Postfazione: women around Ludwig Klages

Abstract

Over the last few decades the arts and humanities have seen an increase in interest in questions surrounding gender. Not only did the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s see the growth of feminism as an academic discipline as well as a political movement, but in recent years there has been a huge expansion of research into Gender Studies, Queer Theory, and LGBT Studies. In essence, these disciplines all offer a critique of the system known as patriarchy, in which the ‘rule of the father’ legitimates the exercise of political power and social control by men. In turn, this critique raises questions about alternatives to the patriarchal system, and it is in this context that some theorists and historians have been interested in the system known as ‘matriarchy’. In so doing, they are linking back to the work undertaken by such late nineteenth-century thinkers as the American anthropologist Lewis H. Morgan and, in particular, the Swiss legal historian Johann Jakob Bachofen. From 1841 to 1845 Bachofen served as Professor for Roman Law at the University of Basel, and it is with the cultural and intellectual life of this city that his work is most often connected. Now Bachofen’s outlook is well summarized by the title of his 1861 work, Mother Right: An Investigation of the Religious and Juridical Character of Matriarchy in the Ancient World. In it Bachofen proposed that humankind had undergone four phases of cultural evolution, which he described as hetaerism; matriarchy; the Dionysian; and the Apollonian. The contrast between the Dionysian and the Apollonian exercised an influence on another thinker connected with Basel, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche ; and it was in the Nietzschean circles of the early twentieth century in German-speaking Europe that Bachofen’s work came to the fore. That this happened was due in no small measure to the figure who stands at the centre of Chiara Gianni Ardic’s new study, whose title translates into English as The Flight of the Gods: Myth, Matrarchy, and Fundamentalism in Ludwig Klages. For it was the circle around the charismatic thinker Ludwig Klages, arguably the most significant figure in a group of thinkers and writers known as the ‘Cosmic Circle’, that Bachofen’s ideas found a fruitful reception. The significance of Klages in the history of philosophy has frequently been overlooked, deliberately ignored, or even actively suppressed; so it is extremely welcome that Dr Ardic has undertaken to research so thoroughly the interest in matriarchy demonstrated by Klages and the members of the circle around him.

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