Primal Force: Volk

The word Volk (people, national community) is famously hard to translate into English. So famously hard to translate that it probably no longer needs to be translated.

I just heard a Deutschland RadioKultur documentary Urkraft Volk (G) on the history of the concept in Germany. It all started with the Roman historian Tacitus’ description of the Germanic peoples, in which he speculated that they must have been a native population, since their ‘blue eyes, reddish hair, and large, capable bodies’ seemed distinct from neighboring tribes. The notion of a unique, ancient Germanic habitus took on a life of its own in the 19th century. Hegel praised the "ardency" of the German Volk, Kleist called the German Volk purer than any other.

In the words of the moderator, the poets and thinkers gave their imprimatur to the discourse of "remote origins, purity, and superiority" that would be taken up by the white-knuckled ideologue of race and nation who began to flourish in the later 19th century. Here is where the notion of a Volkskörper ("people’s body") comes into play; the analogy of the entire group of humans of "Germanic" or "Aryan" descent to one large body. Of course a body must defends itself and cast out impurities; the nationalist thinker Julius Langbein said in 1900: "Life is a defensive struggle. One’s own blood wants to prevail against foreign blood; therefore Aryan blood wants to and will prevail against all other." It goes without saying that the "bloodstream" of the German Volkskörper must be purged of all elements "alien to the species," just as the Volksseele (national soul) must be purged of foreign philosophies and ideologies.

I think we all know where this led to. Let us, to paraphrase Gibbon, draw a veil before these unhallowed doings.

The documentary proposes that völkisch thinking is creeping back into the national discourse through four outlets. First, right-wing music, which is pretty open about the need to combat foreign and artfremde (alien to the species) people and ideas. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise; What else are they going to sing about — butterflies? Second, fantasy novels and games. They’re generally harmless, but sometimes contain searches for roots and ancient mystical origins that have something of the folkish about them. Third, esoteric religious movements such as the New Heathenism. If you’re not convinced by the völkisch theory that Jesus wasn’t Jewish, then you have little choice but to chuck Christianity and go back to the ancient Druidic/Wicca religion of your forefathers, which has the added advantage of a lot of wicked-cool accessories of varying authenticity (runes, witchcraft, robes, crystals, ancient healing secrets, etc). Fourth, the crusty old national-conservatives, whose press organ is the Junge Freiheit and think-tank the Institut fuer Staatspolitik.

I don’t have much to add here; I just thought I’d link to this this thoughtful documentary.

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