The Zeitgeist (spirit of the age or spirit of the time) is the intellectual fashion or dominant school of thought that typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time. For example, the Zeitgeist of modernism typified and influenced architecture, art, and fashion during much of the 20th century.
The German word Zeitgeist is often attributed to the philosopher Georg Hegel, but he never actually used the word. In his works such as Lectures on the Philosophy of History, he uses the phrase der Geist seiner Zeit (the spirit of his time)—for example, "no man can surpass his own time, for the spirit of his time is also his own spirit."
Other philosophers who were associated with such ideas include Herder and Spencer and Voltaire. The concept counters the Great Man theory popularized by Thomas Carlyle which sees history as the result of the actions of heroes and geniuses.
The first interpretation is reflected well in Indian context in the eleventh canto of Bhagavad Gita, a holy book of Hindus in a verse as said by Krishna, a godhead of Hindus, to Arjuna inspiring him to fight the battle of Kurukshetra, which translated into English means, "I am Time who wastes and destroys the people; lo, I have arisen in my might, I am here to swallow up the nations. Even without thee all they shall not be, the men of war who stand arrayed in the opposing squadrons. Therefore do thou arise and get thee great glory, conquer thy foes and enjoy a great and wealthy empire. For these, they were already slain and it is I who have slain them; be the occasion only, O Savyasachin".
According to Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo, "When the Zeitgeist, God in Time," which India calls 'Kāla', "moves in a settled direction, then all the forces of the world are called in to swell the established current towards the purpose decreed. That which consciously helps, swells it, but that which hinders swells it still more, and like a wave on the windswept Ocean, now rising, now falling, now high on the crest of victory and increase, now down in the troughs of discouragement and defeat, the impulse from the hidden Source sweeps onward to its preordained fulfillment".
Hegel believed that art reflected, by its very nature, the time of the culture in which it is created. Culture and art are inextricable because an individual artist is a product of his or her time and therefore brings that culture to any given work of art. Furthermore, he believed that in the modern world it was impossible to produce classical art, which he believed represented a "free and ethical culture", which depended more on the philosophy of art and theory of art, rather than a reflection of the social construct, or Zeitgeist in which a given artist lives.
In the analysis of the arts and culture, the concept of a "spirit of the age" or zeitgeist may be problematic as a tool for analysis of periods which are socially or culturally fragmented and diverse.
Zeitgeist Theory and Leadership 
As mentioned, zeitgeist theory of leadership is often contrasted with Thomas Carlyle’s great man theory. In his theory, Carlyle stresses that leaders do not become leaders by fate or accident. Instead, these individuals possess characteristics of great leaders and these characteristics allow them to obtain positions of power.
However, Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy disagreed with Carlyle’s perspective. Tolstoy believed that leadership, like other things, was a "zeitgeist" and was a product of the social circumstances at the time. Thus, it was not the characteristics of the individual that resulted in a leadership, but societal factors of the time that are out of the individuals’ control.
Great man theory and zeitgeist theory can be included in two main areas of thought in psychology. For instance, great man theory is very similar to the trait approach. Trait researchers are interested in identifying the various personality traits that underlie human behaviors such as conformity, leadership or other social behaviors. Thus, they agree that leadership is primarily a quality of an individual and that some people are pre-dispositioned to be a leader whereas others are born to follow these leaders. In contrast, situationist researchers believe that social behavior is a product of society. That is, social influence is what determines human behaviors. Therefore, situationism is of the same opinion as Zeitgeist theory – leaders are created from the social environment and are molded from the situation. The concept of Zeitgeist also relates to the sociological tradition that stems from Durkheim and recently developed into social capital theory as exemplified by the work of Patrick Hunout.
These two perspectives have been combined to create what is known as the interactional approach to leadership. This approach asserts that leadership is developed through the mixing of personality traits and the situation. Further, this approach was expressed by social psychologist, Kurt Lewin, by the equation B = f(P, E) where behavior (B) is a function (f) of the person (P) and the environment (E).
- Eero Saarinen (2006), Shaping the Future, Yale University Press, p. 15, ISBN 9780972488129
- Glenn Alexander Magee (2011), "Zeitgeist", The Hegel Dictionary, Continuum International Publishing Group, p. 262, ISBN 9781847065919
- "Verse32-33, Canto 11, Bhagavad Gita". Bhagvad Gita. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
- Essays in Philosophy and Yoga(Volume 13 in the URL). Pondicherry,India: SABDA. p. 29.
- Hendrix, John Shannon. Aesthetics & The Philosophy Of Spirit. New York: Peter Lang. (2005). 4, 11.
- Mike Chopra-Gant Hollywood Genres and Postwar America: Masculinity, Family and Nation in Popular Movies and Film Noir 2006 "The idea of zeitgeist as the spirit of the age demands a unanimity that is inconsistent with the fragmentation and contradiction that characterized American society and culture during the early postwar years. The concept of Zeitgeist, therefore, is a problematic tool for analyzing the films and culture of the period: the idea of the spirit of the age is an impediment to the production of a reliable impression of an age that possessed no singular, dominant spirit."
- Forsyth, D. R. (2009). Group dynamics: New York: Wadsworth. [Chapter 9]
|Look up zeitgeist in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Christian Adolph Klotz
- Christian Adolf Klotz in: Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, 4. Aufl., 1888, Vol. 9, Page 859
- Zeitgeist, History of Ideas
- HatersGunk - Zeitgeist; Spread Love, Share Hate
|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the German Wikipedia. (October 2012)|
|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Spanish Wikipedia. (October 2012)|