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by Jeffrey Herf

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ISBN:
0521338336
Author:
Jeffrey Herf
Category:
Humanities
Language:
English
Publisher:
Cambridge University Press (May 31, 1986)
Pages:
264 pages
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1516 kb
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Reactionary modernism is a term first coined by Jeffrey Herf in his 1984 book, Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich.

Reactionary modernism is a term first coined by Jeffrey Herf in his 1984 book, Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich, to describe the mixture of "great enthusiasm for modern technology with a rejection of the Enlightenment and the values and institutions of liberal democracy" which was characteristic of the German Conservative Revolutionary movement and Nazism.

This accomodation of opposites Jeffrey Herf has labeled 'reactionary modernism, ' and in a highly original book he has described the way in. .

This accomodation of opposites Jeffrey Herf has labeled 'reactionary modernism, ' and in a highly original book he has described the way in which modern nationalism, without diminishing the system's romantic and antirational aspects. Herf, however, challenged this view with Reactionary Modernism in 1984, portraying German National Socialism (and other European fascisms) as anti-rational and anti-liberal but enthusiastically pro-technological reactionary modernisms.

The book shows how German nationalism and later National Socialism created what Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda .

The book shows how German nationalism and later National Socialism created what Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, called the 'steel-like romanticism of the twentieth century'. In a unique application of critical theory to the study of the role of ideology in politics, Jeffrey Herf explores the paradox inherent in the German fascists' rejection of the rationalism of the Enlightenment while fully embracing modern technology. He documents evidence of a cultural tradition he calls 'reactionary modernism' found in the writings of German engineers and of the major intellectuals of the.

Reactionary Modernism book. Herf tried to dunk on both Marxists and the totalitarianism school by insisting that reactionary modernism was a purely German thing, and that proves that the German case of fascism was truly unique, etc. Well, the obvious applicability of the phrase to the contemporary altright, especially in the US, sort of gives the lie to that.

Reactionary modernism" is a term coined by Jeffrey Herf in his 1984 book, Reactionary Modernism: Technology . Herf used the term in reference to a wide range of German cultural figures, including Ernst Jünger, Oswald Spengler, Carl Schmitt, and Hans Freyer.

Reactionary modernism" is a term coined by Jeffrey Herf in his 1984 book, Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich, to describe the mixture of "great enthusiasm for modern technology with a rejection of the Enlightenment and the values and institutions of liberal democracy" which was characteristic of the German Conservative Revolutionary movement and National Socialism.

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In a unique application of critical theory to the study of the role of ideology in politics, Jeffrey Herf explores the paradox inherent in the German fascists' rejection of the rationalism of the Enlightenment while fully embracing modern technology. Weimar right: Ernst Juenger, Oswald Spengler, Werner Sombart, Hans Freyer, Carl Schmitt, and Martin Heidegger.

For an excellent application of Herf’s concept to the Asian values discourse, see Kanishka Jayasuriya, Asian Values as Reactionary Modernism, Nordic Newsletter of Asian Studies 4 (December 1997): 19–28. 12. Anwar Ibrahim, The Asian Renaissance (Singapore: Times Books International, 1996). On Indonesia’s Islamic-democratic discourse, see Anders Uhlin, Indonesia and the Third Wave of Democratization : The Indonesian Pro-Democracy Movement in a Changing World (New York: St. Martin’s, 1997). 13. Mahathir Spreads Blame, International Herald Tribune, 22 June 2001, 6. 14.

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

Similar books and articles. Cynizm Jako Zagrożenie Demokracji (Jeffrey C. Goldfarb, The Cynical Society. The Culture of Politics and the Politics of Culture in American Life). Robert Piłat - 1993 - Etyka 26. Information Technology as an Agent of Post-Modernism. Mr DF Nel & Prof JH Kroeze - manuscript.

In a unique application of critical theory to the study of the role of ideology in politics, Jeffrey Herf explores the paradox inherent in the German fascists' rejection of the rationalism of the Enlightenment while fully embracing modern technology. He documents evidence of a cultural tradition he calls 'reactionary modernism' found in the writings of German engineers and of the major intellectuals of the. Weimar right: Ernst Juenger, Oswald Spengler, Werner Sombart, Hans Freyer, Carl Schmitt, and Martin Heidegger. The book shows how German nationalism and later National Socialism created what Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, called the 'steel-like romanticism of the twentieth century'. By associating technology with the Germans, rather than the Jews, with beautiful form rather than the formlessness of the market, and with a strong state rather than a predominance of economic values and institutions, these right-wing intellectuals reconciled Germany's strength with its romantic soul and national identity.
  • Funky
The Fascist as Technophile–Herf’s “Reactionary Modernism”

Were Fascism and Nazism “modern” or “anti-modern” movements? Were they a product of the Enlightenment’s manipulative rationalism, as argued by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer in “The Dialectic of Enlightenment” (1944, 1947)? Harvard (now University of Maryland) historian Jeffrey Herf addressed these questions in his 1984 book, “Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich.” Herf offered a clarification of these questions that may also help clarify unsuspected “fault-lines” and “hidden memes” in our own contemporary early 21st century culture.

Historians have long generally interpreted the cultural/political syndrome variously called “Fascism,” the “Conservative Revolution,” “Right-Radicalism,” or the “Counter-Enlightenment” as an anti-modern movement. They have called it a backward-looking nostalgic revolt against Enlightenment rationalism, liberalism, democracy, science, technology, and industrialism. Fascists, Nazis, and “conservative revolutionaries” have been seen as protesting against a soulless, mechanized, rationalized modern world of factories, machines, and big cities as well as against the politics of “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité,” in favor of a neo-feudal agrarian idyll of happy, healthy peasants rooted in the soil joyously in touch with the elemental rhythms of nature and contentedly obeying their rightful natural superiors. The late 19th and early 20th century German and Austrian “völkisch” movement, denouncing deracinated, Jew-dominated big cities and yearning for healthy natural living in back-to-the-land utopias, has often been described as prototypical of this syndrome, especially by writers seeking the sources of German National Socialism. Only the practical demands of fighting a war (and efficiently exterminating the Jews and other “racial inferiors”), it has been argued, forced the Nazis and Fascists to compromise with a modern military and industrial technology they supposedly found distasteful.This was the view of historians like Fritz Stern (“The Politics of Cultural Despair,” 1961), George L. Mosse (“The Crisis of the German Ideology,” 1964), and Peter Pulzer (“The Origins of Political Anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria,” 1964).

Herf, however, challenged this view with “Reactionary Modernism” in 1984, portraying German National Socialism (and other European fascisms) as anti-rational and anti-liberal but enthusiastically pro-technological “reactionary modernisms.” He coined the term to describe the blend of great enthusiasm for modern technology with a rejection of the Enlightenment and of the values and institutions of liberal democracy which he saw as characteristic of the German Conservative Revolutionary movement and then of National Socialism. While focusing mainly on German writers and thinkers, Herf also noted parallels among pro-Fascist avant-garde intellectuals in other European countries in the 1920's and 1930's--e.g., the Fascist sympathies of Gabriele D’Annunzio, Filippo Marinetti, and the Futurists in Italy, of Georges Sorel, Drieu La Rochelle, and Charles Maurras in France, and of Wyndham Lewis and Ezra Pound in England.

Herf's application of “reactionary modernism” to describe Fascism has been widely echoed by other scholars. Herf had originally used the term for a trend in German (and to a lesser degree general European) thought during the era, what Thomas Mann called "a highly technological romanticism" during the inter-war years and Joseph Goebbels more enthusiastically hailed as a “steely romanticism” (“stählernde Romantik”). Herf used the term for such prominent “Conservative Revolutionary” German cultural figures of the 1920's and 1930's as the historical philosopher Oswald Spengler (1880-1936), the novelist and essayist Ernst Jünger (1895-1998), the economist and sociologist Werner Sombart (1863-1941), the jurist and political theorist Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), the sociologist and philosopher Hans Freyer (1887-1969), and the philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976). While rejecting the rationalist, liberal, humanitarian, and cosmopolitan values of the Enlightenment, liberalism, and Marxist socialism, they also rejected as well the Luddite technophobia and rural back-to-the-land nostalgia of the “völkisch” movement, instead hailing technology as a noble, beautiful spiritual expression of the will of the German folk-soul (in contrast to abstract Enlightenment rationalism and to mercenary parasitic Jewish capitalist commercialism). They also championed technology as an absolutely unavoidable necessity for the survival and triumph of a powerful, assertive Germany in a modern world of technologically advanced industrial nations, amid whom an agrarian “völkisch” Germany could not possibly survive.

While most of Herf’s book was devoted to an extended in-depth examination of the views of German literati and social thinkers like Spengler, Jünger, Sombart, Schmitt, and Heidegger, he also devoted an interesting chapter to “Engineers as Ideologues,” describing and documenting the enthusiastic contributions of German engineers to the ideology of reactionary modernism. German engineers, he showed, had been developing their own philosophy of technology, closely paralleling that of the reactionary modernist literati, since the late 19th century. Like the Spenglers, Jüngers, and Sombarts, the engineering ideologues emphasized the supposed independence of technology from abstract Enlightenment rationalism and materialistic scientific positivism, and portrayed technology as a heroic, beautiful expression of the Germanic folk-soul’s aesthetic will to form and masculine struggle against chaotic nature, which had little or nothing to do with the dead, cold abstractions of Anglo-French or Jewish scientific materialism. Also like the Spenglers, Jüngers, and Sombarts, the philosophers of engineering likewise took great pains to distinguish technology from what they considered its exploitation and perversion by Jewish or English-inspired bourgeois capitalism (most of the reactionary modernist literati like Spengler and even the more explicitly anti-Semitic Sombart,, Herf observed, attacked bourgeois capitalism as English rather than or as well as Jewish, as expressing what Spengler called an “inner England.”) Many German engineers, Herf noted, enthusiastically rallied to the Nazi regime in 1933–a phenomenon perhaps paralleled by the tendency of many engineers in Muslim countries in recent years to embrace militant Islamic fundamentalism.

One of Herf’s main themes in “Reactionary Modernism” is a critique of Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s view in “The Dialectic of Enlightenment” that Nazism was a triumph of the Enlightenment’s dark side of manipulative rationalism, proving the Enlightenment’s ambiguous and questionable beneficence. Adorno and Horkheimer, Herf argued, ignored the special features of German history, society, and culture, leading to rapid massive industrialization combined with weak liberal institutions and a widespread persistence of pre-liberal social attitudes, that made Germany much more susceptible than Britain, France, or the United States to the sort of reactionary modernism, blending technophilia with a disdain for rationalism, liberalism, and democracy, described in Herz’s book. The weakness of liberalism in Germany was thus to blame for Nazism, not any supposed dark side of the Enlightenment. Germany’s problem, Herf felt, was too little rather than too much Enlightenment.

Oddly enough, Herf omitted any mention of perhaps the single most famous or notorious Nazi German engineer, rocketry pioneer and eventual U.S. space program godfather Wernher von Braun. He likewise did not mention the enthusiasm of many Nazi leaders, including Heinrich Himmler and even Adolf Hitler himself, for the pseudo-scientific “Welteislehre” (“World-Ice Theory”) cosmological cult of ice-covered moons and planets and of prehistoric collisions of the Earth with earlier moons preceding our present Moon, a forerunner of Immanuel Velikovsky’s 1950's and 1960's ancient planetary collisions fantasies. Founded by Austrian engineer and amateur astronomer Hanns Hörbiger (1860-1931) on the basis of a “vision” in 1894 while observing the Moon, the “Welteislehre” was touted by the Nazis as a patriotic “Aryan” cosmology to set against Einstein’s “Jewish” Theory of Relativity. Herf also puzzlingly omitted any mention or discussion of the views on science and technology of Nazism’s most eminent scholarly precursor, the Germanized Englishman Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855-1927), Richard Wagner’s son-in-law and author of the immensely popular and influential racist and anti-Semitic “Grundlagen des Neunzehntes Jahrhunderts” (1899; “Foundations of the Nineteenth Century,” 1911).

Herf’s “reactionary modernism” concept has not only been widely echoed by other scholars to describe Fascism, but has also been explored as a theme and influential trend in the literature and broader political culture of other European countries, like Great Britain, Greece, Romania, and Spain between the two World Wars, and has even been applied to Fascism in Japan. Herf himself has now applied the term, along with scholars like Paul Berman, Mark Neocleous, William Thornton, and Emmanuel Sivan, to militant Islamic movements and regimes like al-Qa’eda and Iran under the Ayatollahs. English cultural critics Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron argued in 1995 that members of the “digerati” of influential computer industry opinion leaders and dot.com wizards adhering to the “Californian Ideology” linking American “free-market” neoliberalism with optimistic technological determinism embraced a form of reactionary modernism combining economic growth with social stratification. I myself have suggested that Ayn Rand’s “Objectivism,” and the American “hard science” science-fiction of John W. Campbell, Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle, with its ardent technophilia blended with militarism, economic neoliberalism, and an elitist “competent man” mystique, could be seen as American versions of reactionary modernism. Herf’s observations about German engineers’ sympathy for reactionary modernism were echoed in 2009 by Italian psychologist Diego Gambetta and London School of Economics political scientist Steffen Hertog, who found that engineers (compared to both pure scientists and humanities graduates) are extraordinarily prone to Islamic extremism in Middle Eastern countries, to religious fundamentalism (e.g., scientific creationism) in Western countries, and to rigid, all-or-nothing, cut-and-dried black-and-white thinking both in the West and in Muslim countries.
  • Ceck
Herf's book on "Reactionary Modernism" is important because it brings up an intellectual tradition that has been unjustly neglected since the end of WWII. Herf's "paradigm" consists of the right-wing intellectuals, Spengler, Junger, Sombart, Freyer, Schmitt and Heidegger whose main philosophical preoccupation was the impact of technology on modern civilization and the radical shift in human relations that technological progress has caused. Herf locates the peculiarity of this tradition to its love/hate relationship with modern technology. All the aforementioned thinkers realized the tremendous potential of technology but sought to integrate it within the German quasi-romantic GEIST in order to safeguard it from Bolshevism and Americanism. This analysis is complemented by a brilliant chapter on German engineers and their idea about technology and politics. Despite the original contribution of the author to the history and sociology of ideas, his analysis raises some doubts especially in relation to the chapters on Sombart and Spengler. In addition, the author neglects to point to the fact that the "suffocating" state of technology was also pointed out by Marx. Having said that, all credit to Herf who was bold enough to throw light into the "politically incorrect" aspects of German social theory and philosophy. Such attempts are useful and valuable since they put things on perspective shattering one-dimensional views about the current state of civilization. Essential reading for all those who are not afraid to search for the truth even when this is against the current!
  • Qwert
Mr. Herf's has written a book that is well researched and fair. Too often, studies dealing with National Socialism and related idealogies lack objectivity, never revealing the full depth and breadth of the thinkers involved. Not so here. The author even points out the mistakes made by many critics in underestimating the thinkers in question.

The chapter on Ernst Junger is the most fascinating. Herf makes Junger's writings clear by placing them in the cultural milieu of the time, something important for understanding most authors, but vital for Junger. While I imagine in hindsight Junger still come off as strange to most of us, he is at least understandable now.

While I can't match the author's experience in research and reading, I remain somewhat skeptical of the extent to which the Nazis adopted reactionary modernism. Was it just a means to an end, to be abandoned once the war was won, in favor of romantic pastoralism. Why the need for lebensraum in the east if not to escape the crowded, "un-nordic" city life?

Also, I wonder if the author's reading of Heidegger isn't a bit off. While Heidegger himself may have prefered the cabin in the woods to the metropolis, I always read his anti-technological views as an attack on a technological, calculating mindset, or way of viewing the world, not as being against the machine neccesarily.