chapter  10
11 Pages

Nazi sexual politics

Aurel Kolnai on the threat of re-primitivism
WithGraham J. McAleer

Aurel Kolnai’s 1938 work The War Against the West (WAW) – described by the German theorist Axel Honneth as ‘groundbreaking’ – is surely the most detailed, analytical documentation of the thought-world of Nazism by a philosopher. Ludwig Klages, described by Kolnai as a highly admired Dionysian, was a leading advocate of vitalism, and a recurring theme in WAW is the Nazi reduction of personality to vitality. Nazi sexual politics warped persons, family and community, and did so catastrophically. Kolnai arrestingly captures the flipping between tribal univocity and civilisational equivocity in the idea of Nazism as re-primitivism. He discusses at length a Joseph Goebbels speech that pulls together the vitalism and primitivism of Nazism. Nazis claimed that government earned its legitimacy when it was an expression of tribal vitalism, and only one model of government can reflect this absolute unity: totalitarianism.