Elites Against Democracy: Leadership Ideals in Bourgeois Political Thought in Germany, 1890-1933

Elites Against Democracy: Leadership Ideals in Bourgeois Political Thought in Germany, 1890-1933

Walter Struve
Copyright Date: 1973
Pages: 499
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    Elites Against Democracy: Leadership Ideals in Bourgeois Political Thought in Germany, 1890-1933
    Book Description:

    Since the beginning of the current era of imperialism in the late nineteenth century, there has been a striking contrast between bourgeois political thought in Germany and the West. Walter Struve demonstrates how German political culture went through a phase in which great emphasis was placed on the establishment of a new political elite recruited on the basis of merit and skill, but ruling in an authoritarian way, and not controlled by the populace. He suggests that this type of elitism, many aspects of which were vital to the political culture of Nazi Germany, seems today to be widespread in the West.

    The development of this concept of an open-yet-authoritarian elite is approached through the analysis of the political ideas and activities of nine elitists, among them Max Weber, Walther Rathenau, and Oswald Spengler. The author relates biography to intellectual, political, social, and economic history, so that his work becomes a study in the political and social context of intellectual history.

    Originally published in 1973.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7129-2
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Walter Struve
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-20)

    For decades, indeed for more than a century, a perennial concern of historical scholarship has been how Germany differs from other countries. An outgrowth of my interest in this question, the present study examines a striking contrast between bourgeois political thought in Germany and the West during the era of imperialism that began in the late nineteenth century and that we are still living in today. This contrast appears in the answers given to the traditional questions of political and social theory: who should rule, why, how, for whom? In Germany, unlike the West, the notion of what, for the...

    • CHAPTER ONE Patterns in the Development of German Elite Theories During the Nineteenth Century
      (pp. 23-50)

      Despite the emergence of some militantly democratic ideas, the concept of an elite subject to little popular control prevailed in Germany during the nineteenth century. As an increasingly large proportion of the population took an active interest in public policy, elite theorists talked more and more about “merit” and “achievement” as qualifications for decision makers. Emphasis upon birth and class decreased. Yet the predominant elite theorists circumvented the issue of popular control by recommending that an elite might accept some individuals, but no direct pressures from below. An effective elite had to select its own members and formulate decisions without...

    • CHAPTER TWO The Challenge of the 1890’s
      (pp. 53-77)

      The governance of imperial Germany depended upon a tacit agreement between the Junkers and the bourgeoisie. Worked out after the middle of the nineteenth century, this agreement was a consequence of the bourgeoisie’s failure to become the ruling class of Germany through revolutionary means. By contrast, in France the eighteenth-century Revolution established the hegemony of the bourgeoisie, which was confirmed a generation later by the July Revolution; after 1830 the major threats to this hegemony came from the lower classes. The formation of the social coalition of the aristocracy with the bourgeoisie in Germany averted a showdown between the two...

    • CHAPTER THREE Friedrich Naumann: From Social Monarchy to Liberal Democracy
      (pp. 78-113)

      Naumann developed a fully articulated elite theory slowly during the decade and a half from the late 1880’s to the early 1900’s. During the earliest part of this period, his elitism was more implicit than explicit. He saw no need for a new elite. He saw only a need for new attitudes on the part of both rulers and ruled. He attempted to act as a mediator between the lower and upper classes. Concerned with what the nineteenth century euphemistically called “the social question,” he struggled to get the Protestant churches to take a more active hand in promoting the...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Max Weber: Great Men, Elites, and Democracy
      (pp. 114-148)

      Unlike most German academicians before 1918, Max Weber frequently identified his political views with democracy. Although regarding the realization of the classical ideals of democracy as impossible, he considered the political institutions of the Western Powers as models with much relevance for Germany. At the end of World War I, he was one of the few Germans to have developed an elaborate elite theory that presupposed political institutions resembling those in the West. Yet his refusal to engage in the anti-Western diatribes of many of his contemporaries obscured his relationship to democracy. Upon the institutions of modern democracy, he imposed...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Walther Rathenau: Toward a New Society?
      (pp. 149-185)

      In a memorial address following Walther Rathenau’s assassination in 1922, an admiring acquaintance, the philosopher and sociologist Max Scheler, asked that Rathenau be viewed as a pathfinder for every German, especially for students. Scheler went on to explain why Rathenau, despite his service to the Weimar Republic, should not be regarded as a martyr for democracy: “I have never personally known anyone more convinced that the history of mankind is propelled solely bytiny elites[Schelers italics] and that the masses always provide only the material and the obstacles for the constructive political and economic spirit and will of these...

    • CHAPTER SIX Leonard Nelson: The Rule of the Just
      (pp. 186-216)

      In January 1919 the new Prussian minister of education asked Leonard Nelson for advice on how to finance reforms despite the plight of the treasury. Nelson’s reply was simple. He proposed closing all state educational institutions from the elementary school through the university. Perhaps he thought that this drastic measure would not only make funds available to underwrite experimental schools like the one he and his friends proposed to establish but also hasten the general transformation of the entire educational system that he considered imperative. He wanted to give every child an opportunity to develop his capabilities regardless of his...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Conservatives and Neoconservatives
      (pp. 219-231)

      The collapse of the Bismarckian Empire and the threat of social revolution fostered important changes on the Right. Some of these changes can be seen in declarations of principles published by the parties of the Right in December 1918. Even the most direct successors to the pre-Weimar Conservatives, drawn together by the newly founded Nationalist party (DNVP), tended to stress merit rather than birth as a qualification for political leadership. A manifesto issued by the directorate of the Nationalist party called for the acceptance of parliamentary government on the basis of universal suffrage and the filling of state offices according...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Oswald Spengler: Caesar and Croesus
      (pp. 232-273)

      In 1922 Ernesto Quesada, a distinguished Argentine professor of government and law who had written sympathetically on Oswald Spengler,¹ arrived in Munich, where Spengler was living. As admirers of Spengler’s work, both Quesada and his German-born wife were probably looking forward to their stay in Munich as a highpoint in their travels in Germany. When they reached Spengler’s apartment, they were confronted by a menacing notice on the door. “Visitors,” the sign warned, “are requested to register at least three days in advance.” The couple were amusing themselves over the sign when Spengler opened the door. Eying them through his...

    • CHAPTER NINE Count Hermann Keyserling and His School of Wisdom: Grand Seigneurs, Sages, and Rulers
      (pp. 274-316)

      The prevailing, usually unstated assumption in much of the scholarly literature on twentieth-century Europe and the United States is that the Right is nationalistic. The key to understanding the doctrines and activities of the Right is found in “nationalism,” qualified perhaps by an adjective such as “extreme.” Ignazio Silone’s remark that “Fascism is exaggerated nationalism”¹ might well serve as the motto of most Western historical scholarship on the Right, particularly on German rightists and fascists. The subtitle of a major work on neoconservatism reads “The Political Ideas of German Nationalism between 1918 and 1933.”² While “hypernationalism” is considered characteristic of...

    • CHAPTER TEN Edgar J. Jung: The Quest for a New Nobility
      (pp. 317-352)

      Edgar J. Jung had little of Keyserling’s patience with the Weimar Republic. He did not share the Baltic aristocrat’s indulgent belief that even political democracy could make positive contributions to a future elitist order. Jung built his career as a neoconservative publicist and activist on determined opposition to the German Republic. His ideals were much more simply oriented toward the past than Keyserling’s. Seldom were the yearnings for preindustrial institutions, and for the revival of Christianity, common in some neoconservative circles expressed as insistently as by Jung. His views were representative of important tendencies on the Right that drew heavily...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Hans Zehrer and the Tat Circle: The Révolution Manquée of the Intelligentsia
      (pp. 353-376)

      Shortly before the collapse of the New York stock market in 1929, Hans Zehrer wrote an article that would, he hoped, become the manifesto of the German “intelligentsia.” In a procedure unusual for a man who rejected Marxism, Zehrer cited a passage from theCommunist Manifestoto support his position. After quoting the assertion that “all previous historical movements were movements of minorities or in the interests of minorities,” he suggested a “more meaningful” formulation: “. . . All movements began as intellectual [geistige] movements of intelligent, well-qualified minorities which, because of the discrepancy between that which is and that...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Ernst Jünger: Warriors, Workers, and Elite
      (pp. 377-414)

      Several months before Hitler became chancellor, Ernst Jünger published the most important work that he wrote during the Weimar Republic.Der Arbeiter¹ (The Worker) became the literary sensation of the early fall of 1932.² A hero of World War I, a recipient of the highest Prussian award for bravery, thepour le mérite,Jünger had previously exploited his war experiences in several autobiographical works that had won him a measure of esteem, especially on the Right. By 1932 his first book, originally published in 1920,³ had sold about 45,000 copies, and most of his other books had achieved comparable success.⁴...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN The Sources of National Socialist Elitism
      (pp. 415-464)

      Nazi elite theories were mediocre in comparison with those of the other German elitists whom we have studied. Even the lesser of the latter appear in comparison rigorous, detailed, and consequential. It would be tempting to ascribe the low level of Nazi elite theories to the lack of quality among Nazi writers, or to suggest, in the manner of many conservative critics of national socialism, that the party’s attempt to appeal to “the masses” dictated a lack of intellectual rigor.¹

      The basic explanation is, however, to be found elsewhere. The exigencies of gaining power in a society wracked by outbreaks...

  9. Bibliographical Essay
    (pp. 465-476)

    The more important primary and secondary material on which this study is based has been cited in the footnotes, where much of it has been discussed and evaluated. The reader wishing to look further into any aspect of the life and thought of one of my nine elitists will find that in the footnotes I have frequently pointed to works on these men containing good bibliographies. These bibliographies list some primary and much secondary material that I have not mentioned. For example, a few secondary works cited frequently by other scholars are not alluded to in my footnotes, either because...

  10. Index
    (pp. 477-486)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 487-487)