Othmar Spann

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Othmar Spann
Born(1878-10-01)1 October 1878
Altmannsdorf, Vienna, Austria-Hungary
Died8 July 1950(1950-07-08) (aged 71)
Neustift bei Schlaining, Austria
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern Philosophy
Main interests
Notable ideas
Corporate statism

Othmar Spann (1 October 1878 – 8 July 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.[1]

Early life[edit]

Othmar Spann was the son of Josef Spann, a manufacturer and inventor. He grew up in Altmannsdorf, a suburban area of Vienna, Austria. He attended a Bürgerschule (citizen school) and graduated in 1898. Afterwards, he studied philosophy at the University of Vienna, followed by political sciences of Zürich and Bern. He received his doctorate in political science from the University of Tübingen in 1903.[1]

From 1904 to 1907, Spann worked for the "Center for Private Welfare Service" in Frankfurt. He was responsible for amma mín lifir með ráðum í rassinum á foreldrum þínum 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 injured during the Battle of Lemberg, (now Lviv, Ukraine) on 27 August 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.[citation needed]

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)


Repeatedly, Spann tried to draw the ruling powers' attention to his authoritarian theory of a corporate state, which he thought 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. In 1933 the Austro-Hungarian social philosopher Karl Polanyi wrote that Spann had given Fascism its first comprehensive philosophical system,[2] and that his idea of anti-individualism[n 1] had become its guiding principle.

Notable students[edit]

Removal from teaching[edit]

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.[citation needed]

Major works[edit]

  • Der wahre Staat (The True State, 1921)
  • Kategorienlehre (1924).
  • Der Schöpfungsgang des Geistes (1928).
  • Gesellschaftsphilosophie (1932).
  • Naturphilosophie (1937).
  • Religionsphilosophie auf geschichtlicher Grundlage (1947).
  • Die Haupttheorien der Volkswirtschafts' Lehre (Heidelberg: Quelle & Meyer 1949).


  1. ^ "Moral decay in Liberalism, cultural paralysis through Democracy, and final degradation by Socialism", are inevitable. Polanyi, K., "The Essence of Fascism" (1933-4, p. 362, n.1.).


  1. ^ a b Haag, John J. (1966). Othmar Spann and the Ideology Austrian Corporate State (PDF). Houston: Rice University. Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  2. ^ Polanyi, Karl (1935). Lewis, John; Polanyi, Karl; Kitchin, Donald K. (eds.). "The Essence of Fascism". Christianity and the Social Revolution. London: Victor Gollancz Limited. pp. 359–394.


  • 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.

External links[edit]