Aesthetic Origins: Peter Viereck and the Imaginative Sources of Politics

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Aesthetic Origins: Peter Viereck and the Imaginative Sources of Politics

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Title: Aesthetic Origins: Peter Viereck and the Imaginative Sources of Politics
Author: Starliper, Jay Patrick
Abstract: Aesthetic Origins: Peter Viereck and the Imaginative Sources of PoliticsJay Patrick Starliper, Ph.D.Director: Claes G. Ryn, Ph.D.In 1941, as Germany invaded Russia and Japan prepared to bomb Pearl Harbor, a Harvard University Ph.D. named Peter Viereck published <italic>Metapolitics: From Wagner and the German Romantics to Hitler<\italic>. It argued that the chief driving force behind National Socialism was a diseased imagination. A young Viereck made the ostensibly absurd claim that a certain shade of German romanticism had generated one of the most destructive political movements in the history of the world. Nazism was the culmination of over a century and a half of imaginative extravagance and pollution. This book inaugurated what would become a central theme in Viereck’s work: the power of the imagination to shape politics and society, for good or ill. Although Viereck’s conservative humanism influenced many prominent thinkers, his ideas on how the imagination affects politics have not been explored in depth. Utilizing a traditional hermeneutic of Viereck’s relevant prose and poesy, this dissertation examines his view of the political significance of the imagination and how we can improve our grasp of how society and politics evolve. Viereck believed that the imagination shapes custom and culture and thus determines what values govern the daily lives of individuals. Society greatly needs elevated works of imagination that omit neither the dark side of human life, nor the constant struggle between ethically opposed potentialities. At the bottom of our ability to distinguish among goodness, truth and beauty and their opposites is the ethically infused imagination, which is typically inspired by the wisdom of the ages. It is the duty of persons of this inspiration to expose endearing but illusory and dangerous dreams, but also conserve, rearticulate and refurbish humane civilization. Liberty is threatened by “overadjustment,” the uncritical adherence to existing patterns. Both stale imagination and irresponsible fancy threaten the loving higher obligations that make life worth living. In elucidating and assessing Viereck’s view that we can understand political phenomena better by exploring their aesthetic origins, this dissertation suggests ways of analyzing the political problems of the present time.
Description: Degree awarded: Ph.D. Politics. The Catholic University of AmericaThis dissertation can be viewed by CUA users only.
Date: 2012-02-15

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