In Martin Kusch (ed.), Routledge Handbook to Relativism. New York, London: pp. 114-123 (2019)

Johannes Steizinger
McMaster University
The aim of this chapter is to clarify the use and meaning of the concept of relativism in the context of National Socialism (NS). Section 1 examines the critical reproach that NS is a form of relativism. I analyze and criticize the common core of this widespread argument which has dominated discussions about the topic up to the present. Section 2 sketches the general debates on relativism before and during NS. I show that fascist thought could be associated with both relativism and anti-relativism. In contrast to the received view, I argue that Nazi intellectuals regarded relativism as problem, and presented NS as the overcoming of relativism. Subsequently I turn to two major philosophers who connected their philosophy with NS. Section 3 investigates Bruno Bauch’s (1887–1942) nationalist philosophy. I show that he linked his concept of the nation with an objectivist value theory intended to oppose all kinds of relativism. Section 4 turns to Erich Rothacker’s (1888–1965) cultural anthropology. I argue that the revision of his philosophical views in the 1930s was accompanied by a political turn towards NS and a withdrawal from relativism. The brief conclusion (Section 5) summarizes the findings of the chapter. I conclude that, in the context of NS, relativism is mostly used in a pejorative sense.
Keywords National Socialism, Relativism, Bruno Bauch, Erich Rothacker, neo-Kantianism, Hermeneutics
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