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German Romanticism as an Ideology of Cultural Crisis Author(s): Eugene N. Anderson Source: Journal of

German Romanticism as an Ideology of Cultural Crisis Author(s): Eugene N. Anderson Source: Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Jun., 1941), pp. 301-317 Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

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The Romantic movement in Germany accompanied and ex- pressed one reactionto the social transformationfromthe culture of caste and absolutism to that of class and constitutionalrule.

The Romanticistssoughtto formulatethe ideals of a societyin the making. While dependent for lack of practical experience upon- aesthetics or ethics for theirbasic standards, they strove to com- pass thewholeoflife. The influenceof the French Revolution greatly accelerated the social changes in Germany and stimulated the young German Romanticists to an outburstof creativeness in all phases of life. The decade or so beginningin the last half of the 1790s saw the culminationof movementsalready under way in both the socio- political and the aesthetic-intellectualspheres. The participants in each spurred on those in the other, and in this short time of

crisis, cultural forms and

man life down to the present were fixed. In reflectingthe char- acteristics of the crisis, Romanticism manifested, sometimes in exaggerated ways, those of the cultural change which the crisis broughtto a head. During thesefewyears theyoung GermanRomanticistsfeltthe danger to German culturefromthe French Revolution and Napo- leon to be less political than intellectual and spiritual, and they endeavored to oppose it by ideas. While consideringall aspects of life,includingthe political,theywere especially concernedwith the emancipationof individualitiesand the discoveryof the mani- fold richness of the world. This period witnessed the fullest ex- pression of German Romanticism as a total way of life. In the succeedingyears the danger became acutelypolitical, and the Ger- man Romanticistswere compelled to subordinatetheirpreoccupa- tion with the widening of art and the enrichmentof individual experience to social and political ideas and actions, particularly as formulatedin nationalism and conservatism. These three cul-

tural ideals, Romanticism,nationalism and conservatism,shared qualities evoked by the commonsituation of crisis; but by estab-

directionswhich have conditionedGer-





lishing exclusive, impersonal standards of value the latter two destroyedtheunique featuresof theirpredecessor. German Romanticismhas usually been studied with a view to discovering its unique, differentiatingfeatures. While recogniz- ing thevalue of these investigations,this essay will seek to exhibit in Romanticismcertain commoncharacteristicsimposed upon the responses of individuals by the conditionof cultural transforma- tion and crisis. It will avoid definitionin favor of cultural analysis. It will show how Romanticism used elements which, individually,were not peculiar to it alone, but which,broughtinto relationshipby the situation,constitutedthe essential patterns of Romanticthoughtand action. The young German Romanticists in the period under discus- sion, thoughdifferingon many points of detail, were all acutely aware of thefact that theylived in a timeof swifttransitionfrom one culture to another. Their philosophizing about history and their describing of utopias manifested a deep concern with the problems of this cultural crisis; theywished to know where they stood in the course of historyand wlherethat course was taking them.' The French Revolution,theythought,markedthe dividing line betweentwo ages, eitheras the last phase of the old age or as the firstof the new, and they wished that German Romanticism should provide the essential forms for the future. The writers regarded themselves as media of expression of this culture,the comingof whichtheytended to regard as inevitable.2 The fact of living in a time of cultural crisis conditionedthe thinkingand acting of theyoungGermanRomanticistsas no other experience did. It forced themto deal not merelywith a single aspect of lifebut withthetotalityof man,societyand the universe.

The crisis involved all values; it affectednot merelythe parts

man's ex:istencebut the whole. While compellingeach person to seek his own salvation as best he could, it also forcedhim to look

for support fromthe group. In the decade or so beginningwith the late 1790s Romanticismoffereda way of deliverance for per- sons caughtin a crisis. As is to be expected,the fundamentalideology of German Ro-

to do withthenature of theparticular,of the whole,

and of the relationsbetweenthem. The Romanticistsapplied this



1 Novalis's Die Christenheitoder Europa, 1799, may be offeredas typical of this concern. 2 See Novalis,Schriften,editedby Paul Kluckhohnand Richard Samuel,II, 78.





ideology to every elementin the world, whetherman or divinity, familyor nation,individualor state,peace or war, conceptor book, speaker or audience,an act or an institution. The particular,they thought,should be an individual expression of the whole. "Every man," wrote Schleiermacher,"should in his own way represent humanity," or as Friedrich Schlegel said, "No man is onlya man, but really and in truthhe can and should also be the whole of hu- manity." In the same mannerthe whole is also an individuality, and the Romanticistscould not conceive of the existence of a par- ticular apart from the totality. " Community,pluralism, is our inmost characteristic," wrote Novalis, and his friend Friedrich

Schlegel declared, "Whoever out of exaggerated egoism separates himselffromthe total world must in the end lose all true higher reality,for this depends upon commonalty;only in union,in con- nectionwiththe totalityof all spiritual forces of the universe can one develop one's self completelyand achieve eternity." In an- otherplace he wrote,"Entire humanityshall become an individu- ality,a lovinglyunitedand morallydevelopedwhole," or as Novalis said, "a universal individuality." And Novalis regarded society as " nothing more than living in common (gemeinschaftliches Leben): an indivisiblethinkingand feelingperson."' If both the particular and the whole should be individualistic, each in its ownway,theRomanticistshad to finda means forbring- ing them into intimate relation. The difficultywhich they con- frontedin doing so is attested to by the diverse formulationsof their answer. In every case, however, the solution was funda- mentallythe same. "Every man," Friedrich Schlegel wrote,"is

a small world: the more many-sidedlyhe develops his character-

3These quotations are all taken from Paul Kluckhohn,Pers6nlichkeitund Gemeinschaft. Studien zur Staatsauffassungder deutschenRomantik. (Halle, 1925), pp. 5, 6, 19-21. This excellentbook has been extensivelyused forthisessay. It containsa wealth of quotationsfromthe sources,whichwere more judiciously selectedthan interpreted. But Kluckhohn'sshortbook is indispensablefor anyone workingin the fieldof GermanRomanticism. In addition,I have foundusefulthe writingsof Alfred von Martin, Andreas Muller, and the many excellentarticles especiallyin two journals,Die deutscheVierteljahrschriftfir Literaturwissenschaft und Getstesgeschichte and Dichtungund Volkstum. The writingsof JosefNadler, Carl Schmitt,FriedrichGundolf,Julius Petersen,Fritz Strich and Franz Schulz were of less use than those by the scholars mentionedabove. My reading in the sourceshas been mainlyconfinedto the worksof FriedrichSchlegel,Adam Muller,

Baader, Novalis, Eichendorff,Gorres,and the sources publishedin

the series,DeutscheLiteraturin Entwicklungsreihen,(Leipzig, 1928 If.).

the volumesin




istics in a higher sense, the more the purpose of the world, the endless richness, will be attained." Steffensapplied the same thoughtto education. "Education has a two-foldaim: it should place the whole in the parts, and indeed wholly,undivided,ruth- lessly, as if the whole were there entirelyfor the particulars, so that the peculiarity in question should develop itself without

hindrance; but it should also sacrificethe particular for the whole

as if theparticular existed onlyforthe

. . " Novalis

spoke of the state in similar terms: "the more spiritual and living

are themembers,themorelivingand individualis the state." And Steffensexpressedthisview as follows: "If theburgheris boundto the state not withhis whole life but withonly a part of it,he is of necessitya servant; for all tearing asunder of the individual man makes him unfree."a The Romantic solution to the problem of relationshipbetweenthe particular and the whole may be summed up in the old formula,so paradoxical to rationalists: one serves the group best by realizing one's selfmost completely;one is most free whenone is most willingto sacrificeone's self for the group.4 It is a formulawitha dialectic as the core.

A societyfunctioningat a fairlyeven pace would denytheprac-

ticalityof such views; but to a people in a time of swiftcultural change anythingwas possible. The Romanticists witnessed the destructionof formsand ways thathad seemed eternal,the sudden upsurge of noveltiesof whichtheyhad onlydreamed. With insti-

tutionscollapsing,unknownmenbecomingrulers,boundariesmade flexible,serfs obtaining freedom and property,with, in short, a conditionof seeminglycompleteflux,thepotentialitiesof the single individualexpanded enormously. God no longerkindlycame down to man, the Romanticiststhought,but man could and should climb toward Heaven ;5 transcendingthe restrictionsof mere rationality man could and should becomea total personality,a completeunity of body,mindand soul, the image of the universe.6 The Romanti-

3a Kluckhohn,pp. 8, 24, 53, 86.

4 A contrastbetweenthe social situationout of whicharose this idea and that of the principleof enlightenedselfishnessshould prove interesting. The two ideas have somepointsin common. In fact,the latteridea amountsto about one-halfof the former,and mighteasily develop into the group ideal if a situationof cultural crisisshouldarise.

5 "Of his ownaccordwhennothingmorebindshimman climbstowardHeaven." Novalis,II, 77. 6 See Novalis's remarksabout "a universalindividuality,a new history,a new








cists were exaggerating and universalizing the emancipating and excitingcharacteristicsof thefirstphase of a culturalcrisis. By underminingstandards while at the same time stimulating emotionaland thoughtprocesses, the crisis led the Romanticiststo explorethemetaphysicaland religiousbases of ideas and practices. The early maturityof individuals whichthe situation of swiftcul-

tural change entailed7turnedtheirattentionupon the profoundest questions of life and death, of the state and nation,of personality and of God. Taking seriously Kant's epistemological dualism,8 many of themrefused to be deprived of the Ding-an-sichand as- sertedtherealityofboththesensuous and the supernaturalworld.9 The relationshipbetweenthe particular and the total grew so rich and complex that it could only be expressed by a symbol. The mysteryoftheGod-manbecamelaicised and universalized; mystery entered into the simplest thing; even the state, the Romanticists thought,should reach its highest character by becoming poetic. Romanticismreflectedthe astonishmentevoked by the extraordi- nary events of these years of crisis. Could human beings alone, even though exalted as they should be, have brought about the French Revolution, transformedEuropean culture,opened up a new era? The most incredibleact seemed the most credible. By way of semantics,the keen interestin whichis characteristicof a time of rapid change in cultural values, the Romanticiststried to findthe appropriate symbol for the union of earthly and tran-

scendental elements to be found in the state, the


humanity." "Who does not withsweetshamefeel himselfto be

asked. Novalis,II, 79.


of good hope?" he

7 In Ahnungund Gegenwart (completedin 1812) Eichendorffwrote:"Our youth

enjoyedno light,care-freeplay, no joyous quiet,as our fathersdid; the seriousness of life gripped us early. We were born in battle,and in battle we shall perish, eitherdefeatedor victorious." HermannFreiherrvon Eichendorff,JosephFreiherr von Eichendorff.Sein Leben und seine Schriften. Dritte Auflage,editedby Karl Freiherrvon Eichendorffund WilhelmKosch (Leipzig, 1923), p. 67.

8 See Muller's criticismof Kant for having furtheredthe belief in the separa- tionof bodyand spirit. Adam Miiller,Vorlesungeniiberdie deutscheWissenschaft und Literatur,editedby ArthurSalz (Munich,1920), p. 111. 9 "I will not let myselfbe robbedof the real world,"quoted fromNovalis by Alfredvon Martin,"Das Wesen der romantischenReligiositiit,"Deutsche Viertel-

jahrschriftfur Literaturwissenschaftund Geistesgeschichte,II (1924), 375

10"We live in an age in whichbecause of the generalconfusionof speech and of viewsof thingsone can workthroughto natureand to thetruthonlyby way of a





The search for realities focussed the Romanticists' attention upon the process of living. The speed with which things were

changing around them,the importanceof organic force in condi- tioningthese changes, the zest and excitementof so much action,

heightened their appreciation

Everythingseemedin movement,man,nature,God, and thehistoric resultsof theirwork. Referringrepeatedlyto the educative influ- ence of the crisis, Adam Muller shaped his theoryto the fact of livingmovement. He condemnedall previous analyses ofthe state

and of political economyforhaving dealt withthese institutionsin

a conditionof peace. He declared that in peaceful times egocen-

tricityand materialism dominate the individual, the state falls apart, and the theoristdescribes a situationof decay." The pres- ent crisis had shownthe circumstances,he said, in whichthe state becomes completelyitself. It must be in the natural conditionof simultaneouspeace and war, wheneach elementin the state fulfills

its total potentialitiesand merges withall the othersin a common

purpose and a common life.'2 Since Muller

ideas in the crisis situation,he screwedup his courage by claiming

universal validity for them. European revolutionsand wars de- manded such furiousliving,such strenuousdefense of the rightto live, that the Romanticists rushed to the extremeposition of re- garding these conditions as normal, or of believing that, if they were notnormal,theyshouldbe. The conceptionof the state as of the personalityexpressed the Romanticists' proposals for coping withtheplightof thetimes. It reflectedan excessive concernwith theorganicand theliving,withmovementand action,withthetotal steelingof one's selffortherigors of this swift-changingage. The cultural crisis produced sinister effectsas well, and these

of the sheer fact of being alive.

was fashioning his

strictbut flexible,unabstractand livingspeculation." Adam Muller,Die Elemente

der Staatskunst(F. W. 11 See Miller, Die

Hendel Verlag, Leipzig), p. 60. Elementeder Staatskunst,pp. 54, 288-289, and elsewhere.

12 This idea is a main themeof Miller's volumeon Die Elemente der Staats-

for examplethefollowingstatement:"The close union,the marriageof

kunst. See

thespiritof peace and armsundertheguardianshipof one and the same divineidea


state in a strugglefor life and

. .

weapons results in slackness. Both elements,which in union would have been heightenedand mellowedto a gloriousmanifestationof life,now waste and poison each other." (P. 151.)



.constitutes the natureof the state; whenonce separated

.leads to brutality; peace

death. Energeticwar separated fromliving peace

withoutthe accompanimentand omnipresenceof





had to be overcome. The individual became uprooted, isolated, anxious. The uncertaintyexcitedhis nerves and strainedhis emo- tions. He confronteda world of turmoil and danger, the harsh impact of unexpectedforces. He became remarkablysensitive to problems of relationship with elements-human or otherwise- which affectedhim, and he craved unity with those capable of aiding him. The Romanticists sought to assure themselves of intimacywith other individuals and with things in many ways. They made a cult of friendship; they lived together in intimate groups; theyfrequentlycollaborated with such harmonythat they called theresultingworka childoftheirmarriage. Literaryforms using the spoken word were favored because of their personal quality. The Romanticistspersonalized all things,and put them in relationshipwitheach other. The longing for unity with others drove the Romanticists to glorifythe familyand the corporativesocial orders,gilds, estates, thechurch,hansas, republics,thestate. " The genius ofthe state," ""

wroteNovalis, " shinesin everytrueStaatsbiirger,

beliefforone seekingsocial unity. Such a Staatsbiirgerwould feel the indispensabilityof the "organs," "living members,"14inter- mediaries betweentheindividual person and the ever larger forms of the social and governmentalhierarchy. The monarch,the state and thenationoccupiedthemostexalted places, fortheyrelatedthe other formswith humanityand with God. Novalis's description of the position and character of the monarch resembles that of Christ. And Adam Muller wrote that "Nature wishes particular states,basic nationality,withthewhole revolutionaryapparatus of this age."'5 The Romanticistsrecognizedthat the past could not be restored,and expressed ideals especially about the state which would preserveGermanculturein thepresentcrisis and inaugurate the happy age to come. The experience of the times,theywrote, had proved thatin orderto survivea state musthave a constitution whichis bothmonarchicaland republican,or,as Friedrich Schlegel said, "The completestate shouldbe not merelydemocraticbut also aristocraticand monarchical,and all be organized into an absolute totality." Novalis declared that "Every Staatsbiirger is a state official. He has his incomeonlyas such. '6 Therebyhe demanded

a comforting

13 Quotedin Kluckhohn,p. 52.

14 Quotedin ibid.,pp. 71-73. '5 Kluckhohn,p. 77.

16 Kiuckhohn,pp. 75, 60, 48.




the extremeformof political unity,which,if takenliterally,would have allowed small roomforinitiativeand independenceon thepart of the individual. Novalis did not mean the statementto be so sharplyinterpreted,but thefact thathe wroteit reveals the strain whichthe crisis imposed upon these Romanticists. When the German Romanticistswrote about economic affairs,

theystartedwiththe same objective in mind that theyhad in dis- cussing all social forms. They wishedto bind individuals together

into a

these conceptions in the economic sphere, asserting that even landed propertyhad mobility;and he weighed the significanceof things,as he did that of persons, according to the influencewhich thesethingsor persons exercisedin society. The characteristically Romantic economic theory which Muller elaborated from such premises has beenawell analyzed by Professor Briefs, and need not

be set forthhere. It is to be noted,however,thatMuller continued

an older tradition,in treatingeconomicmatters as political econ- omy, and that he endeavored to associate the theorist and the practitioner in close working relationship. Thereby he would have elevated himself,the theorist,to a position of public im- portance; but even apart frompersonal considerationshe argued

workingunit. It was Adam Miillerwho most fullyapplied

that only in this way are relations most intimate, living


abundant,the state secure. The German Romanticistsshared with the nationalists a


mon distrustof guidance of human action by reason. No rational institution,no man-madeassociation would reassure them,forthey had seen thesefail in theFrench Revolution. The insecuritywhich resultsfroma conditionof cultural transitionforcedthe Romanti-

cists to exalt those formsin rational ties, marriage, the

literally)," and to use themas models for less closely knitinstitu-

tionslikethestate. Theyattributedto man theinstinctsand drives by means of whichcompleteunitywith others would be achieved.

which relationships are based on ir- family, organism (if not taken too


Gbrres and Eichendorffspoke of the

instinct of freedom," of

" I loyalty, of " obedience, " of " I lovingdevotion. " In everycase


the Romantic assumptions about the nature of man are funda-

17 The figureof the organismwas not muchemployedby the Romanticistsdur- ing the1790s,butthegeneralsenseof it was to be foundin thewritingsthenas well as later. See Kluckhohn,pp. 84-85.

18 Kluckhohn, pp. 95-96.





mentallythe same, and in every case the power of love suffuses

these instinct-drivenindividuals and binds tllem irrevocably to- gether. The uncertaintyand insecurityof theperiod were counter- balanced by the super-chargedemotionalityof romanticlove; the easy relationsoftherococoperiod tightenedintothese close bonds. Excessive danger to the individual in a society in travail called forththeunusual demandforsupport,thereassurance oflove from others.'9 The Romanticists' thoughtsand feelings focussed upon love; their most profound experience was that of love. "Love makes individuals able to communicateand to understand," wrote Novalis. "Unselfish love in theheart and its maxims in the head, that is the sole, eternal basis of all true, indissoluble union," he added. Baader called love "the true organic and organizingprin- ciple of life," "the true commonspirit," or as Steffenssaid, "the foundation of entire existence" even in the state. Friedrich Schlegel declared,withno intentionof religiousimpropriety, " I do not knowwhetherI could worshipthe universewithmywrholesoul ifI had neverloved a woman," while Novalis wrotethat one "lives in the state in the sense in which one lives in one's beloved." Faith in romantic love made certain that social unity could be achieved and underlaytheRomanticists' conceptionof the state or of any importantgroup as a marriage.19a The analogy harmonized withtheRomanticists'metaphysicalassumptionthattheparticular potentiallycontained the totality. Irrational and transcendental powers, the heart and the spirit, the poetic and the philosophic, enabled each individual, isolated, uncertain, anxious, to realize oneness withthe group.

The speed of cultural change, the occurrence of so many un-

expected events, also awakened in the Romanticists a profound sense ofthesignificanceof time. Living,movement,relation,time, these four elementsconstituteddifferentaspects of the romantic Weltanschauung. The Romanticists had to live intenselywhile theycould; theymust compress into each occasion the totalityof existence. A unitof timehad a fulllife of its own. The sensitivity

to the present was accentuated by the speed of its passing. But therate ofchange also aroused withintheRomanticiststhelonging

19 See the excellentarticle by Erich Fromm, "Selfishnessand Self-Love," in Psychiatry. Journalof theBiology and Pathologyof InterpersonalRelations,II,


19a Kluckhohn,pp. 22-24, 48, 88, 52.




for somethingwhichpersisted. Duration seemed to thema basic standard of value. Institutions, in which time condensed, pre-

served the wisdom of human experience,and traditionand custom revealed transcendental powers. The spirit of the folk spoke throughthemand kept man fromerringtoo far fromthe laws of God and nature. The analogy of the live being portrayedthe re- lation betweenpresent,past and future. The sense of past time led to the studyof historyand thewish to preserve one s heritage; it disclosed fixedvalues and lent assurance as to the course of

mankind. The sense of futuretime made

sponsibilityforthatwhichwas to come and to desire reformfor its sake. The living thing endures for its allotted time, leaves its imprint,and passes away. It harmonizes the qualities of move- ment and duration; the inorganic does not. The Romanticists, eager to be themselves in an age of seeming chaos, everywhere applied theconceptionofa livingindividuality. When movementis so pervasive it demands explanation. The Romanticists' acute awareness of the changes going on was mani- festedin theirabiding concernwiththisproblem. They explained change bymeans ofthedialectic and thetheoryof opposites,which in spite of variations in emphasis and detail essentiallyconformed to a pattern. "Unity can never be representedexcept in diver- sity," wroteAdam Muller,"or diversityexcept in unity."20 The Romanticistswere describingto theirown satisfactionthat which seemed to occur around them. In the crisis the one extremegene- rated a contraryextreme; a new formarose, only to initiate the process all over again. The theoryaffordedgreat comfortto a societyin thecourse ofdisintegration.2"The inevitablefunctioning

of the dialectic even relieved the individual of responsibilityfor

social action.

righteousand destroythe wicked. It assured the Romanticistsof

the victoryof their revolutionagainst the French

living ideal would conquer the dead one, humanitywould enter an

20 Kluckhohn,p. 64 note. 21 In Versuch einer-neuen Theorie des Geldes (Jena, 1922), p. 120, Adam Mullerwrote: "When naturehas meanttwo thingsfor each otherand wishesto see themfirmlyand enduringlybound, it gives themsuch a great difference,such a

definitetendencytowardeternalhostility, thattheycan do nothingelse than unite

one aware of one's re-

The natural law of opposites would restore the

Revolution; the

for life and

creaturesinto two sexes, in which the endless and completehostilitymust bring about an endlessunionand satisfaction."

Wishing unity,it ordered duality,the separation of all





age in whichtheideas fundamentalfor culturalcreativenesswould be restoredto power and would guide mankindalong the path of eternal progress. The worse conditions became, the more opti- mistic Adam Muller felt,for he recognized the infallible sign of speedy revival.22 The situation in Germany seemed especially favorable to the

floweringofRomanticism. Althoughclassicismhad takenvigorous hold of German intellectuallife, especially in the eighteenthcen- tury,as contrastedwithFrance and Italy theinfluencehad endured for a relativelyshorttime. The classical cultureprovided for the Romance countries the fundamental elements which the Gothic

German Romnanticistsattached feared that the flourishingin-

tradition did for Germany. The themselves to this tradition, and

tellectual and spiritual life in Germany might be harmed or de- stroyed by French domination.23 The German people could scarcelyhave initiateda revolutionin thename of rationalism,for they lacked any means of unified public action. An Estates General could not have convened in Germany,or even in that ac- cumulationof territories,Prussia. The German revolutiontook the formof a counter-movementagainst the revolutionin France. From the beginningGerman Romanticism sought to defend Ger- man culture against the French Enlightenment; a few years of experiencewiththeFrench Revolutionaroused theyoungRomanti- cists activelyand ardentlyto oppose theirideals to it. Conserva-

tismwas implicitin German Romanticism,not in the sense of any

subsequent political party, but as a potential attitude. One can

defendor conserve any type of social system.

to maintainagainst rationalismand the French a culturewhichin its institutionalstructurewas that of the ancien regieme. German

Romanticismaccepted it, wished to reformit somewhat,idealized it, and defended the idealization as the supreme culture of the world.24 This was theGermancounter-revolution.

22 Novalis wrote: "That the timeof resurrectionhas come,and just the events whichseemto be directedagainst its revival and threatento completeits fall, have becomethemostfavorablesignsof its regeneration-thiscannotremaindoubtfulto an historicalmind." Novalis,II, 77.

23 I do not wish to implythat the GermanRomanticistsrejected all of classi- cism. They foundin the historyof classical antiquitymany elementswhichsuited theirneedsand views,and adoptedthem.

24 See the quotationsfromthe Romanticistsgiven in Kluckhohn,p. 94. One wrote: "The simplestand strongestguaranteeis thehistoricalinterdependentliving

The Germans had




The individualswhoformulatedtheRomanticideals constituted

a relatively small number of intellectuals. That they originated in various social groups, and in both Protestant and Catholic cir- cles, attests to the emancipatingand stimulatingeffectof a situ- ation of crisis. These persons of diverse backgroundscould most readily come togetheraround ideals whichromanticizedthe insti- tutional status quo. Their criticismof rationalism as incomplete was in conformitywiththe irrationalityof the crisis, and the Ro- manticdesire to recognizerealities and theneed fortheunionof all in defending German culture against the French Enlightenment and the Revolutionstrengthenedthis attitude. The acute menace to the German way of life led to the exaltation of this way to the pointof divinity. The Romanticistseven consecratedto defensive purposes thebeliefin cosmopolitanism,theone respectin whichthe Germanhad escaped fromthe essential controlof the Germancul- tural structure. They endowed theirculturewithuniversal valid- ity and asserted that it enjoyed the devotion of nature and God, that if it were destroyedhumanitywould be vitally wounded. The condition of swift cultural transition favored the ideals and activitiesof youthand early manhood. The opportunitiesfor achieving great things seemed limitless; if the individual would seize them,his throbbingheart (one had no timefor the drudgery of rationalistic study), his enthusiasm joined with some talent promisedsuccess. Youth thoughtit could create or seek new,sub- jective values in harmonywith its emotions. Faustian passion drove it to compass all life,past, present,and future,and it felt anarchy to be the generativeground of its perfection. Exaggera- tions and superlatives belong to youthand crisis, and theybelong to Romanticism. The Romanticistswere as active as circumstancesallowed. To accuse themof aestheticidleness, or to condemnthemfor not hav- ing been Bismareks or hard capitalists seems grossly unfair. In the areas open to themtheylived strenuously,turningout numer-


books,establishingand editingmagazines, tryingmany forms

of kingand folkin an indivisiblenationalwhole,the centuries-oldbond of love and devotionin commonjoy and want, in other words, not the dead concept of an abstractking with an arithmeticalnumberof subjects to be ruled, but the living individualking." Anotherwrote: "The morejoyouslyand freelythe statedevelops, the more powerfully,grandly and in every respect purely does the royal power cometo thefore. The natureof theroyalpower arises whollyfromthe freedomof theburghers;everyrepublicis necessarilya monarchy."





of expression, absorbinigmany varieties of knowledge. The de- votionto theblue flowerdid not reducetheirenergy. Scarcely any age in historyhas been more productivein writingand music, or morefertilein ideas. The Romanticistseveniwished eagerly to be politicallyimportant,and when the War of Liberation broke out, theyused theirpowers to the full in fightingand in propaganda. It tookcourage to denounceNapoleon and to exalt the Germans,to

be partisan

showed far more bravery than many of their carping contempo- raries. None the less, it is true that in their trust in spiritual values, theRomanticistseasily inclinedto substituteideals forma- terial and political realities. Ideals narcotized these young en- thusiasts against the unpleasant features of the time and secured thema retreat in the romanticworld of their own making. The Romanticists compensated for the weakness of earthlyforces by beliefin theenormousstrengthof transcendentalpower. Wishing ideal and practice to harmonize,theycould consummatethe union most easily in the realm of imagination. The crisis stimulatedthe trafficin ideas, which,like Romantic interestin magic, mightpro- vide short-cutsto security; but it did not favor systematization, and thestressupon guidancebyfeelingreducedplanningto relative insignificance. The romanticideal of identityand immanencehas a conserva- tive tendency. The belief that each object personifiesin its par- ticular way the total universe affords a total basis for a total defenseof theindividuality. The highestcriterionof value to the Romanticistconsistedin an individuality'scontainingits ownjusti- fication,its own purpose. This view precluded any attack against theparticularin thename of an objectivestandard. Where nature and God reveal themselvesin theindividual thedefenseseems com- plete. The GermanRomanticistswere interested,not in the ques- tion of what to conserve,but rather in that of how to conserve it. Differingfromthe nationalists in that they recognizedthe nation as but one among manyindividualities,theyprovided the ideologi- cal foundationforthedefensiveunionofall Germangroups against theFrench. The low estimateof rationalismand the exaltation of

custom,tradition,and feeling,the conceptionof societyas an alli- ance of thegenerations,thebeliefin the abiding characterof ideas as contrasted with the ephemeral nature of concepts, these and many otherromanticviews bolsteredup the existingculture. The

in internal conflictsover

reforms. The Romanticists




concernwithrelationsled theRomanticiststo praise the hierarchi- cal order of the Stdndestaat and to regard everythingand every- one as an intermediary. The acceptance of the fact of inequality harmonizedwith that of the ideals of service, duty,faithfulness, order,sacrifice-admirable traitsfor serfor subject or soldier. Not confiningthemselvesto thisearth,theRomanticistsimposed theirsocial views upon the relations betweenGod and man. God was transformedinto a super-romanticindividual,an "endless in-

dividuum," "an abyss of individuality,""the most personal of all

forms. '5

arch,God acted as a romanticmonarch,thefatherofa large roman- ticfamily,thehead of the social and transcendentalorder of which theRomanticistsapproved. Christ's role as mediatorbetweenGod and man was impartedto all theunitsin the social hierarchy;from thesimplestitemto themostcomplexinstitution,each should serve

as an intermediary.26Adam Muller maintained that he was fash-

ioning his plans for the state according to Christian teaching; but

in doing so he

Revolution,to sanction the principles of inequality,estates, mon- archy,and to justify,mirabiledictu,the existenceand practices,at least in idealized form,of the modern state. God and Christ be- came the patrons of the German cultural lag, and were endowed

withthe appropriate qualities for fulfillingtheirnew duties.27 Muillerand theRomanticistsfoundGod and Christso amenable thattheymobilizedthe deities for theirplans for the future. God and Christdutifullyopposed theuniversal dominationof Napoleon, assured the futureprimacyof German culture,and supported the ideal oftheunionofmankind,dividedintonations and states,under one religionand one church.28 " Christwill remain," Mullerwrote,

No longer an absentee Creator or an arbitrary patri-

forced Christ to condemnthe ideals of the French

25 Kluckhohn,p. 8.

26 See amongothersAdam Muller,Die Elementeder Staatskunst,p. 422.

27 See Muller,Die Elementeder Staatskunst,p. 401, wherethe chapterbegins whichis entitled"That Christ died not merelyfor men but also for the states." Mullercomplainedthatwhile the private characterof Christhad been understood, the political had not been. But not stopping at this point,he added: "The secret of rule lies in obedience; all exaltation,whichthe soul desires,lies in free subjec- tion; all freedom,in devotionto the fatherlandand to Christ." Ibid., pp. 434-435.

28 See Alfred von Martin, "Der preussischeAltkonservatismusund der poli- tische Katholizismus in ihren gegenseitigenBeziehungen,"Deutsche Vierteljahr- schriftfir Literaturwissenschaftund Geistesgeschichte,VII (1929), 489 ff.;Alfred von Martin,"Das Wesen der romantischenReligiositait,"ibid.,II (1924), 375 ff.








"the centerand rulerof all national and federativelife,"29and the verytitleof Novalis 's famouswork,Die Christenheitoder Europa, resoundswitha similarcry. These Romanticistsaimed notmerely at a new world orderbut at a rebirthof Christianity,romanticized to be sure,as theunifyingand guidingforceof this order. "Have patience," Novalis declared, "the holy age of eternal peace will come,it must come,when the new Jerusalemwill be the capital of the world."30 During a crisis the Romantic dialectic assists the elementsof change or reformbut also those of conservatism. Where there

is freedom,theremustbe counter-freedom,whereequality,inequal-

ity,where a follower,a leader, where movement,stability. Multi- plicity of forms is necessary for completeness; out of the inter-

action of opposites God and nature create life. The ancien regiime,withits varietyof estates,privileges,ways and customsof

many ages and many places, offeredfruitfulsoil for the creative functioningofthedialectic. Adam Muller expressed theRomantic will to stand above partisanship and findthe true answer in the

positionofthehigherthird,themate to Hegel's synthesis.

By this

means the Romanticistsprovided authoritarianismwith a


and divine foundation. The crisis-situationmightaccelerate the workingof the opposites and stimulaterapid cultural change; but thedialecticsanctionedstrongresistanceto change even duringthe crisis. Once the latterhad passed, the dialectic ceased to express

a social need, and if preserved as a theoryit was made to function so slowlythat a single cultural systemcould appear as a norm. The Romanticconceptionofrelationshippostulatesthepresence of two original elements,the particular and the whole. When this theoryis applied to society,it may easily lead to a struggle for supremacybetweenthem. Appreciatingthethreatof the superior forceof the whole over the particular,Romianticwritersenhanced thesignificanceof thelatterto thepointofbeing a totalityin itself. During a crisis the freedomof the creative particular is vital, and the Romanticistspraised it with enthusiasm. None the less, the whole preserves its potential power, and the Romanticists tended to ignore the fact that it mightbe dominatedby an absolute mon- arch,a self-centeredaristocracy,determinedto maintainas fullyas possible theexistingsocial structure. One half of the relationship

29 Die

30 Novalis,II, 84.

Elementeder Staatskunst'p. 423.





mightdo its part in thecrisis whilethe otherobstructedthe efforts to free the individualitiesfor action. The polarity between indi- vidual freedomand initiativeand group compulsionand authority was one whichthe Romanticistswere never able to escape. They remainedswingingbetweenthe two extremes. But society,which was organized around group institutions,foundthe issue easier to decide: it simplypreservedmostof thegroup institutions,by sheer force of inertia,and the individual had to conform. That was the case in Germany. The Romantic theoryfunctionsonly if aggressive leaders like Stein are present,leaders whofeelwiththeRomanticiststheeffects of thecrisis situationbut who bringto this situationa rich,practi- cal experience. The Romanticists themselves could not have executed fundamental reforms. By reverencing tradition, they preserved the power of the backward-lookingroyaltyand aristoc- racy. The threatof conservatismand restorationlay in constant attendance upon the active individuality. The Romantic ideal tendedto intoxicatea group of intellectualsin a culturalcrisis. It was admirablysuited to the riskyposition of a bureaucrat-profes- sor or a writereager for state favor: it could be eitherradical or conservative,idealistic or realistic,accordingto need; it beautified and transcendentalizedPrussian society; it could mean to everyone that whichhe wished it to mean withoutrunningmuch danger of modifyingthestatus quo. It was as socially safe an ideal as could appear in a crisis. On thewholetheRomanticleaders did not claim to be messiahs. Their effortto know reality and their view of all persons and thingsnotas isolated unitsbutas intermediaries(Mittler) between others intimately related to them, indicate a certain modesty. Those among them who inclined to estimate their historic im- portanceat an unusuallyhigh rate were of burgheror peasant ori- gin. Loose fromtheirsocial bases, theystrovetowardposition and fame. Since political activitywas practically closed to them,and since the economicopportunitiesopen to a burgher were meagre and carried a social stigma,theychose the somewhatirresponsible and specious career of a writer. During the crisis, theyrose with the risingpower of ideas; but materiallyand psychologicallythey remained dependent upon the institutionalstatus quo. As they grewolder,theylost theyouthfulcapacityforromanticenthusiasm. By the timeNapoleon crushed Austria and Prussia, theywere al-








ready transferringtheirinterestfrompersonal problemsto social and political ones. They were discoveringthat some thingswere worth fightingfor. While their work contributedto the Stein- Hardenberg reforms, it also furthered the Junker resistance against these reforms. The Romanticistsbegan to repudiate their own ideals. They began to seek solace and securityin revelation, to revere formand authoritarianism. Catholicism,which shared so many common characteristics with Romanticism, afforded a refuge for some.31 After 1815 the Restoration served a similar need. Transcendental dogma, either religious or secular, gave thesefootlooseintellectualsthesolidbasis whichcaste and property providedforthe aristocracyand the thronefor royalty. Romanti- cismas a fullway oflifelasted as long as theculturalcrisis favored the fermentof ideas and the accompanyingenthusiasticoptimism. The ideology of Romanticism became as traditional for Ger- many as that of the French Revolution for France. Much of Germanhistoryduringthe past centurypertains to the search for unityand defense. Much of it portraysthe struggleof the forces of the ancien regime, so powerfulin Germany,against industrial capitalism. German conservatism,liberalism and socialism alike were affectedby the persistence of this cultural conflictand in greater or less degree absorbed elements of Romanticism. In a nation whichthroughcenturieshad acquired the habits of particu- larism,Romanticismofferedthebest ideological means fordrawing togetherthe diverse elements. Whenever a crisis threatenedor occurred,Romantic theoryreappeared."2

The American University

31 Alfred von Martin, "Romantische Konversionen," Logos, XVII 146 ff.


32 The similaritybetweenthesituationout of whicharose GermanRomianticism and thatof National Socialismis evident. A culturaltransformationwhichquickly

came to a

ideas and life and the search for a total view of things,eventsand personalities.

The Romanticperiod dealt with in this essay deservesto be re-studiedbecause it soughtanswersto problemswhichhave become acute once more in our own day. None theless,it shouldnotbe forgottenthatthe aesthetievalues and the individual- ism of the Romanticistswould be anathemato the political-mindednessand group- dominationof National Socialism.

head in a political crisis evokedthe demandfor a total reintegrationof