Space is not the issue!

Breaking from his usual geopolitical viewpoint, Ross argues here that it is not lack of space, but psychological and economic conditions that keep European populations fixed in their place.

“During previous business depressions the possibility of escape existed”, starts the English translation of a Vossische Zeitung article by Ross in American weekly The Living Age. “Emigration offered a way out of the crisis.” [p. 144] But now, there is no getting away from the economic hardships encountered by Europe and America, Ross argues.

Surprisingly, given Ross’s usual bent towards the geopolitical diagnosis of a lack of available space, the main problem to him is not space, but the European populations’ complacency. Only some eastern Europeans would be willing or fully able to give up the comforts of Western civilization and become settlers.

Furthermore, Ross claims, small-scale settlers can’t compete in most economies, as their prices don’t match those of the products of mechanized agriculture. This new state of affairs sharply contrasts with that of 19th-century German settlements in South Australia. In this last part of the argument, the grounding of geopolitical thinking in the perception of the world as fundamentally connected (by a depressed economy, by price standards) limits geopolitics’ fantasies of the ethnic-nationalist shaping of space. Of course, the arguments advanced  here focus on emigration to another continent. The claim on parts of eastern Europe, central to right-wing German demands for Lebensraum (living space), with or without geopolitical legitimation, is not challenged by this line of reasoning.

This text is part of a series of essays and books, written between 1929 and 1934, in which Ross argues that Europe’s crisis cannot be solved by expansion alone, but only by a combined spiritual and political renewal. The current crisis, concludes Ross here, demands “a fundamental change in our methods of production and distribution, in our whole economic organization, and hence in our spiritual life.” [p. 146] The desired form of that change remains purposely, or perhaps rather opportunistically, open in Ross’s writing—until he converts to National Socialism after the Nazis’ rise to power in 1933.

Joachim Schätz

Colin Ross. Two tracts for the times: 1. No place to go. The Living Age: 1931 Apr; 144–147.

Topic: Volk ohne Raum
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30

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