Why civilization never started with democracy

Summary of Considerations of an apolitical

German enthusiasm for war before the First World War

Thomas Mann was not the only intellectual who was enthusiastic about the idea of ​​war when the First World War broke out. The idealization of war was widespread in both Germany and France in 1914. This enthusiasm is usually seen in response to the period of decadence. The war was romantically transfigured as a "purifying primal struggle". Heroism and manhood mania flourished. In Germany, since 1871 under Otto vonBismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm II. was an authoritarian state, the war euphoria was intensified by the isolation on the international stage and by the feeling of disadvantage. The German Reich had missed the start of the imperialist race. For many Germans, the longed-for and expected victory over France was the only chance for the apparently neglected country to fight for its place in the sun. The enthusiasm for war in Germany reached its climax in 1914 in the so-called “August experience”. Entire school classes volunteered to die in the field of honor for the fatherland. The soldiers advanced with bayonets adorned with flowers and were cheered by the crowds. It is controversial how much of this war euphoria was staged and how much it actually affected broad sections of the population.


In August 1914, Thomas Mann joined in the song of enthusiasm for war, which grew louder and louder. As a retired man he wanted at least to do military service with his pen and wrote several essays in autumn 1914: Thoughts in War, Good field post and Friedrich and the grand coalition. With these writings he made himself unpopular with pacifist professional colleagues. His older brother Heinrich Mann turned out in his essay Zola against Thomas. From then on, the two of them carried out the previously subliminal fraternal dispute in public.

The Considerations of an apolitical originated in the period from autumn 1914 to spring 1918, i.e. almost during the entire duration of the war. Mann did not want to write such a big book from the start, but the project began to take over him more and more, so that a monumental political work of principle emerged. In 1915, Mann struggled to work on Magic Mountain to push ahead - in vain. Because his critics wrote harsh letters to his address, his need for justification on war issues remained alive. Thomas Mann was lonely during the war. Having just turned 40, his ambition to become a German national poet also captivated him to the Considerationsso that he worked almost exclusively on the work until 1918. The concept was changed several times, versions of the most varied of styles were superimposed on one another. Although man was repeatedly handicapped by illnesses and nervous crises, by the end of 1917 most of them were Considerations finished. He added the last additions in February 1918. In mid-March he sent the work to the publisher and at the end of September the author had the first printed copies in his hands, a few weeks before the end of the war.

Impact history

When Germany surrendered on November 11, 1918, they were Considerations Already published. On a sleepless night, Thomas Mann toyed with the idea of ​​only publishing the work posthumously, but the publisher clearly thwarted this request. The sales were not great, but constant. By the mid-1920s, almost 25,000 copies had been delivered in 24 editions. During the Weimar Republic and the Nazi era, the book was not reprinted and was almost forgotten. The neglect of his “stepchild” came in handy for the man himself. However, shortly before his death he approved a new edition. They were translated Considerations never in Mann's lifetime. To this day, they are mainly read by avowed Thomas Mann fans and German scholars. After it was published, the book was, of course, very hostile in republican France, which is hard to judge against. In Great Britain the mood was less negative, but the reception focused on a few sentences on the question of war guilt.

Heinrich Mann wrote to his brother in January 1918 that he would not read the book. The Considerations are regarded as a kind of basic work for the so-called "Conservative Revolution" during the Weimar Republic, which called for an authoritarian government as an alternative to democracy. With the U-turn that Mann made when he made his speech in 1922 From the German Republic confessed to the same, he distanced himself from the "Conservative Revolution", but presented the Considerations as a whole out of the question. For the second edition from 1922, Mann made a number of cuts, although he did not embellish the anti-democratic passages, but rather left a portion of polemics against it Romain Rolland and his brother Heinrich gone.