Pankakoski, Timo: Organic Growth, Mechanical Weighing, and the England Within: Wartime Pamphlets and the Intensification of Antidemocratic Discourse in Post-WW1 Germany

In this paper, I address political metaphors as a means of exclusion in times of crisis and the long-term consequences of this for political theory and political thought. As my corpus I utilize a selection of German nationalistic and radically conservative writings from the era of the First World War and after. These include, first, the wartime pamphlets by the philosopher Max Scheler and the sociologist Werner Sombart, and, second, a set of antidemocratic treatises published after the war by (radically) conservative political thinkers such as Oswald Spengler, Thomas Mann, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, Othmar Spann, and Carl Schmitt.

In the context of war, revolution, and nascent German parliamentary democracy, these thinkers, generally, sought to frame the war as a deep-rooted cultural opposition between Germany and England, to normatively discredit the enemy, and to resist and undermine the alleged enemy influence within the German political culture – or what Spengler called “the England within.” To these ends, the German thinkers resorted to systematic metaphoric mappings and depicted the German culture in organistic and vitalistic terms, while perceiving everything British as merely mechanical and, consequently, dead or dying. Thereby they mobilized a traditional metaphorical opposition in a concrete conflict situation, yet also intensified and polarized it.

 Utilizing the organic/mechanical distinction as an interpretative prism, I identify several antidemocratic and antiparliamentary topoi in the post-WW1 era. These include the depiction of democracy as manifesting the English merchant spirit and  ‘free competition’, the emphasis on organic wholeness and holism, as well as the criticism of mechanical accumulation, adding-up of votes, ‘weighing,’ and ‘balance’ in liberal democracy – all argumentative forms arguably intensified by the WW1 enmity.