Civilization and Die Weltanshauung

Three Points:

1) Weltanschauung offers a solution to all problems in existences by way of a comprehensive hypothesis and construction. That way, everything finds a place.

2) Religion is a negative influence on civilization, as it inhibits thought and exerts power over human emotions. Furthermore, religion is dismissed by Freud as outdated and ignorant.

3) Civilization progresses due to economic situations, and is comparable to an organic process. Evolution of civilization is brought on by the struggle for life of humans.

Two questions:

-Freud is highly opposed to both religion and destruction, believing that both inhibit thought and progress of civilization. Would civilization be best off without both of these things?

-Freud mentions that art and philosophy cannot be enemies to civilization. I think this point is controvertible. Can art and philosophy pose threats to society?

One observation:

Towards the end of his piece, Freud discusses the struggles that humankind is faced with. These struggles eventually aid in the progression of society. Freud writes of the struggle between life and destruction, and makes note of man’s natural tendency to be aggressive. Having written this either towards the end or directly following World War I, it seems that Freud must have been influenced by the extreme power of man’s aggression. He further explains that it is this aggression in men (which is expressed in war) opposes the development of civilization. He lived through a period of significant and powerful destruction in Europe, which led him to bring these points up.

Treaty of Versailles

Three Points:

1. Germany was forced to surrender much of the territory they gained during the war.  They lost the territory that they gained from France and also had many other restrictions.  They also had many restrictions put on their control of the Rhine, saying “Germany is forbidden to maintain or construct any fortifications” around the Rhine.  They were forced to return all of their newly controlled territories.

2. Germany was forced to disassemble their armed forces.  First of all their army was not allowed to have more than 100,000 members.  Those 100,000 members were only allowed to manage the territory and not actually invade any countries.  Along with this they were only allowed to have men in the army and not use any technology such as vehicles.

3. Germany was forced to accept all responsibility for the war.  The main aspect of this is that Germany would be forced to pay for all damage committed to the “Allied and Associated Governments”.  This put all the fault of the war on the Germans and that the “Allied and Associated Governments” recognized that Germany had to assume responsibility.


1. Was there a less aggressive way to handle this and not put all of the blame on Germany?

2. How much of an impact did the Treaty of Versailles have on how Germany handled World War II.

Interesting Fact:

There was actually a second agreement, the Locarno Treaties in 1925 that was signed by the same group of countries that was used to fix relations with Germany.

Spengler’s “The Decline of the West”

3 main points

1. All cultures and traditions have a limited lifespan and all will eventually fail and give rise to a new set of traditions. Spengler supported this observation by providing examples which occurred throughout history prior to the contemporary time frame in which he wrote.

2. The future of warfare lies with paramilitary forces and contractors.

3. The groups that would overtake the dominant world powers were those which were developing in the East (India, China, and the like), those which he believed were Caesars to the West’s Napoleons. In other words, he believed those countries would be able to fight huge conflicts where the West couldn’t, or would spread themselves too thin.


Spengler bases his claims on precedent evidence throughout history. Have any of his predictions any merit? Have they come to fruition or are close to doing so?

Toward the end of this passage, he describes what will happen to Western culture: “The era of individualism, liberalism and democracy, of humanitarianism and freedom, is nearing its end. The masses will accept with resignation the victory of the Caesars, the strong men, and will obey them. Life will descend to a level of general uniformity, a new kind of primitivism, and the world will be better for it…..” His predictions for civilization sound anarchic/Hobbesian. Do you agree?


His predictions about Western civilization are probably a reflection on Germany’s performance during the war and its state of affairs afterwards. His claim that paramilitary forces are the future of warfare may reflect Germany’s problems with such forces at the time of his writing. Similarly, Germany’s defeat at the hands of the Allies during WWI and its subsequent change of governmental structure could have influenced his claims that Western civilization was dying because rather than accepting defeat, Germany, unlike Western cultures, was adapting to change in order to survive.

Serfdom in Russia

Within this particular chapter, there was one aspect that stood out to me. I was surprised at the number of types of serfs that were discussed. Prior to taking this course, I had thought that a serf was a single type of individual, and there wasn’t any differentiation because they were collectively seen as the lowest within Russia society. In addition to the serfs that most people associate with the title, there were also industrial serfs, as well as household serfs.

In the reading, the author discusses the development of “possessional factories” that were established by the state to assuage the difficulties associated with a scarce labor supply. These operations were run by merchants usually and had “possessional workers” attached to these establishments.  The book notes that in reality, these workers were really industrial serfs, meaning that instead of belonging to an individual, they belonged to a factory.

In contrast to industrial serfs, household serfs were seen as the lowest within the serf hierarchy. With no land to till, these individuals acted as domestic servants, within the master’s household. These people essentially were slaves, and were kept under constant control . However, the authors noted that some household serfs had the opportunity to rise socially, and even receive an education.

I found this aspect of the chapter to be interesting because I would like to learn more about industrial and household serfs compared to typical serfs (I’m assuming “regular” serfs constituted as the majority of serfs in Russia). For instance were there any stark contrasts between the groups that would have prevented them from unifying in a revolt? It would be interesting to find out if there were such differences, amongst the groups, and if subsequently they each had different goals or grievances.

Treaty of Versailles

Main Points:

1. Territory– The following territories were taken away from Germany:

  • Alsace-Lorraine (given to France)
  • Eupen and Malmedy (given to Belgium)
  • Northern Schleswig (given to Denmark)
  • Hultschin (given to Czechoslovakia)
  • West Prussia, Posen and Upper Silesia (given to Poland)

Germany must relinquish power over any overseas colonies to the League of Nations as well as any additional territory seized in the war not mentioned above.

2. Military– Germany’s army was reduced to 100,000 men and no tanks were allowed. Germany was not allowed any airforce or submarines and only 6 capital naval ships.No german soldier was allowed in the demilitarized zone west of the Rhineland and 50 kms east of the River Rhine. The Allies were allowed to keep an occupational army on the west bank of the Rhine for the next 15 years.

3. Financial– Germany would be required to accept full responsibility for the war, and therefore must pay reperations for any damage caused by the war to civilian property (most of which would go to France and Belgium to pay for the damage done to their infrastructure). Germany would not be permitted to unite with Austria, for fear this would help improve the diminished German economy.


1. Was the Treaty of Versailles an appropriate and sensible way to ensure that Germany did not pose a military threat in the future?

2. Did the Treaty of Versailles subsidize the rise of the Nazis in Germany? Did it make way for facism?


1. The Treaty did not completely crush Germany nor did it attempt to bring Germany into the League of Nations. I found it interesting that the League of Nations understood they could not crush Germany entirely but did not understand the repercussions that would surely ensue from such strict and oppressive guidlines regarding German land, military, and economy.

2. The Treaty essentially ensures that no “spoils” from the war stay in German hands and were in turn given to the countries participant in the League of Nations.

3. I think it is also important to envisage the sentiments of internationalism, national and global security, unity and collaboration, as well as prevention of conflict and total war while reading this document, as they were prominent notions shared by the end of the war.

Keynesian Economics

3 Points:

Keynes compares the livelihood of Europe before and after the war. He boasts about how self-sufficient Europe was, with the population secured for itself with dedicated organization and steady income of supplies. He believes the disruption of this system has contributed to the decline in livelihood.

To follow his first point, Keynes warns the population of the lurking danger of the rapid decline in the standard of living that will leave people starved, as well as mentally and physically disabled. He fears that the population’s distress will eventually disrupt the organization and lead individuals to doing whatever they can in order to satisfy their own desires.

Keynes notes that Germany, which was once an abundant agricultural state, has become completely dependent on industry. Following the economic depression, Germany will have suffered the loss of foreign investments and will be unable to import from abroad, which will ultimately lead to the diminishing of food and lives.

 2 Questions

Why does Keynes believe those who sign the Treaty are essentially “signing the death sentence of millions of German men, women and children?”

Whom or what does Keynes blame for Europe’s growing insufficiencies?


It is clear that Keynes is vehemently against the treaty, however, I find it rather strange that he offers no possible solutions or resolutions to the problems he addresses.

18th Century Serfdom

Something that stood out to me in this chapter was the quote by Sumner at the beginning of the reading.  He states that serfdom lasted longer in Russia than in the West because “humanitarian and other ideas of the value of the individual spirit were little developed.”  It is strange to attempt to reconcile that fact that Catherine the Great set up a Noble Wardship and a Bureau of Public Welfare for the peasants but that she was also the monarch responsible for entrenching serfdom the most.  I understand that there was a division between peasants and serfs, but I do not agree with Sumner’s statement.  I think that in Russia, at least on a theoretical level, there was a conception of individual rights and social duty.  In the “Charter to the Towns” for example, the merchants were granted private property based on their individual right and under law.  Obviously the concept of individual rights applied more to the upper classes than to the peasants, but I would go as far to say that serfdom became so important because of the new Enlightenment value placed on the individual.  The serfs became the patrimony of the nobles and the merchants because the upper classes were entitled to them by virtue of being a human with an inalienable right to property.  It is hard to apply humanitarian and spiritual concerns to a group of people barely considered human by law.

On a related note, I was surprised to learn that merchant run factories had the ability to own their own peasants as “industrial serfs.”  I do not think of Russian factories at this time period to be mechanized enough to support unskilled labor and had assumed that there would be more unindustrialized craft involved.

The Economic and Social Development of Russia in the Eighteenth Century.

Serfdom lasted much longer in Russia than in other Western countries because of the economic disadvantages Russia faced. As a result of Peter the Great and the developments he made to the social and economic structures. However, there still seemed to be a huge separation between the nobility and wealthy upper class and the peasants. It seemed that during this time, the rich became richer and the poor became poorer, even clergy lost the status they once had. Clergy became poorer as they lost more revenue and were taxed more and lost land to accommodate for the immense changes being made to the general structure of the empire. Catherine the Great’s empire grew in numbers and in strength and power, however the tsars of Imperial Russia began spending outside of their means to promote the Russian Enlightenment.

In this class, most of the material we’ve read focused mainly on the nobility and upper classes so it was interesting to read a bit more on the lower classes and the struggles they went through while the nobility and upper classes experienced the Russian Enlightenment. Which makes me question how many people were actually affected by the Russian Enlightenment and how was the response to it? How many peasants and lower class citizens aware of the tsar and was there any real contact between the two classes? And how aware were the tsars of the great difference between the lower and upper classes and was there anything really done to rectify it?

First Provisional Gov’t

Author: The First Provisional Government was created by the Temporary Committee of the members of the State of Duma. The Committee proclaimed itself the official governing body of the Russian Empire.
Context: The Provisional Committee was formed in 1917, just as the February Revolution was beginning.
Language: The language of the document is concise and simple, representing the clear purpose of the Provisional Committee.
Audience: The Committee’s intended audience was the entirety of the Russian Empire as they sought to be recognized as Russia’s official governing body.
Intent: The Provisional Committee intended to establish a new form of government in Russia during a period when no clear government was in place.
Message: The First Provisional Committee called for a new governing body which would acknowledge and accept the freedoms of the people. The Committee sought to legalize political rights like the freedom of speech and abolish any governmental regulations based on religion, class, or nationality. In short, the Provisional Committee desired a more progressive and tolerant state without unfair government restrictions.

Abdication of Nicholas II

Author: Nicholas Romanov II (Николай Александрович Романов) was the last Emperor of Russia. He also given the nickname Bloody Nicholas because of his violent tendencies. He ruled from 1894 to 1917 and saw the total collapse of his country from a world power into an absolute crisis. He abdicated his thrown after a humiliating defeat in a war against Japan and the February Revolution of 1917. The Romanov family was captured and executed along with the higher ranking servants in 1918.

Context: His abdication was written in March of 1917 in the middle of World War I.  War was inevitable and the Emperor mobilized to defend their border with Austria.  They fully mobilized in 1914 and this was taken as a declaration of war by Germany.  The Russian people were very unhappy as Nicholas lead the Russian army to one loss after another.  The people finally forced him to abdicate the thrown.

Language: Even with the collapse of his country and his forced abdication, he seemed to be positive that the next ruler would be helpful and that his abdication is of his own accord. But called upon those who stilled believed in the power of the monarch.

Audience: He addressed the Russian public with this abdication speech. He wanted one last time to try and convince his people that he did well by them and he was a good ruler.

Intent: To remove himself from the thrown in the hope of saving his life and the lives of his family.  It was also to appoint his brother as the heir to the thrown and that he would be working with the new Provisional Government.

Message: That even in that time of trouble Russia will bounce back with the appointing of a new monarch and the new Provisional Government that the people were looking for.  He seemed to have faith that the country would come back and be a great power once more and he wanted to share that belief with his people before he abdicated.