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The French Revolution and the Problem of

German Modernity: Hegel) Heine) and Marx
Harold Mah

The response of Gennan intellectuals in the late 18th century to the
French Revolution was various and changing. Some were immediately
suspicious of the Revolution's intentions and prospects. Goethe
showed a skeptical reserve; Schiller doubted its ability to bring about a
free society.l Others who at first welcomed the Revolution quickly became disillusioned when it yielded war, regicide, and Jacobin dictatorship. Klopstock's initial poetic celebrations gave way to expressions of
bitter disappointment. 2 Gentz travelled from one extreme to the other:
the Revolution's energetic apologist in 1789, he had become by 1792
one of its most vociferous critics. 3
But if not all Gennan intellectuals were initially or continuously
sympathetic to the Revolution, there was nonetheless a significant
number who embraced it as the beginning of a new and better era. 4
1. General works on the German response to the French Revolution are Jacques
Droz, I:Allemagne et la revolution franVJise (Paris: Presses Universitaire de France, 1949);
Jurgen Voss, Deutschlarul urul die Franzosische Revolution (Munich: Artemis Verlag, 1983);
Maurice Boucher, U1 Revolution de 1789 vue par les ecrivains allemands se contemporains (Paris:
M. Didier, 1954); G.P. Gooch, Germany arul the French Revolution (London: F. Cass, 1965);
Horst Gunther, ed., Die franzosische Revolution: Remhte urul Deutungen deutscher Schriflsteller
und Historiker (Frankfurt: Deutscher Classiker Verlag, 1985); Alfred Stern, Der Einfluss der
franzosischen Revolution auf das deutsche Geistesleben (Stuttgart: J. G. Cotta'sche Buchhandlung,
1928). On Goethe and Schiller specifically see Stern 129-144; Gooch 175-207,214-229;
and Droz 172-186, 207-320.
2. Gooch 119-126; RudolfVierhaus, " 'Sie und nicht Wir': Deutsche Urteile uber
den Ausbruch der Franzosischen Revolution," in Voss, 1-2.
3. Gooch 91-103; Droz 371-392.
4. See the general works cited in note 1, especially Stern 3-16. Also see Vierhaus 1-15.

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Copyright © 2001. All Rights Reserved.

and it helped to establish rational legal codes. "Soziologische Theoreme tiber die Sozialstruktur der 'Modeme' und 'Modemisierung. the Revolution replaced a decaying and obsolete social and political order with rational institutions. Hereafter cited in the text with the abbreviation PH followed bv page number(s). remained loyal to what they identified as its original impulse. founding in their places social equality and constitutional. J. 1956) 446-447..4 The French RevoLution and German Modernity And although some of these intelleauals later deplored its violence and authoritarianism. Reinhart Koselleck (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta." in Voss. ' 7. Gooch 283-295. 6. representative government. "Never since the sun had stood in the firmament and the planets revolved around him had it been perceived that man's existence centers in his head. See. Hegel. including Kant."8 And although these German thinkers and writers did not want to emulate the abrupt and violent manner in which the French constructed modernity. C. In characterizing the Revolution as the heroic consolidation of rational social and political forms. 322-324. on Hegel._--_ . in thought. inspired by which he builds up the world of reality" (PH 447). For Hegel and other Germans. Because the Revolution eliminated traditional obstacles to social equality and constitutional government. the Revolution was a welcome and irreversible historical breakthrough. and Hegel. the Revolution cleared away an anarchic mass of antiquated social and political institutions and allowed the most advanced moral and political tendencies in Europe to assume concrete form. In France. i. they nonetheless hoped that Germany would follow the Revolution by 5. For these thinkers. 5 According to Hegel.F. 1977) 12. these Germans (and many commentators today) identified it as the decisive arrival of "modernity. it abolished aristocratic privilege and arbitrary royal authority. -----------_.. on Fichte. 6 Carried by Napoleon's armies into central Europe.e. The Philosophy of History.7 Or as Hegel said. see Gooch 126-282. 8. - Copyright © 2001.. invoking the significance of the Revolution in his leaures on the philosophy of history. and equal access to government service (PH 456)..' " Studien zum Beginn deT modernen Welt.W. German intellectuals could view it in particular as the realization of the Enlightenment and in general as the achievement of unfettered reason. "Die franzosische Revolution als MaEtab des deutschen 'Sonderwegs'?. freedom of property and person. Fichte. see below. On Kant. Sibree (New York: Dover Publications. Rainer Lepsius. trans. a prominent group. ed. All Rights Reserved. . for example. M. the Revolution led to the removal of a moribund empire and remnants of feudal privilege and servitude. This view is indirectly criticized by Rolf Reichhardt. Vierhaus 8-9.

NY: Cornell UP. See Madame de Stael." Friedrich Schlegel wrote in 1799.: "The Growth of Professorial Research in Prussia. Madame de Stael did her best to fix the new German cultural identity in the minds of the rest of Europe. 85. "It is a national characteristic only among the Germans. Steven Turne."14 9. Germany was now a privileged realm of spirit and intellect. 1955). "University Reformers and Professorial Scholarship. "Vorwort. Germany was "the country of thought" (11). "contingent" or accidental conditions of their realization. Walter Simon. 11.irgen Voss." The University in Society. .148. Lawrence Stone. All Rights Reserved. notably in Prussia. De EAllemagne (Paris: Libraire de Firmia-Didot. The construction of this new cultural identity aided and was aided bv the university reform of the early 19th century. 12 It was also unclear what the Revolution as a measure of social and political progress implied for German culture. 9 Faith in the Revolution's historical validity as the breakthrough of modernity. 1963) 62. ed. but that reform ultimately proved ambiguous in its results and was followed furthermore by varying degrees of political reaction. "the metaphysical nation par excellence" (363). v. German intellectuals had steadily gained a sense of autonomy and accomplishment. V1erhaus 10-12. viii-ix. V1erhaus 8. and in its relevance for Germany. See the articles of R. Klett.483-485.Harold Mah 5 creating its own real world of reason. 468. the former were considered essential and universal precepts that did not have any necessary connection to the particular.Causes and Context. 481. Preussen zwischen Reform und Revolution (Stuttgart: E. See V1erhaus 8. V1erhaus 12. See also 10. the Revolution offered a model of social and political principles that rational people everywhere were obligated to follow. lO Yet it was not at all clear that Germany could meet this standard of reason and modernity. for understanding the Revolution in this manner left German intellectuals with considerable problems. 12." in Voss. 408. 1975). and see 45.487-488. 13. There was no comparable social and political change in Germany. The rational principles of the Revolution could be and were separated from the means used to realize them. 489. and Ji. 1818 to 1848 . 14. 18th-century German intellectuals had freed themselves only recently from what they had perceived to be their tutelage to French culture. Cosmopolitanism and the National State (Princeton: Princeton UP. the nation par excellence of the Dichter and the Denker. repeatedly emphasizing that by nature and tradition Germans were an impractical people. Perceived as the achievement of universal reason. The Failure of the Prussian Reform Movement (Ithaca. lovers of abstraction. so that in the opinion of many turn-of-the-century German thinkers. 55. Reinhart Koselleck.11 The Napoleonic conquest precipitated social and political reform. In De L'Allemagne. 10. 13 From Sturm und Drang. 2 Copyright © 2001. was not easily held. Droz 183-185." Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences 3 (1972):137-182. through classicism and romanticism to idealism. Quoted in Friedrich Meinecke. 1876) 112-113. "to honor art and learning as divinities just for the sake of art and learning themselves.

" Histoire social/Social History 8 (1980): 105-136. there emerged a growing disquiet with Germany's ability to meet the new standard of modernity and a growing skepticism about the accomplishments of German culture. Mass: Harvard UP. They had to figure Germany's cultural achievement into the equation that defined the meaning of the modem age. I discuss one countercurrent to this trend. This view of the Germans has been almost a truism of German studies. the project of aligning Germany's cultural identity with the putative modernity of the French Revolution had collapsed. And in its collapse. 1770-1830: The Origins of A Class. 15.e. "The Bildungsburgertum and the Learned Professions in Prussia. Intellectuals who both supported the principles of the Revolution and wanted a stake in Germany's new cultural identity therefore needed to show that that identity could be reconciled with the essential impulses of the Revolution. In a recent book.16 (Princeton: Princeton UP. I hope to show how this project. By focusing on key writings of Hegel. Stae185. In this paper. Readionary Modernism: Technology. 1984). 408. arvl Politics in ~imar arvl the Third Reich (Cambridge: Camridge UP. the attempt to integrate German culture into a general discourse of modernity.its special spiritual nature . 1890-1933 (Cambridge. 16. From Hegel to Heine and from Heine to Marx. it paradoxically yielded the conclusion it was initially designed to prevent: that Germany was deeply and intractably resistant to modernity. Droz 483-487. This paper examines the evolution of this attempt to incorporate Germany's new cultural identity into a general discourse of modernity defined by the French Revolution. 465. He analyzes the early 20th-century attempt to integrate aspects of modernity (i. Yet the cultural politics of turn-of-the-century Germany threatened to invalidate their claim to membership in Germany's new cultural identity. technology) into a general discourse of a privileged German culture. Heine. See Fritz Ringer. All Rights Reserved. . The notion of an inherent antipathy between German culture and a putative social and political modernity was powerful throughout the 19th and early the 20th centuries.. --------------------------Copyright © 2001.6 The French Revolution and German Modernity Those German intellectuals who believed in the Revolution's reason and modernity were part of this efflorescence of intellectual activity and they shared in its new sense of cultural autonomy and accomplishment. For German writers and thinkers opposed to the Revolution now argued that Germany's unique culture . Jeffrey Herf outlines another countercurrent. difficult from its beginning. See Herf. Culture. 1974) 495-531. Vierhaus 14.distinguished it from France in particular and from social and political modernity in general. By mid-century. and Marx. the converse of the one I discuss. 1969). became ever more problematical during the first half of the 19th century. 15 To align oneself with the modernity of the Revolution was to declare oneself alien to authentic German spirituality. The Decline oj the German Mandarins: The German Academic Community.

Hegel claims. In France."the last stage in history. . in "no other form Geoffrey Eley's and David Blackboum's The Peculiarities a/German History (Oxford: Oxford UP. In the form of the French Revolution. must also have realized itself in Germany. morality. Unrestrained by prior desires. or politics. It wills that unconstrained willing be made a general principle (PH 442-443). the abstract and universalizing will assumed a "practical effect" in the form of the Revolution. On the contrary. But in Germany. The absolute will. This strategy assumes that homologous or parallel forms necessarily express the same principle or essence. But. To bring Germany under the purview of the principle of the absolute will. "our world. One of the aims of my essay is to understand how and why 19th-century Germans themselves came to embrace what Eley and Blackboum identifY as a problematic conceptualization of German history. in other words. Hegel notes that what underlies and empowers the Revolution's achievements of social equality and representative constitutional government is the principle of the "absolute will. religion. delivered in the 1820s in Berlin. But. interests. Hegel observes. the absolute will appeared in a different shape. Hegel. our time" (PH 442)." The absolute will. Hegel asserts that both the achievements of the Revolution and its descent into terror." Hegel writes. dictatorship. a generalized present . 1984) has recently challenged this view.Harold Mah 7 Hegel: Aligning France and Germany In his lectures on the philosophy of history. the principle of the absolute will made a spectacular entry onto the historical stage. I hope it will be evident that such a theoretical choice was by no means empirically self-evident. resorts to an interpretive strategy of creating homologies or plotting parallelisms between diverse forms of phenomena. Hegel therefore seeks its manifestation in German developments he considers equivalent to the political developments of the French Revolution. that development is not unique to the French. no similar political change. and continuing political instability derive from this abstract and universalizing will (PH 450-453). Hegel notes. All Rights Reserved. And in seeking to free itself from all given constraints. Copyright © 2001. From this paper. but a product of historical circumstance and an anxiety-ridden manipulation of different theoretical and cultural assumptions. the will aspires to an abstract universality. history. as many suggest. in other words. no equivalent political transformation in accordance with the absolute will has occurred in Germany (PH 443). it strives for a complete autonomy. it defines a broader condition. as Hegel recognizes. the principle of the absolute will is not exclusive to a particular nation. it acts without regard for particular individual or social concerns (PH 442). is purely formal.

German thought has been charaaerized by an increasingly introspective and soulful inner life. Unlike the situation in Germany. Because of the Reformation. In France. For Hegel the idea of the absolute will is at the center of both Kantian epistemology in its notion of a transcendental ego and of Kantian ethics in its notion of an uncompromising good will. this attempt to align Germany with the French Revolution in a unified vision of the present immediately leads to a further. namely. entered into an intense and external conflia with the Catholic Church... the absolute will. pressing question: " . the Reformation. harmonious spirituality. an inner life that could absorb the exertions of the absolute will (PH 444. 449). Hegel looks to what many German intelleauals identified as the source of Germany's distinctive spiritual charaaer. Hegel implicitly makes a claim for Germany's participation in modernity. Consequently. by a constant deepening of inwardness (Innerlichkit). the absence of a Reformation resulted in a weak and fragmented spirituality. Hegel aligns Germany with the French Revolution: the Germans have accomplished in "theoretical abstraction" what the French have accomplished in practice (PH 444). Germans are no less advanced in their thinking than are the French in their politics. for the will's practical realization? To answer this question. According to Hegel. not Germany. Germany developed a broad and secure spirituality. making its appearance in the Enlightenment. were "conducted in the interest of theology" (PH 444). in France there was no 17. however. why did the French alone and not the Germans set about realizing [the principle of the absolute will] ?" (PH 443). More specifically. the will was channeled into an adversarial politics (PH 444. All Rights Reserved. Kant achieved for Germany what the Revolution accomplished in FranceY By asserting a homology between the disparate forms of philosophy and politics. . indeed. 449). Thus the first expressions of the absolute will in the German Enlightenment were entirely compatible with religion. Since Luther. In drawing this parallelism between German theory and French politics. Hegel thus establishes a measure of German modernity. Hegel asserts that this unique German characteristic of enhanced Innerlichkit conditions Germany's acceptance of modernity. but as he himself recognizes. Why France. he argues. Luther detached German consciousness from external authority and forced it to rely on itself.8 The French Revolution and German Modernity than that of tranquil theory" (PH 443). Copyright © 2001. The French never established a general. Hegel asserts that the absolute will "obtained speculative recognition" in "Kantian philosophy" (PH 443). See PH 343.

has allowed them to attain it without succumbing to the excesses of the Revolution. German culture offers a safe passage to modernity. An enduring modernity can be founded only on an established Innerlichkeit. he also recognizes that German culture remains an incomplete embodiment of modernity. Hegel redeems German culture for the modem age and. Their special spirituality has not precluded modernity but. All Rights Reserved. identifies it as the preferred form of modernity. He cannot be content with Innerlichkeit alone. Also see C. Hegel's appeal to German Innerlichkeit to explain why Germany had a theoretical. even more. To avoid this potential dissonance between thought and reality. Hegel goes on to say that no revolution can make lasting political gains without a preceding Reformation. At least since the Reformation. modernity is an extraordinary vindication of the new German cultural identity. Copyright © 2001. and Kantian philosophy. not Germany.F. a way of realizing the absolute will while avoiding the violence and war that accompanied the arrival of political modernity in France. ultimately leads to a second assertion about the nature of German politics. but further employs the former to banish the potential social and political problems of the latter. rather than political. Hegel argues. trans. But at the same time that Hegel justifies Germany's cultural identity and protects its claim to modernity. a disjunction could arise between internal states of mind and external states of objective social existence. Hegel returns from Innerlichkeit to political reality.Harold Mah 9 soothing and all-encompassing Innerlichkeit to render the agitations of pure will against social institutions into agitations within thought. A. Hegel's answer to the question of why the will realizes itself in France. Here Hegel gives a fuller account of the link between will. Miller (Oxford: Oxford UP. also 18. He proceeds by claiming that the Reformation has brought some social and political reform. for no revolution can establish free institutions without first cultivating inward spirituality (PH 453). For if the freedom of the will is limited to the inner life of human beings. particularly in areas associated with the Church and with the religious foundations of government (PH 445). Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. 1979) 328-364. The will cannot be truly or fully free if its domain is confined to thinking. . 18 With his strategy of plotting parallelisms or creating homologies. Enlightenment. Hegel not only claims for German culture a share in modernity. on the contrary. These developments are harbingers of further and deeper change: "Thus the principle of thought was already so far reconciled [in German religion].v. the Terror. Germans have become spiritual people par excellence. religion.W.

a strengthening conservatism dominated politics in Gennany. dass in der friiher explizierlen Vtmiihnung das Prinzip zur weiteren Ausbildung des Rechts vorhanden sei. On the specifics of Hegel's political progranl see Harold Mah. His attempt to align 19. "Die romantische Schule. Innerlichkeit and political reality. A representative constitution was never established in Prussia. it threatens to collapse into fixed dichotomies of thought and being.W. Gennany and France." Beitriige zur deutschen Ideologie. Although Heine followed Hegel in serving this general cause. Copyright © 2001. See Heinrich Heine. Indeed. 20 Heine: Reconstructing and Preseroing German Culture In 1834. In the decade after Hegel's lectures. in fact. he did so under altered circumstances. Hans Mayer (Frankfurt: Ullstein. The dwindling of political refonn on the Gennan horizon led. particularly since he believed the Gennans had been misinfonned by the conservative Madame de Stael in her earlier work De EAllemagne. ed.F. and "Les Aveux d'un Poete. 21. 1987) 20-45. That promise ultimately guarantees the coherence of Hegel's interpretation of the modernity of Gennan culture. without this promise the original parallelism is unstable. both the original parallelism and Gennany's claim to modernity are sustained by the promise of refonn. From the homology between the French Revolution and Gennan Innerlichkeit. 1971) 116-117. Hegel projects another hannonizing alignment of Gennan politics. were subject to intensified censorship and repression. Philosophie der Geschichte (Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam. auch hatte die protestantische UHt in ihr das Bewusstsein. 20. of integrating the new Gennan cultural identity into a unified view of modernity. liberal movements." C. This is a modified version of Sibree's translation. Heine intended to educate the French about German culture. In this sense. the dissident political poet Heinrich Heine published in Parisian exile "On the History of Religion and Philosophy in Gennany. The original reads: "So war das Prinzip des Denkens schon so weit versohnt. particularly following the 1830 revolutions in France and elsewhere.19 The Refonnation and the creation of an intensive Gennan spirituality promise future social and political improvement. ." In this writing. 21 But Heine's writing also served another end: it continued Hegel's project of aligning Gennany with France. The End oJPhilosophy.10 The French Revolution and German Modernity the Protestant world had the consciousness that in the earlier developed reconciliation the principle was present for the further formation of right" (PH 445). Hegel. 1961) 591. All Rights Reserved. the Origin oj "Ideology": Karl Marx and the Crisis oj the Young Hegelians (Berkeley and Los Angeles: U of California P." Revue des deux Mondes (15 September 1854) 1173. to Heine's decision to transplant himself to Paris.

With Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. Heine points to a "remarkable parallelism" between German philosophy and the French Revolution (RP 200). Hegel. Schelling's nature philosophy. The overthrow of the restoration and the resulting political situation in France found its equivalent in the defeat of conservative Naturphilosophie by Hegel and his followers. Beitriige zur deutschen Ideologie.. "there began in Germany an intellectual revolution which presents the most striking analogies to the material revolution in France and which must seem . far behind the developments of contemporary France. Heine begins by telling his readers that Germany's present social and political situation is equivalent to France's before the Revolution." Preserving a claim to modernity required the German cultural identity be made to address the more clearly constrained political situation of the time. Heine notes.C.Harold Mah 11 Germany with France could therefore no longer rely on the promise of imminent political reform. Heine writes. Heinrich Heine. 22 But like Hegel before him. eds. J. Holub (New York: Continuum Books. The German people are still dominated by an authoritarian Christianity and the institutions of the old regime. and his ultimate tum to Catholicism and absolutism mirrored restoration in France. Heine sees this parallelism appear in particularly striking form in Kantian philosophy. Heine the poet and thinker can claim for German culture a 22. just as important" (RP 200). . All Rights Reserved. "Concerning the History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany." in The Romantic Sclwol and Other Essays. 1985) 129. the unfolding of events had invalidated Hegel's simple "guarantee. Kant criticized all previous epistemological authority and did away with deism. Hereafter cited in the text with the abbreviation RP followed by page number(s). The German revolution in thought and the French revolution in politics passed through the "same stages. Like Hegel. By asserting this homology between German thought and French politics.. To save German culture for modernity Heine now found that he had to reconstruct it. The German edition is found in Mayer. Hermand and R. Copyright © 2001. Germany is thus socially and politically retrograde. Setting out an interpretive strategy similar to Hegel's. the conqueror of Europe." Where Robespierre and the Terror overthrew all past forms of political authority and abolished the monarchy. Napoleon. found a German alter-ego in Fichte's world-creating Ich. Heine does not believe that this discrepancy between German and French politics signifies a total lack of modernity in Germany. "closed" the "great circle" of philosophical revolutions (RP 199-240).

The problem for Heine. rooted in that country's pagan past. .the glorification of matter. Heine. he argues. one might conclude that Heine also repudiates Germany's new cultural identity. the two. distracting one from the concrete concerns of politics and hence implicitly providing support for tyranny. as it was earlierfor Hegel.i. Heine's argument for the possibility of political change in Germany follows a different tack from Hegel's. is how to demonstrate that German practice will align with German theory. he is still in exile and his fellow Germans continue to live under unconstitutional rule and censorship. Here Heine reverses Hegel's procedure.12 The French Revolution and German Modernity share of modernity. To establish the possibility of political change in Germany.as the radical agent of history: it focuses one's attention on the real world of politics (RP 146-147. retains the progression of cultural forms that conventionally defined Germany's new cultural identity. in fact. To this he contrasts sensualism . In France. Heine identifies in Germany's past a radical sensualism. sensualism appeared in the uncompromising materialist philosophies of the Enlightenment (RP 168-169). In the end.in German culture. 167. It appeared as pantheism. By extension. He adheres to the Copyright © 2001. All Rights Reserved. argues that spiritual or idealistic dispositions are inherently authoritarian.e. Hegel argued that reason was increasingly present in history. Heine. seem to proceed in different directions. Heine must now locate a source of sensualism in German institutions and traditions. it assumed a more mystical form. Heine approaches the same issue that Hegel was forced to confront: the further synchronization of German politics with a modern German culture. sensualism . however. To maintain the possibility of political change in Germany. in Germany. In other words.. 177-181). But for Heine the political dissident. Germany's cultural analogue to France's political modernity is deeply unsatis£)ring. The notion of the German poet and thinker as privileged vessels of spirituality must seem to him hopelessly reactionary. by establishing the homology between German thought and French action. But Heine in fact does not repudiate the German cultural identity. assuming in Germany introverted spiritual forms that in turn created an inner disposition for rational political reform. but he places this new content into the same forms of German culture that Hegel determined as the defining manifestations of German spirituality. he identifies a different content . the concern with sensuous satisfaction . as a belief in the unity of the divine and the natural. in other words. of god and matter (RP 137). Against the conventional emphasis on German spirituality. thereby repudiating Hegel's belief in a characteristic German spirituality.

"revolutionary forces have developed that are only waiting for the day when they can break out and fill the world with terror and with admiration" (RP 242). Pantheism thus entrenches itself in German religion and philosophy. but those achievements are no longer to be seen as substantively spiritual. a Hegelian Aujhebung that would at once transform that culture.Harold Mah JJ conventional terms that add up to a special German culture. if they should interfere. in Luther's origins. But in direct opposition to Hegel. Heine identifies the Reformation's progressive aspect in Luther's "sensualism. defining forms. it will now. according to Heine. Heine sees Luther's Reformation as a watershed in the development of Germany in particular and of humanity in general. the coming bloodbath in Germany will engulf them as well (RP 244). blunt personality. But given the decade of political reaction following Hegel's lectures on the philosophy of history." in his recognition of the legitimacy of ordinary." Heine writes. The conventional 23. Germany's new cultural identity . repudiation of celibacy for priests. among other things (RP 152-162). according to Heine. material life. because pantheism has reached its highest point in theory. "Because of these doctrines. To argue that German culture presages or will issue in further political improvement now requires a reworking of the meaning of German culture. And because Hegel has "closed" the "great circle" of philosophical revolutions. and through Spinoza enters German philosophy. but he gives those terms a new substance and consequence. Germany remains unique and praiseworthy for the increasing depth and sophistication of its religious and philosophical achievements. render it more compatible with the radical requirements of the age. Heine concludes "On the History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany" with a prediction of imminent revolution in Germany. necessarily empty into reality. Like Hegel. All Rights Reserved. . and abandonment of miracles. With Hegel. yet preserve its customary. 23 Luther's sensualism passes into the pantheistic philosophy of Spinoza. It marks a qualitative advance in freedom. warning the French that. In Heine's rewriting of the German cultural identity.the German as the poet and thinker par excellence . Heine can no longer guarantee that relation by simply asserting the imminence of the synchronization of German politics with German theory.also participates in modernity. This appears. Copyright © 2001. Heine establishes a parallelism between German culture and the French Revolution in order to preserve the former's historical legitimacy. finding its highest manifestations in Schelling and Hegel.

to get from thinking to acting. Now that the theoretical revolution is over. All Rights Reserved. this passage from theoretical pantheism to revolutionary action. behind their apparent spirituality. and only after completion of the latter could it go on to political revolution. Heine argues that the revolution in German thought marks the culmination of the development of a pantheism that is inherently revolutionary. this establishes Germany's participation in modernity. but merely asserts the development as a kind of logical deduction that follows necessarily from the internal workings of pantheist consciousness. Copyright © 2001. It is neither logically self-evident nor. I find this sequence very rational" (RP 242). however. only after that could it occupy itself with philosophy. First. became increasingly conservative in politics and religion. he betrays an unsettling anxiety that such a project is ultimately untenable. justified by how his pantheists actually behaved. he in fact defeats his own attempt to preserve the modernity of German culture. And he recognizes that Schelling. He does not show how it will happen empirically or institutionally. Second. striking way. Heine never fully explains. Brooding over Schelling's apparent political backsliding. Heine notes that not just Schelling but also Kant and Fichte "can be accused of desertion. modem pantheism will pour into the real world. 24 But this assertion is difficult to accept. Heine's attempted renovation of the project to align Germany with the French Revolution indicates that that project had become ever more problematical since Hegel's lectures in the 1820s. German culture's claim to modernity had become increasingly difficult to sustain in the face of German politics's apparent hostility to the rational principles of the French Revolution. such as the romantics and Goethe. As we have seen. subversive sensualism. a deeper. In the course of reconstructing a modem German cultural identity. In a burst of ironic self-criticism. Heine tells us that some." In 24.from Kant to Hegel mirrors France's political development. . That Heine experienced considerable difficulty in carrying out this project of cultural legitimation is evident as well in another. one of the most accomplished pantheists of Germany's philosophical revolution. ultimately converting like other romantic pantheists to Catholicism (RP 237-239). as Heine shows.14 The French Revolution and German Modernity signifiers of Germany's cultural identity represent. were politically conservative or at best politically indifferent. Few pantheists were revolutionaries. Heine's argument has two steps. a methodical people like us had to begin with the Reformation. he argues that Germany's philosophical development . Heine: "In my opinion.

He admits that he was wrong to claim practical power for what he had identified as the most radical of German philosophies. In "On the History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany. they became apostates of their own philosophies (RP 239).25 Even in 25. Schelling as he is today" (RP 239). Also see Heine. self-negating procedure abrupdy results in a rhetorical stalemate: Heine suddenly cuts off the flow of his exposition. his carefully demarcated system of oppositions (spiritualism vs. Hegel's radical followers. As he dwells on the real consequences of pantheism.Harold Mah 15 their later years. . He arbitrarily suppresses his doubts and turns to happier thoughts: "Instead [of dwelling on the late Schelling] let us praise that earlier Schelling . But his evasions catch up with him. have proved incapable of changing reality (RP 5). Heine "deconstructs" the elaborate system of interpretation he is simultaneously erecting." Heine in effect repudiates the central argument of his study." this contradictory. Forcibly fixing his attention on the more promising youth of pantheism. and hence denies German culture's claim to modernity. . represents one of the great phases of our philosophical revolution. Heine thus works towards contradictory aims. In the 1852 preface to the second edition of "On the History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany. for the earlier Schelling. modern philosophy consorts with retrograde romanticism. "Les Aveux" 1169-1206. . Heine's extended reflection on Schelling's actual political behavior thus spirals into a refutation of his argument about pantheism's revolutionary potential." he intetjects: "I don't know why this last sentence has such a depressingly paralyzing effect on my feelings that I am simply unable to communicate here the remaining bitter truths about Mr. Heine continues his argument about the inherent political radicalism of German theory. Heine then tries to make his way back to his argument about the essential radicalism and ultimate modernity of German pantheism. thought and action) begins to collapse into a confusion of categories: sensualism can lead to political conservatism. His answer to his anxieties is to evade them. In "On the History of Religion and Copyright © 2001. like Kant and Fichte. according to Heine. conservatism vs. Immediately after claiming that Germany's great pantheists have so frequendy turned "apostate. which I have compared in these pages with the phases of the political revolution in France" (RP 239). he points out. radicalism) and affinities (Germany and France. He both argues for a position and undermines it. All Rights Reserved. thought repudiates action. sensualism. To put this another way.

Hereafter cited in the text with the abbreviation IN followed by page number(s). Here. All Rights Reserved. von Moltke. even more dearly than in Hegel's case. and still less in focus of the present" (IN 176). measuring it against the standard of modernity identified with the French Revolution." shows how a further 10 years of political conservatism had left the earlier hopes of Hegel and Heine in complete ruins. Marx states bluntly." Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Copyright © 2001. the "Introduction to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. which in 1843 led the young Karl Marx to make his way to Paris. the entire argument of the subsequent text is fatally damaged and. is "an anachronism. he agrees that modernity has manifested itself in German thought. I am hardly in the year of 1789. then. Marx's only published writing in Paris. . Introduction. Colleded Works. Marx measures contemporary Germany against the French Revolution and finds it politically wanting. The 1840 accession of Frederick William IV to the Prussian crown ultimately brought about a renewed wave of political repression. "Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Law. But again like Hegel and Heine. 1976) 78. German pantheism does not empty automatically its energies into reality. Heine. Marx: Gennan Culture Acknowledged and Overcome In the decade following Heine's "On Religion and Philosophy in Germany."26 Indeed. Karl Marx. "Introduction" to Kahldorf Concerning the Nobility in Letters to Count M." German liberals and radicals made few gains. Marx reconsidered the cultural and political situation in Germany." Heine in fact contradicts himself in his assessment of Hegel. German conditions are so retrograde that even abolishing them would not bring Germany up-to-date: "If I negate the German state of affairs in 1843. He characterizes Hegelian theory as radical and even potentially bloodthirsty. 3 (New York: Intemational Publishers.16 The French Revolution and Gennan Modernity its most developed form. a flagrant contradiction of generally recognized axioms. With this striking confession in his preface. "We are the philosophical contemporaries of the Philosophy in Germany._ _---------------. which is full of rival political groups. Germany.. 26. Marx concedes that Germany is not altogether without modernity. -_. according to the French computation of time. v. This would also suggest that Hegelian theory might have a character other than the revolutionary one he imputes to it. Like Hegel and Heine before him. then. And in another writing he compares Hegelian theory to Orleanist government. yet at another point refers to Hegel as a moderate spirit (RP 237). ------------_. like Heine before him. in The Romantic Sclwol and Other Essays 246. Germany's cultural identity again runs the risk of being cut adrift from the modernity of the French Revolution.

is the way Germans make up for a bad reality . Marx argues that the theory is advanced precisely because the politics are retrograde. these thinkers then argued that modem German ideas were harbingers of modem political reform. Modern politics has appeared in Germany as modern philosophy: "In politics the Germans thought what other nations did" (IN 181). To determine Germany's place in modem history. theory compensates by becoming increasingly modem. Marx sees German philosophy and politics locked in an inverse relationship: as politics becomes increasingly retrograde. To sustain this parallelism.and with Hegel and Heine. in short. All Rights Reserved." he writes. he refuses to predict a subsequent harmonization of German politics with German theory. But he deploys this tactic in the service of a quite different strategy. The modernity of German thought pointed to the imminence of a modem German politics.. And in an ironic reversal of Hegel's and Heine's earlier reasoning. The status quo of German political theory expresses the imperfection of the modem state. he refuses to take the next step. On the contrary. the defectiveness of the flesh itself" (IN 181). sets the assertions of Hegel and Heine against themselves. But then departing from the earlier interpretive pattern.the idea that the German Dichter and Denker are of a special nature . Germany could thus justifiably claim a share of modernity. . Marx. Marx justifies this refusal by appealing to the modernity of German thought: in Marx's view.it compensates in thought for an inadequate politics. he grants that identity a modem character. He accepts the new German cultural identity . "The abstraction and conceit of [Germany's] thought. the parallelism between German thought and French politics no longer portends a fulfilled German political modernity. Hegel and Heine drew their parallelism in order to align German culture with the putative modernity of the French Revolution. Where Hegel and Heine argued for the modernity of German theory despite the backwardness of German politics. it allows politics to become more deeply and perversely anachronistic. "always kept in step with the one-sidedness and stumpiness of its reality . the modernity of German culture precludes the possibility of a modem German politics. this parallelism suggests to Marx that Germany is irredeemably anachronistic. For Marx.. Marx begins with the same interpretive move used by Hegel and Heine: he constructs a homology or parallelism between French politics and German thought. German philosophy. "without being its historical contemporaries" (IN 180).Harold Mah 17 present.. And as theory continues to develop an advanced modernity. The current state of German culture Copyright © 2001. however." Marx writes.

Germany's new cultural identity merely shows that it is hopelessly anachronistic. Against Hegel and Heine. the issue is not whether German reality can catch up to German theory and thereby match the political modernity of other nations. The perverse symbiosis between the modernity of German thought and its retrograde political practice precludes that possibility. (IN 186). which does not stand in anyone-sided antithesis to the consequences but in an allround antithesis to the premises of the German state .. In Marx's view.. . bound to a retrograde politics. Marx does not believe that German philosophy foreshadows a modern German politics or works to realize it. has no chance of ever reaching the present. nor to German politics and society. 5. v. in Collected Works. .. It shares "the restorations of modern nations" without sharing "their revolutions" (IN 176). with the barbaric deficiencies of the ancien regieme" (IN 183). "Germany. He in fact paradoxically defines this new historical actor by its exemption from the society and culture that generated it. Germany is stranded in time. For Marx in 1843.. the modernity of German philosophy depends entirely on its inverse." Marx predicts. an estate which is the dissolution of all estates. which can no longer invoke a historical but only a human title. Copyright © 2001.18 The French Revolution and German Modernity and politics now begins "to combine the civilized shortcomings of the modern world . On the contrary. its theory fixed to the present. the backwardness of political reality. its politics to the past.. The existence of the former presupposes the latter. "will one day find itself on the level of European decadence before ever having been on the level of European emancipation" (IN 183). Germany.27 Germany's only hope for rejoining the historical mainstream is to repudiate the past and the present. The German Ideology. and Marx insists they they must do this without appealing to anything considered characteristically German . Marx looks within Germany for an agent of history that owes nothing to German culture and institutions. 27. In the last pages of the "Introduction. it is a class of civil society which is not a class of civil society.neither to German culture." Marx in fact goes on to say that Germany lacks the usual resources for concrete historical development .its petty states and enervated classes are inadequate agents of change (IN 184-85).193-196. a sphere . this identity ensures that German conditions remain "below the level of history" (IN 177). in short. All Rights Reserved. See also Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

he removes the proletariat from a unique German situation and integrates it into the "normal" evolution of all industrial societies. Germany could be counted as part of the avant-garde of history. The proletariat in its first manifestation as an agent of history is to serve as Germany's redeemer." Marx seems to identify the emergence of the proletariat as the unique answer to Germany's particular cultural and po:itical situation. the movement from Hegel through Heine to Marx suggests the progressive erosion of a particular attempt to legitimate the new cultural ideal of German intellectuals. Copyright © 2001. They self-consciously erected this parallelism because of Germany's apparent lack of modernity. All three thinkers are in a sense materialist. The modernity of German thought renders a modern German politics 28. paradoxical formulation. Marx in particular and German socialism in general progressively ignore the peculiarities that Marx originally saw in Germany. . the German cultural identity . but it is unclear how it fits into the development of other. In later writings. From Hegel to Heine to Marx. more consistently "developed" countries. In the "Introduction. But while this interpretive strategy acknowledges that it derives from the absence of political modernity in Germany. In other words. it also denies that absence. Marx's description of the proletariat here is clearly at odds with his description of it in subsequent writings. as Marxism becomes increasingly systematized. Hegel and Heine erected a parallelism between contemporary French politics and German thought in order to justify a German claim to modernity. which was established at the turn of century and projected through it. making it instead one of the polarities in the defining conflict of modern society. in this way. Marx for the first time calls on the proletariat to assume a decisive role in history. both the proletariat and Germany are fitted into a general. each recognizes Germany's problem in the 19th century as social and political.the German as poet and philosopher par excellence .Harold Mah 19 With this obscure. Rather. At the same time. uniform development of industrial capitalism. rather than also an estate. He further drops the obscure notion that it is not part of society. All Rights Reserved. 28 The End of a Discourse The movement from Hegel to Heine and then to Marx does not mark a simple shift from idealism to materialism. In the Communist Manifesto and other works. asserting that the current homology between French politics and German theory must lead to further homologous developments in German politics. of course.became increasingly untenable when measured against the putative modernity of the French Revolution. he speaks of the proletariat as strictly a class. a lack of what they believed to be modern social and political institutions.

They are faltering.20 The French Revolution and German Modernity inevitable. in the delusion of an imminent and necessary political harmonization. in a false faith in a coming and uniform modernity." The apparent continued resistance of Germany to a political modernity ultimately undermined the optimistic belief that German politics would soon harmonize with German culture. self-deceived attempts at historical self-consciousness. the attempts to ground it in a putative German cultural modernity became increasingly strained. For Marx. The self-consciousness of Hegel and Heine therefore ends up reproducing the condition it hoped to overcome. Germany's culture has made great achievements in order to forget its retrograde politics. Marx brings to a close in his "Introduction" a multi-generational discourse that strove to fit German culture into a general system of modernity.to overthrow the given of Germany's political "backwardness. Marx no longer expected the inverse relation between German thought and German reality to correct itself in favor of the modernity of thought. In 1843. In Marx's account. but that does not prefigure a modem German politics. German thought is as advanced as French modernity. . it issues a powerless and isolated affirmation of the modernity of German culture. They recognize Germany's anomalous place in history but then seek to escape it in wish-fulfillment. the German cultural identity is constructed on a wishful suppression of its political preconditions. On the contrary. As the prospect of political reform disappeared from the horizon. All Rights Reserved. The parallelism between French politics and German thought therefore seeks to rectify its own political preconditions . By turning upon the interpretive strategy that he himself deploys. he turns the project of aligning German culture with the French Revolution against itself. By the mid-1840s. Copyright © 2001. His contribution to that discourse ironically condemns it: he accuses it of complicity in rendering Germany anachronistic. the attempts to justify the modernity of German culture are second-order manifestations of German perversity. The inverse relation between German thought and German reality is necessary and inescapable. In turning the interpretive strategy of Hegel and Heine against itself. for German thought is modem precisely because German reality is backward. Marx provides an ironic commentary on his predecessors.