Othmar Spann


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Spann, Othmar

 

Born Oct. 1, 1878, in Vienna; died July 8, 1950, in Neustift, Burgenland. Austrian idealist philosopher who developed the concept of wholeness; sociologist and economist.

Spann was a professor at the university in Brunn (Brno) from 1909 to 1919 and at the University of Vienna from 1919 to 1938. Following in the philosophical tradition of Plato, medieval realism, and German classical idealism, Spann tried to construct a philosophical-sociological system of “neoromantic universal-ism.” One of its basic positions was that the whole in its essence precedes the parts; the parts are an expression, a mediation, of the whole; the whole, divided into pieces, conditions the existence of the parts. For Spann, wholeness is the original reality, in which causality does not function. The causal understanding of objects, as Spann proposes, is only possible based on the false assumption that the parts exist before the whole. Spann rejected atomism and materialism, claiming that they were intrinsically mechanistic. In his understanding of the essence of life, Spann was close to the vitalist views of H. Driesch.

Spann gave the central place among social institutions to the state, claiming that it had always existed and merely changed its form. Spann advocated the ideal of a social structure based on arbitrary distinctions and an extremely strict hierarchy, whose features largely reproduce those of the Hindu caste system and the medieval guilds.

WORKS

Gesamtausgabe, vols. 1–22. Graz, 1963.

REFERENCES

Dunkmann, K. Der Kampf um Othmar Spann. Leipzig, 1928.
Räber, H. Othmar Spanns Philosophie des Universalismus: Darstellung und Kritik. Jena, 1937.

I. V. BLAUBERG

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Between 1917 and 1924, all three chairs became vacant, either through death, retirement, or departure, with Othmar Spann, Hans Mayer, and Ferdinand Degenfeld-Schonburg succeeding.
In the following we select as examples for the role of academic anti-Semitism (1) why Mises was not appointed to an economics chair, (2) the conflict between Hans Mayer and Othmar Spann, and (3) the weight of anti-Semitism for the push and pull that resulted in the emigration of many prominent Austrian economists.
When asked in 1941 by the President of the University, Mayer wrote a "Short Report on the 'Vienna School' of Professor Othmar Spann," (32) in which he chose a no-holds-barred approach.
My favourite revelation comes from Leeson, who tells us that in 1931 the German conservative Othmar Spann 'adopted the derogatory label "neoliberal" to assault the Austrian School and engaged in anti-Semitic diatribes about marginal utility' (p.
In the view of Othmar Spann, following the French Revolution German "economists turned away from atomistic and mechanistic views towards an organic conception of society, a conception which was rooted in philosophy and bore fruit in the romanticist movement.
Othmar Spann, who considered Muller "the greatest political economist of his own day", concludes: (28)
Although von Baader did not greatly influence contemporary developments, and is even regarded by Othmar Spann as "the most utterly forgotten of all the romanticists", he was an important contributor to the German corporatist tradition.
He grew up in a home that served as a salon of sorts for the cultural and intellectual elite of the Danube Monarchy--hence his early acquaintance with eminent figures such as Joseph Schumpeter, Sigmund Freud, Othmar Spann and Friedrich von Hayek.
Galin Tihanov, a new voice in Musil research, then relates Musil in minute detail to the traditions of conservative (not simply right-wing) thought represented principally by Carl Schmitt, Walther Rathenau, and Othmar Spann, showing how such ideas are satirized through the person of Arnheim in Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften.
The culture of the "conservative revolution", for example, was crucial in weakening support for democracy, but beyond mention of a few names--spengler, Othmar Spann, Ernst Junger--it receives little attention.