Page of

Empires, Ruins, and the Conservative Critique of Modernity: Friedrich Ratzel and Oswald Spengler

Empires, Ruins, and the Conservative Critique of Modernity: Friedrich Ratzel and Oswald Spengler

Chapter:
(p.277) Sixteen Empires, Ruins, and the Conservative Critique of Modernity: Friedrich Ratzel and Oswald Spengler
Source:
The Conquest of Ruins
Author(s):
Julia Hell
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226588223.003.0017

The author analyzes Friedrich Ratzel, imperial Germany’s leading geo-politician, and Oswald Spengler, the founder of Germany’s conservative revolution. The Roman Empire was central to their arguments. Invested in the distinction between organic Kultur and inorganic Zivilisation, they criticized imperialism, privileging the political logic of empires. Ratzel emphasized the durability of the ancient empire and its ruins. Spengler’s law of ruin asserts that Rome’s trajectory from empire to imperialism and, finally, death, was the inescapable fate of all empires. He proposes Caesarism as the only political form powerful enough to decelerate imperialism’s rush toward its inexorable end. Spengler also explored the West’s imperial imaginary as a visual regime, and claimed that historical thinking and ruin consciousness was unique to the West. A radical conservative critic of European modernity, Spengler positioned himself as the West’s ultimate ruin gazer. Conjuring the modern barbarian, Spengler’s many ruin scenarios reassert scopic mastery. Spengler also developed a model of neo-Roman mimesis. Criticizing European neo-classicisms, he celebrated Rome’s heroic style as the form of genuine imitation. Reconnecting with the author’s analysis of Louis Bertrand’s theo-politics of empire and enmity, the chapter concludes with Spengler’s Years of Decision, his conservative-revolutionary manifesto, and his implication in fin-de-siècle anti-Semitism.

Keywords:   Friedrich Ratzel, geopolitics, Oswald Spengler, Caesarism, Great Cultures, culture vs. civilization, visual regime, neo-classicism, late imperialism, age of barbarism

Sign In

Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy and Legal Notice