Othmar Spann

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Othmar Spann
Born (1878-10-01)1 October 1878
Altmannsdorf (Vienna) (Meidling), Vienna, Austria-Hungary
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Neustift bei Schlaining, Austria
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
Main interests
Notable ideas
Corporate statism

Othmar Spann (1 October 1878 – 8 July 1950) was a conservative Austrian philosopher, sociologist and economist whose radical anti-liberal and anti-Socialist views, based on early 19th century Romantic ideas expressed by Adam Müller et al. and popularized in his books and lecture courses, helped antagonise political factions in Austria during the interwar years.[1]

Early life

Othmar Spann was the son of Josef Spann, a manufacturer and inventor. Spann grew up in Altmannsdorf, a suburban area of Vienna, Austria. Spann attended a Bürgerschule (citizen school) and graduated in 1898. After that he studied philosophy at the University of Vienna, followed by Political Sciences at the universities of Zürich, Bern. He received his doctorate in Political Science from the University of Tübingen in 1903.[1]

From 1904 to 1907, Spann worked for the "Center for Private Welfare Service" in Frankfurt am Main. He was responsible for empirical studies of this population of workers. By the end of 1904 Spann, along with Hermann Beck and Hanns Dorn founded a newspaper called "Critical Pages for the whole Social Sciences."

In 1907, Spann wrote his "Habilitation in Political Economy" for the Hochschule in Brünn. From 1907 to 1909 he was given the position of "privatdozent" which allowed him to teach and collect fees from students. As early as 1908 Spann began working as the full-time imperial-royal vice-secretary of the statistic central commission in Vienna. He was given the position of creating a new census for Austria between 1909 and 1910.

From 1914 to 1918, during the First World War, Spann was a first lieutenant of the reserve. He was injured during the Battle of Lemberg, (now Lviv in the Ukraine) on 27 August 1914. When he recovered he was first a commander of a company of Russian prisoners and then until later in 1918 he was given a position on the "scientific committee for wartime economy" with the war Ministry in Vienna.[citation needed]

In 1919, Spann was appointed to a position at the University of Vienna, where he taught until 1938.

Spann was popular with students, not only for his lectures which would spill out into the hallways at the University, but also for mid-summer festivals which he would hold in the woods where he would teach that "the ability to intuit essences was nurtured by jumping over the fire..." (Caldwell 2004, 138-9)


Repeatedly, Spann tried to draw the ruling powers' attention to his authoritarian theory of a corporate state, which he thought should be introduced immediately for the benefit of all. In 1928, he joined the Militant League for German Culture. Around 1930, he also joined the National Socialist German Workers Party.[2] and that his idea of anti-individualism[n 1] had become its guiding principle.

Notable students

Removal from teaching

Although to a large degree in tune with the Zeitgeist, he repeatedly met with disapproval until, in 1938, right after the Anschluss, he was briefly imprisoned by the Nazis and eventually barred from his professorship at the University of Vienna, which he had held since 1919. Living as a recluse till the end of the war, Spann tried to get his university post back in 1945, aged 67. However, he was not allowed to resume his teaching and died in 1950, disappointed and embittered.[citation needed]

Major works

  • Der wahre Staat ("The True State"; 1921).
  • Kategorienlehre (1924).
  • Der Schöpfungsgang des Geistes (1928).
  • Gesellschaftsphilosophie (1932).
  • Naturphilosophie (1937).
  • Religionsphilosophie auf geschichtlicher Grundlage (1947).
  • Die Haupttheorien der Volkswirtschafts' Lehre (1949).

Translated into English


  1. "Moral decay in Liberalism, cultural paralysis through Democracy, and final degradation by Socialism," are inevitable. Polanyi, K., "The Essence of Fascism" (1933-4, p. 362, n.1.).


  1. 1.0 1.1 Haag, John J. (1966). Othmar Spann and the Ideology Austrian Corporate State (PDF). Houston: Rice University. Retrieved 29 July 2020.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Polanyi, Karl (1935). Lewis, John; Polanyi, Karl; Kitchin, Donald K. (eds.). "The Essence of Fascism". Christianity and the Social Revolution. London: Victor Gollancz Limited. pp. 359–394.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Caldwell, Bruce. Hayek's Challenge: An Intellectual Biography of F.A. Hayek. The University of Chicago Press. 2004
  • Alfred Diamant, Austrian catholics and the first republic : democracy, capitalism and the social order: 1918-1934. Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1960.
  • Giovanni Franchi (a cura di), Othmar Spann. La scienza dell'intero, Edizioni Nuova Cultura, Roma 2012. ISBN 9788861348042
  • Sebastian Maaß, Dritter Weg und wahrer Staat. Othmar Spann - Ideengeber der Konservativen Revolution. Regin-Verlag, Kiel, 2010.

External links