Among the classical authors of sociology, Émile Durkheim passed away the first on 15 November 1917. His conception of the war as well as his ideas of a possible way out of it, therefore, are far from the horizon of experience that characterized the last year of the conflict. His major war writing is a critical analysis of the intellectual sources of German militarism: L’Allemagne au-dessus de tout. Karsenti focuses on Durkheim’s examination of the “Über-Ideology”, which moulded German nationalism since unification in 1871, especially in the work of Heinrich von Treitschke. Durkheim’s book is a censorship of the enemy’s warfare. Yet, what is interesting to discover, according to Karsenti, is the particular perspective of Durkheim’s investigation. The writing is a critique of all tendencies to reduce international politics to an “Über”. Accordingly, for Durkheim, there is a possible way out of the war, yet it has to be read between the lines of his distinction between a “good and a bad tradition” of the moral sciences in Germany.
“How can we think of peace? And when?”, Max Weber asks in a letter to Ferdinand Tönnies, in 14 October 1914. This article focuses on the concept of “successful” peace, the decisive concept for Weber’s ideas about the “way out of the war” that the author refined between 1914–1918 in his speeches, texts and letters. For Weber, a successful peace depended not only on the foreign policy dimension but even more on important inner reforms and a fundamental reorganisation of the German Reich. Analysing Weber’s “ideas of 1918” – radically opposed to the well-known “ideas of 1914” – this paper focuses on three aspects: (1) nation and state citizens (2) Prussia, (3) German tradition, history and political culture, before outlining, at the end, Weber’s ideas about the European post-war order.
Pareto biographical and intellectual experience offers a privileged point of view on First World War. His life work, Treatise on General Sociology, was published in 1916 by Barbera Publisher in Florence. It is through the conceptual tools contained in this work that he deciphers the ongoing conflict. His interpretative method is based on the distinction between residues and derivations. The firsts are the real motifs that determinate actions, the seconds are false explanations men create to justify their behaviour. War is a conflict between residues and more specifically between two residues: the persistence of aggregates – a conservative residue, politically represented by Germans and Central Powers – and the instinct for combinations – typical of innovators, represented by the Allies. Post war disorder cannot last and be tolerated by any stable social system. Pareto in a first moment is sceptical toward Fascism but he was fascinated by Mussolini’s personality later, when he recognises him as the only man capable to re-establish social order in a country out of control. Pareto’s support to Fascism is ultimately a support to a realistic principle able to use Machiavelli methods to beat all fractions that without a political synthesis can threat the social life of a country.
The paper explores Simmel’s writings explicitly dedicated to the war and uses them as sources for investigating the underlying social and cultural context with which Simmel interacted. In particular, it takes into account possible links between Simmel’s considerations on the relationship between war and the crises of modern culture and the multifaceted life-reform movements developed in pre-war Germany. The latter movements, which arose in the last decades of the 19th century, expressed a critical reaction to the negative characteristics of modern German society and a search for alternative lifestyles. The paper also investigates the sense of a few inconsistencies found when comparing specific passages that Simmel wrote on the same topics during the war. In the second part, the author considers how the development of Simmel’s narrative on the war affects several key elements of his thought such as qualitative individualism, subjective culture, identity and/or the issue of a new order of values. The author suggests that all these elements become part of an intertwined tissue of arguments which delineate Simmel’s attempt, as an individual, to react to a widespread cultural and spiritual distress.
Despite many different research efforts over the past thirty years, one can still attend a conference and learn that Simmel was a radical nationalist who sang in this chorus throughout the First World War. The main references in this respect are the memories of the younger intellectuals of the time like Lukács and Bloch. There is no attempt at assessment – neither of Simmel’s writings nor of his letters. In contrast, the present paper deals with the issue of Simmel’s attitude to the war by focusing on its different periods and by reconstructing the twists and turns that changed it. After an analysis of the reasons that led Lukács and Bloch to claim Simmel’s treason, it describes the unique aspect of Simmel’s early position about the war. In this context, especially the issue of “clearing up” the foreign countries and Simmel’s exchange with Albion Small deserve particular attention. The effects of Simmel’s change of opinion since the spring of 1915 are then reconstructed with reference to his later war writings, especially the anthology on The War and Decisions of the Spirit (1917) as well as his late reflection on the theory of modernity in the essay on “The Conflict of Modern Culture” (1918).