The void to be filled

The first chapter of Ross’s most successful book—between 1929 and 1941 it went through 34 editions—paradigmatically shows how Ross’s arguments were structured. In it he also presents his interpretation of the Great War in a way that serves his own needs and, as the 1936 lecture for the Anglo-German Fellowship shows, that of his audience (see The war for England).

Ross firmly objects to Eurocentric thinking. Deluded by a “childish ignorance” Europe still believes in its superiority over all other ‘races’ in terms of technology, politics, and culture. But, according to Ross, the time of the decline of the European (recte European-American) civilization has come, signaled by various discourses on the notion of crisis and by its conscious and unconscious manifestations.1 These signs were already present before the cataclysm of the First World War, but the war magnified unfavorable developments to “hypertrophic” dimensions. Despite spectacular technological progress and its global spread  to “uncivilized” countries, European power has ultimately become hollow. The analogy Ross uses to demonstrate his assertion is symptomatic for his line of argument. He describes Germany’s fate during the war as a technically justified, uninterrupted triumph until the country’s spiritual indulgence led to its breakdown. The more complex reasons for defeat of Germany and the Central Powers do not seem to bother him. Furthermore, Ross declares the notion of universal ideas outdated (which he would reiterate in his writings and in his London lecture). Rather, he considers Einstein’s theory of relativity a more relevant point of orientation, as it refutes the idea of a single, overarching world view.

Instead of the superiority of the European civilization Ross is intent on offering  a “new world hypothesis”, which repeats the principles of the divine creation of the world and suggests a new program for saving a world in crisis. That this program is founded on the same erroneous conviction—i.e. the superiority of the white race—as the ‘old’ one is  irrelevant for Ross.

Katalin Teller

Colin Ross. Das alte Weltbild und die Hypothese eines neuen. In: Die Welt auf der Waage. Der Querschnitt von 20 Jahren Weltreise. 29. Aufl. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus; 1937 [1929]; 13-27.

Topic: The Great War
Case: Speaking engagements


1 The idea of the proverbial decline of the West, elaborated by Oswald Spengler (1918/1922), seems to have impressed Ross deeply. However, he did not adapt Spengler’s idea of cultural morphology, his notion of cyclicality, of autonomous Kulturkreise, or his antiracist arguments. The publication of Spengler’s Jahre der Entscheidung (1933, The hour of decision), one of the unofficial manifestos of the Conservative Revolution that developed an ideological program based on his Untergang des Abendlandes, did not discourage Ross from considering himself as Spengler’s forerunner; see Sächsisches Staatsarchiv, Staatsarchiv Leipzig, Bestand 21083 F. A. Brockhaus, Leipzig, Nr. 790. Brockhaus minutes. Colin Ross. Protokoll, 16/12/[19]33.

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