Was There a Third Way? H. O. Ziegler's Quest for an Alternative to National Democracy and the Total State

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 16:45
Location: Hörsaal 07 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Marek SKOVAJSA, Charles University Prague, Czech Republic
Heinz Otto Ziegler continues to be a less known contributor to the debates about democracy and the state of the 1930s, despite the relative success of his book ‘The Modern Nation’ (1931) and other writings which, as has been recently claimed, exerted a strong influence on Hannah Arendt (see Ch. Volk, 2015, Arendtian Constitutionalism). Ziegler has been portrayed (e.g., by Juan Linz) as a conservative partisan of an authoritarian political regime. It will be argued that Ziegler’s aim was less to extol the virtues of authoritarianism and more to find a politically viable alternative to the two forms of political system which he rejected. These were the national democracy that originated from the Jacobin impulse of the French Revolution and culminated in the nation-state of the 19th century; and the all-powerful ‘total state’ which Ziegler saw in his lifetime triumphant in Italy, Germany and the USSR. His own position can be seen as deriving from his precarious status as a Czechoslovak-born German-language Jewish intellectual: an alien both in the Czech national democracy established in 1918 and in the totalitarian Germany of the 1930s, Ziegler was in search for something else. In this sense, he can be seen as a sociological version of Joseph Roth, Ludwig Winder and other literary figures whose uprootedness led them to look up to pre-1918 Austria as a positive model of political organization for Mitteleuropa. Importantly, however, evidence indicates that Ziegler’s position in the 1930s evolved from an ambiguous advocacy of an ‘authoritarian state’ towards a positive appreciation of the liberal democratic regime. The paper will draw besides Ziegler’s published works on the archival materials from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Archive of the former German University in Prague.