Note to Self: The continued strength of landed military service aristocrats in government left Europe on the eve of World War I potentially vulnerable to currents of thought that were anti-liberal, pro-hierarchy, and authoritarian...

...First among these currents of thought was social Darwinism: a social philosophy that proclaimed to be the result of applying the laws of natural science to the problems of social development. On the one hand, social Darwinism believed in the survival of the fittest: thus those who have deserve to have. On the other hand, social Darwinism believed that the fittest emerged as a result of struggle: hence competition—and after competition, domination—not cooperation, was the key form of social life. And soon one of the principal forms of competition focused on by social Darwinists was that of competition between nations: were the Germans, the French, the Anglo-Saxons, or the Russians to become the superpower of the twentieth century that would leave its imprint on all future civilizations?

Second, and connected, was the turning away from the values of the Enlightenment and of the Christian tradition that is usually given the name of Nietzscheism: the name of the game was “creative domination, exploitation, and subjugation.” Any hint that things might be different—that one might be in a win-win situation, a positive-sum game of some sort—was rejected as an obvious and offensive ideological attack by those who were too weak to meet the strong in open and fair contest. Moreover, they were probably Jewish as well.

So the political and military elites of Europe rolled the dice in 1914, only half-understanding that in the losing country the political and social order that had given them influence and wealth would be destroyed. But they believed there would be a gain: the strengthening of power and influence that would come from victory and resulting international political domination.

#notetoself #2019-10-07