By being cultural elitists, Nietzsche, George, and Hesse were, therefore, not out of the mainstream of German elitism. But they do not belong with the general run of German elitists who hankered after things of the spirit. Nietzsche’s, George’s, and Hesse’s ideals were too esoteric to meet the needs of a mass movement. Their cultural elites were to consist only of the select few who were capable of comprehending and creating the “best” in art and thought. Yet, convinced that the existence of high culture was threatened by the vulgarity, materialism, and mediocrity of the emancipated masses, all three men wanted the elect to do more than engage in private cultural pursuits: they were to exercise enough spiritual power to help transform the world into a place suitable for the existence of man’s art and spirit. Not surprisingly, though important differences exist between Nietzsche’s, George’s, and Hesse’s conceptions of this new world, all three arrived at utopian visions that deserve a place in the conservative revolution in European thought. This, as well as Nietzsche’s passionate prose, George’s powerful personality, and Hesse’s gift for expressing transcendent moods, helps explain why they often appealed to the type of educated German who, while yearning for metaphysics, unity, and profundity, could neither accept nor deal confidently with the modernization of Germanythe very type that was inclined to accept, even support Nazism after the First World War. Inadvertently, the three men contributed to a state of mind that strengthened some of the very forces they feared. Moreover, their very questioning of who is to rule and what man is to live for reflects the revolutionary spirit of the age they detested. Their elitism is, consequently, a study in contradiction and irony, as is all of modern elitism, that offspring of two conflicting spirits, one modernistic, the other archaic.
SOURCE: Antosik, Stanley J. The Question of Elites: An Essay on the Cultural Elitism of Nietzsche, George, and Hesse (Bern; Las Vegas: Peter Lang, 1978), Introduction, final paragraph, p. 17.
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