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1 October 1878|
Altmannsdorf, Vienna, Austria-Hungary
|Died||8 July 1950
Neustift bei Schlaining, Austria
Othmar Spann (October 1, 1878 – July 8, 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.
Othmar Spann was the son of Josef Spann, a manufacturer and inventor. Spann grew up in Altmannsdorf a suburban area of Vienna, Austria which is 15 minutes outside of the central city. Spann attended a Bürgerschule (citizen school) and graduated in 1898. After that he studied philosophy in Vienna, followed by Political Sciences in Zürich, Bern, and Tübingen. He received his doctorate in Political Science in 1903.
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 hurt during a conflict in Lemberg, Ukraine on August 27, 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.
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)
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Repeatedly, Spann tried to draw the ruling powers' attention to his authoritarian theory of a corporate state which, as he saw it, could, and 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 Nazi Party.
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.
- Der wahre Staat (1921).
- Kategorienlehre (1924).
- Der Schöpfungsgang des Geistes (1928).
- Gesellschaftsphilosophie (1932).
- Naturphilosophie (1937).
- Religionsphilosophie auf geschichtlicher Grundlage (1947).
- Caldwell, Bruce. Hayek's Challenge: An Intellectual Biography of F.A. Hayek. The University of Chicago Press. 2004
- 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.
- Dooyeweerd, Spann, and the Philosophy of Totality
- A Historical Tour of the University of Vienna
- Anthony Carty: "Alfred Verdross and Othmar Spann: German Romantic Nationalism, National Socialism and International Law", European Journal of International Law Vol.6, No.1 (see also nationalism)