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The Question of Elites

An Essay on the Cultural Elitism of Nietzsche, George, and Hesse

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Volkmar Sander

After defining elitism and tracing its uneasy relation to modernity, the author discusses Nietzsche's, George's, and Hesse's cultural elites within both the context of their work and the course of European history. Their mature elitism is seen as being central to hopes for saving a decadent Europe from total collapse. The root of their discontent is found in a fear of modernity that pushed all three into the camp of radical conservatism. Combined with this outlook on society, their elitist idealism encouraged a state of mind that indirectly facilitated the rise of National Socialism, and hence the kind of cultural corruption Nietzsche, George and Hesse opposed - a contradictory result through which the author sheds light on the nihilistic undertones of modern elitism.