Courtesy Reuters

Science in the Totalitarian State

IN THE good old days that preceded the Russian-German alliance Hitler railed at Marx and Communism, and Stalin at Fascism and Capitalism. Yet both dictators stood on common ground; for both insisted, as Marx had insisted long before them, that society is everything, that the individual citizen must submerge himself in the state and its destiny. It makes little difference that Stalin, following Marx and Lenin, still talks of "proletarian" science and art and philosophy and of their duty to the worker, while Hitler talks of Nordic superiority and of what he regards as the manifest destiny of the Nordic stock to rule the earth. Both agree that the university professor must serve the state, accept the tenets of the official ideology and eschew any excursions into the metaphysical or the theoretical. The artist, philosopher and scientist must not only believe what he is told to believe by his rulers; he must practise that belief. Objectivity is derided in both the Soviet Union and Germany as unattainable and as anti-social.

If this insistence on the crushing of individuality assumes different aspects in Russia and in Germany it is because of different economic needs and social conditions. Despite the greatness of Mendelyev and Pavlov, despite the eminence of some Russian mathematicians and physicians, the Tsars did little to encourage science. In Germany, on the other hand, science was officially cultivated, and the chemist or engineer who had earned an international name became a Geheimrat, an Exzellenz, even a Freiherr or Graf, with the right to precede his family name with a von, though he might be a Jew. The Herr Professor was outranked in the salons and at court only by higher state dignitaries and army officers. There were universities in nearly all the important towns, and each of them was preëminent in some Fach, such as mathematics, as at Göttingen, or medicine, as at Tübingen, or philosophy, as at Berlin.

Today the academic rôles of Germany and

Loading, please wait...

Browse Related Articles on {{search_model.selectedTerm.name}}

{{indexVM.results.hits.total | number}} Articles Found

  • {{bucket.key_as_string}}

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.

Continue