idea of innocence is projected on the experience of wartime camaraderie. Nationalism allowed the soldiers to express their individuality, yet remain comrades. Already before 1914, camaraderie was exulted as the true national community, which was beleaguered on all sides. It became tied to the idea of death and to the idea of Greek beauty.

Ceremonies for the dead in France, England, Italy and Germany claimed that they lived in the camaraderie of the nation. This camaraderie also strengthened a democratic idea of a leadership of affinity: The officer was to demonstrate leadership and have charisma. When trench fighting became a fatalistic duty and all patriotism was muted at the end of the war, it was the myth that remained important: even after the war, and to people whose experiences should have taught them to know better. Perhaps the truest portrait of the war is Henri Barbusses’ novel “Under Fire.” Barbusse became a communist after the war, yet glorified the front line soldier. Camaraderie went together with ideas of equality (though in fact many of the volunteer second lieutenants were shot in the back by their own soldiers). The officer was good looking, clean, a natural leader, who created solidarity between himself and his men. As Barbusse wrote, it was not a class war, since a new class was born- that of the frontline soldiers. Both in Italy and Germany, ex-soldiers held strong democratic ideas; most Fascist (not Socialist) leaders had been frontline soldiers. The democratic idea of leadership entailed that the leader was only a little bit better and more virtuous than the rest, with “a touch of Christ about him.” The authoritarian leadership that was in actuality apart of wartime camaraderie was projected on the post-war world. Much of our everyday vocabulary of camaraderie comes from the war. Otto Braun, son of the famous feminist Socialist Lily Braun, wrote in his “Memoir of One who Died Early” about a higher fate, countering the nervous age, with innocence, and male beauty. All of this had of course to be stripped of homoeroticism, because, as Rupert Brooke wrote, camaraderie was purer than love. Purity was the key. It was in such camaraderie of men that Fascism presented itself all over Europe.


Lecture #20

Lecture #20 - 48:08 - Lecture 20 Audio (mp3)
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Mosse begins the lecture with a recapitulation of his last lecture on the integration of the war into the sacred as one way of confronting it. He now comes to the other process, that of trivialization. Trivialization was determined to a certain extent by WWI photography and mail service. Postcards were sent back and forth between soldiers, their families, and friends. Mosse shows two of the postcards that served to trivialize the war. One depicts a soldier having a good time in the trenches, the next one sends holiday greetings of “Happy Easter from the Front” and features an Easter bunny: Easter is trivialized together with idea of resurrection.

Another important means of trivialization was mass tourism, which was a new phenomenon that began in the 19th century. The line between pilgrimage and tourism is important for Mosse’s purpose: with the idea of travel out of curiosity, landscape and people become stereotypes. Quickly after the war, the battlefields became a part of mass tourism, with ex-officers as guides. The landscape itself was tidied up, but certain areas were kept separate to be seen for an entrance fee. This was another bridge between war and peacetime. Karl Kraus was therefore mistaken when he called them “tourist trips to hell.” The whole idea was that it was not a hell: the horrors were only surrogate horrors. Battlefield pilgrimages became battlefield tourism, with tourists soon outnumbering pilgrims. In war literature, it was the adventure story that really predominated. “All Quiet on the Western Front” was read as adventure story, and not as an anti war track as myth would have it. The British made analogies between war, sport and adventure; in fact English plays generally liked to look at the bright side of things. The French circus even re-enacted entire battles. Children were used in the war as well. Mosse shows a picture titled “The War of Children.” Its text reads: “We can learn from children. Children are not ambivalent. They have sheer joy in battle. Children do not complain. They take what comes and enjoy it.”

The war was integrated into leisure time as well. However, all trench pictures were staged because technically, the cameras could not be brought into the trenches. After the war, hundreds of picture books about the war cropped up in every country. These never showed dead people-only burned villages. A “nice, decaying corpse” would have spoiled the excitement. (Mosse notes that it was different with the American Civil War, where photos showed the real horrors.) War merchandise and trivia also hit the market. Yet the concern over tourism to the battlefields shows the tension that existed between the sacred and the trivial. In this process of trivialization, neither side “won”; After all, trivialization is one of the more fundamental processes, and a key feature of our culture. In fact, people need symbols; they can only understand what they can actually touch. Through WWI, the nation found a new church: the war memorial. And, the basic rhythms of our civilization- which is a Christian civilization- were encouraged. This went so far that even Louis Marshall wanted to bury Jewish soldier under the cross, so as not to separate them from the common symbolism. The newly developing mass media disguised reality through symbol and myth.

This “acceptance” of war contributed to a further brutalization of men’s mind. War as rejuvenation and festival became part of a political alternative after the war. Fascism especially made use of this, though Socialism competed. In Italy, the frontline veteran organizations, the “Fascisti” always tended to the right, and supported Mussolini. The Left, however, had great difficulties with the war experience because of its anti-war, strongly rationalist tradition. Communist veterans’ organizations in Germany collapsed.

Mosse is sure that a major factor in the defeat of the Left in Italy and Germany was the war experience, and the myth of the war experience: Myth became reality, the driving force, because myth and reality interlock. In the depression, many people embraced the war myth- not to the counter-myth of the class struggle- for rejuvenation. Most people refused to admit that war was bad after they had sacrificed and laid down their lives in it. The great wave of sports, to steal the body, was now the alternative to war even in the movies. The idea of sport as Greek means male society: in one film, European statesmen are engaging in sports. The most famous image that came out during the war was that of a statue of Christ that has his cross shot away, but Christ remains standing. It became famous through photography and postcards. In Frankfurt-School vocabulary, it was a mediation of the war. The official church was secondary and conservative, on the side of king and parliament. Thus, the symbolism was not mainly reinforced by the church (though it soon jumped on the bandwagon). Out of World War I comes the glorification of youth, and the reluctance to become responsible adults; more in the defeated than the victorious nations. If France missed Fascism, it was because of the loyalty of the French veterans.


Lecture #21

Lecture #21 - 43:51 - Lecture 21 Audio (mp3)
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Mosse now turns to the organizations of European culture after the First World War. They were much differentiated, marked by the tension, chaos and control, the rationalism and irrationalism that were also endemic in the pre-war world. There were also national differences: countries that had not had a revolution and counterrevolution- such as France and England-contrasted with Germany and Italy. These divisions are of great importance, but we must also be aware of the continuities.

The quest for rejuvenation continued in all of these countries after the war, as well as issues related to socialism. Berlin after the war was the cultural capitol of Europe, though Italy also came to the forefront. In the western nations there had been a constant cycle of revolution and counterrevolution. Also decisive was the proximity to the Russian Revolution. Here, Germany was much closer to Russia than France. While France had been cosmopolitan in the 19th century (though France had never really transcended its rural origins), Germany had been a backwater- apart from some aspects of philosophy and music. German 19th -century literature was provincial.

After 1918, a rapid reversal occurred: the insecurity caused by the German transition to a republic contrasted with France where after the war, provincialism came to the fore; French intellectual development was obstructed by provincialism that included a denial to learn anything from outside of France, even foreign languages. The aftermath of the war made the French feel even more comfortable in their provincialism. Also, both England and France were imperial nations; in imperial nations in general, provincialism is strengthened. Their cultures are missionary cultures, something that Germany never had. French cultural imperialism goes on until this day [1979], for example in Africa, and recently, in Vietnam. How does that fit into what Mosse has said? Unlike France and England, Germany had no civilizing mission. In Germany, the civilizing function was turned inward. Culture is perhaps the most important imperial factor, because culture stays. England today has only the semblance of cosmopolitanism because of English-speaking America.

What was important for post-war intellectuals was the Marxist renaissance, and the laboratory of Marxist thought was Germany, which, in contrast to France, was free of any distracting anarchist and syndicalism tradition. England had never embraced Marxism in any important way; thus, Lenin and Trotsky thought that Germany was the key to world revolution. What we call “culture” is an urban phenomenon. Even if it is concerned with peasants, it is urban people who write about them. In the 19th century, London, Paris, Vienna and Prague were all-important. Why was there no German city comparable to them? First of all, Germany was not united. There was no capitol, and even today, culture is spread around many German cities, not centralized in one city. In Germany, even the literature was written in provincial dialects. Even today, we therefore see great differences that are dependent on whether a nation was unified early or late.

A second factor in the cities was what we might call “culture through conflict,” above all through the conflicts between different peoples. In Prague, Czechs, Germans and Jews lived side by side. This intermixture produced a certain kind of existentialist culture. The Eastern Europeans, for instance in Budapest, reached for German culture. It was a peculiar kind of German cultural imperialism in Eastern Europe, carried completely by the Jews. The more alive the culture, the more bourgeois ideas were challenged, the more ideas from the Left or the Right became relevant. Whereas Viennese culture was not concerned with class conflict, in Paris, class conflict took place outside of the city. It only began to matter for the young Socialists after 1918. In Berlin, rich and poor intellectually interpenetrated through the revival of Marxist thought. Germany made it to the front of culture because of this intellectual interpenetration. Vienna was by then only a bloated capitol without a country. The Czechs attacked German-speakers in the streets. Out of the Germany of the 1920s came the phenomenon that we describe today as Weimar Culture. But political theater, new film and new architecture, was an elite phenomenon. Most people just went on reading what they had always read. The French had always been concerned with the mind, in the Cartesian tradition; they were not to change it in response to Freudian ideas-that is until very recently. In Germany, though bourgeois life in reality went on and capitalism did not fall, they co-opted Weimar Culture. Its besieged liberals had to be cosmopolitans. Germany’s liberals were caught between Left and Right. The problem of keeping control was again related to rationalism and irrationalism. Since there was no German tradition to look back to, they tried to solve the problem by looking to France. Out of this came some famous confrontations between liberals and nationalists, and later, between liberals and socialists. An example is Heinrich Mann and his brother Thomas Mann: during WWI: Heinrich upheld France and criticized German nationalism in his novels on the basis of individualism and reason. Thomas accused him of being a materialist and rejecting Romanticism. It is clear that the German liberals did not look to nationalist France, but to the France that had rehabilitated Dreyfus- the Third Republic. The France of the Enlightenment became the model for German liberals. The real streams of Weimar, though, were not streams of rationality. 


Lecture #22

Lecture #22 - 51:52 - Lecture 22 Audio (mp3)
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Q&A Review Session (bad sound quality)


Q: on Kautsky (inaudible).

A: Kautsky was not looking back. After 1918, Germans looked back on 1848: black, red and gold were the colors of 1848. So they were obviously 48ers, but at the same time they admired France, because of the revolution, and because France survived the challenge posed by the Right. Among the German educated classes, since the18th century, French culture had a great attraction. French was spoken in upper-class German homes. (Mosse’s parents spoke French which he was not supposed to understand.) When Heinrich Mann wrote about Zola in WWI, his brother Thomas attacked him as unpatriotic. After 1918, the call for the “dictatorship of reason” could be heard. Liberal democratic trends, either left or right, always looked to France as a model.

Q: How did the social democratic tradition fit into that?

A: They did not have to go to that tradition. Some did, though. Reason was built into Marxism:it grew out of the Enlightenment. Reason was transmitted to the Socialists, but liberals had no such transmission. Yet the SPD (social democrats) occupied the place of liberalism in Germany. The liberals didn’t realize this, because the Social Democrats kept their rhetoric, and were judged according to their rhetoric. The Weimar Republic was built by Social Democrats. When Mosse’s sister voted for the SPD, it caused trouble in his house, because his parents were liberals.

Q: on Christianity and scientific discovery.

A: There is no direct connection: The connection between scientific discovery and Christianity comes from the 16th century. Christianity had to take a position, but it did not stimulate scientific discovery. There is no connection in our period. Christianity is secularized in politics.

Q: ???

A: There was always a conflict between the sacred and politics: Literacy and images were in conflict throughout cultural history. The mass production of trivial objects pulled down the sacred. The sacred is not by and large rationalized, it appeals to your emotions, while trivia are built in a rational way into your life. Religious examples are the best. It trivializes the sacrifice to the nation if you can for two francs [?] The Germans always accused the English and French of being frivolous with the sacred. Another unexplored process is the process of trivialization. It is one of the most important processes.

Q: Did war-time governments make any attempts at mobilizing [??] support? Were they successful?

A: The antiwar-movement was unimportant. Sure, Marx was right that in a time of crisis the critical mind of the intellectual collapsed. All the young intellectuals, like Lukacs, were enthusiastic for the war. German Social Democracy rationalized it as fighting against the Czar, the French as fighting against the Kaiser. In fact, you can rationalize anything you wish to accomplish.

Q: ???

A: The Social Democrats were really a new liberal party. Liberals didn’t see that. Their admiration for France was much greater…. Liberalism became detached from reality. From the point of view of the 1930s, liberalism was dead. From that of the 1970s, liberalism has proved to be the strongest of all political theories in Europe. It was revived after 1945 and is still the strongest today. Nobody in their right mind would have thought that. In the reality of history, liberalism has proved itself. Yet, nowhere has parliamentary government ever survived a crisis, apart from England and the US. The Depression was only an economic malfunction: the political and social systems remained intact. In France and Germany, the economic, social and political crisis came together, and the parliamentarian government broke down. In such cases, people want their longing for integration fulfilled, not a divorce of politics from life. 

After 1945, there have been no extreme bad times in Europe. The Italians are the most admirable people in the world, because they can do without government. Italians are also a civilized people because they have not won a war since 1239: A very sympathetic people. But Italy is not an example, because in Italy the social fabric holds. 

We talked about the attempted “dictatorship of reason”: Heinrich Mann wanted to recapture the preference for goodness and equality found in the 18th century. But it was not recaptured until 1945. In Germany, after the defeat on 1918, most people continued a “Jenny Treibel” kind of life. What we call Weimar culture is really the avant-garde, the way the avant-garde coped with irrationalism against rationalism. What is innovative about Weimar and made Germany the center rather than France was the avant-garde, and how the avant-garde coped with the bourgeois crisis of Left against Right, of rationalism against irrationalism, and the cycle of revolution against counter-revolution.

The word “avant-garde” is a military term; it refers to the soldiers that went ahead of the army. It was adopted already in 19th century for art. This has several questionable implications: 1: why is the avant-garde ahead? 2: the avant-garde is elite. All of these things are troubling: what about relations of the avant-garde to the masses? In our period, in Germany, the avant-garde was politically committed and involved. It thought you could bring about political change by culture. It tended to be politically committed, more on the Left than the Right, because the Left continued the critical tradition.

Q: If they were soldiers, didn’t the avant-garde fight?

A: The analogy didn’t go that far. They didn’t fight with weapons. They were committed, but in the avant-garde was a second tradition: the bohemian tradition of the 19th century. La Boheme of the 1840s, and other stories are stories of un-political, lovable characters. An anti-bourgeois movement of sorts, they became cultural heroes at the end of the 19th century. These two things became attached to the avant-garde in the presumption of a lifestyle, the idea that intellectuals should live a certain way. (They should never life in the suburbs i.e. the Lifestyle of Mifflin Street.) The idea of an avant-garde became very important after 1918: its ingredients were: people of the future, elite, intellectuals, and an anti-bourgeois political commitment.

In contrast, the Philosophes of the 18th century had been pro-bourgeois and part of the establishment. The intellectuals of 19th century had a certain lifestyle on the basis of a theory, of the critical mind, of bohemian life, as popularized by Puccini. Go see the opera. If all this is the avant-garde, this means that the generation of 1914 does not qualify. It cannot just be “a” movement. And yet, the avant-garde changed after 1918: in contrast to an earlier period, it became more and more collective-minded, interested more in collectivity than in the individual mind. Now, it all happened within a collective frame of mind. This was connected to the war in spirit. Expressionists who used to be individualists found their way after the war to the collectivity. But not only the Expressionists: Ernst Juenger took out all reference to an individual war experience from his war diaries after the war. There was a kind of urgency and immediacy; all over Europe, “prophets’ cropped up: nudists, carrot-eaters etc. All of them ended up in one place, Monte Verita, the “Mountain of Truth” in Ascona, Italy. It was bought and transformed into a hotel. (“Today, it is “overrun by Germans.”) Everything had become a general chaos, with all kinds of solutions offering themselves. The avant-garde owed its relevance to the Russian Revolution. The Russian Revolution was a kind of avant-garde, not only an alternative form of government, but an alternative form of culture. Just as important as workers’ and soldiers’ councils in those early days were its cultural manifestation, it’s Agitprop. Also, bourgeois restraints were largely abandoned (if only until about 1923). They had artistic freedom, Maiakovski, modern dance, free love, nude beaches etc. Russia seemed to be the fulfillment of the dream of a society free from bourgeois restraint.

Q: Was the Bolshevist Revolution influenced by the Western European avant-garde?

A: Yes, but it was also a kind of native Russian revival.


Lecture #23

Lecture #23 -  47:20 - Lecture 23 Audio (mp3)
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Mosse states at the beginning of this lecture that he will not spend as much time on Fascism, as he usually does. At the end of last time, Mosse pointed out that in the quest for control after WWI, Germany moved into the cultural forefront rather than France. The general quest for collective experience increased after war. Expressionists gave up their individuality for the sake of collectivity, and even a writer like Juenger revised his book to reflect this fact. The break came in 1918 with the Russian Revolution. The German and Hungarian Revolutions were counseled by the Soviets. What they perceived was the possibility of world revolution, an effort that continued in Germany until 1923. Lenin believed Germany was the key to Europe, and his idea of spreading the revolution was nearly realized there with the pseudo-Bolshevik revolution in Berlin, Bavaria, and other places in Germany. Lacking coordination, however, these revolts easily collapsed. The cultural alternative many thought they found in the new freedom in Russia- the rediscovery of the body, free sexuality, and artistic experimentation-lasted roughly until 1924. 

Yet the Cultural Revolution also influenced those who rejected the Soviets: The drawing closer of Weimar and the Soviet Union (see the Treaty of Rapallo), facilitated the penetration of Soviet culture into Germany. Proletarian theaters were founded in Germany. Though the “Volkstheater” had existed since 1880s, it now consciously attempted to combine proletarian theater and the abolishment of the bourgeois heritage. (This changed with the advent of Stalin, who wanted to keep it.) The “Proletkult” phase was later condemned by Lenin in favor of true bourgeois culture. Socialism could never come to terms with modern culture, because it attacked classic culture. Nonetheless, the idea of Proletkult with its experimentation influenced Weimar Culture. Piskator’s proletarian theater is important here. Its program aimed at simplicity and expression, directed at workers’ sensibility, and was devoted to the propagation of the class struggle, which had always to be the central theme. Piskator staged Brecht, and Brecht’s idea of epic theater was built on the ideas promoted in Piskator’s “Lehrstuecke”. They were identical with Brecht’s epic theater and heavily stereotyped. Their rejection of a “personality cult” was problematic, since the audience always identifies with a person, with “the mother”, “the worker” etc. It proved to be a failure even in its own time: Workers did not want education after work. What they wanted, rather, was beer, sex and entertainment.

What was really popular, coming from Russia, was the cabaret. It was a great event when the Soviet cabaret, the “Blue Trousers”, toured Berlin in 1923. The cabaret’s program included gymnastics, acting out, dance, color, and tempo. Its premise, as explained in socialist newspapers, was not expressionistic: the class struggle was in the forefront of the play. Until 1928, the “Blue Trousers” visited Berlin almost every year. The Nazis imitated this kind of performance, and indeed, theaters were eventually taken over by the Right. Finally, this idea of a cabaret is connected to the culture of the Weimar Republic. With its sexual stimulation and living pictures, cabaret was a good form in time of disturbance. It formed a kind of continuity with Expressionism, which was discontinuous and wanted sensation; all Expressionist theater was a series of pictures. In early films, like “Dr. Caligari”, one can see an abrupt change of pictures and lighting. “Dr. Caligari” was a sort of cabaret, in tune with the tempo of the time. The importance of lighting lay in its abruptness and contrasts. In a sense, the cabaret had a collective appeal, but is not stereotype-based like Piskator’s theater. It kept a balance between group activity and single activity. To summarize: the influence of the Russian Revolution was great and stimulated artistic experimentation. The new art form of cabaret, which was not sentimental, presented a kind of realism, a realism of sex and the class struggle.

In tune with this was the “Neue Sachlichkeit”, or new pragmatism. The collapse of the world in Revolution, counterrevolution, and economic depression necessitated pragmatism. Pragmatism was but one of two possible reactions to upheaval; the other was sentimentalism with its dreams of a happier world, which is what the majority chose: Fascism was the political expression of this approach. This kind of uncertainty prevailed in Germany rather than France or elsewhere. Culturally, the new pragmatism was important. It could be seen everywhere in the Weimar Republic, in a complete sobriety in theater, but also in other fields, like advertising, or in the industrial arts. Its New Architecture was the lasting heritage of Weimar. Yet the de-humanizing architecture of the Fascists actually started at the center of Socialist architectural ideas- the Bauhaus. 


Lecture #24

Lecture #24 - 45:40 - Lecture 24 Audio (mp3)
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Mosse picks up the issue of “The New Sobriety.” The Bauhaus style was founded in Weimar in 1919 as a Socialist, even Communist activity. Its idea was related to the Marxist renaissance, the idea of the totality of art and life. Therefore, architecture, too, should be a totality. Everything in a building, including paintings and mosaics, had to form a unity. Students in the Bauhaus had to learn everything, even painting and bricklaying. They followed a kind of urge, a preference of the Socialists to be craftsmen, not academic or intellectual “workers of the brain”. Bauhaus was a reaction against the division of labor and against professionalization, but also against bourgeois style such as Neo-Romanticism, Classicism, and the Baroque. It founders, Walter Gropius and Mies von der Rohe, were partly inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution in their belief in functionalism. Constructionism was a rejection of aesthetic speculation, of theory that is not tied to function, as expressed in its slogan “Clarity and Economy.” It emphasized light at the workplace, reinforced concrete buildings, and the absence of ornamentation. Their theories were revolutionary in so far as there was no division of work, and nothing that could be understood at first glance. The thought that the age requires function and bare necessity close to nature goes back to the Garden City Movement in England. Buildings should be cheap and part of a totality, comprised of the street and the city. Bauhaus displayed the dominance of form over content and was part of the Weimar Republic’s program to cling to rationality in the face of irrationality. Yet in this dominance of form and control, it became centered on dominance. Bauhaus became modern architecture: it was easily co-opted by capitalism because it was cheap and based on ready-made parts.

Consequently, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier started to build for the Italian Fascists -though not for the Nazis. An example is the Central Railway Station in Rome. The problem of culture and rationality that occupied the Weimar Republic went back to the Enlightenment. Its effect on scholarship manifested itself in new modern art history and philosophy. After the war, Aby Warburg founded the Warburg Institute. The Warburg Institute, first in Hamburg and after the rise of the Nazis in London, had one concern: to trace the classical heritage throughout art history in order to show the “Apollinian and the Dionysian” investigated on the basis of reason. Its preference for classical forms led to a total rejection of the Baroque. Erwin Panofsky, for example, constantly goes back to the theme of irrationalism and primitivism which are in conflict with rationality. All art, therefore, is symbolic: It is this symbolic content that man must grasp through reason in the analysis of rational themes. History was myth, and myth can be analyzed by reason.

The underlying thought that also became important in philosophy was that every work of art had a key that unlocks its meaning; this key is myth. The Christians adapted classic and pagan themes, and the effort was to trace their motives. The problem was always culture and rationality. The most important philosopher who came out of the new art history and was involved with the Warburg Institute was Ernst Cassirer. He aimed to examine myth in order to exorcise, to co-opt and rationalize it. By making the irrational rational, one made it cultural. Common to Cassirer, Panofsky and other was the presupposition of rationality in a world that was sliding evermore into irrationality. How could control be maintained? Their answers were very much the same: it was the decoding and integration of myth that opened myth to cognitive ideas and understanding by connecting its imagery to the historic reality of the time of the artist or thinker. Their principle was that there is a rational explanation for everything, even that which seems irrational.

This method, too, has a history: it was transported to America by refugees and became the basis of American art history. In philosophy, opposition to the “rather ridiculous” Vienna School arose. The Vienna School was basically logical positivism. It went back to the philosophers of the 18th century, who acknowledged the existence of irrationality, but could not explain it. German thinkers said that the irrational exists, but you can explain it. In that, they were very much influenced by psychoanalysis. Of course, theirs was a very optimistic project, though these were not ivory tower scholars; they had a point to make.

Mosse now addresses those “who made a virtue of irrationalism”, of chaos. A movement which took chaos and reveled in it was Dada. There was something cabaret-like about Dada. It became popular in the USA, but lasted here only from 1918 to 1924. It was a “happening” a “slap” to shock the bourgeoisie. Its main thought was to have no order, going along with the “Cabaret Megalomania” in Berlin. It did not bother with any rational (that is, bourgeois) activity like painting, but rather worked with satire and invented photomontage, which is in Mosse’s opinion their lasting accomplishment. Soon, it became boring: nobody wanted to live a chaotic life, so most Dadaists became Communists. More important is a second phenomenon, that of the poet as seer or messianic figure, which will be discussed next time.


Lecture #25

Lecture #25 - 50:19 - Lecture 25 Audio (mp3)
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Today, Mosse completes his analysis of the kind of irrationalism that was characterized by outbursts of the creative person after the war, which was part of the general despair. Its leading personalities were Stefan George and the circle around him in Germany, and Gabriele D’Annunzio in Italy, especially in Fiume, on the north eastern Italian border. Two things accounted for this outburst, this new age: the cataclysm after the war and people’s search for the key to the universe through the occult and religiosity. The George Circle and George’s idea of the “secret Germany” was part of that. In D’Annunzio, a second kind of idea dominated: he was the creator of the language of a modern mass movement. These kinds of ideas, of the occult and of mass culture, were part of the process of “finding the irrational” rather than keeping control, as in architecture. A very important part of this irrationalism can be found in the work of Oswald Spengler and his book, “The Decline of the West.”

(Q&A on architecture, positivism, democracy and elite leadership; most questions inaudible.)

A: Spengler’s book “The Decline of the West” was written in part during the war, and certainly influenced by its impact. The most important theme in the work is biological determinism, which was popular in racial thought as well: the biological was connected to metaphysical thinking and directed against modernity. The metaphysical was man’s willpower, which was killed by modernity. For Spengler, the “Germanic”, the “Faustian Man” built the Gothic cathedrals through which he reached out into the unknown at the height of his biological excellence. Afterwards, things degenerated, went downhill in step with biological exhaustion. The results were the Baroque and modernity. This was tied to German imperialism and expansionism. The end was therefore in view, and the war was the end of the German state. The new type was to be the barbarian, who roams the German countryside and who was to start the new Germany with his simplicity, purity, and uncomplicated approach to life.

This anti-intellectual Barbarian type was influenced by Nietzsche’s ideas and was more general than Spengler’s description: it typified a kind of historical world picture built upon irrationalism in reaction to the war that is sometimes called “meta-history.” Integrated into the biological life cycle, it was shared by many racists such as, H. S. Chamberlain, Moeller and Vanderbrook, who coined term “Third Reich”. They had basically the same idea: the new barbarian would establish the third and final empire. This idea came about in a biological, meta-historical analysis based partly on Nietzsche, partly on the bible.

Modern man’s spaces were confined by architecture, boundaries, and the bourgeoisie. Not so those of the Gothic, Faustian man. Because biological and historical life cycles were linked, hope lay in the new man. Their vernacular of primitivism was taken up by National Socialists. Spengler’s famous slogan of the distinction of civilization and culture became important for the Nazis: Civilization was artificial, smacking of the French Enlightenment and confined space. Culture, on the other hand, was metaphysics; German idealism, Hegel, the Faustian man, and Goethe – not the classical, but the Goethe of Faust. The ideal was the searching, deep man, not the pure woman. All of this comprised an attack on liberalism, on France, and on rationality.

We also find the same Spenglerian idea in an essay by Thomas Mann: the difference between the “Geist” and politics involves that between culture and civilization, and between art and “superficial” literature (or journalism). The idea of the German is that of culture, not politics. On the other side were greed and a restlessness that left no time for the soul. One had to overcome the crisis not by joining present politics, but by advocating the “new man” (even though the “new man” was highly political: he went around and beat up people). The “apolitical German” is of course pure nonsense- though not to from liberal point of view. He had an answer for everything, wide-open spaces to occupy, and a longing to fill the space because, according to Spengler, it was there. Totally irreconcilable with the avant-garde, the artistic results of this irrational trend lead to Neo-Romanticism, not to modern art. Its political and cultural impact was of vast importance, tearing asunder the culture and rationalism, viewing reason as in opposition to truth- the emphasis is on the soul tied into nationalism and expansionism.

Although Spengler was not a racist, his biological theories fed into racism. Moreover, they fused history with space and biology and became something called meta-history. (Mosse recalls that his brother told him that he, George, had to marry a peasant girl to freshen up his tired Jewish blood.) Meta-history, Mosse notes, always comes up in a crisis because people want what he calls a “fully- furnished house”. It also offered a solution, a way out: not more reason, but the new, primitive man. Despite the fact that this was a vision of arcadia in the same way Marie Antoinette had played milkmaids, it was actually regarded as a solution to the class struggle - a barbarian, Nietzschean solution.

The “barbarian” youth was tied to a worship of youth, conjuring up images of a biological circle of youth, and of youthful, virile vigor. The same idea inspired many Italians: “We may have lost the war, but we are now a young nation.” Christianity had an uneasy place in this new way of thinking. Civilization was after all Christian civilization. In Christianity there were attempts to fuse culture and rationality, especially in France, a country with a Cartesian tradition, such as Jacques Maritain and neo-Thomism. Spengler’s, however, was a Protestant: this was a Lutheran revival, building on the Lutheran separation of politics and faith.


Lecture #26

Lecture #26 - 48:45 - Lecture 26 Audio (mp3)
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In today’s lecture, Mosse discusses the aspect of the disengagement and the restoration of the individual. This is the subject of the Christian revival after WWI (This did not occur after WWII). As far as Protestantism was concerned, this development was centered in Germany; the Catholic revival took place in France. It was based on three factors: In Germany, the disengagement of the individual and his relation to God from the state and history while in France, Catholicism put a new emphasis on suffering that also concentrated on the individual. In addition, both Catholicism and Protestantism wanted to become existential religions. The quest for meaning was concerned with individual existence. Sartre’s existentialism ended in a resignation that fit in with the pessimism prevalent in France. Christian existentialism was destined to last much longer, turning suffering into a dialogue with God that stood outside of history and reality. Thus, it did not end in resignation.

Protestant neo-orthodoxy was centered on individual communication, not with the world or the crown. It rediscovered Kierkegaard, who had been forgotten. It believed in complete obedience to God and subjugation of the will: Suffering lead to dialogue and even to revelation, like Christ’s suffering. Karl Barth rejected intellectualism for the sake of a conscious decision to submit. Submission was based on complete trust in God, which meant that science, socialism, the nation etc. were irrelevant. An attempt was made to renew Protestantism by separating it from the state in order to solve the corruption of religion by the state and politics. Accordingly, the Nazi state has to be fought because of its racism, which nullifies the churches’ conversions to Christianity. This was the start of the German resistance church. Barth denied the historical bible and modern, liberal protestant biblical exegesis. He maintained that when religion lost theology, the state took its place, as in the politically activist American Protestant churches. Liberal Protestantism was wide open to National Socialism, as Barth and his followers realized. Existential theology mandated fighting the state when it encroached on Christian salvation, but otherwise, one had to submit to God. 

The theme of suffering was also picked up by Martin Buber, in his own murky way: he interpreted it within a personal, existential relationship. The second important man in the Protestant revival was Paul Tillich. Tillich taught a whole generation of American Protestants and gave American Protestantism what it had never had: a theology. Against the “American Community Church”, Tillich leveled a broader Protestant theology. Growing up in the Nazi period, he was influenced by Socialism. He criticized Nietzsche’s Will-to-Power and took issue with Sigmund Freud: for him, libido was not necessarily the pleasure principle: Man neither had to reach for power nor for pleasure. Tillich redefined sin as alienation, the will to power, and as the pleasure principle, for which man is punished by anxiety. He claimed that man, when alienated from himself, became a mere part of nature and lost his potential. The will to power was a sign of anxiety. What Tillich really meant was that Christianity was the way to re-appropriate what is ours, like Marx with Socialism. Christ was the example of the true existential man who overcame alienation by subjecting himself to suffering and the misery of existence. Christ’s passion in our time was the anxiety of modern man. Man had to know how to be lonely, for this would start the dialogue with God that would overcome his alienation and anxiety. Individualism was to be found in self-containment. The existential relation was a person-to-person relation, but since personality includes individuality, was God then an individual? Tillich answered that man treated God as an individual but transcendent partner. Man’s fall was the fall from individuality.

In Catholicism, this dialogue with God was mediated by the Church. Nevertheless, for Catholics like Maritain and Bernanos, the decision to submit entailed the rejection of the outward world. In Catholicism, stress was put on reason rather than on appropriation of what was one’s own. Dialogue was possible because of a correspondence of reason. The priest and the saint were rational ideas. The believer could end his alienation by becoming a whole man. The outside world had to be rejected for a simple, internal life, and a life of charity. That is why the Catholic revival, unlike the Protestant one, allied itself with Socialism. To summarize: in this kind of Christianity, we have the culture of rationalism, not irrationalism, because it had nothing to do with collectivity and instead tried to restore the wholeness of the individual on the grounds of Christianity (or in the case of Buber, of Judaism). This was a matter of intellectualism. Popular religion, of course, preached the importance of hierarchy, rules, obedience, and of the primacy of the church. In Protestant countries, popular religion was just the same.

The Protestant revival was more influential in America than in Europe. The Catholic renaissance had an influence too, especially on John Paul II and on French intellectuals. (Mosse thinks that it was about the only interesting thing that happened in French intellectual life in the 1930s). All of these renaissances were opposed to National Socialism. (Mosse tells an anecdote of a meeting of his with Tillich: they went camping in the Rockies, and only lasted one day in the woods). We are now on the threshold of fascism itself. The contribution of the Weimar intellectuals would be carried on by the refugees who came to America and by their rediscovery in the 1960’s. Weimar culture is therefore not reduced to a single period, while very little of Nazi culture survived.


Lecture #27

Lecture #27 - 47:29 - Lecture 27 Audio (mp3)
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Mosse announces that he will limit discussion of Fascism to two lectures. The qualities found in Fascism can be found within the context in which previous lectures have been organized. The anti-bourgeois revolution, as much as it was a quest for a cultural change, was the background of Fascism. Not so much Italian Fascism, which had a broader base and was diluted in its nationalism by trade unionism and leftist-syndicalist influences that were missing in Germany. In Germany, the urge for change always related to culture. What counted for Fascists as they and others saw it was cultural change, based on the revolt of the end of the nineteenth century, and on WWI. The revolt of youth and WWI contained the idea of mass movements and of simple living (Hitler and Mussolini were both influenced by Le Bon and the youth cult). Finally, Fascism was greatly influenced by the idea of camaraderie and community. Fascism was a revolution of the radical Right; in distinction to conservatism; it showed an urge to real revolution. Though it was not a Revolution in the Marxist sense (which, Mosse mentions, today is called “the good revolution”, the “bad revolution” is every other, non-Marxist revolution), Fascism was in reality as much of a revolution as that of the Marxists. Italian Fascism even made an alliance with the avant-garde, something socialism never attempted after the initial years.

But no revolution removes hierarchy. The old was simply replaced by a new hierarchy. Only the rhetoric was different: “We need hierarchy, but we are all the same” was the rhetoric of the new rulers, as symbolized by their uniforms. In the beginning both Hitler and Mussolini were condemned for “the dictatorship of the janitor” (Kerr), for putting in power unfit men. Fascism was a stage of industrialization and modernism. The latter was tied to the glorification of the machine in Marxism.(The idea to present the machine as a friendly instrument was also part of the Garden City Movement) In addition, the communication revolution had to be mediated. In Fascism, this mediation was achieved through Romanticism and programs of work. The new “Beauty of work”, included large windows in the workplace, breaks, flowers, and the organization of workers’ time that not only put the machine in the garden, but improved working conditions.

Major industries, such as steel, were nationalized by the Nazis: VW was an SS industry. The private sector was strictly controlled. The Nazis took over the Italian, left-wing syndicalist influenced model of “Popolavoro” and turned it into “KdF” (“Kraft durch Freude”, meaning “Strength through Joy”). Mosse stresses that National Socialism was anti-modern only in rhetoric. Peasant legislation was a reality that followed the ideal of the country like in all Fascisms, but here, it was really modernism in disguise. Fascism summarizes what Mosse has talked about so far: it mediated successfully, emphasized emotion rather than reason, and improved work conditions. Fascism’s growth, its great economic success that overcame the Depression, was achieved not only through rearmament. It exhibited a change that people could see with their own eyes. It was cosmetic, but cosmetic in enormous proportions. Furthermore, it confronted and met real problems. The strength of Fascism was that it took advantage of the actual situation. In Germany, Fascism was Hitler, while in Italy, a distinction was made between Fascism and Mussolini. In both of these countries, Fascism was almost a coincidence: Unlike Mussolini, who in a way was an ordinary politician, Hitler fooled and confused people about his real ends, including Jews. Maneuvering through excellent timing, he never lost sight of his goal, which was the extermination of the Jews.

It is a characteristic of modern politics that prophecy is admissible: if you then bring the prophecy to reality. Hitler needed the wide, open spaces of the East to kill Jews there: Mosse thinks he could not have done it solely in Germany, because the Germans had not tolerated euthanasia before. The difference between Hitler and Mussolini was that Hitler kept the war going even though he knew it was lost in order to kill as many Jews as possible. Hitler’s racism was so outrageous than no one took it seriously- unlike eugenics or imperial racism, which was considered respectable. The triumph of Fascism was due to the combination of the genius of Hitler and Mussolini, and a historical situation that enabled them to move to the center, coming in the wake of WWI, defeat, economic depression, and a state of near civil war. In immediate terms, Fascism was a solution to civil war; it fulfilled a longing for change and community. It had a tradition in the anti-bourgeois bourgeois revolt. Unlike Bolshevism, it was a law-and-order, legal movement. Wherever in Europe Fascism came to power, it dropped on the political scene like an overripe fruit: It was not a question of who will win the fight (since no fight was necessary), but in whose arms the system would collapse. Communism and Socialism simply vanished. (Mosse tells about a current scandal in Italy, where a leader or the Communist Party claimed that Communist resistance to Fascism was largely a legend.) Mosse finds it incredible that people today still believe in movements that have failed so miserably. 


Lecture #28

Lecture #28 - 53:48 - Lecture 28 Audio (mp3)
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Mosse insists, what he is talking about in fascism is a European phenomenon. Fascism cannot really arise without the ideas that Fascism set out to protect: Bourgeois morals and manners, the preoccupation with technology, mass politics, and the worship of youth have to form a unity. One has to be extremely careful when attempting to apply it outside its European context. Fascism is unthinkable without its protection of middle class morals and manners. Those are largely missing in the Third World, though it might have some of its elements, like the deification of leaders and an alien minority as scapegoat (or America if there is none). African dictatorships are simply ruled by reactionary, corrupt dictators. Fascist leaders, unlike them, lead a rather modest life. Money and self-enrichment were not a priority for them.

Basic difference between National Socialism and Italian Fascism lie in their origins. Italian interventionism before WWI and the belief that there would be a revolution if Italy entered the war set the stage in Italy. . Mussolini was at first a radical left syndicalist; when he founded the Fascist movement, it was split into the conservative wing with which Mussolini sided in the end, and one that was highly revolutionary, syndicalist and futurist. Its adherent s had come to Fascism for different reasons. The Fascist party in Italy was initially a coalition of former interventionists; in Germany, this was not the case. We also encounter a greater openness for culture in Italy; the avant-garde had a place in Italy that it never had in Germany. Syndicalism, too, was absent in Germany.

Characteristically, the first thing D’Annuncio did when he seized Fiume for Italy was to hold a conference on behalf of the Third World. We must always distinguish between Fascism in power and out of power. One can say that National Socialism had an almost radical wing in the SA, but it did not have syndicalist tradition. In power, both Hitler and Mussolini had to get rid of the activist wing. This was relatively easy for Hitler, but Mussolini had more difficulty. Mussolini’s own son led a kind of revolution against Fascism in power. One of the reasons why Mussolini entered the war was to redirect the enthusiasm of the students of the second generation of Fascism. Hitler was not in power long enough for a second generation, but out of the elite SS schools in Germany, a second generation began to emerge. By and large, the second generation in Italy took the corporate state seriously. Yet they were most interested in breaking up its fossilized structure and in getting rid of the party bureaucracy. They really wanted to create and enrich the “new man”, whereas Mussolini did not.

The second important difference with Germany was that in Italy, Fascism was a form of nationalism. In that way only, the Third World has Fascist elements, and its leaders model themselves on Mussolini rather than Hitler, mostly because Mussolini had no Auschwitz and more limited racism. Italian nationalism was always a humanitarian nationalism, in which the unification of Italy was only a step in the unification of the entire world. Therefore, Mussolini never had many concentration camps. (He only treated his enemies with castor oil.) Because of this kind of nationalism, there was an anti-Fascist movement in Italy that never existed in Germany. Mosse argues that all present-day political parties in Italy come from anti-Fascism, whereas all present German political parties came from Nazism: they were all Nazis. The anti-Fascist idea was still alive and well in Italy; it is in the Italian political tradition.

The only real anti-Nazi resistance in Germany, however, was Jewish. The generals resistance “if you can call that a resistance,” was the only one the Germans had. The student resistance in Germany was nothing, consisting of only four or five people, and neither was there a workers’ resistance in Germany. Since there was a consensus and thus no real need for Nazi terror within Germany, there was only one camp, Dachau, for Socialist, Communist and trade union leaders on German soil. The fact that German workers received “fringe benefits” through the KdF is difficult to comprehend for some, because it upsets all Marxist theories. Above all, in Italy there was more workers’ unrest, though not much: “Once the wages are okay and you get nice uniforms and vacations, there is no workers’ resistance.” Only intellectuals had the time to resist. In Italy, Mussolini became unpopular with the entry into the war and, especially, with the racial laws. The latter were extremely unpopular in Italy, which had no racist tradition.

Mosse now turns to Nazi culture: the nature of German nationalism was racist and traditionalist, not syndicalist. Though all of Fascism was fascinated by the speed of time and the communication revolution, Hitler was the first one who came to political meetings in a plane, literally descending from the sky. As with all Fascist leaders, Hitler was fascinated by fast cars and wanted every German to have a car. This went hand in hand with the acceptance of functionalism, as in the adoption of Bauhaus. In Germany, all buildings, apart from (monumental) official ones, were built in Bauhaus style. Albert Speer’s architectural theories were not very different from the “new sobriety” of Bauhaus. Typical for Germany was the integration of technology, but not of science. Hitler lost the war because he lost the Jewish physics. Science in Germany remained provincial, due to its rejection of (Hertz’s) electricity theory, and of theory of relativity. Scientists like Heisenberg were “Judaizers” for Hitler. Technology, unlike science was not considered a part of culture, and was easily integrated; technocracy was neutral and went together with Fascism. In Italy, young Fascist architects claimed that an architectural revolution must accompany the Fascist revolution; the same was the case in literature and art. The student wing in Germany at first praised Expressionism because it was the avant-garde, yet Hitler stopped it at once; it went against his own Wilhelminian taste, but more importantly, it was dangerous in that it encouraged activism and weakened racism. The activism of the SA and that of Expressionism were interconnected. The Olympic stadium in Germany had to be torn down and redesigned before Hitler agreed to enter it.


Lecture #29

Lecture #29 - 49:23 - Lecture 29 Audio (mp3)
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As Mosse made clear in the last lecture, the difference between the relative openness of Italy and the closed mind of Germany was a result of the density of tradition. Racism directed Nazis back into the past and into myth. In Italy, nationalism was of a different kind: Italian nationalism had “a human face” due to the tradition of stronger Italian regionalism. Though there was at first some openness in Germany, and even a mutual affinity between National Socialism and Expressionism (Expressionism needed direction), it was soon curbed by the Nazi’s emphasis on order against the dynamic. Mussolini, too, had a series of maneuvers that channeled enthusiasm, like the Ethiopian war and the racial laws, but the avant-garde in Italy was never suppressed. One cultural phenomenon stands out, though: modern music- though not Jewish modern music-stood outside of Fascist control. The reasons for this are hypothetical. Perhaps, modern music was left alone because it was so elitist that nobody bothered with it. Another reason may be that it incorporated folk music (Orff, Respighi) “for chic.” And, some among the composer elite, (similar to the poet Pound in America) longed for order. 

These people had a certain “freedom of fools.” Some writers sympathized with Italy because of its greater openness, and because Italy was less provincial than Germany. Bauhaus did not stand alone in Italy: apart from the futurist painters, Kandinsky praised Fascism’s defense of abstract art. Fascism’s use of technology mirrored its use of modern art. In 1936, though, Italian Fascism’s historical roots assert themselves in a turn to the classics. Mussolini’s Jewish mistress, Margherita Sarfatti, guided the foundation of a radical group, Novo Cento, which encouraged a Roman revival as a link to the Roman Empire. Its chief writers termed themselves “Romantic Realists”, like the German Nazi writers. Also in painting (in Germany and Italy, but identical with Soviet Realism), we find a continuation of sentimental Romanticism. It is clear therefore that Fascism in Italy came to be ambivalent.

There was also a “Voelkisch” movement in Italy, but it was not as important as the classical revival. Mussolini wanted to be the successor of Urban VIII, which climaxed with the building of the “Forum Mussolini.” The notion that the classical stereotype was the “ideal type” for nationalism was common to Germany and Italy alike. As the regime consolidated power, the linking of Fascism and the avant-garde was pushed to the side in Italy. Yet the Futurist always attacked the Nazis, and condemned the racist laws in Italy because this was part of the conservative tradition. Despite the eclecticism that by 1942 dominated in Italy, the avant-garde was not completely mute. Very clearly, the attraction of the avant-garde to Italian Fascism was a search for clarity and for the artist’s place in society and politics. All intellectuals want to join a mass movement and have a place in politics: according to Mosse this accounts for the Kennedy-myth-he gave the intellectuals a place. The American poet Ezra Pound suddenly had a place in Italy, and Fascism itself offered clarity and dynamism. In contract to Hitler, who was “quite provincial”, Mussolini wanted to be a modern man, a man of the world. That is why they hated each other. Mussolini had known Rosa Luxemburg and Lenin. The anti-bourgeois bourgeois revolution from which modern art derived was accepted by the Nazis in technology, not in culture. In contrast to Germany’s cultural retrogression, there was no retrogression in modernizing and improving working conditions (very much of which still survives in Germany). In Italy, Fascism was different: it transmitted avant-garde ideas and even added to them.

In France, where Fascism was only an intellectual coterie, (they became Fascists because it was fun), Fascist writers have lasted. Racism can never make an alliance with the avant-garde; nationalism can. It was a way to be a Nietzschean, and part of the anti-bourgeois bourgeois revolution, which was a European phenomenon. Fascism always wants both law and order and dynamic. It gave its supporters a feeling of participation and importance through mass politics, a “fully furnished house.” Socialism could not do that. Finally, Fascism bestows a sense of being extraordinary upon its members, though it is the climax of normalcy in our time, of middle-class morals and manners, which it protects. The clean-cut is the ideal type in fascism. The strength of Fascism was that it activated tradition and was built upon stereotypes. In Germany, the suspicion against the new competed with a desire for excitement. “What Star Trek is to you, Fascism was to millions.” It appealed to a certain rhythm in human nature. Mosse claims that wherever Socialism was realized in Europe, it has culturally gone the Fascist way. “History never repeats itself, but there are bits and pieces which are taken and put together.” The cultural bits and pieces are the easiest. The culture of Fascism is alive today in Eastern Europe because Communism has to justify itself though nationalism. In his conclusion of the lecture, Mosse quotes Huey Long: “When Fascism comes to America, it will come under the guise of anti-Fascism.” 


Lecture #30

Lecture #30 - 49:03 - Lecture 30 Audio (mp3)
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In this last lecture of the semester, Mosse admits that there were many things he did not cover, especially music, like Wagner, or Jazz in France, but the idea was to cover the main contents. Dealing with modern culture in Europe, he goes on, is rather bewildering, considering the number of movements. But they all defined themselves against the existing establishment. This course has presented European culture rather through the eyes of those who opposed it: it has not really dealt with popular culture, because popular culture does not change much. Popular culture is largely a quest to escape industrial society by stressing pre-industrial society. This would hold true even for those on a higher level of education. A great part of the sameness of all popular culture lies in its opposition to industrialism. WWI strengthened this. We find a combination of utopia and technology in Fascism and “Victorian” Communism today. In a second kind of nostalgia, nature itself becomes a utopia. Snowy mountains, for example, become the last bastion of human adventure, of goodness, of getting away from human society; the American Indian becomes the equivalent of the mountain climber. (Mosse says he has recently talked to American Indians in Oklahoma who had been to Germany, and who were appalled because the Germans had really treated them like “noble savages.”) This nostalgia mediates between industrial society and innocence. Aviation was a form of mediation as well: when an aviator was shot down in the war, he was never treated as POW.

After the war, aviation and similar adventures (including the Romanticization of Arabs in England) became a motif in literature. The tendency to make myths out of people and nature went along with an individualization of nature. The decline of individualism, though, was accepted much more in industrial societies after the war; even Expressionists became Socialists after WWI. Collectivity was accepted, but combined with individualism. The collective had to be a community of individuals and of affinity, not a society. People joined it voluntarily because they were of the same race or ideology. This idea of a voluntary collectivity meant an encouragement for nationalism. Nationalists operated with that image, which went hand in hand with direct democracy. There were of course people who despaired: the Existentialists, as Celine in “Journey to the End of the Night”, or the early Sartre, who concluded that all you could do is shrug. Another kind of despair is that of Spengler, whose admiration for the “new barbarian”, the primitive as the genuine, was turned into an admiration of Africans and African art. Admiration for primitives involves brutality. Mosse notes a “funny thing about intellectuals”: they have a great longing for brutality and love for primitivism. The barbarian as part of another utopia goes back to Nietzsche. The history of the barbarian in Europe goes all the way from the peasant to the SS. The SS-man was generally regarded as the new barbarian. The Sartrean shrug, it turns out, is very hard to keep up: you either become a barbarian or a Socialist (like Sartre himself).

A related phenomenon is hero-worshiping. The hero is a substitute for God after the decline of Christianity. They, too, are pre-industrial: heroes are never workers, but agriculturalists or mountain climbers. (Mosse states that Mussolini was a jogger, and that jogging is a fascist activity.) The hero is not above the collectivity of the people, he is just a little bit better. 

All of this can be summarized as the attempt to keep control. The best way to keep control is to appropriate a bit of eternity, like the sky, mountains, or the nation. It gives one the strength to keep control in a changing situation. The human stereotype of beauty was a part of keeping control. According to Mosse, “There are no accidents in history, everything is explainable.” The idea of classical beauty, but also of the Bauhaus, helped people to keep control because the idea of restraint was built into it. Sexual control was lifted only twice in Europe: in the Berlin of the 1920s, and in the early Soviet Union. But lifting of restraint never lasts.

The combination of community and individuality explains a great deal of popular culture. The opposition to established society was a form of resistance to positivism. Camaraderie of the trenches became a myth, the prototype of community. All of this contains another, more basic element: the longing for totality, which only came with industrialization. It is no surprise that Hegel lived when he did and became the prophet of totality. The idea that man is fragmented, and that a person is different according to a particular situation, complimented the division of labor and life. There was nothing divided, though, in peasant life because peasants had no leisure. Hegel argued that one could overcome this division by becoming conscious of oneself. He believed that the re-appropriation of the self would come about by the progress of history. This belief perhaps explains the Hegelian revival in Marxism after 1918. The quest for self-knowledge had to interact with the quest for change, which necessitated an understanding of the existing reality. The longing for individualism and community is the contradictory longing throughout modern cultural history that is at the basis of everything we have studied. The rebellion of man against Positivism has to do with (economically) good times and bad times: in good times, one cannot be a good Positivist, as can be seen in Madison in the 70s. Culture only progresses in a crisis.