Monday, November 9, 2009

Heidegger and the "Ideas of 1914"

The above is a review of Steffen Breundels DieIdeen von 1914 und die Neuordnung Deutschlands im Ersten Weltkrieg, 2003. Unfortunately Breundel's book hasnt been translated into English.

Theideas of 1914 are important to understanding Heideggers brand of National Socialism. Breundels book presents these ideas as embodying Germanys motivation for entering World War One.

Julian Young in Heidegger, Philosophy, Nazism, 1997 sees these Ideas of 1914 as being to some extent an ongoing climate of opinion growing out of the unification of 1870. German unification was still fresh in peoples thinking. It was still important to many to exalt theVolk. The Volkisch ideal still had to be defended and worked at. What Heidegger did was to apply theideas of 1914 almost intact to 1933. Young points out that there is nothing original about Heideggers thinking in 1933. These ideas were not accepted by all Germans, but they were very common at the time.

Heideggers brand of National Socialism isnt what it became under Hitler, but it was reprehensible enough according to Young. Heidegger was an anti-modernist; which in practical terms meant a rejection of Capitalism along with Capitalistic industrialism. What Heidegger advocated was a return to a preindustrial condition. (Think Theodore Kaczynski) Heidegger advocate a Volkisch Totalitarianism and would have forcibly removed Germans from cities and installed them in the countryside.

Heideggers totalitarianism was very different from Hitlers. One of the important ideas of 1914 was that Germany was spiritual and the nations that opposed Germany were not. The ideas of 1914 especially demonized Britain and Russia. Heidegger in 1933 substituted the U.S. for Britain. He thought the U.S. and Russia indistinguishable.

Heideggers ideas were naive, but no more so, Young writes, than the British belief that its empire was equivalent to Modern Rome or Americas belief in Manifest Destiny.

Heideggers views in all these matters changed after the war. For example the very matter Young finds most heinous, the relocating of Germans from cities to the country, comes up in a disagreement Heidegger had with Herbert Marcuse. Young on page 49 writes,Curiously, Herbert Marcuse seems not to recognize the appalling nature ofethnic cleansing. In reply to Heideggers suggestion that, not just the Jews but, after the war, the Germans expelled from Eastern Europe by Stalin had also been the victims of criminal acts, Marcuse replies that conversation is impossible with a man who fails to see thenight and day difference between the concentration camps and theforcible relocation of population groups’”

Young said there were two anti-modern ideas. The more naive idea was the one Heidegger subscribed to. The more practical anti-modern idea was that Modernism had created all sorts of evils but it was now impossible to reverse the process. They could not do away with cities and factories, but they could work to ameliorate their negative effects. The Islamists have come to a similar conclusion.

As to the question of whether the brand of National Socialism Heidegger evinced in 1933-1935 (the period in which Heidegger, according to Young, was an active member of the Nazi Party) informed (or was informed by) his philosophy, I cant at this point see a connection especially since his magnum opus, Being and Time was completed in 1927.

No comments: