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The early phase in Spengler's political philosophy

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Although to what extent Oswald Spengler served as a forerunner or precursor of National Socialism remains controversial, scholars unanimously agree that he was a virulent antidemocratic thinker. Indeed, the mere mentioning of his name immediately conjures up among students of German political philosophy associations of intense antidemocratic sentiment. The epithet of virulent opponent of democracy is certainly well-deserved for the period in his political-philosophical development when he was famous, spanning 1919, the year the heated controversy surrounding his major work The Decline of the West erupted, to his untimely death in 1936. Yet what about the little-known, but important phase in the evolution of Spengler's political thought, the years immediately before the shocking military collapse of Imperial Germany and the outbreak of socialist revolution in the fall of 1918 aroused the hostility of the entire right against Germany's first democracy? These were years when Spengler, as an unknown private scholar industriously composing his chef-d'oeuvre, was politically inactive. Was Spengler passionately anti-democratic before he became an embittered man? The following investigation of this rather obscure but important period in his thought, which draws heavily upon his private papers in the Spengler Archives, surprisingly reveals that he was not vehemently antidemocratic during this time and was, in fact, a cynical and opportunistic conservative advocate of the idea of the quasi-democratization of the Second Reich. Spengler scholars, it should be noted, including among others Anton Mirko Koktanek, Gilbert Merlio, H. Stuart Hughes, Klemens von Klemperer, Horst Moller, Walter Struve and Detlef Felken, do not argue this novel position as they are not of the opinion that any significant changes in his attitude towards democratization in Germany took place in his intellectual career.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Northwestern University.

Publication date: 1992-02-01

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