Socialist Academics Contributed to the Rise of the Third Reich

“It is a common mistake to regard National Socialism as a mere revolt against reason, an irrational movement without intellectual background. If that were so, the movement would be much less dangerous than it is. But nothing could be further from the truth or more misleading.” – FA Hayek

 

 

(From FEE)

Hayek writes:

From 1914 onward there arose from the ranks of Marxist socialism one teacher after another who led, not the conservatives and reactionaries, but the hardworking laborer and idealist youth into the National Socialist fold. It was only thereafter that the tide of nationalist socialism attained major importance and rapidly grew into the Hitlerian doctrine.”

Beginning his list of influential thinkers prior to WWII, Hayek begins with the dedicated Marxist who later embraced nationalism and dictatorship, Werner Sombart (1863-1941). Hayek says of Sombart:

Sombart had begun as a Marxian socialist and, as late as 1909, could assert with pride that he had devoted the greater part of his life to fighting for the ideas of Karl Marx. He had done as much as any man to spread socialist ideas and anticapitalist resentment of varying shades throughout Germany; and if German thought became penetrated with Marxian elements in a way that was true of no other country until the Russian revolution, this was in a large measure due to Sombart.

Sombart was no stranger to radicalized thought. In fact, he would never be allowed to rise to the ranks of university chair in the course of his career because of his ties to Marxism.

Under totalitarian rule, people are seen as means to an end, rather than as ends themselves.

He was also a strong believer in the glory of war and, specifically, the German people’s global role as ideal soldiers. In his works can be found this belief that a “German War” between England’s capitalist society of “peddlers” and Germany’s warrior culture of “heroes” was inevitable and vital for the progress of the world. He seethed with criticism for the English people, who, in his mind, had lost their warlike instincts. This became a recurring theme for him in later writings.

His other main criticism of English culture was the emphasis placed on the individual. For Sombart, individual happiness was hampering societies from being truly great. As Hayek said of Sombart, “Nothing is more contemptible in his eyes than the universal striving after the happiness of the individual…”

Sombart’s dismissal of the individual tied in with his obsession with and glorification of war. In Sombart’s view, the concept of individual liberty was a barrier, preventing Germany from obtaining its true greatness. As Hayek says of Sombart’s beliefs, “there is a life higher than the individual life, the life of the people and the life of the state, and it is the purpose of the individual to sacrifice himself for that higher life.”

This all plays in perfectly with the rise of the Third Reich, where people were seen as means to an end, rather than as ends themselves.

 

 

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