Berlin in the Hands of Farmers

The government district trembles under the huge tractor wheels. Endless columns of trekkers and articulated lorries make their way to the centre of Berlin in a star shape and fill the streets with their honking. A parallel world is confronted with the reality of rural life.

The situation is confusing. One of the demonstrators has a lifting platform and is kind enough to give us a ride to lofty heights. From there it becomes clear: Berlin is in the hands of farmers on this day. At least in the centre of Berlin.

Several thousand tractors blockade the German capital on 15 January 2024. Farmers have been repeatedly paralysing the country for several weeks to demonstrate against the German government’s austerity measures. The farmers feel that their livelihoods are threatened by two of the German government’s plans in particular: The abolition of agricultural diesel and the taxation of agricultural and forestry vehicles. The latter has already been cancelled due to the protests and is therefore off the table. However, farmers are not prepared to give up the subsidisation of agricultural diesel either.

Until now, farmers were reimbursed 21 cents by the state for every litre of diesel they filled up with. That is now set to end. Farmers now fear that they will have to close their businesses and that regional food will be replaced by imported products in supermarkets. Many of them have felt victimised by politicians for years, particularly due to the massive burden of agricultural bureaucracy. Finance Minister Christian Lindner is also present that day, but is not greeted particularly enthusiastically.

The stream of newly arriving tractors just won’t stop. It doesn’t take long before the Street of June 17th resembles an agricultural fair. The thousands of demonstrators – the exact number of participants is still being disputed – move between the huge bikes towards the Brandenburg Gate. There, the protest is concentrated around the stage of the farmers’ association.

At the same time, the german parliament is cordoned off by police vehicles. Even the so-called armoured special vehicle was deployed as a precaution. It is doubtful whether this could have held its own against tractors. Obviously, the parliament was afraid of the fruits of its own agricultural policy.

There is distance not only between the parliament and the farmers, but also between some farmers and reporters. The media propaganda and defamation has left its mark and a deep mistrust. Only a few farmers are prepared to speak to us on camera.

“Can you briefly introduce yourself? What is your name is, where do you come from and what kind of company do you work for?”
“Yes, I’m Martin Schmidt and I’m from Thuringia, near Jena. We had to travel 300 kilometres by tractor. We have a farm at home with around 300 hectares of arable land and grassland. We keep suckler cows and ewes and have now travelled to Berlin to see what the atmosphere is like up here.”

“What measures are you primarily demonstrating against here?”

“It was actually against the motor vehicle tax and against the agricultural diesel subsidy. The car tax is now off the table. That means it’s no longer coming. Now it’s all about keeping the subsidisation of agricultural diesel and reducing all the bureaucracy in agriculture. We now spend 4 to 5 hours a day just sitting in the office, filling out applications. Even a farm like ours now has to employ an office worker to do all this on the side.”

“If the subsidisation of agricultural diesel is abolished, what does that mean for you in concrete terms in your everyday life?”
“Well, let me be very specific: we have 5 tractors at home, we also have 35,000 litres of diesel that we blow every year, you really have to say that. If we no longer get the 21 cents, that means we can definitely sell 2 tractors and have to rethink a lot.”

“Do you see this development primarily in relation to the last two years of the coalition government under Olaf Scholz or has it been going on for longer?”

“It’s actually been going on for much longer. The protests should have come much earlier. The current government has played its part. But the whole build-up of bureaucracy actually started 10 to 15 years ago. It hasn’t just happened in the last two years.”

“Is there any political force that you can place your hopes in, because the CDU was obviously also involved in the years before that? Is there a relevant alternative?”

“Well, let me put it this way, normally no party here is an alternative. They’re all in the same boat. They need to rethink. I have no problem with a green government being in power, but they need to rethink. They need to promote domestic agriculture and not work against it and impose everything. That doesn’t work.”

Michael Hellermann will also be demonstrating in Berlin on 15 January. He comes from North Rhine-Westphalia, more precisely from the Sauerland region, as he emphasises. He is a farmer and works part-time for the farmers’ association, where he looks after young farmers.

“The rally and the demonstration are now largely over here. What happens now?”

“We’ll stay here for another hour or so. Then we’ll make our way home again. We travelled about 6 or 7 hours this morning.”
“How did you perceive the atmosphere today? Was it aggressive or did everything remain largely peaceful?”

“Well, what I heard today wasn’t aggressive at all. However, the opinion was clearly expressed that people don’t think much of Mr Lindner, for example. You could tell that. He was pretty much booed today. Apart from that, I have to say that everything else was quite well received and perceived. Yes, the minister came off badly.”

“One of the major points of criticism, apart from the agricultural diesel, is the huge burden of bureaucratisation that farmers have to suffer. Can you tell us something from your everyday life?”

“Yes, of course we farm in the open countryside. That means we have fertiliser requirements. We have to register all our animals. We have to apply for building permits, which is almost as much work as a petrol station. We have to apply for agricultural diesel again, if we still have to apply for it. My father spends more time in the office than in the field. I think we have made our voices heard here today, but I don’t yet know whether it will really reach the federal government as we would like it to. I hope so. However, I also have to say that if those who shout the loudest always get their way in a democracy, then that is also difficult. It’s a double-edged sword. I hope we can achieve something, perhaps that this agricultural diesel rebate will be extended over several years. That would already be a success.”

Some of the farmers return home on this day. Duty on the farms calls. Many farmers, however, remain on the Street of June 17th with their machines. The next few weeks will show how long their breath will last. The farmers’ protests are far from over with this preliminary climax in Berlin.

These Murderous and Predatory Hordes of Peasants

And now the farmers are also getting nailed: they are being labeled as “the Right”—the protest against the government is making this happen.

So now things are getting serious. Farmers are chugging onto the roads, blocking them and making their displeasure known. It’s about subsidies no longer being paid, about vehicle tax and reimbursement of diesel revenue. But other issues are also driving farmers to protest. They must produce cheaply, ecologically and to a high quality: But how, at such a high cost?

Last week, angry farmers refused to let the Minister of Economic Affairs get ashore. The fact that he still sees land at all is surprising enough. But from the ferry he was on, he was apparently able to catch a glimpse of the mainland. Not for long, because the angry crowd wouldn’t let him get ashore. Berlin’s politicians, who are usually quite sympathetic when young people glue themselves on the asphalt and deny citizens access, were instead thoroughly outraged.

The Tractors of the Right

The police in some parts of the country are said to have been trained as early as mid-November on how to unlock tractors without keys in order to break up blockades. This was reported to me by a source close to the Fendt company. Fendt manufactures agricultural machinery. If this is indeed the case, then people in Berlin had already thought about a protest beforehand. They were expecting it—and preparing for it. So, the fact that the strikes were about to happen was on the agenda after all. Who says that Berlin has no foresight? They do—just not in the way that the majority of citizens would like.

Another measure is currently taking effect. People who demonstrate in large numbers in this country must be given a label. At least when it is against the federal government and not “for the climate.” The answer to the question of how to label such infamous groups who dare to leave their place in society, i.e., who forget themselves, is simple—move them to the right. And as soon as Robert Habeck was not allowed onto the German mainland, Tagesschau asked: “Are the farmers’ protests being hijacked by the Right?”

There are also groups involved that are questionable, the audience was told. The offshoot organization of the NPD, for example, was spotted. The farmers’ association promptly distanced itself—it thus fell into a trap and invalidated its own protest. Of course, it is possible that groups with a strange world view are also involved in demonstrations. A farmer confirmed this to me in conversation; he is from Mecklenburg, and in his community of 1000 people, the AfD received many votes in the last state election. Should he now stop talking to his neighbors? What is he being asked to do?

Nevertheless, those on the Right are in the minority. They were also in the minority during the Covid protests, or when it came to opposing the TTIP free trade agreement. For certain “left-wing intellectuals,” the presence of a few such fellows at the TTIP demonstration in Berlin several years ago was reason enough to deny the legitimacy of the entire demonstration—without naming names, with a view to the north of Frankfurt, where this verbal delegitimization of the protest came from; insiders probably know where to look discreetly: they really wanted to do a service to the federal government at the time—these luminaries of “left-wing thinking” were not often closer to the government.

The Delegitimization Machine Starts Up

So now the farmers. Are they somehow Nazis? What is needed now—the train drivers are also about to go on strike. I wonder if one of them might happen to sympathize with the NPD offshoot “Heimat?” Perhaps we can find a train driver who cried when Bruno Ganz, who had become Adolf Hitler in Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Downfall, shot himself? Is there someone among them who was rooting for the Nazis in Inglourious Basterds? If so, the Tagesschau can get going on framing these strikes too. Any bets that the GDL will also go that way over the next few days? Who can deny it?

Seriously, it’s not just the Tagesschau that is postulating the farmers’ shift to the Right. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution warns of “subversive riots” and refers to right-wing groups and dissident thinkers who have infiltrated the protests—and this discredits the entire protest action. Dissident thinkers are now also involved. People who think outside the box and do not toe the line: Is that the accusation?

The delegitimization-of-the-state industry is currently producing the latest suspected case. This criminal offense, which is being handled by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, seems to be the only way this federal government intends to counter dissatisfied citizens. Gregor Gysi recently stated quite rightly that the political class is no longer discussing how it can regain the trust of citizens. Throwing everything into the delegitimization machine: Is that supposed to create trust? Or the opposite?

A look at the website of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution speaks volumes. Namely, where it explains what this delegitimization of the state is all about. We find a brief description: “Various actors instrumentalized the protests against Covid protection measures in order to pursue an actual anti-constitutional agenda, detached from any factual criticism. This manifests itself, among other things, in aggressive agitation against representatives and institutions of the state, in order to systematically undermine its legitimacy.” Next to it is a picture: a man wearing an FFP2 mask holding up a sign with the words “This policy is destroying us all.” Is such a statement even relevant for the Office for the Protection of the Constitution? If so, it becomes clear what this criminal offense actually seeks: to quash criticism of the federal government.

A Country Full of Right-Wingers

This realization is neither new nor original. Many people in the country have long since realized that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution is a government protection agency. Lawyer Peter Schindler has already pointed this out. Haldenwang’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution is the cognitive Praetorian Guard of the Chancellery—no one really knows whether it is possible to make this statement without making oneself vulnerable. That’s the trick about “delegitimizing the state”: it can be anything—or nothing. A slogan like the one just quoted from the accompanying photo on the constitution protection page may be enough. But nobody seems concerned about the delegitimizing behavior of the political class.

Incidentally, the fact that farmers are now being associated with the Right is not original either—we should have seen this coming. It is simply the only remaining administrative act of a policy that has long since abandoned the people. You can’t replace the people, but putting them in a corner works brilliantly. And so, Germany is increasingly becoming a country full of right-wingers. Not because the citizens are moving to the Right, but because such an affiliation is being constructed. The fight against the Right is largely nothing more than a construct of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and is because of the defamation campaign of social protests.

And it works. As soon as the accusation was made, some farmers were encouraged via social media to post the slogan, “Agriculture is colorful, not brown.” There were prompt discussions; some farmers didn’t want to be colorful either because they associated it with the Greens. There have always been farmer protests in Germany. But they were often regionally limited individual actions—the now more centralized protest must of course be fragmented, from the point of view of those in power. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution is actually nothing more than a federal office for divisive issues.

Roberto J. De Lapuente is a journalist who writes from Germany. He is the author of Rechts gewinnt, weil Links versagt [The Right Wins because the Left Fails]. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Overton Magazin.

In Berlin

The train crawling out of Berlin was filled with women and children, hardly an able-bodied man. In one compartment a gray-haired Landsturm soldier sat beside an elderly woman who seemed weak and ill. Above the click-clack of the car wheels passengers could hear her counting: “One, two, three,” evidently absorbed in her own thoughts. Sometimes she repeated the words at short intervals. Two girls tittered, thoughtlessly exchanging vapid remarks about such extraordinary behavior. An elderly man scowled reproval. Silence fell.

“One, two, three,” repeated the obviously unconscious woman. Again the girls giggled stupidly. The gray Landsturm leaned forward.

“Fräulein,” he said gravely, “you will perhaps cease laughing when I tell you that this poor lady is my wife. We have just lost our three sons in battle. Before leaving for the front myself I must take their mother to an insane asylum.”

It became terribly quiet in the carriage.

Mary Boyle O’Reilly (1873–1939) was a well-known American war and foreign correspondent during the First World War and afterwards.

Featured: Woman with Dead Child, by Käthe Kollwitz; drawing (1903).

The French Joke

Kurt Tucholsky (1890–1935) was a German satirist whose writings were very popular during the Weimar Republic. The phrase often attributed to Joseph Stalin that “the death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic” is, in fact, found in Tucholsky’s work, Lerne lachen ohne zu weinen (Learn to Laugh without Crying), which was published in 1932. We are delighted to bring this fresh translation into English of an excerpt from this work, where the original version of this famous phrase is found—more importantly as an example of French wit.


Summer has brought a hail of anecdotal books to the French station kiosks: New editions, new publications. There are: T. S. V. P. by Bienstock and Curnonsky (Crès, 21 rue Hautefeuille, Paris); Le Wagon des Fumeurs by the same authors, published by the same publisher; Joyeuses Anecdotes by Max Frantel (Editions Montaigne, Impasse de Conti 2, Paris VI); Histoires Marseillaises, collected by Edouard Ramond (Les Editions de France, 20 Avenue Rapp, Paris); by the same publishing house, Histoires Gasconnes, collected by Edouard Dulac; Histoires de Vacannes, collected by Leon Treich (Librairie Gallimard, 3 rue de Grenelle, Paris VI). Whew!

The title of the first book, T. S. V. P. is the same as the inscription on some doorknobs to which no handles are attached, and it means in full: “Tournez, s’il vous plaît!” Well, let’s turn this knob for once.

French wit and French jokes are not always synonymous. It is stronger than them, because wit in stage dialogue, in the salon conversation, in the “mot” that even the little man often throws into the street noise with lightning speed and with the utmost repartee, this wit is not always caught in jokes.

That is why the French funny papers are not exactly hilarious—the level of the “Assiette au Beurre” has never been reached again, and you have to pick out the good ones from a whole jumble of jokes. This refers to “Le Rire,” to “Canard Enchaîné,” to “Le Merle Blanc,” different in value, unequal.

The collections cited above are much better, especially T. S. V. P. and Le Wagon des Fumeurs. So, what do the French jokes of today look like?

First of all, you have to take off your hat often enough, because so many old acquaintances pass by. For the still considerable remainder, the obstacle for the foreign reader is that he does not have the factual prerequisites of wit in flesh and blood. A joke that first has to be explained is no longer a joke; and it is not enough to know those premises—you have to feel them.

The specific characteristics of French wit are its lightness, its delicacy, its elegance. For example, the resigning minister writes to the Secretary of State for Posts and Telegraphs an hour after his fall: “Dear colleague! I do not know if you still remember me…” The hand gesture with which a phrase is uttered is quite casual. They are talking about the horrors of war. Then a diplomat from the Quai d’Orsay says: “The war? I can’t find it so terrible! The death of one person: that’s a catastrophe. One hundred thousand dead: that’s a statistic!”

The language of diplomats is French, and the definition of the profession goes like this: “A diplomat, my dear child, is a man who knows a woman’s date of birth and has forgotten her age!” And so many things sound softer and more delicate in this language than elsewhere. An old lady receives a visit from one of her friends, who climbs the four flights of stairs to her apartment with great difficulty. Still breathing hard, he says in greeting: “Four flights of stairs are no small matter, madam!” “Dear friend,” says the lady, “that’s the only way I have left to make men’s hearts beat faster!”

This language has the finest gears with which it seizes everything that comes too close. Album entry by Jean Cocteau: “Italians and Germans love it when music is made. The French have nothing against it.”

And even a mild rebuke takes on an endearing melody when it is uttered in the way that Curé did when he encountered a lady at the altar of his church who was decollete to the point of impossibility. “If you only wanted to dip two fingers in, madam,” he said, “you needn’t have undressed!”

Even if the joke becomes a little delicate, it remains bearable in this form. The conductor to the passenger, who is excitedly walking around the small station: “Are you looking for the restaurant?” “No, on the contrary,” says the traveler.

This example shows how concisely this language can sometimes shed light on a confusing situation: a conversation through the door. The male voice: “Is Mr. Paul there?” The woman’s voice from inside: “No, he’s not here. You can’t come in, I’m in bed.” The male voice: “There’s no harm in that; why don’t you open up a bit?” The woman’s voice: “But you can’t—someone’s already with me!”

Of course, there are many of these French jokes that are completely untranslatable. For example, the saying of the elderly woman who was reproached for the excessive simplicity of her toilet. “A mon âge on ne s’habille plus, on se couvre.” Or that enchantingly beautiful saying by a Marseille painter: “Quand on a mangé de l’ail (garlic), il ne faut parler qu’à la troisième personne.”

I spoke earlier of the many old acquaintances one encounters in these collections of anecdotes: “The right barber” by Chamisso, who would also have cut off the neck of Hebel’s choleric customer for a whisker, is there, and there are not only folk jokes that wander through all literature, but even a story as seemingly linguistically limited as that of the lady on the phone who spells the word torch: “F as in Fioline, A as in Ankpir, C as in for example…” even to this story we find the French analogy. It is about the Hôtel de l’Ourcq. “What kind of hotel?” – “L’Ourcq! L’Ourcq!

O as in Auguste
U as in Ugène (Eugene)
R as in Ernest
C as in Serge
and Q as in you.”

Now, French jokes have been stamped out for the whole world, and here, to my great regret, I have to put the brakes on, because the moment you translate these daring jokes, they usually become unbearably coarse. But I did find one little story that is possible in German. Frida, go out for a long while!

A big wedding in the Madeleine in Paris. Outside the church door, the usual crowd of gawkers: midinettes, little clerks, street urchins, curious people of all kinds. The wedding procession! He: very solemn, serious, of the best, the very best, but already the very, very best age, obviously very rich. She …a general ah! A delightful little brunette, very piquant, with full lips, spirited, a charming creature. The train stops for a moment. The gentlemen are photographed. When the bride and groom start moving again, the bridal bouquet comes off and falls onto the carpet. A little midinette, who has noticed this, rushes in obligingly, picks up the flowers and hands them to the young bride. She can’t help but whisper very quickly and very quietly: “I didn’t make this much fuss at my premiere …” The two look at each other for a moment and are companions for a moment. Then the bride whispers back: “Me neither!”

Frida, you can come back in. Next time your uncle will tell you more.


French jokes have many more fixed characters than ours. First and foremost, there is the “cocu” (cuckold).

The word is untranslatable. “Hahnrei” (capon) is a word for which even the all-knowing Doctor Wasserzieher gives no explanation in his Ableitenden Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache and which a sane person would probably only utter if asked what “cocu” means in German. And “betrayed husband” is a crawling turtle to a flight of swallows. (The fact that the word, the term and the joke figure completely distort the extraordinarily bourgeois French woman should only be mentioned in passing).

Of course, French wit also has its professional jokes. Inevitably the doctors. Doctor Z. meets one of his patients on the Pont des Arts. A brief conversation. “Well, how are you …?” “But, dear friend,” says the doctor, “you’re going to get a bad cold; why don’t you button up your coat?” “You’re actually right,” said the other. “And what else… Have you heard the story of the…” They chat for a while, the doctor and his patient, then they go their separate ways. After three days, the doctor sends the following statement:

One consultation: 20 francs

The bridge patient also sends one:

Doctor Z. told a joke20 Francs
Waited until he understood it20 Francs
Total: 40 Francs
Of which for the consultation20 Francs
My remaining claim to Doctor Z20 Francs

Regional jokes play a very important role in France, and it is above all the south, Marseille and Gascony, that offer the main tribute. Anyone who has had the opportunity to hear the “accent du midi,” the “assent,” which is horrible to German ears, will understand that there is a wealth of humor to be found in French dialect. What’s more, the people from the south are considered to be colossal braggarts and, in the exuberance of their temperament, are likely to say quite cheerful things—in any case, the chain of these stories never ends. The local tone is, of course, lost on us. “Last winter,” says the man from Marseille, who is always called Marius or Olivier, “it snowed here and more than a meter of snow fell.” “A meter wide?” someone asks.

“Est-ce que tu vois la mouche au sommet de la Tour d’Eiffel?” (Can you see the fly on top of the Eiffel Tower?) asks a Gascon from Marseille. “Non! Mais je l’entends!” (No! But I hear it) he replies. There’s a lot of peasant cunning in these stories.

One plant that does not want to thrive in French is the Jewish joke. They exist; there is a Collection d’Histoires Juives, published by the Nouvelle Revue Française; they are hardly missing from any collection. But they are not prepared according to the rules; there is no such thing as Yiddish in English, in French; and the Alsatian accent, which incidentally is dwindling in many cases among the younger generation, is a poor substitute.

But the French don’t need to borrow from foreigners, they have enough good jokes of their own. The children’s mouths are particularly funny. “Grandpa, do the lions go to heaven?” “No, my child.” “Grandpa, are the priests going to heaven?” “Yes, of course, my child.” “Grandpa, but what if the lion eats a priest?”

The following story, on the other hand, has to be translated into Berlinese to get the full flavor. There is a young lawyer who has been sitting in his new office for two weeks waiting for his first client. Finally, finally, the doorbell rings and the girl answers. The lawyer hears a man’s voice and says to the girl without listening to her: “Keep the gentleman waiting!” Because he owes it to himself for reasons of prestige. After ten minutes he rings the bell, grabs the telephone, lets the visitor enter and surprises himself in an urgent and highly important conversation. He gestures into the receiver: “Of course, Mr. Senior Government Councillor! I can’t promise that, Mr. Senior Government Councillor! I’m so busy… I can’t close a deal for my client for less than nine hundred thousand marks! Certainly. So goodbye then, Mr. Senior Government Councillor!” – “What do you want?” he says to the man. The visitor replies: “I’m coming because of the telephone. It’s broken.”

This little story is also very French, in which the little six-year-old daughter of a femme entretenue picks up the word “demi-mondaine” and now asks her mom: “Mom, when I grow up, can I become a demi-mondaine too?” – “Yes,” says her mother, “if you’re good!”

There are countless jokes about the “coup de fusil” in restaurants. In a very elegant restaurant in Vichy, a customer complains about the bill. “They wrote me up five francs for a cookie? But I didn’t have any!” “Excuse me,” says the waiter, “may I ask for the bill? I’ll fix it right away.” The improved bill reads: Cookie, four francs.

There is something almost completely missing from French jokes. This is the eccentric exaggeration that we find in American and Irish jokes. If you find something like this in a collection of anecdotes, you can swear that the story has been translated from English. Such is the story of the world-famous dwarf Tom Puce (Thumb), who one day happened to be staying in the same hotel in London as the famous French singer Lablache, a giant about two meters tall. There was a curious London lady who wanted to see the small world attraction, asked for the room number at the hotel, got the wrong door and now stood stunned in front of this Mount Everest. “I… I wanted to see the dwarf Tom Puce!” “That’s me, ma’am!” – “You? You are the dwarf Tom Puce?” “Only in the theater, madam; at home I make myself comfortable!”

This conversation seems to be a child of both worlds, the French and the English: The ticket inspector: “You have a third-class ticket, dear lady, and this here is first class!” “Excuse me,” says the lady, “I thought I was in second class.”

So. Now there are many beautiful stories which I have not told because of their inappropriateness. But that should be enough now. And if I have only enriched the repertoire of a few presenters with these lines, I feel amply rewarded for all my work.

Featured: Portrait de l’artiste sous les traits d’un moqueur (Portrait of the artist as a mocker), by Joseph Ducreux; painted ca. 1793.

The Pillory and the Changing Times

We are deep in the throes of cognitive warfare. All means are good, even atavisms such as the pillory stocks are experiencing a renaissance. After all, people who endanger the mental peace of our small republic by thinking for themselves or even conducting research must be made known to the public. This is apparently considered democratic these days—in a country where—thank God!—every murderer enjoys the right not to be unabashedly paraded before the public.

The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) has also afforded itself such a noble pillory stock. And lo and behold, we do know the first head put in it—it’s Patrik Baab. He can be seen in an illustrious group; he is presented as one of 44 “biased observers.” The accusation: “Baab claims that he was in the occupied territories to do research as a journalist.” So he only claims that? So Baab is being accused of lying?

The List of Enemies

Other heads are also listed, especially many of those from the AfD who have been denounced. The most prominent protagonists on this list are: Sergey Filbert, Gunnar Linnemann, Alina Lipp, Andreas Maurer, Thomas Röper and Alexander von Bismarck. What they all have in common is that they do not agree with the German government’s view of helping Ukraine to victory by any means necessary and thus suspending diplomacy.

They are therefore lined up here as “enemies” because they think differently, politically, and take a different geopolitical perspective. In Patrik Baab’s case, his journalistic reputation is also being denied and his research trip for his book, On Both Sides of the Front, is being classified as a pretext for reporting in a Russia-friendly manner—the court ruling by the Administrative Court of Schleswig-Holstein, which classified Kiel University’s withdrawal from the contractually agreed teaching assignment as null and void, explicitly expresses the freedom of the press component of Baab’s trip.

In addition to the violation of the right to one’s own image and possible copyright infringements, we are dealing with a much more serious accusation here: The EPDE has posted a list of enemies on the internet at its website. Since 2021, there has been criminal law protection against such listings. § Section 126a of the German Criminal Code (StGB), Dangerous dissemination of personal data, explains:

Anyone who publicly, in a meeting or by disseminating content (Section 11 (3)) disseminates personal data of another person in a manner that is suitable and, according to the circumstances, intended to put that person or a person close to them at risk of

  • a crime against them or
  • other unlawful act directed against them against sexual self-determination, physical integrity, personal freedom or against property of significant value

is punishable by a custodial sentence not exceeding two years or a monetary penalty.

The case of Walter Lübcke was the impetus for the punishment of such lists. The district president of Kassel was on such an enemy list.

EPDE—Non-Profit and Democratic?

The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) is based in Berlin. It is made up of various European election observation platforms. It was founded in Warsaw in 2012. The “EPDE encourages, trains and supports experts and citizens who are committed to transparent and equal electoral rights”—the current chairwoman is Stefanie Schiffer. The EPDE defines itself as a non-profit organization.

Supporters of the EPDE are: The Federal Foreign Office, ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen), the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Commission, The Greens / EFA, Transparency International Armenia, the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Marion Dönhoff Foundation, the Open Russia Foundation and the Foundation for German-Polish Cooperation.

The list of supporters gives a deep insight into the political positioning of the EPDE. However, this poses a problem: Political activity and non-profit status do not go hand in hand. In 2020, the Federal Fiscal Court revoked the non-profit status of attac, an organization critical of capitalism, and thus removed the associated tax privileges – attac had initiated many campaigns for possible reforms, but the declared aim of attac’s statutes was “political educational work”. The Federal Fiscal Court ruled that the campaigns exceeded the declared objective – therefore it could no longer be assumed that attac was a non-profit organization.

We will leave open at this point whether this judicial decision was politically motivated or not—however, the EU Commission recommends that the German government should not offset charitable and political activities against each other. Of course, it is reluctant to do so, as this practice simply opens up too many possibilities. According to this legal situation, however, it looks as if the EPDE has long since left the realm of non-profit status with this list of enemies.

When asked about the EPDE’s non-profit status and the fact that it presents “fake observers,” Stefanie Schiffer wrote: “Politically motivated election observation distorts the public perception of the quality of electoral processes and thus undermines the work of professional and independent election observation missions such as those of the OSCE/ODIHR or the members of the EPDE, which adhere to international quality standards. It is in the public interest to receive information about systematic attempts to imitate election observation and whitewash fraudulent elections.”

Turning Point and Rupture of Civilization

In 2018, the EPDE protested against being classified as an “undesirable organization” in Russia. You may think what you like about the law on so-called “undesirable organizations” introduced in Russia in 2015, but there could be good reasons why an organization that is supported by a ministry in another country is not welcome there. Even before the war in Ukraine, the EPDE was considered a political instrument of the West in Russia. Without having to take the Russian perspective, there seems to be no question that the EPDE is politically involved.

Chairwoman Stefanie Schiffer rarely speaks out in public. In August 2021, she wrote an article for Die Welt, together with Slavic studies professor Gerhard Simon entitled, “Warum Berlin der Ukraine helfen muss” (“Why Berlin must help Ukraine”). Six months before the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war, she encouraged German foreign policy to ignite this powder keg in Eastern Europe and anchor Ukraine in the West. In the article, she is just presented as the “founder of the German-Ukrainian platform Kyiv Talks.” Nevertheless, this indicates where the EPDE is positioned.

With the best will in the world, however, the presentation of a list of enemies cannot be reconciled with the self-declared aim of promoting “democratic electoral processes throughout Europe.” Yes, according to general democratic ideas—and in accordance with Section 126a of the German Criminal Code (StGB)—this is actually an attack on democratic practice. This is because people with divergent political ideas are being paraded and in some cases criminalized. This practice can put them at a disadvantage in social life—and yes, let’s tell it like it is: they made into targets, without explicitly saying so.

The pillory was used in the Middle Ages and later, during the fascist break with civilization; dissenters were paraded in a very similar way. When an organization that puts democracy on its agenda takes this up, it has lost its compass—if it ever had one. We are encountering the turning point everywhere these days. And it consists of more than just billions in injections for armaments—it is a concept of refeudalization and de-democratization on many levels. The EPDE should be an “undesirable organization” for anyone who still wants to take democratic standards seriously.

Roberto J. De Lapuente is a journalist who writes from Germany. He is the author of Rechts gewinnt, weil Links versagt [The Right Wins because the Left Fails]. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Overton Magazin.

A Great Crime at Crimea: Austrian Ballerina Prisca Zeisel Dances at Sebastopol Gala, Only to “Self-Eject” from the Bavarian Opera

With the exception of the celebrated Fanny Elssler, departed this world in 1884, Austria has produced virtually no classical dancer of international stature—rather surprisingly given’s the country’s pre-eminence in music and theatre.

All the more cause for rejoicing then, when in 2011 a teenaged Prisca Zeisel joined the Ballet attached to the Vienna State Opera on graduating from its School. Swiftly enough, the girl rose through the ranks, to a degree that she was poached away by the Bavarian State Opera, where she was appointed principal dancer in 2019.

At that time, the Ballet Director at Munich was Igor Zelensky, a Russian who happens to be Putin’s son-in-law. As one might have expected, shortly after the Special Military Operation (SMO) was launched, in April 2022 to be precise, Zelensky quit Munich “of his own accord”—amongst the most interesting and influential jobs in European theatre, and one that no-one would ever quit of his own accord.

At Munich, Mr. Zelensky’s position was straightaway filled by Laurent Hilaire, a French dancer who had just “self-ejected” from the Stanislavsky Theatre at Saint-Petersburg, where he had run the ballet since 2017. In February 2022, a few short days after the SMO began, Hilaire left Russia at speed, owing to “circumstances” which “prevent one from settling down to work with peace of mind.” Whether “circumstances” might have had to do with Micronian/World Economic Forum rule over the Quai d’Orsay (French Foreign Office) is likely a figment of Moufid’s fevered imagination.

Whatever the case, following Zelensky’s departure from Munich, Miss Zeisel kept up ties to her former Director and his dancers, amongst whom several then “self-ejected” from Munich as well.

Now, in 2019, Miss Zeisel had danced at the Sebastopol Ballet Gala, without this ruffling a Bavarian feather. Then, in August 2023, she returned to the Crimean city to dance with Dmitri Sobolevski. On returning to Munich, she was almost immediately self-ejected, or as the Theatre’s press release put it:

In early September 2023, principal dancer Prisca Zeisel asked to leave the Bayerisches Staatsballett. Over the summer, she had danced at a Crimean gala (editor’s note: the word “Russia” never appears, as NATO which rules Germany does not, of course, recognize the Crimea as Russian). Further to exchanges with our Ballet Director and our General Intendant, Prisca Zeisel asked that her employment contract be terminated, to which Management has agreed.

According to the Spanish newsletter Mundo Clasico, Miss Zeisel’s departure… only serves to shew the de facto complete subservience of Mr. Hilaire to General Intendant Serge Dorny, also responsible—a thing of which Dorny then boasted—for Igor Zelensky’s so-called resignation as Ballet Director.”

All-too-evidently, the hothouse-orchid clique of General Intendants who run almost every major Opera House in the West enjoy an (exceptionally lucrative) career dependent on two factors: unswavering Wokism, and obsequious—if coyly naughty—boot-lickism to Whomever may be in Power. As for Serge Dorny, he emerged from the Gérard Mortier/Bill Viola côterie, of which ‘Nuff Said.

For the French art newsletter Diapason, though, it ain’t ‘Nuff Said. In May 2022 Russian pranksters Vovan and Lexus, playing at being Ukrainian Minister of Culture, got Intendant Serge Dorny on the phone, where he crowed about having got rid of conductor Valery Gergueev (“despite our having worked with him for 35 years”) and opera singer Anna Netrebko (“we don’t want artists like that (sic) about”), and as for Igor Zelensky “he didn’t really take the decision to quit of his own will.” The Vovan and Lexus prank is most definitely not “fake news”: their conversation with Serge Dorny was confirmed without comment by the Bavarian State Theatre.

Now, if those oafs parading as the Government of Germany—Finance Minister Robert Habeck, “Miss Piggy” Annalena Baerbock and Chancellor Oaf Scholz, can Sing along with Mitch while the USA blows up Nord Stream, what is to stop their having an an Opera House Intendant hammer the purportedly weak—a little ballerina—whilst boot-licking the purportedly strong?

A practising Catholic—her official portrait for the Munich Ballet, shews a small crucifix carefully placed over her lace garment—Mlle Zeisel’s principles would appear to be non-negotiable, and thus on the same plane as her ability.

Not on the breadline, perhaps. On September 27th 2023, she is scheduled to appear as Gamzatti in La Bayadère at the Mikahilovsky Theatre at Moscow.

As for NATO’s arm-twisting a slew of European artists, whether Russian, pro-Russian or just plain unwilling to toe any line, we have been advised by The Postil’s editors to eschew all vulgar langage. Point taken.

Moufid Azmaïesh writes from France.

What is Dictatorship?

In politics, whether we know it or not, we are always fighting against an enemy, whether stationed on our borders or camouflaged within the city. But there is also another form of enmity, much more subtle than the one that bubbles at ground level, incarnated by men who have an ideology or a culture, perhaps a religion or a barbaric anthropology, incompatible with our own. It is the enmity derived from political concepts, polemically handled and exploited against the “moral element,” the criterion by which the true capacity of resistance to the hostility and offenses of the enemy is measured.

What I want to say, now by way of example, is that certain assumed definitions, transformed into taboos, enervate the will, having previously worked the intelligence by “brainwashing,” an expression that, suspiciously, has ceased to be used at a time when political pedagogy is dedicated only to that. Some pontificate on the benefits of ethnic, religious and cultural pluralism—the pluralism of values, in short—and others suffer its consequences: loss of cultural identity, social conflict, babelization. Nor is it strange that the same people who praise “miscegenation”—vaguely in the legal system, but with more determination in public universities and in the Press and Propaganda Section of the mass media—then maintain that races (or cultures) do not exist. It has also become normal for the zealots of “defensive” pan-Melanism—Black Lives Matter is not new, it was previously invented in the 1920s—to promote as just and necessary an anti-white racism and to demand that we finance our own re-education.

War, even in its current “pacifist” variants, takes place in space, that is to say, on the earth, because to control it and to reasonably order life on it is the primary object of politics. The much more decisive and brutal quarrels over concepts are settled in time. The struggle for the meaning of words, for the “story” that obsesses all modern princely counselors—today called “political analysts” or “advisors,” young people with no experience of life, generally coming, as Jules Monnerot used to say, from an educational system dedicated to “the mass production of artificial cretins”: as opposed to those who are so by a natural disposition; those who flourish massively today are “cultivated cretins, like a certain type of pearl.” Once the political logos and dictionary have been colonized, that is, the national “political imaginary,” any capacity for resistance is radically diminished. Then, and only then, the defeat of the external or internal enemy can be presented as a victory or a political and cultural “homologation” with the executioners. Indeed, a few days ago we in Spain spoke, with a sense of opportunity, of the “afrancesados,” Spanish archetype of a colonized political imaginary.

It is therefore necessary, in a certain sense, to “decolonize the imaginary” and give back to political concepts their precise meaning, which is neither invented nor developed in a Think Tank, but is part, however modest its aliquot, of the truth of politics. It is necessary, in order to know where we stand. I do not know if “political realism” has a specific mission; perhaps, some would say, the elaboration of a “decalogue” or program that can be implemented by a political party, a faction or a movement, but I do know that its raison d’être lies in the demystification of political thought. One of the concepts that needs this mental cleansing is “dictatorship,” a frightening notion about which the greatest confusion reigns—a self-interested Confusionism, exploited by those aspiring to power, presenting their rivals as vulgar supporters of authoritarian regimes and themselves as “democrats”—as if that term had a precise meaning beyond the mental tropisms that adorn the demo-liberal right.

Everything conspires against the reputation of political demystifiers. However, writing about the war-phenomenon does not presuppose a bellicose personality; probably only a meek man can write a theory or a sociology of war. A theory of decision… an indecisive one. And a theory of dictatorship is perhaps only within the reach of someone incapable of exercising it.

It is not easy to look “dictatorship” in the face, a highly inflammable political concept that gravitates over particularly intense political situations and which is entangled with legislation of exception, states of necessity and coups d’état. People believe that a dictatorship is what the “anti-Franco vulgate” teaches, but they do not lose sleep over a government that can illegally shut down Parliament and deprive the whole nation of freedom of movement. Anti-parliamentarism has many forms and those of today are nothing like those of a century ago. It would be very interesting to write a palingenesis of dictatorship, for it is periodically reborn and its singularity should be recognized. To turn one’s back on its reality is to culpably ignore the momentary concentration of power, a reality that happens outside our moral or ideological prejudices, independently of our will. Not knowing what it consists of compromises our position vis-à-vis the enemy who does know what it is and how to use it.

Dictatorship is a fundamental institution of Roman public law. It consists of a lifting or suspension of the juridical barriers in order that the dictator, generally pro tempore, faces the exceptional political situation (sedition, civil war, foreign invasion) and restores the public tranquility to the city. Once restored the order or expired the foreseen period, the extraordinary powers of the dictator are cancelled, whose prototype is Cincinnatus. But there are also in Roman history examples of dictators of undefined undertaking (Sila) and those lifelong (Caesar), even omnímodo or, as we would say today, constituent (lex de imperio vespasiani).

Roman pragmatism had grasped the political essence of dictatorship: it is a concentration or intensification of power that opposes the pernicious effect of the impotence of the established power, besieged by the enemy, generally internal. From a conceptual point of view, it is not strictly speaking a “political regime,” but a “political situation,” transitory by definition. Any manifestation of power always generates criticism from rival parties or factions, but in a particularly intense way criticism is aroused by dictatorship, secularly associated with the personal usufruct of command.

Every dictatorship constitutes a political fact, imperfectly subjected to a legal status. Jean Bodin’s notion of sovereignty is, in this sense, the attempt to make normative a particularly intense moment of command. Such is the glory of Bodin and of the French legists of the 16th century.

During the 19th century, dictatorship gradually lost all its former respectability, as a consequence of the generalization of a new juridical ideology: constitutionalism. Liberal historiography, in its fight against the “enemy,” the absolute monarchies, reworked the classical political tradition and generalized the denigration of the dictatorial institution, arbitrarily associated with tyranny and despotism.

However, the constitutional movement has always recognized, implicitly, that political necessity knows no law when it modulates states of exception, siege and war, denominations which push dictatorship into the background. Dictatorship became a political taboo after the coup of Louis Napoléon (December 2, 1851), the most important coup of the 19th century. But the technical meaning of dictatorship remained and developed in the constitutional states of exception. For the first time, the raison d’être of the classic dictatorship was legally enunciated, but without mentioning it by name: the suspension of law to allow its subsistence. Otherwise, liberalism, which at the time was never, to a certain extent, a “neutral and agnostic” doctrinarism—a legend spread by conservative illiberalism—would never have built the prepotent European nation-states.

Dictatorship formally denies the rule it wants to ensure materially, a doctrine established by Carl Schmitt in his research on the evolution of the institution: Dictatorship (1921), a book of conceptual history, diaphanous and without equivocation, whose non-readers (a very interesting intellectual fauna) figure, against all odds, that it is an apology for Nazism. According to the German jurist, “the essence of dictatorship from the point of view of the philosophy of law consists in the general possibility of separating the norms of law and the norms of the realization of law.” At the same time, dictatorship also implies an effective suppression of the division or separation of powers. Schmitt, being in need of the necessary conceptual demarcation as a jurist, contrasts commissariat dictatorship with constituent dictatorship, categories currently received in the healthiest part of the theory of the State and constitutional theory. Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s doctrine of the general will plays a crucial role in the transition from one to the other.

Hermann Heller, a brilliant jurist, like Carl Schmitt, politicized by his leftist militancy and also committed to national socialism—but the opposite side of the other national socialism—was equally concerned about legal taxonomies. Less perspicacious than his colleague, rival and friend when political or juridical realism (concepts) come into conflict with ideology (positions), for Heller, dictatorship, condemned en bloc, is nothing more than a personalistic and corrupt government (“individuality without law”) opposed to the rule of law (“law without individuality”); in short, “a political regime manifestation of anarchy.” Simplifying a lot, this is the idea of dictatorship generalized among constitutionalists since 1945, the heyday of the “Potsdam democracies.” Carlos Ollero Gómez explained very effectively the constitutional “archaism” that weighed down these regimes.

The commissariat type of dictatorship, an updated formula, at the beginning of the 20th century, of the Roman dictatorship, presupposes a prior mandate or commission, spontaneous (royal call or invitation of a parliament or national assembly to assume extraordinary powers), or forced (pronunciamiento, coup d’état). The commissioned dictator’s mission is to restore the violated constitutional order without going outside the constitution or questioning its essential decisions (form of government). A good example of this is the Spanish dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera, the “iron surgeon” expected by all. Have political and legal historians ever stopped to think why dictatorship got such a good press after World War I? They should read more Boris Mirkine-Guetzévitch, for example, a left-liberal constitutionalist, and think less about the ANECA, cancer of the Spanish university.

Sovereign dictatorship, on the other hand, pursues the establishment of a new political order, using for this purpose a power without legal limitations and operating as a constituent power. Charles de Gaulle in 1958 (dictator ad tempus). This type of dictatorship is associated in the 20th century with totalitarian regimes (total states and popular democracies), while the commissariat dictatorship falls more into the field of authoritarian regimes (Boulangism, authoritarian states and, however bizarre the term may sound, “Catholic dictatorships”). The possible effects of revolution having been limited by the experience of the Paris Commune, the lessons of which led to a turning point in insurrectionary techniques, the alternative to violent subversion is from then on the surgical coup d’état or legal revolution.

In its modern (Baroque) meaning, coups d’état are “audacious and extraordinary actions that princes are forced to undertake, against common law, in difficult and desperate affairs, relativizing the established order and legal formulas and subordinating the interest of individuals to the public good.” Thus speaks, in a secret book, Gabriel Naudé, so mistreated by political ignorance. Naudé, a librarian by profession and a harmless spirit, considers coups legitimate and defensive. Their usefulness depends on the prudence of the prince and, above all, on his ability to anticipate, for “the execution always precedes the sentence”: thus “the coup is received by the one who weighs to give it.” The reputation of a coup d’état depends on those who exploit it: it will be beneficial if it is carried out by friends or allies (salus populi suprema lex esto) and disturbing if it is plotted by enemies (violation of the constitution, counter-coup). Judgment thus depends on the relative position of the observer and his commitments and objectives.

The contemporary sequel to Naudé’s Considerations politiques sur les coups d’Estat (Political Considerations on Coups d’Etat), (1639), is Curzio Malaparte’s Tecnica Del Golpe De Estado (Technique of the Coup d’Etat), (1931). Malaparte, on whom the opprobrium of the right and the left falls indiscriminately, discusses the nature of coups in order to teach how to defeat them with a paralyzing “counter-coup” (coup d’arrêt) and defend the State.

Triumphs like Mussolini’s March on Rome (1922), wrapped in an aura of political romanticism, may never happen again… in the same way. After World War II the general impression was that the coup d’état is an infertile technique. All the more reason why, because of its congenital romanticism, the pronunciamiento can no longer have any effect. From all this we can only expect, as the theoretician of the State Jesús F. Fueyo used to say, an “acceleration of disorder.”

The violence of the coup is logically unacceptable to public opinion in pluralist constitutional regimes. However, that same “public opinion,” by inadvertence or by seduction, can willingly accept what Malaparte calls a “parliamentary coup,” in the style of the one executed by Napoleon Bonaparte on the 18th Brumaire (1799). Carl Schmitt calls it “legal revolution” in a famous article of 1977, written against the non-violent and electoral strategy of the Western communist parties (the Eurocommunism of Santiago Carrillo, a senile disease of Marxism-Leninism, a political religion then beginning to decline, although they, the Western communists, do not yet know it). In reality, the same result can be reached without going through the “legal revolution.” For this, it is necessary to count on the artful political strategy of occupying the constitutional courts—much more than a “negative legislator”—to turn them into the architects of an unnamed constitutional mutation, the greatest danger for the constitutions they are supposed to defend.

But it was not these communists, neither the Soviets nor those of the West, but Adolf Hitler, who, almost half a century before the publication of Eurocommunism and the State, set up the leverage to build a constituent dictatorship with totalitarian roots. Unlike dictatorships of the other species, the authoritarian, the totalitarian dictatorship pretends to have a mission not only political, but also moral, even religious: to give birth to the new man—Bolshevik, Aryan or Khmer Rouge—by disenfranchising the old.

The futility of the Munich coup of 1923 instructed Hitler on the tactical convenience of the electoral struggle and the possibility of legally attaining power in order to activate from the government the de facto abrogation of the constitution. It is a matter of exploiting the “legality premium” to revoke legitimacy. It is precisely against this process of constitutional subversion that Carl Schmitt warned, once again the Cassandra, in the summer of 1932.

The history of the Weimar system is well known and its last gasps have a name: the Authorization Law or Ermächtigungsgesetz (1933), a bridging constitution that suspended and emptied the Weimar constitution of content, opening the door to a constituent (totalitarian) dictatorship that ended up becoming a political oxymoron: a permanent regime of exception.

One of these bridge-constitutions, the Law for Political Reform of 1977, also served as a fuse for the “controlled explosion”—as it was called during the Transition—of the regime of the Fundamental Laws. The truth is that in Spain no one was fooled at that time; or, to be more exact, only those who allowed themselves to be fooled were fooled: “From the law to the law, passing through the law.” It portrays a generation of constitutionalists that no one has dealt with that bridging constitution. In reality, these jurists have powerful reasons to avoid it, since in very few European constitutional processes its character of supreme political decision is so evident, beyond the Kelsenian supercheries and fictions about the Grundnorm or fundamental normal on which everything hypothetically depends. Another fantastic exception to constitutional normativism is found in De Gaulle, playing, for the love of France, the Solon of the Fifth Republic.

The same school as the German National Socialist law of 1933 has held the Hispanic American populism since the end of the 1990s. The case of Hugo Chavez is a paradigm that transcends Venezuelan politics: from the failure of his 1992 “coup d’état” to the success of the “legal revolution” that began with his victory in the 1998 presidential elections and his famous oath of investiture on “the dying constitution” by virtue of which he had been elected.

The politically neutralized constitutionalist has no answer to this political challenge exported to almost all Latin American republics. He is paralyzed by the paradox. It is the ankylosis of Karlsruhe.

Jerónimo Molina Cano is a jurist, historian of political and legal ideas, translator and author. He is a corresponding member of the Real Academia de Ciencias Morales y Políticas in Madrid. This article appears through the kind courtesy of La gaceta de la Iberosfera.

Featured: Cincinato abandona el arado para dictar leyes a Roma (Cincinnatus Leaves the Plough to Dictate Laws to Rome), by Juan Antonio Ribera; painted ca. 1806.

Why Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy Matters

1. A Brief Intellectual Biography

I wrote the second part of this essay for the annual meeting of the Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy Fund, on the Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the death of the German-American thinker, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (1888—1973). That part was originally written for those who already know of his work, which is a very small group indeed. The voice it is written in reflects not only the circumstances and interests of the audience for whom it was written, but it reflects the emphasis, which I think might be of value to those who know nothing of him. Hence for those who have never heard of Rosenstock-Huessy before, a few biographical details may be warranted.

He was born in 1888 into a family who were of Jewish blood but had no interest in their tradition. His mother was as little moved by her son’s conversion to Christianity as she was by the tradition of her ancestors. Of his conversion, Rosenstock-Huessy said that there was no road to Damascus; his baptism seemed a natural progression from his interest in philology and history, and he simply thought that every word of the Nicene Creed was true. He received a doctor of laws at the age of 21, with the inaugural dissertation, “Landfriedensgerichte und Provinzialversammlungen vom 9.-12. Jahrhundert, (Courts of Peace and Provincial Assemblies from the 9th to the 12th Centuries).” And few years later, he completed his Habillitation (the German degree that is usually a prerequisite for becoming a university lecturer), with the deesertation, “Ostfalens Rechtsliteratur unter Friedrich II (East Westphalian Legal Literature under Friedrich) .”

By the age of 24, he was a private lecturer, teaching German Private Law and German Legal History at the University of Leipzig, before joining the German war effort. He served as an officer, and while fighting in the Battle of Verdun he had, what he himself called, a vision of the providential nature of war and revolutions and their indispensable role in making us and the world we now inhabit. That idea would first take preliminary form in 1920, in the work, “Die Hochzeit des Kriegs und der Revolution (The Wedding of War and Revolution).” This was followed by more complete versions, Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man (1938) and Die europäischen Revolutionen und der Charakter der Nationen (The European Revolutions and the Character of Nations) (1951).

These works focussed upon the unity of the European revolutions, which he derived from what he saw as the first total revolution in the West—the Papal revolution, an event involving a complete rejuvenation of the Church that led to Pope Gregory VII’s excommunication of Emperor Henry VI over the practice of lay investiture. The popular support for the Gregorian position was perhaps most evident in the Church ridding itself of married clerics. The central argument of the works was that the Western revolutions that followed—the Italian Revolution (the Renaissance), the German Revolution (the Reformation), the English Revolution, the American Revolution (which he depicts as a half-way house revolution), the French and Russian Revolutions—were not only decisive in the formation of the modern European nations and their character, but gave birth to the social materials and commitments/ the faith that would flow into the world wars, and thereby draw the entire world into an unstable unity.

The story he tells is one in which providence (and not the wills of men) forces us into a condition where we must confront each other in dialogue, draw upon our respective traditions as we seek to navigate a common future—or what he called a metanomic society—if we are to achieve any lasting peace. A metanomic society is not to be confused with the progressive, globalist order that asphyxiates living spirits in conflict so that they may all be presided over by an elite of the good, the true and the beautiful—and the extremely wealthy. Rather it is one of persistent tensionality, as nations and peoples meet at the crossroads of a universal history of faith and war and revolt (sin and disease). On that cross road we encounter the various pathways and epochs (“time-bodies”) opened by founders who often stand for inimical life-ways, and yet we have to find a way to stand or perish together.

The works on revolution were themselves but parts of a more complete attempt to outline his vision of a metanomical society, Die Vollzahl der Zeiten (“The Full Count of the Times”), which would almost take him fifty years to complete. There he formulates the problem confronting the species, as one of making contemporaries of distemporaries—for we all come out of different “times.” Die Vollzahl originally appeared as the second volume of the work published in 1956—1958 as Soziologie, and has more recently appeared under the title he intended as, Im Kreuz der Wirchlichkeit: Soziologie in 3 volumes (Vollzahl appears as volumes 2 and 3 in that edition.) The two parts of the work are divided into one dealing with spaces—it is called Die Übermacht der Räume, which Jurgen Lawrenz, Frances Huessy and myself have translated and edited as The Hegemony of Spaces. The second, as I have indicated, deals with “the times.” The plurality adopted in the titles is important—for much of what Rosenstock-Huessy sees as destroying the human spirit is the adoption of the metaphysical and mechanical ideas of time and space as blinding us to living processes and the role of spaces and times in our lives, especially the opening up new paths of the spirit, involving a new partitioning of time.

The first volume of Soziologie/ Im Kreuz der Wircklichkeit is devoted to laying down Rosenstock-Huessy’s methodological critique of what he sees as the philosophical disaster that has culminated in what he calls, in the culminating section, “The Tyranny of Spaces and their Collapse,” the triumph of the Cartesian dissolution of all life into mechanical space paired with Nietzsche’s aestheticization of life which leaves the more fundamental tyranny untouched. That tyranny comes from the failure of a world increasingly dependent upon professionals devoted to ideas and ideals to understand the living powers of social cultivation and us substituting abstractions for living processes. The key idea of that volume is that play had always been conceived as a preparation for life, by sequestering spaces for play which enable people to focus upon the requisite undertaking we are engaged in. Play enables us to develop a more controlled, a more distanced and hence abstract understanding of life. It also aids us in developing our focus and capacities that may assist us in the tribulations that befall us in “real” life. Play is the species’ greatest source of education. It is thus not a mere afterthought to survival but as intrinsic to our nature as to our social formation and history.

Those familiar with Johan Huzinga’s Homo Ludens will be familiar with how play forms the basis of reflective life, though I think Rosenstock-Huessy makes this the basis of sociology, and human social roles, and by doing so does far more with it, especially in how he identifies the way in which the reflective consciousness has generally downplayed the more primordial social emotions and priorities required for developing pathways of life, in which we find our place and commitments in the world. Lifeless essences—“the individual,” “man,” “free will,” and such like—which can be moved about by the mind of the intellectual on a blank canvas of mental space are treated as real, while real forces of shame, admiration, gratitude, behests, affirmation, negation (I am taking a random selection from powers Rosenstock-Huessy denotes within a larger sociological breakdown) whilst still socially operative are not even noticed by most scholars and researchers.

It would be remiss of me not to mention another preliminary aspect of his intellectual biography. Prior to the First World War, Rosenstock-Huessy was the teacher of the most important Jewish philosopher of the twentieth century, Franz Rosenzweig. Their friendship and his lectures led to Rosenzweig considering to follow his cousins (the philosopher, Hans and author, Rudi Ehrenberg) and Rosenstock-Huessy into the Christian faith. At the last minute, after attending a Yom Kippur service, as a farewell gesture to the faith of his ancestors, Rosenzweig decided that he would “remain a Jew.” Rosenzweig’s “conversion” experience led him to seek out Rosenstock-Huessy again and enter into a dialogue about Christianity and Judaism.

In 1916, the two friends engaged in a heated but brilliant exchange, in which each defended his own faith and criticized that of the other. The correspondence has been translated into English and edited by Rosenstock-Huessy in Judaism Despite Christianity. It is the most important Christian-Jewish dialogue ever written. Rosenstock-Huessy left Germany as soon as Hitler came to power, but he did return in 1935 to help launch Rosenzweig’s Collected Letters. Rosenzweig, by then was deceased, and the correspondence between him and Rosenzweig played a special part in that collection. In my book, Religion, Redemption, and Revolution: The New Speech Thinking of Franz Rosenzweig and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, I have written the only extensive account of the intellectual relationship between Rosenzweig and Rosenstock-Huessy, that draws attention to how they believed that they were, in spite of irreconcilable differences of faith, fighting on a common front against the kind of abstract and philosophical thinking that has dominated the West and is now destroying it. Both, in different ways, undertook to explicate the power of their respective traditions and what those traditions uniquely brought to our understanding of experience. Whereas Rosenzweig has a small audience in the academy (and I make no excuse for the fact that I find the academic reception of Rosenzweig in the US and Germany to be a bowdlerisation of his thinking so he can fit the “ethical” and “political” prejudices that now dominate the academy), Rosenstock-Huessy is almost completely unread today.

Before coming to the United States Rosenstock-Huessy had played an important role in seeking to build bridges between Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. He wrote, Das Alter der Kirche (The Age of the Church) with Joseph Wittig and collected a mountain of material arguing against Wittig’s excommunication—the excommunication would subsequently be overturned. He also played a leading role in the formation of the Patmos publishing house and the setting up of the journal Die Kreatur, both ventures in religious cooperation directed against the forces of resentment that were fuelling the Marxist and Nazi ideologies. In addition to his academic work and writing, after the First World War, he worked for a while with Daimler Benz, editing a magazine for the firm and its workers. He would also play a leading role in fostering cooperation between students, farmers and workers. In the United States he would continue that aspect of his work by helping set up Camp William James, which has been said to have inspired the Peace Corps. He was also the first director of the adult education initiative of the Academy of Labour in Frankfurt, and then between 1929 and 1933, vice-chairman of the World Association for Adult Education. I mention this just to emphasize that just as Rosenstock-Huessy did not belong to one discipline, (he was not a legal scholar, philosopher, sociologist, historian, nor philologist, classicist, nor theologian) yet every work he wrote storms through these and other disciplines, he was also not simply an academic. Like Goethe, whom he quotes incessantly, his focus was life itself, not just ideas.

Admired by Martin Buber, and Paul Tillich with whom he corresponded, and W.H. Auden, who wrote a preface to his I am an Impure Thinker, but unlike so many other German emigres to the US, settling in Dartmouth, he had no doctoral students, and was essentially living and writing as an exile.

2. Commemorative Essay

Unlike every other essay I have ever written on Rosenstock-Huessy, this commemorative one is written for an audience who already knows who he is. Each member of this audience has encountered Rosenstock-Huessy in his or her own way: some are family members, some were his students, others, like myself, simply stumbled onto him. Each member of the audience also has his or her own reasons for how Rosenstock-Huessy’s teachings have mattered in their own lives. Further, there is also a common desire to see his work gain a wider readership and larger influence.

In spite of the indefatigable efforts of Freya von Moltke, Clinton Gardner, Harold Stahmer, Frances and Mark and Ray Huessy, Lise van der Molen, Michael Gormann-Thelen, Eckhart Wilkens, Norman Fiering, Russ Keep, and many, many others (I apologize to the many I have not included here) to gain the audience his great corpus deserves, he remains almost unknown to university professors and teachers and their students, as well as the rest of the population. The efforts of his family, former students and friends have also contributed to preserving his work digitally, which means that scholars in the future have a vast treasure trove of materials to explore, if ever his name does catch fire. Those who contributed to this effort, and those who invented and made available the technology, belong to a common time. Rosenstock-Huessy was a man of his time, who reached back into times usually only of interest to historians and anthropologists, whilst thinking forward both to warn us of the dangers of our time, and to galvanize our faith in a time of greater concordance, one in which love, faith and hope converge so that we may better be able to achieve tensional bodies of solidarity—what he called a “metanomic society”—rather than persist in the cycles which lead us periodically back into hell.

Some of the people I have mentioned have now passed, others are still doing what they can to see his work take on a larger body of those who hear the urgency and respond to the perspicacity and grand sweep of his analysis of what being alive means, how it matters, and how lives over multiple generations have been formed.

Those of us who are party to this commemoration, irrespective of personality differences and styles of what we think may be the best tactic to gain a larger audience, irrespective of what we even think of each other, we are together because the trails and encounters of our individual lives have awoken in us a common appreciation of the “genius” of a man who has brought us together so that what we say, to each other and about each other, in his name, matters. Rosenstock-Huessy fought his entire life against the one-sided polarities which have divided philosophers into idealists and materialists, and thereby led them into metaphysical entrapments where pride in purporting to know the All subsists alongside a litany of errors which prevent us from knowing what really is important, what really matters, what really bears fruit.

It was Rosenstock-Huessy who most schooled me in the importance of our responses to the contingent circumstances that befall us, to the loves that move us, to the faith that focusses our observational powers about what matters in our lives, to the power of speech to bind or divide us, and to the times which flow around and through us, and how times are socially formed.

Each person here will know the major moments in the trails of their lives, even if not the countless trails of their ancestors whose offshoots they are, which led them to Rosenstock-Huessy. In my case, it was coming across Harold Berman’s Law and Revolution, while simply running my fingers across a library shelf in the library at the University of Adelaide, just as I had completed my PhD, which would become my first book, The Metaphysics of Science and Freedom: From Descartes to Kant to Hegel. Had I not been attending that university, had I not been at that section in the library, randomly walking by shelves, had the university not existed, Australia not been discovered, the printing press not invented, had that title not caught my attention (I had just taken up a job involving teaching a subject I had designed, called “Justice, Law, and the State”), had its position on the shelf rendered the book invisible, I may have never heard of Rosenstock-Huessy. And Harold Berman would never have written that book had he not been Rosenstock-Huessy’s student in Dartmouth. And my life would never have taken the trajectory it has had I not picked up that book, and you would not be reading this essay.

I may have remained caught up in the metaphysical grip of a way of thinking that has been as pernicious as it has been influential. I was certainly in the grip of that thinking when I encountered him. But I had already reached a stage where I was finding philosophy far closer to spiritual death than most ever realize. In my case, I can truthfully say philosophy was killing me when I encountered Rosenstock-Huessy. On that point, along with his friends Rudi Ehrenberg, Viktor von Weiszäcker, and Richard Koch, Rosenstock-Huessy always saw that the severance between nature and spirit was a life-threatening disease—and, for those who do not know it, and who have some German, I cannot recommend strongly enough his Introduction to the edition, with Richard Koch, of writings by Paracelsus—Theophrast von Hohenheim. Fünf Bücher über die unsichtbaren Krankheiten, whose subtitle in English reads, Five Books on Invisible Diseases, or Chapter 8, “Das Zeitenspektrum” (“The Time Spectrum”), from Heilkraft und Wahrheit (Healing Power and Truth).

When, thanks to Berman’s book, I picked up Out of Revolution, the opening sentences of Chapter One, “Our passions give life to the world. Our collective passions constitute the history of mankind,” struck me with such power that I was stunned. I suspect others in this audience may have experienced a similar feeling when they first read something by Rosenstock-Huessy, that feeling of being overwhelmed by an insight and how it is expressed, and feeling that this is someone who sees and knows important things. I know that not everybody responds this way to Rosenstock-Huessy. That is especially so with university people. I have had almost no success in sharing my enthusiasm and love of Rosenstock-Huessy.

Apart from my own failures to interest people in his work, the question of why he has not received a larger academic audience has to do with many things. First there is his style. His writing is sprawling and associative, connecting things specialists do not connect. His voice teeters on the conversational and it is laced with anecdotes drawn from every-day experience that do not resonate with an academic audience. His writing rarely, if ever, fits into a discipline—and hence, as he recounts in Out of Revolution, the university did not know where to put him, or what to do with him. His Sociology is many things, but it is most definitely not a traditional Sociology. He dismisses Weber and Pareto with barely a sentence each, but he connects himself with Henri de Saint-Simon, and proceeds to hail him as the founder of Sociology. He writes constantly about language, but he does not do Linguistics, and he almost only ever mentions linguists to rebuke them. Likewise, his writings on Christianity barely engage with theologians, and he finds theology as a discipline to be barren. That he disparages the importance of the mainstream (quasi-Platonist) understanding of the soul’s survival after death makes even his Christian faith look suspect to theologians.

The academic mind is inducted into an area of specialization, and that comes with being confronted with, and being required to participate in, various disciplinary debates and consensuses. He never agrees with any of them, whether it be the Q hypothesis in biblical studies, or the dual Homer of classicists. And he bypasses almost completely what Egyptologists have to say about ancient Egypt, with the odd expression of disapproval, relying for his interpretation of ancient Egypt on the basis of his own readings of Egyptian hieroglyphics. He frequently draws attention to the shortcomings of Philosophy. Where he does engage with philosophers, as in, say, his concluding chapter on Descartes and Nietzsche, in The Hegemony of Spaces, Volume One of In the Cross of Reality: Sociology, or with Descartes in Out of Revolution, he has such an original take that it also falls on deaf academic ears.

Then there is the overall vision. He has a providential reading of history, and the role played by wars and revolutions as the great powers of providence, at a time when providential history has almost no academic representatives. Even the Marxists have largely dropped the teleologism in Marx. But teleological history is not the same as providential history. The key point about his providentialism and how that differs from the progressivist academic orthodoxy of today is perhaps most easily understood if we distinguish between a cast of mind which looks to ideas and ideals, and attempts to rebuild society around the normative claims it makes. This is the standard way in which the philosophically influenced mind works—to be sure Marx transferred the site of development to the material plane, but, for all that supposed break with idealism, his position was still one of postulating what he already knew to be the best (ideal!) society (communism) and looking for how it would be realized. He missed two things that are intrinsic to Christian doctrine and to Rosenstock-Huessy.

First, reality is revealed, and not the result of thinking it through to its end. Secondly, our reality is inseparable from our sins. It is how we build with that that matters. The philosophers teach ethics. They do so because they believe that if we can act without error we will make ourselves and our world much better. This is idealism pure and simple. The difference between Christianity and philosophy and its predilection to instruct us in ethics and designing laws to make a better world stands in sharp relief to what Christianity is doing when we think about Peter and Paul, the two pillars of Christ’s Church. One was a weakling and a liar; the other a zealot and witness to murder. The Church is a creation of sinful flawed creatures. That is why Rosenstock-Huessy saw it as a miracle, and its very existence a confirmation that Jesus was the Son of God. It is the recognition of the salvation of the fallen, the forgiveness of sin, redemption through grace not the potency of our virtue and intelligence that is constantly at work in Rosenstock-Huessy’s writings. Thus too, Rosenstock-Huessy sees war and revolution as the greatest creative occasions not because they are good things, not because he is calling for a revolution in which we implement what we think will be the better future, but because they are symptoms and signs forcing us to recognize the dead ends we have reached: they are spiritual diseases. They reveal us at the end of our tether, and are the preconditions of our ways of dying into a new form of life. One of the inner secrets Rosenstock-Huessy sees in Christianity is that it teaches how we must die into new life.

Rosenstock-Huessy also makes Christianity the root of the tree of universal history, in a century where the academic mind has largely been devoting itself to a neo-pagan revival, as most evident in the importance of what Rosenstock-Huessy calls the four dysangelists of Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche and Freud, each of whom is involved in destroying the traditional components of every civilization, including Christian civilization. While Rosenstock-Huessy goes deep into why the various pillars of civilization exist and why their modern destroyers are so destructive, he is as little interested in defending tradition for the sake of tradition, as in congratulating those who think that we have simply outgrown traditions because we are smarter and better. But he is interested in the collected learning of the species, of the creative, revelatory and redemptive aspects of life which accompany how we organize our lives, how we orientate ourselves as we command and call, declare, and refuse, and then occupy the different fronts of reality that our lips and hearts and hands have opened up.

We all occupy different positions in the various fronts we encounter through our various social allocations, from the family to the division of labour, to our culture, and so forth. A tradition is only a tradition in so far as it is a living pathway of spirits; pathways can run out of spirit; they can be merely dead ends. The tension between anchorage and dwelling, and the spirit’s movement and growth is one of the most important of the species. Societies can be equally doomed by a refusal to grow spiritually, by idolizing their traditions, and by becoming unhinged as the enticements of our desires and imaginings sever us from sacrificial requirements intrinsic to love’s existence and movement.

Rosenstock-Huessy takes cognizance of the fact that all life is about mutation and transformation (which is why he identifies with the Christian fathers who saw Heraclitus as a Christian before Christ’s birth). The power of the language of religion, he would say in Practical Knowledge of the Soul, lies in it, addressing the secrets of transformation. We can never be alert to mutation and transformation if we neglect the importance of contingent encounters, or the creative opportunity that a moment may call for. The meaning of our actions are only revealed through our responses to the circumstance of the moment—not by our plans and intentions. Thus Rosenstock-Huessy emphasises that responsiveness is a condition we ever find ourselves in—not “cogito ergo sum,” as he famously said, but “respondeo etsi mutabor.”

Knowing when to preserve and when to jettison, how to respond to the requirements of the time and circumstance, how to know whether the powers of the tradition are alive or dead, having a sense for which of the hidden powers of the future are to be fought for and given over to, that is part of the cross of our suffering, the trial of our lives, the test of our faith. This is something that is simultaneously something that we are never sufficiently prepared for but what we most need to be educated for. This is also why Rosenstock-Huessy, in the first volume of his In the Cross of Reality, places such importance on how games or play prefigure in our lives—they are means for preparing us for the serious and the unpredictable contingencies which require on our part an astuteness of observation and a strength of character. Neither of these qualities are particularly highly valued by a modern education system which prioritises principles ostensibly encompassing the sources of all our greatest social problems and their application which will ostensibly solve them. The sporting field, though, is a preparation for the battlefield, and the “battlefield” or “theatre of war” is the most serious space in which life is tested.

Rosenstock-Huessy’s view of life owed much to his experience on the battlefield. His conceived War and Revolution amidst the horror of Verdun. The sense of urgency, of trauma, of the horrors we are capable of unleashing, and of what is required for our survival, as well as what contributed to the nations of Europe killing each other on such a scale are woven everywhere into his writing. They give his voice a sense of reality that comes from being covered in mud and splashed with blood, from watching his comrades killed in combat. It is a voice that does not simply come from the study, which I suspect is why those who live in and from the study and the classroom rarely respond to it. That is also why how he approaches the great task of building a lasting peace has nothing in common with the far more popular figures such as Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Jacques Derrida, Jacob Taubes (who for a year corresponded with Rosenstock-Huessy), Giorgo Agamben, Slavoj Žižek and Alain Badiou, all of whom sought to implicate the modern radical project of emancipation within the theo-political one of the messianic. And they, like their less theologically sensitive contemporaries, such as Gilles Deleuze, and Michel Foucault, who have had such an important influence on the ideas circulating in the Arts and Humanities, all view traditions and social roles as if they were explicable through the dyad of oppressor and oppressed, and hence as if what mattered most in a life was that it could be lived according to one’s desires.

But they also want to expose the shaping of desires by the dominant social powers and the ideologies that sustain their privilege, as that very shaping of desires also is a symptom of oppression. Emancipation thus always comes back to appetites, and sociality magically forming some chemical compound to be released in utopia or the “to come.”

However philosophically clever and satisfying the above thinkers are to students and professors who think that ideas exposing who has more, and how much more “power” we will have when emancipated, Rosenstock-Huessy had no time for such vapid analyses that betray the idealistic vapours of their conjuration. Thus he rarely mentions any of the major figures of twentieth century Marxism in his major writings. In some letters, we discover that he thought the revival of 1848 in the age of world wars was a disgraceful failure to read the times. He also lets off steam about Habermas, Adorno and Bloch, while he seems oblivious to the French structuralists and post-structuralists who had started to make a name for themselves in the 1960s and who would go onto play such a large part in the kinds of political narratives coming out of universities in the last forty or so years.

In sum, what the generation who came of age as they were being educated in the 1960s came to see as the great voices of orientation, the very voices which came to play an ever bigger part not only in university curricula, but in policy, were either unnoticed or dismissed by Rosenstock-Huessy. The idea that the greatest problem confronting the species was to overthrow the forces of oppression to emancipate the self we—and those who think just like us—identity with was completely alien to Rosenstock-Huessy. And it is the lack of such a core principle in his work that also continues to alienate him from readers who are of, or trained by the academy.

Whereas the academy has come to play a major role in the narratives which have now come to define the West, neatly now summed up as policy formulations of Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity, Rosenstock-Huessy saw freedom as both a decisive feature of what we are and of the better, more Christ-like, world. It is inseparable from the Holy Spirit, and his take on freedom is yet again an indication of how he diverges from the commonplace distinctions of philosophy which are now so engrained in the mind of the educated public, and the way his faith informs his eyes and ears and throat and heart.

Please indulge me the following excursus into the history of modern philosophy. For if we understand the underlying connections between the modern elevation of the value of freedom, the specific meaning that freedom takes on in the modern context (one very different even from classical philosophy), and the underlying metaphysical parameters within which it emerged, we are in a far better position to appreciate how we are still very much entrapped in the mental prison that Rosenstock-Huessy was trying to break open. We will also better appreciate why Rosenstock-Huessy’s Christian solution is a genuine solution to what commenced as a dream (Descartes’ dream) and has become a living nightmare.

The modern philosophical view of freedom emerges in the broader metaphysical dualism of determinism and voluntarism. They are the polarities which Descartes appealed to in his claim that there were two fundamental substances which provide the basis for all of our understanding of reality—one is immaterial (the mind), the other is defined by virtue of it being extended (the body). Mind, though, in Descartes solely consists of cognitive operations, so the voluntarism in Descartes is strictly limited to acceptance or negation, while the body is construed entirely deterministically. While the particular means identified by Descartes as required to explain causation was abandoned thanks to Newton’s demonstration of the fact (not hypothesis as he proudly declared) of action at a distance, the far more important philosophical contribution made by Descartes was the metaphysical redefining of the world as a totality of laws operating through causal mechanisms, i.e. determinism.

The German idealists (though not Hegel), but especially Kant, the young Schelling, and J.G. Fichte developed the voluntarist metaphysics that is so widely embraced today. In Kant that voluntarism was purely limited to our moral claims, but it finds it most complete form in J.G. Fichte, the major philosophical figure in the Romantic and nationalist movements in Germany, who is barely read today. Fichte had taken the Kantian and Rousseauian idea of freedom being submission to a law which we give to ourselves and extends it to any and every activity where there is human involvement. Thus life itself as we fathom it and participate in it through our consciousness of it and ourselves, for Fichte, is but the self-conscious postulation of the ego. Hence the world is but a fact-act, and our relations are all potentially contractually formed, albeit on the basis of some intrusions by the non-I, which are, inter-alia, racially determined (hence his nonsense on the German character.)

The highpoint of Fichte’s fame was in 1806, when he delivered his Addresses to the German Nation, which was a call for the unification of the German people into one nation to counter the Napoleonic conquests. By the 1830s his fame had dropped away, but his influence had impacted indirectly upon the romantic radicalism of the young or neo-Hegelians. In spite of their name, the young/neo-Hegelians were generally radically anti-tradition and anti-institutionalist and in this respect deeply opposed to Hegel’s philosophy of the reconciliation of the Enlightenment spirit of diremption. They are mainly remembered today because its “members” included Karl Marx. The most philosophical amongst them was probably Ludwig Feuerbach whose critique of Hegel was to be repeated by the young Marx. The two figures in that group that are most conspicuously Fichtean in their philosophical formulations were August Cieszkowski, and, Max Stirner. Cieszkowski is all but completely forgotten, but while Stirner’s work of anarcho-individualism, The Ego and Its Own was philosophically light-weight compared to Fichte, his name has survived, in part due to the merciless polemic against him by Marx and Engels in The German Ideology, but also because he would be an important influence on Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche, though, was also deeply influenced by Schopenhauer, whose polemics against Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel contain some of the best comic lines in the history of philosophy.

Schopenhauer’s philosophy also proceeds by way of metaphysically uniting determinism and voluntarism. He does this by making the will the underlying creative material power of the universe, which is also inseparable from the representations that accompany its incessant drive. He had, so he claimed, bridged materialism and idealism by uncovering the nature of Kant’s notoriously elusive thing-in-itself—Kant had claimed “the-thing-in-itself” was a necessary postulate of reason, that we could never understand, because it lay beyond the mental strictures of our “experience”—it lay outside the parameters—the a priori elements of what he called the faculty of understanding. Nietzsche would simply appropriate this hybrid of material determinism and the will as the fundamental power of the universe.

But whereas Schopenhauer’s response to this was to seek retreat by withdrawing his mind from the world and the restless tumultuous will that was the source of all our suffering, Nietzsche merged a physiological/ biological (determinist) view of human beings with the more Fichtean and Stirner one of heroic potency. Nietzsche ridiculed “the heroic,” a term being bandied about by Carlyle (also an admirer of Fichte), but his superman is a call for the breeding of just the type Fichte had made the high point of his philosophy.

The same deterministic-voluntarist hybrid, albeit without the philosophical self-consciousness and deliberation of Fichte or Schopenhauer, is also in Marx. He claimed to have demonstrated the necessity of socialism arising from the break-down of the bourgeois mode of production, whose laws he had claimed to identify in Capital. But the movement between bourgeois and socialist society was also predicated upon the revolutionary act by the industrial working class, i.e. that act and class were the sine qua non of socialism. In spite of his constant refrain that consciousness was determined by society and not the other way, Marx himself laid out a theory of ideology which would be essential to the radical thinking of the next century. For without clearing away the ideological distortions which protected the ruling class that action might not occur. The proletariat, in other words, needed to be educated, needed to have their consciousness raised. His theory contained two irreconcilable “absolutes”—one (the reality of the capitalist mode of production) studied by the scientist , the other (a non-existent future socialist and then communist society) appealed to by the revolutionary. Eventually the revolutionary Marx quietly adopted the kind of voluntarism that would define Leninism: that moment came when Russian Marxists asked Marx if they could bypass capitalism taking hold in Russia and leap straight to a socialist society. He replied, Yes—and with that he tactility renounced the deterministic basis of his own theory: consciousness could in fact determine social being.

The one philosopher who grasped the importance of the metaphysical bifurcation that had been playing itself out since Descartes was Hegel. He had argued that the modern metaphysical bifurcation of determinism and voluntarism was but one more unfortunate legacy of the Enlightenment’s division of the world into the finite, and infinite, which, he argued, rests upon a dogmatic (and philosophically false) belief that the finite is not a moment within the infinite, but a separate part of it. That is, it cuts us off from the world that it purports to exhaustively define so that we can understand all its laws. Hegel was correct to see the dialectical relationship between determinism and voluntarism. His mistake was his faith in philosophy itself—and even how he pits faith against philosophy involves the error that explodes his entire edifice. That error is most visible in the key to his entire corpus, his lesser known book, Faith and Knowledge. While it provides a brilliant analysis of the philosophies of Kant, Jacobi, and Fichte, it is based upon a completely false understanding of faith.

Although Hegel admired Hamann, and wrote a very positive and lengthy appraisal of him, had he read him more closely he would have realized that faith is not something arrived at when knowledge reaches its end. The idea that faith was required when knowledge reached its end was what the Romantics had in common with Kant, and it was this that Hegel kept finding and criticising not only in Kant, Fichte, and Jacobi, but young Schelling, Schleiermacher, Fries and other contemporaries. His point was like Kant, who had denied any knowledge of the thing-in-itself, only to tell us a lot about it, they all speak of the limits of knowledge only to tell us what they know lies beyond knowledge, and how we too might know it! While Hegel’s argument against the philosophers and theologians is compelling, it, nevertheless, misses the point—that faith is what leads to knowledge and indeed to the life you have, not what takes place outside or beyond it. It is utterly existential, and world-making.

When one sees the ruin of Hegel’s life-time work, a system with nothing but rubble to be picked up by subsequent generations we cannot help see (I at least) the deep failure that incubates within philosophy. For none has done a better job than Hegel in demonstrating that any subject we consider is only what it is because of its predications. The more knowledge we bring to/have about the subject, the more we see what it is. That is a very clever defence of science and the importance of knowledge as a systemic enterprise—but it overstates the importance of reason and ideas and underestimates the things that Rosenstock-Huessy emphasises which are required in knowledge and which I talk about at the end of this paper. Thus it is, for Hegel, that to know the part requires knowing the All that informs the part. That is a brilliant metaphysical insight, and it sends Hegel on the path of writing The Science of Logic and The Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Science, and the most magisterial account of the history of philosophy ever given, as it demonstrates how his philosophy is the culmination that recognizes the conceptual development and labour that led to him.

If philosophy from its origin aspired to the God’s eye view, it is Hegel who has the eye of God. Or so it would be the case if he were correct, though we can see how silly it is when we start to look at some of the errors of judgment he displays in his Philosophy of Nature, especially. But our life is not formed in the study, nor by denoting the dynamic of our contradictions. It is formed by the faith that has carried us to where we are as it also moves us to our next action. This by the way was why the deeply religious Hamann liked Hume so much and forgave him for his more enlightened nonsense. Hume understood that faith is a motivation where all our knowing can be sceptically broken down if we pose the right questions to it.

Hegel, aside, the disjuncture between determinism and voluntarism remains very much with us in our confused world. Here Hegel’s genius retains its relevance. For we can see that because the greatest faith in the Western world today is faith in their ideas about the world and they themselves are caught up in the constant oscillation transpiring between the polarities of the metaphysical spectrum upon which their ideas “pop up.” More often than not the oscillation (Hegel’s dialectic of contradiction) transpires within the one narrative. An extremely common one involves being drawn into identifying the determinations of identity (gender, race, ethnicity etc.), whilst at the same time rallying behind the (wilful, i.e. idealist driven actions) overcoming of those determinations by changing our ideology.

The contemporary soul, in sum, in so far as the modern project is to a very large part a philosophical—an ideational—creation is torn between two absolutes, the absolute of the universe and the social forces that are treated as naturalistic variations of ideological social power, and the absolute of emancipation in which the rights of the oppressed subject triumph over the unjust imposition of the privileged. But the concept of emancipation is also implicated in the other metaphysical oscillation concerning freedom which accompanies the determinism/ voluntarism dyad, which was at the centre of Kant’s (unsuccessful) attempt to provide an unassailable metaphysics. That was the division between freedom as the formulation of a categorical imperative (i.e. the capacity to make unconditional universal moral commands) and simply giving into the appetites (our appetites, in this schema, are simply bodily determinations). From the Kantian perspective surrendering to our appetites is the antithesis of freedom—so much so that he holds that no act is free if is affected even by the tiniest degree by an appetite.

Kant aside, the idea of freedom has become extremely commonplace today, although the idea of our freedom requiring removing the strictures upon the appetites is the view of freedom to be found at its most brutally honest form in Sade, and in a more humorous version in Rabelais’ less semen and blood-stained depiction of the kind of giants we could be were we free of religious superstition, priests, bad rulers, lawyers, scholastics, etc.

The liberal view of freedom, which goes back to Locke and takes persons and their property as the bastions of liberty, mediates between the appetites unbound, and the binding required of other appetitive beings. That human nature is nothing but appetites in motion is also an offshoot of the deterministic metaphysics of the modern and is laid out by Spinoza and Hobbes, and it will be this view of the self without freedom or faith in its own dignity that will be a major impetus for Kant’s critical philosophy.

The politics of emancipation in the West (and they have no real resonance outside of the West today), though drawing upon “moral” posits which give it normative leverage (the leverage of shame), is the dialectical resolution of the modern components of the idea of freedom. It incorporates the satiation of one’s appetites, the right of respect (dignity) for having one’s appetites and determinations (being/ identity), control of education to enable the breaking up of oppressive/ traditional forms of social reproduction to enable this dignified/ appetitive self, as well as the political demand that this emancipated self receives the resources, whether through reparations, or career and office holding opportunities distributed on the basis of one’s being/identity, that enable its perpetuity. Indeed as we are witnessing, the emancipated self requires for its realization a complete overhaul of the entire political, economic, pedagogical and social spheres. That it has generated an all-encompassing alliance between the state, corporations and those who determine which ideas are to be taught and publicly tolerated in order to sustain this new world of new selves also requires an unprecedented technocratic, bureaucratic and ideocratic alliance.

All of this is as remote from Rosenstock-Huessy as pretty well any other kind of campus-initiated politics that have grown out of the student revolution and its aftermath. In sum, then, for Rosenstock-Huessy the secret of freedom is not disclosed by Descartes, Spinoza, Roussea, Kant, nor Fichte nor Sade, a decisive influence in the French pot-pourri of Bataille, Blanchot, de Beauvoir, Sartre, Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze and Guattari, who have played such a huge role in the Arts and Humanities in the Western world, nor Marx nor Nietzsche. even if Rosenstock-Huessy finds things in Marx and Nietzsche which he sees as valuable. It is to be found in the partitioning of time, and the foundation of a new time. For Rosenstock-Huessy the great partitioning occurred with Jesus, for it would both bring an end to all of what he called “the listening-posts” of antiquity, that is the distinct life-ways of tribes, empires, city-states, and the diasporic Jews bound by their God, their belief in His promise, their prophesies and expectation of a Messiah, as well as breathing new life into them by raising them to another socio-historical plane and purpose.

Rosenstock-Huessy’s argument about where Christianity fits into the larger scheme of a universal history can be seen as a variant of the kind of accounts we find in the writing of people like Frédéric Ozanam, Christopher Dawson, and G.K. Chesterton, though I think once the second (and third, depending upon the edition) volume(s) of his Sociology are factored in with the two studies (the German and English versions being organized differently and having somewhat different emphases) of the European revolutions then his account is sui generis. Like any historical account, and especially when it covers such a massive array of events, some of its findings as well as the stations on its way are disputable.

However, that he provides an account of history in which he draws attention to so many variables being of consequence for the world we now live in, and that he does so balancing structural (especially in the Sociology—though, it would also be the structural features of his study of the European revolutions that would lead to a preface to the Die europäischen Revolutionen being written by the doyen of structuralist/systems theory Political Science, Karl Deutsch) and contingent features lays out a great research project that remains largely neglected. Although Berman’s two volumes of Law and Revolution is an important contribution to the development of that project.

But just as the Christian centre of his universal history has left his work being neglected, the method is also something that leaves the work being neglected. That he has a method is something he makes clear in the first volume of his most methodical writing, the first volume of In the Cross of Reality/Sociology. But just as his understanding of freedom has nothing in common with the philosophical way in which freedom has developed, his method is what he calls the cruciform one in which there are no such things as objects per se or subjects per se, even if we are to retain that philosophical language, which Rosenstock-Huessy only very occasionally does, nor are future and past unmediated by each other.

We all find ourselves torn by what we each bring to a situation, as well as what has gone into creating the situation which takes us far beyond what can be encapsulated in the words of subjectivity of objectivity. Words like subject and object have such philosophical importance because of the philosophical willingness to eliminate the complexities which overly complicate the process of having clear and distinct ideas. The terms are the result of a decision to simplify reality so it is better controllable. The terms subject and object conceal an array of actions, circumstances, occasions, historic and semiotic backdrop and inherited lexicon and knowledge-pool, as well as the associations and memories that we have and do not even know we have until we speak. “Speech,” and Rosenstock-Huessy folds writing into Sprache/speech—discloses us to ourselves as much as it communes with others—and these in turn are enmeshed in what he calls our prejects, what calls us and pulls us from the future, and trajects, which push us.

At the most critical moments we are literally torn apart between competing directions, in and at the cross and the cross roads. This is also why Rosenstock-Huessy also deviates so decisively from the general tenor of the modern mind which thinks that through its intentions and designs it will get the world it wills, as if the self and world are not inexhaustible mysteries which are revealed by the word and over time through our participation in life, but substances to be analysed into clear and distinct ideas and synthesised so that we can be masters of ourselves and the world. In sum, the modern philosophical position which has seeped so deeply into the world is one which exists in defiance of the Holy Spirit through its elevation of the self as subject, or, which is in essence no different, the elevation of our understanding of “the All” whose most important determinations have been identified by our great luminaries.

Rosenstock-Huessy is a counter-Enlightenment thinker, in the vein of Hamann, in so far as he prefers to throw himself on the ground and pray in the midst of that cross-road because he knows how fragile we and our minds are. He would rather trust the Holy Spirit than the technocratic spirits which have emerged out of the modern philosophical imagination and its limited but insufferably proud understanding. His writings are testimony to that Spirit. What I recounted earlier about the way I came to Rosenstock-Huessy, and what have suggested about the way everybody has come to him is exactly the kind of meaningful event in a life that Rosenstock-Huessy has taught me to appreciate the living presence of Holy Spirit. But thinking thus, and seeing the world thus necessarily puts him at odd with the entire academic mind-set of today which, at its worst, see the world and our participation in it through a technocratic/and or ideological template, and, at best, through the systemicity we may gather through positioning ourselves within the sciences, including the human sciences.

The Holy Spirit though is not a thing, and certainly not anything that can be adequately incorporated into a social or human science, at least so long as the sciences proceed according to the strictures that were designed to study nature in its mute “object” manner. But that approach to nature also involves us blinding ourselves to ourselves. On that front it is most interesting to compare Rosenstock-Huessy’s comparison, in Der Atem des Geistes, of the respective insights and ways and means of Michael Faraday with those of Eddington. Rosenstock-Huessy rightly indicates, no science of anything would be possible were it not for the breath of inspiration of a founder of a hitherto unknown pathway of the spirit, and the inspiration (the shared breath) that the founder is able to instil in others who follow down that path as they take us further into unexplored aspects of life. Nietzsche had claimed that the ascetic ideal in Christianity prioritised truth in such a way that it opened up a pathway for science, but Rosenstock-Huessy takes seriously what most philosophers simply ignore and that is the personal dimension and interaction of those involved in research, and the spirit that binds them in their inquiry. Thus he addresses not only what knowledge is for, but for whom it is for.

I will return to this toward the conclusion of this essay but here I wish to emphasize Rosenstock-Huessy’s recognition of the primacy of the elemental component of a living process is what is invariably left behind in abstraction. As I have hinted already what Rosenstock-Huessy teaches about Christianity, and what he finds in Christianity is what has mainly been lost, especially by theologians, about why it is important: what it reveals about life.

We live in an age where doctrine and abstraction proceed as Siamese twins, where it assumes that a doctrine such as is embodied in the Christian teaching came out of someone’s head, rather than out of lives lived, and it is what was picked up and then taught by the lives lived in devotion to a particular person, a person acknowledged and revered by those who witnessed him as a person who was both man and God, someone from whom their lives took on such a meaning that they saw themselves as being reborn through their faith in him. Rosenstock-Huessy had said that his faith was something he grew into because could never understand “why everybody did not believe the Nicean Creed.” Those are not the words of someone who thinks abstractly, but rather someone who has an uncanny perspicacity, the ability to see the relationship between the spirit and flesh of Christendom and the words that those believers at Nicaea formed with such precision and purposefulness. What Rosenstock-Huessy sees as exemplified in Christianity is the illustration of the word becoming flesh: life, teaching and actions belong together, as he writes in his masterful essay, “ICHTHYS”: they are a trinity, and as such they are the cure against what Rosenstock-Huessy identifies as “the three infernal princes—of the senses, of thought, and of compelling authority.”

But it is precisely because in forming a world where ideas matter so much we have not become better attenuated to life and its commands and demands but we have deafened and dumbed and blinded ourselves as we deal in words that lack life. We misuse and abuse names that once had power, and now they reflect back our own emptiness and powerlessness, our preference for the dead and the mechanical over the real that is love’s creation. We simply cannot fathom the experiences that gave rise to the names that created the Christian world—the experiences have become completely invisible to us because the words are but husks.

Rosenstock-Huessy’s most systematic work was his Sociology: In the Cross of Reality, which was divided into a critique of the hegemony that spatial thinking had come to play in the world, culminating in the suffocating tyranny of its imposition that had been ensconced philosophically, and an account of the times that have made us into planetary neighbours. While he often had praise for Nietzsche, he saw that the arc of modern philosophy from Descartes to Nietzsche was a fateful one for modern people. For we have become swept up in a technocratic view of life (going back to Descartes) in which the world and we ourselves are but components or resources to be dissolved into an infinitude of space, measured and reincorporated and reconfigured to conform to the plans and machinations that are supposed to emancipate us. Much of The Hegemony of Spaces is devoted to the importance of roles and the way in which they socially position us for our cooperation in making our way in the spaces we operate within. The philosophical prioritising of spaces in an age where philosophism has undermined and in many way supplanted the ways and the role of the Church also comes with the target of eliminating roles so that people better pursue their individual happiness. The rationale of roles within the family, the workplace, the school, which provides our named placement in the social order, which induct us, and steers us through the processes where we must learn the difference between shameful acts and the responsibilities which come with our role, is bound up with the fruits that we all must socially harvest if we are to have concordance and growth. Once again Rosenstock-Huessy sees the reductive and destructive force of the materialism/ idealism truncations and their naturalistic/ scientistic counterpart cutting away at how we are able to access and creatively participate in the spiritual development of the species. The grave threat facing “modern man,” requiring that he “outrun” it, is sterility, a sterility of spirit that also shows itself in its suicidal self-destruction, in its concentration camps, in its danger of turning the life-world into a gigantic factory.

If the motherless Descartes was the mother of this world, the fatherless Nietzsche aspired to be the true father who would give birth to the superman who would rule the earth. For Nietzsche the modern world is the barren offspring of the “marriage” of scientism (Descartes) and aestheticism (Nietzsche). Both swallow up the complexity of real life with their abstract fantasies. Nietzsche holds out the promise of meaning that has been shorn off our lives as but mechanical parts of the universe by Descartes. It is a deluded promise made by a man who saw much but missed much, most notably the sterility which becomes satiated by imagined children being a substitute for real children.

The second volume of Rosenstock-Huessy’s great masterpiece was devoted to one overarching theme, an account of the great times that have contributed to a universal history. The infinitization of space has as its corollary the infinitization of time, which is another way of saying the reduction of all the social creativity that has formed different times, different epochs, different generations, different ages of the spirit. Rosenstock-Huessy’s contribution to countering the spiritual and existential mass murder of reducing us and our lives, our traditions and achievements, our future hopes, and our faith and loves to spatial confinements and mechanisms is to draw us into what he calls the Full-Count of the Times.

The work as anyone knows who has read it brims with brilliance: it betrays the kind of erudition that is the preserve of the most learned of his especially learned generation; it teems with brilliant aperçus, and it makes the most marvellous connections across periods that convey an entire sense of meaning and spiritual purpose to great periods of time. Of course, it is a specialist’s nightmare. But, apart from the dire need it has of an editor who may have salvaged some of the syntactical leaps which drag entire paragraphs into thin air without leaving any trace of meaning behind, it is a work which consciously seeks to connect the lost and forgetful man of the mid-twentieth century with the multiform conditions of which he is the sociological, historical and spiritual heir.

Although he is, as I have repeated throughout a Christian, he explains in numerous works why being a Christian is not simply defining one-self against other religions and gods, but is to enter into a tradition which is founded upon the incorporation and reinvigoration of the living beyond death that precedes it. For Rosenstock-Huessy being a Christian means being open to God’s creation, voice and promise, and one cannot do that if one comes with a theologian’s or philosopher’s truncated and distorted understanding of God. A god is a living name on the lips of people—a people’s existence is bound up with the spirits they serve, the voices they respond to, what they hold sacred, the commands of their god. Rosenstock-Huessy often made the point that people first needed to understand the gods before they could begin to understand what they were talking about if God’s name arose.

And talking about God was already a sign that one was missing the point. The living God is meaningful only in relationship, in communion, in prayer and obeisance and supplication. But in so far as one is trying to explain the spiritually living to the spiritually dead, one has to imaginatively enter into life worlds remote from our own, life worlds we might never have thought about, but without which we simply would not be what we are. Few, apart from Herder, have laboured as much as Rosenstock-Huessy to explore the historical, sociological and broader cultural conditions which are part of the human story. It is the fact that, for all our differences, we are part of one family. This is why the Aborigine is the kin of the modern office worker, though on the surface they may as well live on different planets. How have we come to inhabit such different worlds, with our different traditions, our different ways of world-making, our different orientations and priorities, our different “gods” and values, hopes and expectations?

But no less important is the question, how is it that in spite of these differences we not only live on one planet, but we find ourselves conscious of the fact that there are so many different worlds, different calendars, different cultures etc. and that we also can speak to and of each other? These questions are burning ones still and Rosenstock-Huessy’s project (here he is very much following the pathway of Herder) is one which requires we drop the philosophical nonsense and norms of Western imposition and listen to each Other. Yet one more irony is that it is precisely those who do the philosophical imposition, who see the world through its norms, who are most hostile to the universal message of Christianity, and its response to the universal condition of human suffering.

Rosenstock-Huessy had an uncanny knack for tapping into that suffering and for entering into the different life worlds, as he looked to the powers and spirits that animated them, the circumstances which exhilarated and terrified them, and the creations and prayers that distinguish them. In antiquity he identified four distinct life-worlds: the tribe, the empire, the Jewish diaspora and the Greek city state. For Rosenstock-Huessy if we fail to understand the spirits of these groups and their legacies we can never appreciate Christianity. If we fail to see the power behind animism, and the powers that connected human beings with their ancestral animal teachers and tribal ancestors, if we fail to appreciate how polytheistic societies arose and what they generated, and what crises befell them, if we cannot appreciate what the Jews learnt from their enslavement and exile, why they awaited a messiah, how will we be able to appreciate the miracles that may spare us from the hellish darknesses that have always befallen civilizations, and peoples?

Rosenstock-Huessy lived through the world war(s) (he believed, rightly in my view, they were but the one event) and fought in one of its phases. But what he saw was that in spite of the horror and darkness, there was survival, and he very much saw that capacity for survival as coming out of the spiritual reserves provided by the Christian faith. The importance of Christianity lies in large part in the spiritual reserves that it has absorbed from peoples and practices who knew nothing of it. We are, for Rosenstock-Huessy, bonded by the realities that different faiths and orientations have discovered and generated and which are part of us and our world, in spite of what we might want to think or believe. Thus he writes in The Secret of the University (Ray Huessy provides this quote in his marvellous introduction to his new edition of The Fruit of Our Lips): “We must all create originally (like the pagans), hope in expectation (like the Jews), and love decisively (like Christians)— that is to say, we must take part in the beginning, end, and middle of life.”

What Rosenstock-Huessy expresses here as an existential truth, an observation about ends and beginnings and the middle of history, is preceded by the life of Jesus, whom he accepts and follows as the Son of God, the genuine middle, “the hinge-point” of history, the moment where the ages are cleft into BC and AD by a life that shakes up the worlds that preceded it and sets them on a new path. In The Fruit of Our Lips, Rosenstock-Huessy talks about the spiritual dead ends that had been reached that provide the opening, the need for Jesus to be the answer to the human prayers:

Jesus was in fact the end of our first world. He took the sins of this first world upon himself. This sentence simply recognizes the fact that in separation, tribal ritual, the temple of the sky-world, poetry in praise of nature, and the messianic psalms, were all dead ends, {in the immutability of their one-sided tendency}. In this sense Jesus’ death sentence was the price of his being the heir of these fatal dead-ends. They slew him because he held all their wealth and riches in his hand, heart, mind, and soul. He was too rich not to share in the catastrophe of the all-too-rich ancient world. {So it was his duty to be the one condemned by the king, the one sacrificed by the priest, the poem of the poet, and the one foretold by the prophet} (41),

It is interesting to note in passing how the more philosophical minded trying to fathom our historical condition can, as Agamben, Badiou, Taubes and Žižek have done, take Paul seriously, but not Jesus (Žižek, the most clownish of these characters at least provides a clownish account of Jesus as a monster who fits into his Marxian-Hegelian-Lacanian schematic overriding of history and spirit). That they take the teacher more importantly than the one whose life gives meaning and purpose to the teaching conforms to the type that Rosenstock-Huessy saw as so unfit to teach because their priorities do not conform to how life and the spirt of life works. What we teach is only actual when it is lived first.

The gospels are not a compilation of doctrines but the record of a life that bears fruits that must be taught and carried into actions. And the life that was lived was what it was in large part because of when it was lived. The who and the circumstance and the encounter are all part of the spirit of the truth and its power. The realization of the power of the life of Jesus required respondents who would take his life and take his teachings into the world so that new pathways of life, new lives could be formed. Jesus’s life was the seed to be spread while, says Rosenstock-Huessy, “The four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the lips of the risen Christ. These lips bore fruit because Jesus was also an answer to their prayers. The four Evangelists lay down their human limitations at the foot of the cross and transform their individual experience into a contribution to the community.” What the modern secular minded person can easily dismiss as merely the stories told by believers and fanatics, in Rosenstock-Huessy’s eyes reveals something astonishing—and the problem with the smug dismissal lies in the complete disjuncture between cause and effect. The irony is all too conspicuous in so far as the great principle of continuity in Greek thinking is the dogma of the equivalence in power between cause and effect. And yet we see the refusal to acknowledge this very principle by those who otherwise invoke it all the time.

For the Christian something great can indeed come from something tiny, the character of a thousand years can be born from the flame of faith in hearts awed by the words and deeds done by the right person in the right time. Faith and miracles go together, and they are intrinsic to Christianity, beginning with the miracle of the world’s creation, and the story of the fall that comes from a lack of faith/trust/ obedience in God’s promise.

How faith is formed owes much to who has the faith and what it is in. Jesus lived but it mattered who responded to him, and who responded to them. That he had the respondents who had their faith is also, from this point of view, this faith-held view, and that they reported their accounts of the life of Jesus and what he taught in the order they did is yet another miracle, or what Rosenstock-Huessy more prosaically refers to as “remarkable.”

“There is” observes Rosenstock-Huessy” a remarkable sequence in the authors of the four gospels”:

Jesus’ name in the old church had four parts: Jesus, Christ, Son of God, Savior. The four Greek initials of these four names were read as Ichthys (fish). The four gospels proclaim this name. Matthew the sinner knew that the Lord was his personal savior (= Soter); Mark knew him from the beginning as the Son of God (Hyious Theou); Luke saw Christ who had converted Saul, to whom Jesus had never spoken (for Paul, Jesus could be nothing else but exclusively Christ); John, the kindred spirit, knew him as an elder brother, that is, he thought of him as “Jesus,” personally.

In spite of Rosestock-Huessy drawing upon biblical scholars and traditions to make his case, one thing that I have not seen anyone else address with such startling insight is his claim about the way in which the gospels form a unity through their positioning on different fronts to different communities. And it is this approach that I see as providing an invaluable example of how our history should be told. It takes the most important, the most world-shaping, book in the world and demonstrates how it is a living example of the circulation of spirit, how truth is polyphonic, how it is nothing without the bond between speaker and listener, how the specific speaker and the specific person/community being addressed matter—and concomitantly how any idealistic reduction, i.e., dissolution of the living encounter and the teaching expressed in that account dies if it is diced up and regurgitated as mere ideas. Allow me to quote two passages from The Fruit of Our Lips, the one tells us something important about the speaker/ writer, the other about the listening community:

1. John writes as an eye-witness who knows the minutest details when he cares to mention them. The apostle is the author of the gospel, and that is why it carries authority.
2. All four gospels are apostolic. Matthew was the converted publican {among the apostles}, and he wrote under the eyes of {Peter and the sons of Zebedee and} Jesus’ brother in Jerusalem before the year 42. Mark obeyed Peter. Luke lived with Paul. John dictated to a Greek secretary.
3. Matthew wrote in Hebrew, not in Aramaic, and he was the first to write.
4. Mark states bluntly that he is quoting Matthew (47).


John spoke to people who knew the arts and sciences; Luke spoke to the greatest high churchmen and Puritans of antiquity; Mark spoke to the civilized inhabitants of the temple states. But thanks to his “bad taste,” Matthew penetrated to the most archaic layer of all society, to the tribal layer of ritual, and so Matthew gave us a version of the gospel that was to become the most universal and fundamental characteristic of the new way of life. The Mass and the Eucharist, the inner core of all worship, is identified in Matthew [26:26–29]. Since he made clear that by His sacrifice Christ had purchased the salvation of the sacrificers, the scripture now says: At every meal, the sacrifice that is the bread and wine speaks to the dining community and invites us to join our Master on the other side, so to speak—on the side of the victim (92-93).

Finally on the importance of Christianity as “the hinge point of history”—and I should emphasise that it these few citations do not remotely compare to the detailed case Rosenstock-Huessy makes in the Full Count of the Times—what matters as much as what preceded Christianity by way of the creations, loves and practices that flow into it and that it redeems, is what it puts an end to by becoming a stumbling block:

I may not relapse into tribal ritual or Pharaoh’s sky-world; Hitler, who tried to do just that, stands revealed as a madman. The other streams are similarly blocked: the modern Greeks, the physicists, and the modern Jews, the Zionists, are certainly not the Greeks or Jews of antiquity. The Greeks glorified the beauty of the universe; our physicists empty it of meaning. The Jews praised God; the Zionists raised a university as the first public building in Jerusalem. So the roadblock of the Word is simply a fact; not one of the streams of the speech of ancient men surges through us directly any more (45).

Rosenstock-Huessy’s reading of history and the role of Christianity as a universalising, planetary forming force stands in complete contradiction to the modern liberal mind which believes it and it alone has found a way to reconcile all the traditions and faiths of the world, thereby illustrating that it is no less a universal dogma than the Christian faith—but it is a dogma that proceeds by deception, the deception of purporting to respect the very traditions it destroys by squeezing their essence into the pre-formations it finds tolerable. Lived faiths are born through and from bloody sacrifices—the blood and sacrifice are as intrinsic to the existence of the faith as to its truth.

Thus, the Jewish Bible and Old Testament and Koran are as bloody books as ever have been written. They are an affront to the vapid comfortableness of the liberal mind which does not want to acknowledge the blood and horror behind its own birth—believing it escapes its reality by virtue of the sanctimony of its moral accusations against its ancestors. In place of harrowing and astonishing testimonies of despair and salvation, of battles and renunciations, of dogmas that require an all or nothing commitment, liberalism distils a religious—moral essence which it drops into an abstract mush. It presents a morally vacuous and existential picture of life’s meaning devoid of real conflictual devotional differences, a safe-space free from micro-aggressions and hate. It presides over the waste land of spirits deprived as much of authority as of their memory.

The liberal spirit is pure tyranny in which all the gods are interchangeable because they have been defanged and folded into the air of ideas and ideals. They are as loveless as they are vacant. They promise the freedom that comes from the right of sensual and racial and ethnic identity in which real differences of the sort thrashed out by Rosenstock-Huessy and Rosenzweig in the midst of war in 1916 are only of importance to the extent they may indicate degrees of demanding, having, and blaming the oppressive privileged Other. This cast of mind is the antithesis of the dialogical spirit as exhibited in the amicably acrimonious exchange between Rosenstock-Huessy and Franz Rosenzweig, an exchange that changed both their minds and opened up new paths for both of them: they both discovered more about their commitments, and priorities, their faiths, what they each held as unnegotiable in so far as they could not lie to themselves about what had made them who they were: and then they joined beyond themselves and beyond their trajects.

One of the most shocking things that we face in the Western world, particularly Western Europe with Muslim immigration is not simply a demographic transformation which the host population has not been prepared for, but the entire process is transpiring without a modicum of understanding being demonstrated in the media or education system about why an encounter must change all parties to it, why that is an opportunity for grace, for new creations of the spirit. Instead, we are witness to a people whose sense of tradition is more than a millennium and a half old encountering a people who have almost entirely lost all sense of communal historical continuity, a people now so spiritually bereft they have little but their stuff and distractions, their escape pathways in booze and drugs and hyper-sexualized culture (that only makes them despicable to Muslim migrants) to show for themselves. Is it any wonder that the Muslim youth are so embittered and willing to embrace causes where they can take direction from a God that lives in their hearts and gives them meaning and purpose that is an alternative to the wasteland that they see all around them?

The liberal narration that predominated among the political and pedagogical classes can only bring to the discussion the same failed abstractions that are tearing itself apart. The Rosenstock-Huessy-Rosenzweig dialogue, as I once said in a lecture in a university in Istanbul, provides the “model” of what a dialogue between inimical faiths must involve. Without such dialogues there can be no friendship, and no birth. But an understanding of the importance of friendship and conflict being in what it gives birth to, again something of such importance to Rosenstock-Huessy, has no meaning in a world in which ideas have supplanted living connections.

Not surprisingly the liberal mind cannot bear to read the Christian Rosenstock-Huessy, preferring to dismiss him as an anti-Semite so that he need not be heard, while the Jewish Rosenzweig is simply reduced to an aesthete and ethicist, a forefather of the pure ethicist Emmanuel Levinas, whose Jewishness never gets in the way of his Greekness, which makes him academically sellable to Jews and Gentiles, who can only look back at past animosities as Christian prejudice and Jewish victimhood. The tyranny of spatial thinking is how it cuts away at the times that provide defining and differentiating characteristics of peoples, and their respective spirits and pathways.

The critical methodological innovation that Rosenstock-Huessy proposed for a new human science unencumbered by the tyranny of spatial thinking was attentiveness to the cleavages in time, or more precisely, attentiveness to the various partitions of time which divide and surround us. When I was growing up it was not uncommon to see nuns and priests in the street. Their clothing was a reminder of another age. And yet they also inhabited this age. We rarely consider how different professions are also the result of a time partition. The further we are willing to follow the way of the spirit and not remain captive to the spatialization of our being the more conscious we can become of why our differences are time-founded and time-bound.

Thus, for Rosenstock-Huessy, the great challenge we face as a species is dialogical and time-ridden. To be able to speak and listen to what has come out of the different times we as a species have inhabited, to be able to, in his phrase, make the times “conversable” is our great challenge. It is also an opportunity in so far as the times have been literally pressed up against each other as the European revolutions and the world wars have made us conscious of our planetary condition. We may be more conscious of our world being one, we can only respond to the challenge that has been posed to us if we bid farewell to the kind of essentialist thinking that has been part of the tyranny of the philosophical legacy.

This is also closely related to other of Rosenstock-Huessy’s aspirations: the desire to make grammar the basis of a new social science, something that is sketched out in Speech and Reality. In various places RosenstockHuessy rues the triumph of Alexandrian grammar. And I recall a former classics teacher of mine saying how crazy this was: Alexandrian grammar was simply a way of teaching a language. For Rosenstock-Huessy, though, why it mattered was because it attenuated the mind to prioritize the philosophical imagination’s way of taming reality rather than properly inducting us into the living priorities such as are provided by the vocative mood and the imperative mood. Social induction commences with the imperative, just as our most serious engagements are ones in which respond to a calling, to the vocative.

The movement from God being a person whom we address and who addresses us to a figure encapsulated in, and talked about through the imposition of the indicative mood is indicative of a massive cultural shift. In our post-Enlightenment age we see that has the result of simply knowing more. But we simply do not know what we are doing if we do not render visible what powers we are giving ourselves over to in our deeds. The moderns have mostly lost all sense of themselves by being blinded by abstractions which hide their deepest sense of what matters to them from themselves. They make conversableness impossible because speech is merely a tool, the modern soul, as he observed in the fourth section of Der Atem des Geistes devoted to the need to resuscitate liturgical thinking, merely a fragmented bundle of nerves (ascribed some mythic identity—in Rosenstock-Huessy’s time race and class predominated), our expectations and motivations bound up with philosophical ideals, while formerly venerable and meaningful names such as person, nature, time, modesty, experiment, and the individual are dissolved in the intellectual acidity of the Renaissance and the further spiritual bifurcation that occurs with the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.

Against this Rosenstock-Huessy proposed a return to “liturgical thinking,” a kind of thinking that moves us back into the primordial condition of being called, something we know happens in life from our infancy on as we are integrated into the bodies of sociality which provide us with place and purpose. But it is also in the sacred relationship between priest and God, and in the sacrifice of the mass that Rosenstock-Huessy sees the revealed truth that “The soul must be called “Thou: before she can ever reply “I,” before she can ever speak of “us” and, analyze “it” finally.” The deployment of lessons taken from liturgy, as well as prioritising how our capacity to partition and recognize the partitions of time and the different fronts of reality that grammar accentuates and drives us further into all are to be incorporated into what Rosenstock-Huessy proposes as a new science, that is a break with the ways of knowing which have failed—and which can be seen to have failed if we can see through the noise and moral self-righteousness, and observe the conflicts both regionally and globally that now beset the West.

The spiritual bifurcation mentioned above has continued on its way with its appeal to rights on the one hand—the abstract spirit of idealism, whose best metaphysical cases are to be found in the contestation between the a priorism of “practical reason” [Kant] and logic [Hegel])—and materialism which plays out in the twin perversions of scientism and economism. Scientism is science deprived of an understanding of its “why?” and “for whom?” Which is also to say that it is science unhinged from a culture in which the bonds of real solidarity have been fragmented into the same nervous bundles and isolated atoms monstrously compounded by economic gain irrespective of the spiritual worth of a project (funding and tenured employment), ambition, pride, honour and the other diabolical temptations of the spirit—it splits, dehumanises and terrifies, and annihilates (from the alienated lonely soul to the concentration camp); its rewards are as ephemeral as they are grace-less.

For Rosenstock-Huessy, this is the Greek legacy, shorn of the constraints that accompanied its initial resuscitation and direction under the auspices of the trinity. The metaphysical drive to know and control the world, without a break, is the great juggernaut of technē and calculation. Like the Greeks we moderns in entering into this pact with these diabolical powers that can be unlocked by the “metaphysicilization” of the material world into its scientifically reductive and economically productive components are driven onto find slaves to do our bidding and pleasures to slake our empty time. There are deep affinities between Heidegger’s critique of metaphysics and Rosenstock-Huessy’s, but they drastically depart on the issue of what saves us from it. The pairing of Descartes (science) and Nietzsche (aesthetics) mentioned above is the sterile pairing of a world losing its faith, hope and love in what is worth having faith in, hoping for, and loving. It is the blocking out of grace that comes from being indifferent to the living person and delivering the self to its own emptiness and abstractness.

It is against this horror we are blindly running into as we can no longer distinguish between the living and the dead, between human loving lives animated by a common spirit and promise of future in spite of tensional differences and zombies whose utility is to be calculated on a vast spread sheet and whose moral worth is the purely sterile one of self-worth that Rosenstock-Huessy raises the spectre of Saint Paul and his meaning for science in Der Atem des Geistes. There he pits the legacy of Paul’s devotional development of his understanding in its wholeness, with the Platonic desiccation of life into ideals and world, and the subsequent cultural and social truncations and deformations that come from tearing the world into mental strips and bits to be inserted into an idealistic/ technocratic design. One may recall the picture Plato presents of the philosophers having to switch babies around when the eugenics program designed to improve the natural likelihood of philosopher kings being born goes awry. The horror of it is so much that there are Platonic scholars who see it all as a warning against utopia—completely downplaying why Plato admired the Spartans so much and how he was trying to improve upon what he saw as the best of Sparta and Athens by eliminating the family and private property for philosophers.

In a section that strikes me as amongst the most profound of Rosenstock-Huessy’s insights into the gift of the Christian way of creation, revealing and redeeming life, we see how it matters whom Paul serves and what follows from that faith and devotion.

Paul is the non-idealized teacher of the Gentiles, believing the “incarnated Word” instead of his ideals. Pagans have ideals, academics have values, but men have ancestors of their soul journey. Thus Paul simply says: Scio cui credidi. I know who I have faith in…. Paul is the first normal, modern scientist. He knows whom he is serving, whom he has believed. If we do not recognize the mysticism of the apostle Paul as the sound sociological truth of research, then the freedom of science is lost. Because only on the Pauline basis of “Cui cogitatur?” where the one knowing thus serves the loving ones, can vice be banished from the schools… the Christian peoples believed Paul was right. Paul has been at work in every school and college for the last nineteen hundred years… Thanks to Paul we knew what still concerned us in Plato and what didn’t. Thanks to Paul we knew what still bound us in the Old Testament and what had passed. Today’s scholarship, however, deals with Paul instead of being based on him. It is to him we owe the freedom of science.

And a page or so later, he continues:

Paul is the normal thinker, and the liberal theologians are the originators of all tyranny. For in tyranny, whether that of Hegel or Marx or Hitler, the deadly thirst for knowledge reigns supreme over life-hungry individuals.

However, in the normal order, love reigns over death and knowledge. Both desires are unleashed today – those which consume the antediluvian individual, the thirst for knowledge and the thirst for life, the will to power of the knowledge-hungry, the thirst for life of herd animals. The Lord had overcome the thirst for life; Paul had overcome the thirst for knowledge. The two desires condition and produce each other. Hackel and Hitler belong together like Jesus and Paul. Hitler’s mysticism and Häckel’s rationalism together have perverted the relationship between thinking and speaking: animals have become our models since we have forgotten that we only understand animals thanks to the language of our own love. But whoever recognizes Jesus and Paul as two generations of one and the same man formed together out of both of their loving—and that’s what they have required of us—sees that they came into the world against mysticism and reason, against Haeckel and Hitler.

Apart from the point that I have emphasised above, what is also worth noting in this passage is the way Rosenstock-Huessy makes his point by way of invoking the names of Haeckel and Hitler. While in the early part of the nineteenth century, the zoologist, biologist and eugenicist Ernst Haeckel was a household name in Germany, especially through popular science books like The Riddle of the Universe, he is now largely forgotten; Hitler’s name though has become synonymous with political evil.

Rosenstock-Huessy constantly emphasizes the living name over the primacy of the concept. And it is noteworthy how in Plato’s attempt to provide an answer for everything important from the structure of the cosmos to the way in which to live one’s life, he insisted on the primacy of the idea over the name (see his Cratylus), only to disprove everything he was saying by making the man with the name Socrates the model of the best man who had ever lived. Plato had ridiculed Protagoras’ claim that “man is the measure of all things,” only to make the powers exhibited by one man to be the measure of all that mattered. Our names do indeed matter, and the fact that the name of Haeckel will send someone of a certain age back to google while everyone knows who Hitler is indicative of how a name and its mattering is also bound up with time—how it may become a cipher of significance over a certain period of time.

In conclusion and on a personal aside I will also say, that every time I reread Rosenstock-Huessy I discover something not only inspirational, but something I have never previously seen. Much of my life over fifty years as a university student, academic, and writer was spent reading philosophers. None have had the same effect on me. I do make exceptions of Hamann and Herder, when I say no matter how brilliant all the other great minds I have read, Rosenstock-Huessy, has remained an open-ended source of inspiration. The spirit always awakens something in me when I read him. I picture him beckoning me to show me something else I have never considered. I have written much on Rosenstock-Huessy. I do not consider myself to be an expert on him. I know as little about what it would mean to be an expert on Rosenstock-Huessy as to be an expert about a day I was inspired by the wind and a walk in the forest or a thrilling conversation. He is too vital for that. I have written this because he not only changed my life, his presence has remained constant throughout it.

I hope that through our common love of this man we might keep his spirit alive for a future generation, who living beyond the hells that are now upon us, will hear the wisdom of his way, and participate in delivering future generation from the mental entrapments we have adopted over multiple generations and the particular horrors those entrapments have unleased.

For us, we have prayer. And I thank Rosenstock-Huessy for showing how necessary prayer is when we are at the end of our tether.

Wayne Cristaudo is a philosopher, author, and educator, who has published over a dozen booksHe also doubles up as a singer songwriter. His latest album can be found here.

“Mr. Baab, You Won’t Get any Beer Here!”

Journalist Patrik Baab was fired from Christian Albrechts University (CAU) in Kiel for pursuing freedom of the press. Because of his investigations in the Donbas—the Russian controlled part of Ukraine—he was denounced as Putin’s poll watcher in a press campaign and kicked out as a lecturer of practical journalism at Kiel university. This example of cancel culture and censorship has caused a worldwide sensation. Patrik Baab took legal action against this. Meanwhile, heHe won the court case against the termination. The judges ruled that the university may not prohibit a journalist from doing his job. In the meantime, the judgment has been legally binding. What happens now?

Roberto De Lapuente is in conversation with Patrik Baab.

Roberto De Lapuente (RDL): Mr. Baab, Kiel University has not objected to the ruling of April 25, which was in your favor. This means that the ruling is legally binding, and you have been proven right. So, we’ll see you back in Kiel soon?

Patrik Baab (PB): Well, that’s not up to me. The CAU awards teaching assignments from semester to semester. In my case, it was a subject supplement on “Practical Journalism.” The students learned tools to research topics methodically and correctly and to implement them for television. In 20 years, there has not been a single complaint. As my website shows, I have a little experience in this field. Now we have to see if CAU will swallow its pride and offer me a teaching position again. As far as I am concerned, I will continue to be available. After all, it’s not about vanity, but about education—especially in times of war, when the truth is clouded by all parties involved, and when methods of research and ideology criticism should be taught.

“Sad state of the German higher education system”

RDL: The ruling also strengthened the freedom of the press, you could say. Do you personally have the impression that such is the case? Or will universities funded by the public continue to try whatever they can to get rid of troublesome colleagues?

PB: In fact, in my view, the Schleswig-Holstein Administrative Court has strengthened freedom of the press. But more than that—in a difficult climate, in which state propaganda narratives permeate the entire public and politics is done by way of resentment, the chamber, chaired by Dr. Malte Sievers, has demonstrated judicial independence. This is a good sign for the separation of powers in German democracy. This signal is particularly significant at a time when other courts sometimes give the impression that the lies of the warmongers enjoy legal protection. With this ruling, the Chamber has also strengthened the Freedom Democratic Basic Order (Freiheitlich-demokratische Grundordnung, FdGO, which means the core elements of the democratic order in Germany)) as a whole. This is because, according to supreme court rulings, the legality of administration is also an integral part of the FdGO. This means that administrative action must be carried out in accordance with the rule of law, and that no one can be arbitrarily thrown out the door without due process. In its 1956 ruling on the KPD (German Communist Party), the Federal Constitutional Court distinguished the FDBO from any form of National Socialist or Stalinist arbitrary rule, particularly in its remarks on the lawfulness of administration. Against this background, too, the Schleswig-Holstein Administrative Court made legal history with its ruling.

RDL: And what impact do you think that has?

PB: Other journalists and university lecturers who do not always want to follow the prevailing opinion can refer to this ruling. According to a study by professors Dr. Heike Egner and Dr. Anke Uhlenwinkel, 47 full professors alone were dismissed at German, Austrian and Swiss universities from 2020 to April 2023 without reasons codified in criminal or service law, i.e., by circumventing constitutional procedures. Prof. Dr. Ulrike Guérot was not even warned by the University of Bonn. In not a single case was the presumption of innocence applied. The study only refers to full professors; lecturers and research assistants were not counted. We can therefore assume an even much larger number of unreported cases. This demonstrates the sad state of the German university system. Now the Administrative Court of Schleswig-Holstein has made it clear: universities must not act as truth-tellers or opinion monitors.

“Mr. Baab, leave the premises immediately!”

RDL: Are we looking at a re-feudalization of higher education?

PB: The universities have returned to the year 1837, the time of the so-called “Göttingen Seven.” At that time, seven professors were dismissed at the University of Göttingen because they demonstrated against the abolition of the liberal constitution introduced in the Kingdom of Hanover in 1833. Today, the universities have partially reverted to the educational ideal before the Enlightenment. “The critical method suspends judgment in the hope of arriving at it,” the philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote. Today, universities have returned to judgment—to the affirmation of existing power relations. This is a serious regression, back into the mindset of the Counter-Enlightenment.

RDL: In the mainstream media, we have read about your trip to eastern Ukraine. The fact that you won the trial, that it is now even legally binding—not a peep. What will the public remember about Patrik Baab as a person?

PB: The German public is divided. The following incidents show this: On Good Friday 2023, I wanted to visit the restaurant Palenke in Kiel with a friend and his daughter. I was greeted by the words of a server, a young man who also studies at the University of Kiel: “Mr. Baab, you are a conspiracy theorist. You won’t get any beer here. Leave the pub immediately!” On the street, we recalled: “That must have been how it was in 1933.” This young man is also active at the campus radio of the CAU, where he spreads identitarian thinking and ideas of contact guilt. He thus contributes to a new anti-democratic dictatorship of the “kindly ones,” as Jonathan Littell characterized it in his novel of the same name. This is indeed the state of the bourgeois public sphere today—it is no longer democratic, no longer inclusive, but degenerating into a public sphere of censorship and denunciation. The majority of the press has not only completely compromised itself by parroting state war propaganda, but has also demonstrated its semi-literacy. This will come back to haunt these organizations: Many users are already turning away in horror.

“Those who need money, do not play the hero”

RDL: Maybe just a stupid pub experience?

PB: No, the incident also demonstrates that anti-democratic thinking does not originate in circles of the intellectually disadvantaged. It is cultivated in academic circles. This was already the case in the Weimar Republic. Antidemocratic, authoritarian and racist thinking was propagated in the circles around Carl Schmitt, Martin Heidegger, Oswald Spengler, Hans Zehrer, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Ernst Jünger, Arnold Bronnen and others. The studies of Kurt Sontheimer and Karl Dietrich Bracher have shown this impressively. In journalism, anti-democratic and racist ideas were brought among the people, not only by the National Socialist newspapers, Völkischer Beobachter or Der Stürmer, but also by the editors of the right-wing conservative press empire of Alfred Hugenberg. The destruction of democracy is preceded by the destruction of the democratic public. The intellectuals—or what is left of them, the academics—are the driving forces. Mostly, these people themselves do not realize how deeply they are entangled in the propaganda system: “It is hard to convince a man of anything when his salary depends on his not understanding it,” Upton Sinclair wrote in 1934.

RDL: How can this development be explained, Mr. Baab?

PB: Through the liberalization of universities, the reduction of mid-level faculty, the temporary contracts, the cutbacks in funding and the compulsion to acquire third-party funding from government agencies or companies. All of this, together with the monetarization of science, simultaneously ensures covert censorship—those who need money do not play the hero. One bows to power. Characteristic of these academics is blind submission to state authorities, a self-synchronization in which, according to Karl Dietrich Bracher, Byzantinism, manipulation and coercion are inextricably intertwined.

RDL: What else sticks with you after this dismal experience with your university?

PB: On the plus side, my research earned me a lot of respect from the defenders of the Republic. At a protest event in Kiel, organized by the CAU students’ working group for the protection of fundamental rights, more than 100 people were in the hall, and there was a standing ovation. My name is now known throughout the English-speaking world, from Australia and Canada to the legendary reporter John Pilger in the USA. My reportage about the war and the pre-war in Ukraine, On Both Sides of the Front, will be published in early autumn. The calendar for September and October is already full with readings and discussions. I have requests for translations into English and Swedish. This means that a counter-public is forming against the warmongers and the destroyers of reason. From Ukraine, from Russia, from the USA, from Canada and Australia, from Switzerland and Austria, critical spirits are coming forward who do not want to watch how an incompetent and mendacious generation of politicians is leading this world into an inferno. They ask the question posed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in Anti-Oedipus: “Why do people fight for their servitude as if it were about their salvation?”

“Media does not describe reality; but the relationship of journalists to reality”

RDL: That sounds hopeful. However, you are now talking about the journalist Patrik Baab—but what about the human being Patrik Baab?

PB: What remains of me: a pile of dust. Many old colleagues say: He took a wrong turn at some point. They don’t realize that anticipatory obedience has long since become part of their personality, like a brain implant. Yet they are the ones who have long since arrived in the post-factual age. They gawk at the computer and don’t realize—media is a filter that looks like a window. They live in the illusory world of propaganda. Media does not describe reality; but the relationship of journalists to reality. This is Kant: “The objects must be according to our cognition”—so nothing new. But this does not mean renouncing the reality test on the spot. Kant also says: Perception must be “afflicted” by the observation of the world.

RDL: How would you like to be remembered after this episode?

PB: I wish I were posthumously counted among the resistant, among those who said, No, in front of the power elites. Because there are enough conformists. But we can’t know that. Jean-Paul Sartre once said: The author writes a score. But the reader performs it. In any case, I have staked my life on research in three wars (the Balkans, Afghanistan and Ukraine). That’s what distinguishes me from the “desk-jockey” editors. In the end, however, I will perish—like a face in the sand on the seashore.

This interview comes through the kind courtesy of Overton Magazin.

Kiel University Sacrificed Freedom of the Press

Patrik Baab has won outright. The ruling of the Schleswig-Holstein Administrative Court in his favor is now legally binding.

So now it’s official: Patrik Baab did nothing, with his trip to eastern Ukraine, that would justify ending his teaching position at Kiel University. The ruling of the Schleswig-Holstein Administrative Court of April 25 of this year is now legally binding. This is because Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (CAU) has allowed the deadline for appealing to the Higher Administrative Court to expire.

After a lot of chest-beating, in the end, CAU did not dare come out of hiding. Its decision to kick journalist Baab out may have been a kowtow to the political situation and especially to the foreign policy course of the German government—but this decision was never legally tenable.

Freedom of the Press Before Political Pandering

The reasoning of the Schleswig-Holstein Administrative Court explicitly emphasized “the freedom of science according to Article 5 (3) sentence 1, GG (Grundgesetz—German Basic Law) and the freedom of the press according to Article 5 (1) sentence 2, var. 1 GG, which the plaintiff [i.e., Baab] is entitled to invoke. The scope of protection of the freedom of the press guarantees,” the court explained in detail, “in its subjective-legal dimension, the rights of freedom against the state for persons and organizations active in the field of the press; in addition, in its objective-legal meaning, it guarantees the institution of the independence of the press.”

Freedom of the press, it goes on to say, “includes, with respect to printed matter, all conduct that serves to obtain, prepare and disseminate opinions and facts for the public… Holders of freedom of the press are also entitled to a subjective right of defense against indirect infringements.” The court expressly emphasized that Baab’s trip to eastern Ukraine at the time of the referenda also falls under this protection, as he was researching for a book and acting as a journalist.

This argumentation is nothing less than a strengthening of the freedom of the press in Germany. It has an impact on other journalists and publicists in the country who see themselves exposed to the reach of politics and academia. The ruling also says that freedom of the press is more important than the anticipatory obedience of various educational institutions that think they have to throw themselves at the mercy of ideologizing politics. Therefore, we are also dealing here with a rejection of ingratiation.

Kiel University as a War Party

Patrik Baab was a journalism lecturer in Kiel. There he taught research, critical questioning—in short: He showed what freedom of the press can achieve—and this at a university that has now received more or less official confirmation that it has not only failed to appreciate that very freedom of the press, but has torpedoed it. A fatal report card for the teaching institution. Can we hope that journalists trained there will have grasped, in the course of their studies, what the qualities of freedom of the press actually mean?

The administrative file on this incident, which is now available, is peppered with one-dimensional classifications of the Baab trip. The university protagonists quoted in it made themselves a war party in the matter. In effect, there is no mention of investigative openness as a value in itself—nor is there a brief interjection that journalists (should) go where it hurts.

But that’s exactly what Baab has done. Basically, he has shown his students—in exemplary fashion—what journalistic work means: not being satisfied with what other professional colleagues have already written, remaining suspicious, displaying skepticism and getting a picture of the scene for yourself. His employers, Kiel University, however, have now emphatically demonstrated that these values are not necessarily required at all—journalists who apply them tend to appear to be a nuisance, and they’d rather be shown the door.

Now What?

The aforementioned administrative file mentions several names of professors who were in lively exchange when Baab’s trip became known via t-online—a news portal, known for its campaigns against intellectuals critical of the German government, and belonging to an advertising group that receives a large part of its orders from exactly this government. Again and again, the accusation was made that Baab had the wrong attitude—and therefore he must be unsuitable as a lecturer. The fact that he did not get on with the job, i.e., with a completely strict condemnation of Russia, thus led to the charge that he also refrained from factual analysis. This is a reproach throughout. Yet Baab has condemned the Russian invasion several times—his condemnation, however, also does not paralyze his journalistic ethos.

After the court decision, which the CAU did not even object to, apparently knowing that it had overreached considerably, the question now arises: Who will take responsibility for this democratic and constitutional failure? Who will justify the fact that funds allocated by the public were wasted for such an act of political pandering?

For example, Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences at Kiel University, Christian Martin, who was heavily involved in Baab’s dismissal and who teaches comparative governance and politics? Shouldn’t one expect more sensitivity to publicity from a teacher in this subject, i.e., a sense of how journalism is done and where not to get in its way? After all, this case is no trifle; here, a university has proven that it is willing to sacrifice freedom of the press just to puff itself up as being politically correct. The danger of teaching attitude rather than expertise does not seem so small—especially when people like Baab are thrown out the door.

Roberto J. De Lapuente is a journalist who writes from Germany. He is the author of Rechts gewinnt, weil Links versagt [The Right Wins because the Left Fails]. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Overton Magazin.

Featured: The Seal of Kiel University, with the motto: “Pax optima rerum” (“Peace is the best thing”).