This is the first full length investigation of the relationship between Benn's artistic theory, his cultural criticism and his political thinking. With the aid of a carefully applied inductive method and of historical documentation the author provides a convincing picture of Benn's intellectual development until 1934. The latter's conception of art's «autonomy» is shown to be ambivalent, and this ambivalence is placed in the concrete political context of the Weimar Republic. There are also illuminating comparisons with other writers - e.g. Nietzsche, Thomas Mann and Ernst Jünger. The argument is supported by previously unpublished quotations from Benn's Nachlass.