Random Thought Note

Odd feelings listening to late 19th/early 20th century European nationalist music, in this case the Bohemian Bedrich Smetana’s ‘Ma Vlast’, or ‘My Fatherland’. Sustained reflection on the attitudes and cultural spirit behind such works can leave one with feelings of unease, though it is interesting to trace the thread of the developments of such attitudes through history, with most beginning with the enlightenment and seeing a lot of development and expression in German idealism (which was a failure as a coherent system of metaphysics but a powerful cultural force), such as Fichte and Hegel, continuing to Nietzsche and Wagner. Hegel’s philosophy of the state (which is genuinely chilling) gave definite impetus to later ideas that proved rather disastrous such as Marxism (the march of history, for example) , and it is of no small consequence that Nazi field libraries in WWII were stocked with Fichte’s writings. That many of these ideas found their fullest expression in music is a very interesting matter to think on.

A fuller exploration of these would take one back to the middle ages (where William of Ockham’s political thought was and remains hugely influential) and the development of the nation-state leading to the rise of nationalism – which in turn would take one back to the seminal political writing of all time, Plato’s Republic. Other crucial early modern thinkers would include Hobbes and Locke, though the political side of the reformation and the thought of the reformers is equally important.


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