Hans Freyer

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Hans Freyer (born July 31, 1887 in Leipzig , † January 18, 1969 in Ebersteinburg , Baden-Württemberg ) was a German sociologist, historian and philosopher. Influenced by the philosophy of life , he was based on New Hegelianism . He was a representative of the Conservative Revolution and the founder of the so-called ("newer") Leipzig School . From 1934 to 1938 he was a member of the Legal Philosophy Committee , which was headed personally by Hans Frank.

Hans Freyer, around 1925


Until 1945

Hans Freyer studied theology (one year), economics, history and philosophy at the University of Greifswald since 1907 . A year later he moved to the University of Leipzig , where he received his doctorate in 1911 and qualified as a professor in 1920. Since 1922 he held a professorship at the University of Kiel . From 1925 he was the first scientist to hold a chair in sociology at the University of Leipzig.

Freyer's early works on the philosophy of life influenced the German youth movement . He himself was involved in the sera group of freelance students around the publisher Eugen Diederichs .

From 1925 to 1934, Freyer was active as chairman of the “Association of Friends of Schools by the Sea” and the resulting “external community” of the reform-pedagogical rural education home Schule am Meer on the North Sea island of Juist , where he worked with Martin Luserke and Paul Reiner, among others . The leitmotif of the primarily music-oriented boarding school was self-discovery and self-realization through self-activity - “agitur ergo sum”.

After the National Socialists came to power in 1933, Freyer was offered the office of President of the German Society for Sociology . He overthrew the previous President Ferdinand Tönnies and shut down society, which critics interpreted as an act of conformity . Opposing voices see this as a rescue of the DGS from compromise.

Shortly afterwards, his Leipzig sociology chair was abolished and converted into a full professor of political science, while Freyer was appointed head of the Institute for Cultural and Universal History . Freyer played a central role in the political education of the student body in terms of Nazi training.

He did not join the NSDAP , but on November 11, 1933, he signed the professors' commitment to Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist state at German universities . Some of his students with whom he formed the Leipzig School - including Arnold Gehlen , Karl Heinz Pfeffer and Helmut Schelsky - were party members. In 1934 Freyer was one of the founding members of the Committee for Legal Philosophy , a department of the Nazi Academy for German Law initiated by Hans Frank .

In a letter from 1935 he welcomed National Socialism with the words:

“The unknown people stand up and say a political yes. From the old juices grows, once again, an era that makes sense. Your errors weigh lightly. Your tremors are productive. Your overthrow is, as hard as it takes, without arbitrariness. The future lies above the today because it is a change of the eternal. People believe, step out, look forward and between them rides, unseen, the rider from Bamberg . "

From 1935 to 1944 Freyer was also head of the German Cultural Institute in Budapest and from February 1941 until its dissolution, President of the “German Scientific Institute”. In 1938 he was appointed visiting professor for German cultural history at the University of Budapest .

post war period

After the end of the war Freyer was able to continue teaching at the University of Leipzig , as at the beginning of his career as a sociologist. However, his attitude was criticized more and more during the time of National Socialism ; he lost his professorship and moved to West Germany in 1948. First he got a job at Brockhaus-Verlag in Wiesbaden. He was no longer able to establish himself as a full professor at a German university, but taught as an emeritus from 1953 to 1963 at the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster . As early as 1951, at the instigation of acting chairman Leopold von Wiese, he had been accepted back into the German Society for Sociology. Freyer was a member of the scientific advisory board of the Institute for Spatial Research . In 1954 he helped for a short time in setting up a sociological institute at Ankara University .

Freyer received a pension as a full professor emeritus in the Federal Republic of Germany - in accordance with the applicable civil service regulations . Many of his publications date from this time. With his work Theory of the Present Age , in which he developed a form of conservatism that was adaptable to the industrial age , he was able to achieve a great impact in the 1950s.

Freyer was Protestant, married to Käthe Lübeck and had four children.


Freyer's philosophical work was influenced by Hegel , Wilhelm Dilthey , Friedrich Nietzsche and Oswald Spengler .

Weimar Republic: Philosophy of Life and Conservative Revolution

In 1918 his early work Antäus - Foundations of an Ethics of Conscious Life was published, followed in 1923 by Prometheus - Ideas on the Philosophy of Culture . With that he gradually turned to the so-called young conservatives . He developed a hierarchically structured elitist model of society. Individual freedom should be set aside in favor of collective concepts such as the leader state and the national community . In his works he dealt with cultural criticism a . a. with advancing mechanization and developed the “theory of secondary systems”.

In 1926, in Der Staat , Freyer described the interrelated dimensions of history, which in his view are repeated in a circle: faith, style and state. His theory was based in some points on Ferdinand Tönnies ' community and society , which he did not quote in his works. The last and highest stage, the ideal hierarchically structured state, he described, in contrast to Tönnies with a “ leader ” at the top, as an ideal community. The most important quality of this state was that it was able to unite all the forces of the community into a single unit. This ideology corresponded to the movement of the Conservative Revolution and National Socialism .

In 1930 Freyer wrote sociology as a science of reality , a term he borrowed from Max Weber . He dealt with the roots of sociology, which lay in the philosophy of history . Sociology should therefore analyze the reasons for social change with historical categories and improve society on this basis, i. H. represent an ethical philosophical science.

In his 1931 article "Revolution von Rechts" (Revolution von Rechts), Freyer examined the topos of freedom . This only exists in a community that stands up for the good of all. Individual freedom, on the other hand, must be restricted in favor of the national community . The “revolution” is a matter for the “toughest” and “most alert” people of all political directions.

National Socialism: Intellectual Connection

During the time of National Socialism , further treatises appeared, some of which were closely related to Nazi ideology and were not later reprinted. In the post-war period, Freyer was criticized in academia, alongside his student Arnold Gehlen , Ernst Jünger and Martin Heidegger, as an intellectual forerunner and supporter of National Socialism.

After the end of the Second World War, the following writings by Freyer were included in the list of literature to be sorted out in the Soviet occupation zone : Revolution from the right (Diederichs, Jena 1931), The political semester. A proposal for university reform (Diederichs, Jena 1933), The historical self-consciousness of the 20th century (Keller, Leipzig 1937), in the GDR also Der Staat (Rechfelden, Leipzig 1925) and Pallas Athene (Diederichs, Jena 1935).

Adenauer era: theory of industrial society

In his post-war writings there is no fundamental break from earlier works. As before, he was one of the representatives of an extremely conservative movement and had some influence on thinking in the newly founded Federal Republic of Germany .

In 1955, Freyer developed his theory of industrial society with the historical-philosophical and sociological treatise Theory of the Present Age . In it, Freyer describes all social systems before industrialization as grown "primary systems", whereas the industrial age, on the other hand, as a "secondary system" consciously created by man. In particular, he deals with the rapid development of industrial society in the 20th century, characterized by the expansion of technology , the displacement of small businesses by large ones and the concentration of crowds in metropolitan areas. According to Freyer, state and society are less and less separated from one another; science is gaining central importance.

He describes the "industrial system" that emerged from the industrial revolution around 1800 as a fundamental, epochal change in human conditions. He compares this turning point in world history with the transition of man to sedentarism .

From this, Freyer draws the conclusion that earlier descriptions of industrial society are currently (1955) no longer applicable and that new key terms have to be formulated. In Marxism , he criticizes the historical “illusion of progress” that assumes that the new man is automatically created. In contrast, he considers alienation to be the “normal state” of people in industrial society. He also turns against “modern chiliasm ”. He sees the “kingdom of God” as a future secularized “civilization paradise”. Although he rejects any optimism about history, he does not agree with the cultural-critical philosophers of history who invoke a perpetual “crisis myth” and wanted to condemn and restrict technical development. Rather, he assumes that technical progress is an important part of the industrial age. Freyer points to the balance between “technology negation” and “technology glorification”.

As a path in the industrial age, he emphasizes the value of conservative thinking and acting for the present (1955). Freyer emphasizes that the connection between “progress” and “persistence” is the “secret” of history. Hence the forces of mankind grow out of tradition . The representatives of the Conservative Revolution and the Conservative reformers acted accordingly. However, the recourse to tradition should not refer to “primitive instincts” or “ugliness”, but rather to the “unused” and “without adulteration” to be mobilized from the “deep layers” of the human heritage , which are based on the conditions of the modern Time to become active and thus show your ability to change. His aim was to combine conservatism with a "modern" theory of industrial society. These views had a great influence in the Adenauer era .

Fonts (selection)

  • Antaeus. Foundation of an ethic of the conscious life. Diederichs, Jena 1918.
  • The problem of utopia. In: Deutsche Rundschau . Vol. 183, 1920, pp. 321-345.
  • The evaluation of the economy in the philosophical thinking of the 19th century (= work on developmental psychology. 5, ZDB -ID 504540-x = treatises of the Saxon state research institutes. Research institute for psychology. 6). Engelmann, Leipzig 1921, (at the same time: Leipzig, university, habilitation paper, 1921).
  • Prometheus. Ideas on the philosophy of culture. Diederichs, Jena 1923.
  • Objective Mind Theory. An introduction to the philosophy of culture. BG Teubner, Leipzig et al. 1923, (In Spanish: Teoría del espíritu objetivo. Versión castellana de Rafael Gutiérrez Girardot. SUR, Buenos Aires 1973; in English: Theory of Objective Mind. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Culture (= Series in Continental Thought. 25). Translation and with an Introduction by Steven Grosby. Ohio University Press, Athens OH 1998, ISBN 0-8214-1250-7 ).
  • The State. Rechfelden, Leipzig 1925.
  • Sociology as Reality Science. Logical foundation of the system of sociology. BG Teubner, Leipzig et al. 1930.
  • Introduction to sociology (= science and education. 276, ZDB -ID 971817-5 ). Quelle & Meyer, Leipzig 1931, (In Japanese language and writing: 社会学 入門. 慶 応 書房, 東京 1942; in Spanish language: Introducción a la sociología. Traducción del alemán de Felipe Gonzáles Vicen. Aguilar, Madrid 1973, ISBN 84-03 -78001-X ).
  • with Friedrich Hertz , Walther Vogel , Franz Weidenreich , Friedrich Behn , Friedrich EA Krause, Georg Steindorff , Rudolf Kittel : The awakening of humanity. The cultures of prehistoric times, East Asia and the Near East (= Propylaea World History . Vol. 1). Propylaen-Verlag, Berlin 1931, (with numerous illustrations).
  • Revolution from the right. Diederichs, Jena 1931.
  • Domination and planning. Two basic concepts of political ethics. Hanseatische Verlags-Anstalt, Hamburg 1933.
  • Pallas Athene. Ethics of the political people. Diederichs, Jena 1935.
  • The political island. A history of utopias from Plato to the present (= Meyer's small handbooks. 2, ZDB -ID 991000-1 ). Bibliographical Institute, Leipzig 1936.
  • The historical self-confidence of the 20th century (= Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Art and Cultural Studies in Palazzo Zuccari, Rome. Publications of the Department for Cultural Studies. Series 1: Lectures. 3, ZDB -ID 846728-6 ). H. Keller, Leipzig 1937.
  • Machiavelli (= Meyer's little handbooks. 13). Bibliographical Institute, Leipzig 1938.
  • World history of Europe (= Dieterich Collection . 31–32, ZDB -ID 987299-1 ). 2 volumes. Dieterich, Wiesbaden 1948, (In Spanish: Historia universal de Europa (= Colección Historia y pensamiento. 1, ZDB -ID 2433435-2 ). (Lo tradujo del alemán Antonio Tovar). Edición Guadarrama, Madrid 1958).
  • The significance of the 19th century in world history (= Kiel University Speeches . 4, ZDB -ID 503389-5 ). Lipsius & Tischer, Kiel 1951.
  • Theory of the present age. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1955, (In Spanish: Teoria de la época actual (= Breviarios. 141, ZDB -ID 1338445-4 ). (Traducción de Luis Villoro). Fondo de Cultura Económica, Mexico et al. 1958; in Portuguese Language: Teoria da época atual. Tradução de F. Guimarães. Zahar, Rio de Janeiro 1965; in French: Les Fondements du monde moderne. Théorie du temps présent. Traduit de l'allemand par Lucien Piau. Payot, Paris 1965; in Greek: Τεχνοκρατία καί οὐτοπία Θεωρία τῆς σύγχρονης ἐποχῆς στή Δύση . (= Ο νεώτερος ευρωπαϊκός πολιτισμός. 7) Μετάφραση Κώστας Κουτσουρέλης Νεφέλη, Ἀθήνα 1998.. ISBN 960-211-382-0 ).
  • The man of our time. In: The Public Health Service. Vol. 18, No. 6, 1956, ZDB -ID 80209-8 , pp. 210-220.
  • The social whole and the freedom of the individual under the conditions of the industrial age. In: Historical magazine . Vol. 183, No. 1, 1957, pp. 97-115, JSTOR 27611751 , (lecture at the Ulm Historians' Day on September 15, 1956; also independent: Musterschmidt, Göttingen et al. 1957).
  • with Herbert Grundmann , Kurt v. Raumer , Hans Schaefer : The problem of freedom in European thinking from antiquity to the present (= contributions to European history. Vol. 1, ISSN  0522-6392 ). Oldenbourg, Munich 1958.
  • Education through the humanities. About the sense and right of the humanistic educational idea in the industrial age (= research and economy, partner in progress. Vol. 9, No. 3, 1960, ISSN  0429-1468 ). Donors' Association for German Science, Essen-Bredeney 1960.
  • About the dominance of technical categories in the lifeworld of industrial society (= Academy of Sciences and Literature, Mainz. Treatises of the humanities and social science class. Born in 1960, No. 7, ISSN  0002-2977 ). Publishing house of the Academy of Sciences and Literature, Mainz 1960.
  • with Helmut Klages and Hans Georg Rasch (eds.): Actes du XVIIIe Congrès International de Sociologie , Nuremberg, 10-17 September 1958. Institute International de Sociologie. 4 volumes. Meisenheim am Glan: Anton Hain 1961
  • Threshold of times. Contributions to the sociology of culture. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1965.
  • as editor with Johannes Chr. Papalekas and Georg Weippert : Technology in the technical age. Statements on the historical situation. Schilling, Düsseldorf 1965.
  • with Jindrich Filipec and Lothar Bossle : The industrial society in East and West. Convergences and divergences. Hase & Koehler, Mainz 1966.


  • Jerry Z. Muller: The Other God that Failed. Hans Freyer and the Deradicalization of German Conservatism. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1987, ISBN 0-691-00823-X .
  • Jerry Z. Muller: Disappointment and Ambiguity. On the history of right-wing social scientists in the "Third Reich". In: Geschichte und Gesellschaft 12th Vol. (1986), Issue 3, ISSN 0340-613X, pp. 289-316.
  • Karl-Siegbert Rehberg : Hans Freyer (1887-1960). Arnold Gehlen (1904–1976). Helmut Schelsky (1912-1984). In: Dirk Kaesler (Ed.): Classics of Sociology. Volume 2: From Talcott Parsons to Pierre Bourdieu (= Beck's series. 1289). Beck, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-406-42089-3 , pp. 72-104.
  • Hartmut Remmers : Hans Freyer: Heros and industrial society. Studies in Social Philosophy. Leske + Budrich, Opladen 1994, ISBN 3-8100-1313-7 .
  • Christian E. Roques: Yesterday, tomorrow, just not today. Hans Freyer's strategic handling of ›political romanticism‹ in the Weimar Republic. In: Yearbook on Culture and Literature of the Weimar Republic, 18th vol. (2017/2018), ISBN 978-3-86916-575-2 , pp. 109-135.
  • Gerhard Schäfer : Against the staging of forgetting. Hans Freyer and Sociology in Leipzig 1925–1945. In: Yearbook for the history of sociology. 1990, ISSN  0936-465X , pp. 121-175.
  • Jürgen Seifert : Conservative Ethics of the Political. From Hans Freyer to Wolfgang Schäuble. In: Jürgen Seifert: Politics between Destruction and Design. Political change studies. Offizin, Hannover 1997, ISBN 3-930345-09-9 , pp. 31-42.
  • Rolf Peter Sieferle : Technology as armament for the revolutionary people: Hans Freyer. In: Rolf Peter Sieferle: The Conservative Revolution. Five biographical sketches (= Fischer. 12817). Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1995, ISBN 3-596-12817-X , pp. 164-197.
  • Elfriede Üner: Sociology as “spiritual movement”. Hans Freyer's system of sociology and the "Leipzig School". VCH - Acta Humaniora, Weinheim 1992, ISBN 3-527-17781-7 (also: Munich, University, Dissertation, 1992).

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Dr. Paul Reiner (Ed.): Leaves of the outer community of the Schule am Meer Juist , 1st circular, Schule am Meer, Juist, East Friesland, July 1929
  2. Martin Luserke: In conclusion. To the members of our outside community . In: Leaflets of the outer community of the Schule am Meer Juist (North Sea), o. No., November 1934, p. 1
  3. ^ Monika Baltes: The amateur play pedagogy Martin Luserkes (1880-1968). A contribution to the search for traces of action and experience-oriented German lessons . Knowledge Hausarb., Philipps-Universität Marburg, 1994.
  4. Martin Luserke: Pan-Apollon-Prospero. A midsummer night's dream, the winter saga and storm. On the dramaturgy of Shakespeare plays . Christians, Hamburg 1957.
  5. a b Ernst Klee : The dictionary of persons on the Third Reich . Who was what before and after 1945 (= Fischer. 16048). Updated edition. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-596-16048-0 , p. 165.
  6. Pallas Athene. Ethics of the political people. Diederichs, Jena 1935, p. 122.
  7. Frank-Rutger Hausmann : "Even in war the muses are not silent". The German Scientific Institutes in World War II (= publications of the Max Planck Institute for History. 169). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 3-525-35357-X , pp. 146–166.
  8. Henning Borggräfe, Sonja Schnitzler: The German Society for Sociology and National Socialism. Association-internal transformations after 1933 and after 1945. In: Michaela Christ, Maja Suderland (Ed.): Sociology and National Socialism. Positions, debates, perspectives (= Suhrkamp-Taschenbuch Wissenschaft. 2129). Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-518-29729-2 , pp. 445-479, here pp. 460 f.
  9. ^ List of literature to be sorted out 1946 .
  10. ^ List of the literature to be discarded 1953