Othmar Spann

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Othmar Spann (born October 1, 1878 in Vienna - Altmannsdorf ; † July 8, 1950 in Neustift near Schlaining ) was an Austrian economist , sociologist and philosopher . As the theoretician of the corporate state , Spann is counted among the intellectual trailblazers of " Austrofascism ".


Othmar Spann was the son of the manufacturer and inventor Josef Spann and grew up in Altmannsdorf, a suburb of Vienna at the time. He attended the public school in Vienna and graduated from high school in 1898. From 1898 he first studied philosophy in Vienna, then political science in Zurich, Bern and Tübingen. In 1903 he received his doctorate in political science (Dr. rer. Pol.) In Tübingen .

From 1904 to 1907 he was a research assistant at the Central Office for Private Welfare (in Frankfurt am Main ) of the social welfare worker Christian Jasper Klumker . There he was responsible for conducting empirical studies on the illegitimate population. At the end of 1904, together with Hermann Beck and Hanns Dorn, he founded the journal Kritische Blätter for the entire social sciences.

In 1907 , Spann completed his habilitation in economics at the Technical University in Brno . From 1907 to 1909 he worked as a private lecturer. From September 1908, Spann was the Imperial and Royal Deputy Secretary of the Central Statistical Commission in Vienna. From 1909 to 1910 he was responsible for the scientific organization of the Austrian census of 1910.

In 1909 he was appointed to the German Technical University in Brno as an associate professor, and from 1911 to 1919 as a full professor of economics and statistics.

From 1914 to 1918 he took an active part in World War I , most recently in the rank of first lieutenant in the reserve. On August 27, 1914, Spann was wounded in the fighting for Lemberg . After his recovery he was company commander in a camp for Russian prisoners of war near Mauthausen (1915/16) and then until 1918 in the Scientific Committee for War Economics of the War Ministry in Vienna.

In 1919, Spann was appointed full professor of economics and social studies at the University of Vienna , where he taught until 1938.

In his work The True State (1921) he developed a holistic doctrine based on Adam Heinrich Müller , which was resolutely directed against Marxism and liberalism .

As of 1928, Spann gained political influence as an ideologue of the fascist Austrian Home Guard , which made Spann's ideas the spiritual basis of their movement.

In 1928 he also became a board member of the Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur (KfdK), a National Socialist cultural organization founded by Alfred Rosenberg and headed by Hans Hinkel . The first public event of the Kampfbund took place on February 23, 1929 in the Auditorium Maximum of the University of Munich , where he was the main speaker in a speech about The Cultural Crisis of the Present , which was widely noticed in the media at the time . In the presence of Adolf Hitler , Spann called for the authoritarian corporate state as the third way between democracy and Marxism. Due to differences with Rosenberg, however, he was excluded from the Kampfbund in 1931.

At the end of the 1920s, Spann joined the NSDAP and received a secret, unnumbered membership card. The training evenings of the National Socialist German Student Union took place in the rooms of his seminar, designed by his student Franz Seuchter.

From 1933 he was editor of the magazine Ständisches Leben, which was close to National Socialism. He advocated the book burnings , but not the extent of anti-Semitism. Spann and his supporters suggested concentrating the Jews on German territory in "reservations" where they were to live largely without rights. From 1935, his ideas were increasingly attacked by Nazi organs. Between 1936 and 1938, when the NSDAP was banned in Austria , there was an illegal printing company in his castle in Bergwerk .

In the course of the National Socialist purges of the teaching staff at the University of Vienna after the “Anschluss” of Austria , Spann was also forced into retirement in 1938. The reason, however, was not an anti-Nazi stance, but rather the maneuvering between the “authoritarian standpoints of the corporate state”, German National Socialism and the “ Sudeten German movement”.

In 1938 he was arrested and allegedly interned for four months in the Dachau concentration camp , where he is said to have sustained a serious eye problem as a result of the mistreatment. A detention in the Dachau concentration camp could not be proven in the archives.

After the end of the war, Spann, who had withdrawn to his castle in Bergwerk, tried unsuccessfully for a university reinstatement; he was officially on leave in 1945 and retired with full pay in 1949 without having taught again.

From 1906, Spann was married to the poet Erika Spann-Rheinsch (1880–1967), with whom he had the sons Adalbert Spann (1907–1942) and Rafael Spann (1909–1983). The grave of Othmar Spann and his wife is preserved in the local cemetery of Bergwerk.

Work / reception

Spann founded a universalism (universalistic-idealistic social theory), which was directed against rationalism , liberalism , materialism and Marxism and called for a reorganization of state and society on a professional basis (corporate state ).

From 1929, Spann was close to the Heimwehr , especially the Styrian Homeland Security , with whose leader Walter Pfrimer he also appeared at events and whose publishing house published his book The Irrungen des Marxismus . Spann's close colleague, Walter Heinrich , became the federal organizer of the Austrian Home Guard in 1930 and is considered to be the author of the Korneuburg Oath . Hans Riehl (social scientist) , another student of Spann, also acted as head of propaganda for the federal association. Heinrich also founded the “Kameradschaftsbund”, through which Spann's teachings had a decisive influence on the political movement of the Sudeten Germans before 1938.

Because of his idea of ​​an "organic state", Spann is known today as an "Austrofascist". Spanns, especially in his book The True State, developed the idea of ​​an authoritarian and largely static organization of a class society directed against parliamentary democracy and the labor movement alike. The estates, which were conceived as compulsory professional organizations, were assigned extensive state sovereignty and the workers were subject to the rule of the “business leaders”. Spann understood this corporate state as an anti-Marxist conception of society, which he developed with explicit recourse to romantic conceptions of society and the state. His positions mediated “between the intellectual tradition of socially conservative ideologies and the practice of fascist mass movements. ... The conglomerate of cleric-romantic and German nationalist ideologues, "so the historian Willibald Holzer," as it was founded in Spann's recourse to both romantic clerical and national-imperialist traditions, is essential to Spann's turn towards Italian fascism, the German National Socialists and all three Austrian fascisms and its integrative function within the Austrian right was made possible in the first place. "Spann was" [z] equally 'ideologues of the swastika' as the program donors of the Heimwehr and was closely involved in the traditions of political Catholicism from Seipel to Dollfuss ". He and his group had "deeply deepened the ideologems that were central to fascism, especially in the social ruling classes, and strengthened traditions that were to have an effect long after 1945."

The historian Oliver Rathkolb , who is close to the SPÖ , does not see Spann as someone who, for patriotic reasons, would have been hostile to National Socialism in principle, but as a representative of a typical Austrian National Socialism that was defeated in competition with other factions within the National Socialist movement and was therefore politically persecuted be.

The historian and ÖVP politician Gerald Schöpfer regards Spann as an atypical representative of the Austrian intelligentsia in the 20th century with regard to his biography: “Although he had resisted the appropriation by the corporate state and the Nazi dictatorship, but - despite the physical sufferings in the concentration camp Impairments - in the Second Republic he was considered a persona non grata. This manifests itself as an atypical career: Spann knew how to be unpopular in three successive different phases of Austrian politics. "


  1. Selection of early writings . 1974, ISBN 3-201-00133-3
  2. The main theories in economics . 1969
  3. Foundation of Economics . 1967
  4. Social theory 1969
  5. The real state. Lectures on demolition and rebuilding of the state . 1972
  6. Dead and living science. Small textbook of economics in 5 treatises . 1967
  7. Fighting Science . 1969
  8. Small writings on economics and society . 1975, ISBN 3-201-00135-X
  9. Category theory . 1969
  10. The process of creation of the spirit . 1969
  11. Social philosophy . 1968
  12. Philosophy of history . 1970
  13. Philosophy mirror. The main teaching of philosophy presented conceptually and historically . 1970
  14. Know yourself. A spiritual philosophy as a doctrine of man and his world position . 1968
  15. Natural philosophy . 1963
  16. Philosophy of religion on a historical basis . 1970
  17. Holistic logic. A foundation . 1971
  18. Meister Eckhart's mystical philosophy, presented in the context of its teaching concepts . 1974, ISBN 3-201-00134-1
  19. Art philosophy . 1973, ISBN 3-201-00132-5
  20. Conversations about immortality. Contemplations of two warriors in the field . 1965
  21. Life and work. A commemorative ribbon on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birthday. 1979, ISBN 3-201-01110-X (with bibliography).

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ernst Klee, Das Personenlexikon zum Third Reich , Fischer Verlag, 2005, p. 589.
  2. Carola Stern, Lexicon of History and Politics in the 20th Century, Kiepenheuer & Witsch 1971, p. 59.
  3. ^ Ernst Piper: Alfred Rosenberg, Hitler's chief ideologist. Pantheon Verlag, 2007, p. 262.
  4. Claus Mühlfeld: Reception of National Socialist Family Policy: An Analysis of the Conflict. F. Enke Verlag 1992, p. 187.
  5. Ludger Rape: The Austrian Heimwehren and the Bavarian right, 1920-1923. Europaverlag, 1977, pp. 59 and 355.
  6. Reinhard Bolimus: The office of Rosenberg and his opponents. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1970, p. 30.
  7. Claus Mühlfeld: Reception of National Socialist Family Policy: An Analysis of the Conflict. F. Enke Verlag, 1992, p. 187.
  8. Reinhard Merker: Art in the German Empire. DuMont Verlag, 1983, p. 88.
  9. ^ Klaus-Jörg Siegfried: Universalism and Fascism. The image of society by Othmar Spann. Europa Verlag, Vienna 1974, p. 153.
  10. Claus Mühlfeld: Reception of National Socialist Family Policy: An Analysis of the Conflict. F. Enke Verlag, 1992, p. 42.
  11. Detlef J. Blesgen: Erich Preiser: Work and economic-political effects of a German economist. Springer Verlag, 2000, p. 314.
  12. ^ Robert Wistrich : Who was who in the Third Reich , Harnack 1983, p. 253
  13. ^ Österreich-Bild - 80 years Burgenland, ORF January 26, 2001 12:00, designer: Günter Unger
  14. Johannes Feichtinger: Science between cultures. Austrian university professors in emigration 1933–1945. Campus Verlag, 2001, p. 197; so was Otto Neurath asked for an assessment of the instep. He replied on November 18, 1944: "In any case he is a Nazi and persecution would be only the result of some deviation and not of anti-Nazism" .
  15. Claus Mühlfeld: Reception of National Socialist Family Policy: An Analysis of the Conflict. F. Enke Verlag, 1992, p. 187.
  16. Andreas Kranebitter, Christoph Reinprecht: The sociology and the National Socialism in Austria. transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2019, ISBN 9783839447338 , p. 28f.
  17. ^ C. Earl Edmondson: The Heimwehr and Austrian Politics 1918-1936 . University of Georgia Press, Athens / Georgia, 1978, pp. 72ff.
  18. Willibald Holzer: Fascism in Austria 1918-1938. In: Austriaca, n ° spécial - Deux fois l'Autriche après 1918 et après 1945 vol. 1/3 (Juillet 1978), pp. 113-115.
  19. Willibald Holzer: Fascism in Austria 1918-1938. In: Austriaca, n ° spécial - Deux fois l'Autriche après 1918 et après 1945 vol. 1/3 (Juillet 1978), pp. 95-98.
  20. Oliver Rathkolb: The Law and Political Science Faculty of the University of Vienna between anti-Semitism, German nationalism and National Socialism in 1938, before and after. In: Gernot Heiss et al. (Ed.): Compliant Science. The University of Vienna 1938–1945. Vienna 1989, p. 223.
  21. ^ Gerald Schöpfer: Upheavals and continuities. Political changes and careers in Austria after 1918 - an incomplete sketch of ideas . In: Stefan Karner, Lorenz Mikoletzky: Austria. 90 years of the republic . Studienverlag, Innsbruck a. a. 2008, ISBN 3-7065-4664-7 , pp. 331-343, here p. 342.


  • Walter Becher : The big picture. Othmar Spann's worldview . Universitas-Verlag, Munich 1985, ISBN 3-8004-1095-8
  • Karl Bruckschwaiger: Othmar Spann. An Austrian representative of the conservative revolution. In: Michael Benedikt et al. (Ed.): Repressed Humanism, Delayed Enlightenment, Volume 5, In the shadow of totalitarianisms. From philosophical empiricism to critical anthropology. Philosophy in Austria 1920–1951 . Vienna 2005, pp. 460–466.
  • Giovanni Franchi: La filosofia sociale di Othmar Spann - Tra Methodestreit e Ständestaat , Jouvence, Roma 2002, ISBN 88-7801-315-3
  • Giovanni Franchi (a cura di): Othmar Spann - La scienza dell'intero , Nuova Cultura, Roma 2012, ISBN 978-88-6134-804-2
  • Sabine A. Haring:  Spann, Othmar. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 24, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-428-11205-0 , p. 629 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Walter Heinrich u. a. (Ed.): Othmar Spann - Life and Work. A commemorative ribbon on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birthday . ADEVA, Graz 1979, ISBN 3-201-01110-X
  • Bernd Kettet:  Othmar Spann. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 14, Bautz, Herzberg 1998, ISBN 3-88309-073-5 , Sp. 1493-1497.
  • Reinhold Knoll: The "repressed" sociology. Othmar Spann. In: Michael Benedikt et al. (Ed.): Repressed Humanism, Delayed Enlightenment, Volume 5, In the shadow of totalitarianisms. From philosophical empiricism to critical anthropology. Philosophy in Austria 1920–1951. Vienna 2005, pp. 467–474.
  • Ch. Mentschl:  Spann, Othmar. In: Austrian Biographical Lexicon 1815–1950 (ÖBL). Volume 12, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna 2001-2005, ISBN 3-7001-3580-7 , p. 447 f. (Direct links on p. 447 , p. 448 ).
  • J. Hanns Pichler (Ed.): Othmar Spann or the world as a whole . Böhlau, Cologne 1988, ISBN 3-205-05107-6
  • Arnulf Rieber: From Positivism to Universalism. Studies on the development and criticism of the holistic concept of Othmar Spann . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1971, ISBN 3-428-02462-1
  • Martin Schneller: Between Romanticism and Fascism - The Contribution of Othmar Spann to Conservatism in the Weimar Republic , Klett, 1970, ISBN 3-12-907770-7
  • Klaus-Jörg Siegfried: Universalism and Fascism. The image of society by Othmar Spann . Vienna 1974.

Web links