Europe and European Civilisation as Seen from its Margins and by the Rest of the World, in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
Edited By Michael Wintle
PART II. FROM TOTALITARIAN EUROPE 49
PART II FROM TOTALITARIAN EUROPE 51 CHAPTER 2 Heroes and Merchants Joseph Stalin and the Nations of Europe1 Erik VAN REE Introduction In his Händler und Helden (1915), the German economist and soci- ologist Werner Sombart interpreted the Great War as an existential battle not just between nations, but between cultures and world views. According to Sombart, West European civilisation was based on the ideas of 1789 and on commercial values, which he identified with the Jewish spirit. The typical West European was a merchant, exclusively interested in what life could offer him in terms of goods and comfort. In contrast, Germany was a nation of heroes, who were prepared to sacri- fice themselves for higher ideals.2 Sombart’s book contributed to the radical right-wing tendency of the so-called “Conservative Revolution”. The Conservative Revolutionaries started out as a Romantic, fin de siècle phenomenon. Leading lights such as Oswald Spengler, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck and Ernst Jünger deplored the decline of traditional society based on hierarchy and au- thoritarianism, and were fundamentally opposed to capitalist commer- cialism and the liberal and egalitarian principles of the French Revolu- 1 This is a revised version of an article published in Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, 8/1 (2007). I am grateful to the editors for permission to pub- lish the revised version here. 2 W. Sombart, Händler und Helden. Patriotische Besinnungen, Munich/Leipzig, Duncker & Humblot, 1915; J. Herf, Reactionary Modernism. Technology, Culture, and Politics in Weimar and the Third...
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