Bridging the gap between irrationality and rationality

In this excerpt of his 1927 travelogue Die erwachende Sphinx Ross introduces an argument that would later be reiterated and developed in a number of his writings: the irrational sources of politics, ideology, etc.

Ross’s claim that colonization is not a “mere economic enterprise and business” but a “symbol of global significance and political greatness”, i.e., not only rationally but also irrationally justifiable, would soon and on a more generalized level return in his books and in his articles.1 However, with regard to Ross’s lecturing activities the point of interest here is the topicality of influencing the audience during a speaking engagement rather than the argument presented by and adopted from such classics of geopolitics as Friedrich Ratzel or Rudolf Kjellén. Ross describes an illustrated lecture (Filmvortrag) about the former colony German South West Africa. This territory is poor and barren; unfortunately the black-and-white images could not convey its single beauty, the colors of the landscape. “In sum”, Ross concludes, “in Germany one would have to make special efforts to get such bleakness across on a film strip.” Still, as Ross reports, the audience did not notice the gap between the poor images and the colorful lecture.

For Ross this episode shows why practical politics need to accept (and serve) irrational aspirations regarding (new) colonial aims. Yet, Ross expresses his conviction that the efficiency of former German colonial administrations was superior to that of the British and he provides ‘rational’ criteria for discussing colonial policies for Germany. It is this excerpt of the chapter that foreshadows Ross’s practice of emphasizing topical matters in his future propagandistic lectures in the Netherlands and Austria (for the latter see The careful propagandist).

Katalin Teller

Colin Ross. [Excerpt from] Die Möglichkeiten deutscher Kolonialpolitik. In: Die erwachende Sphinx. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus, 1930 [1927]; 239-242.

Topic: Colonialism
Case: Speaking engagements


1 See among others Colin Ross. The world in the balance: an analysis of world-problems after twenty years’ travel about the world. London: G. Routledge & Sons, Ltd.; 1930, and Die Einschaltung des Irrationalen in die Rationalisierung. In: Zeitschrift für Geopolitik. 1930 Nov; 7 (2. Halbband, H. 11); 855-860. See Library. This formula resembles that of an “ahistorical history” suggested by Frederick Cooper in his Colonialism in question. Theory, knowledge, history. Berkeley; Los Angeles: University of California Press; 2005; 16.

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