The war as authentication and amplification

The preface of Ross’s most successful book remained unchanged throughout its 34 editions (originally published in 1929). It stated Ross’s interest in the global significance and consequences of the Great War, which was one of the main points in his 1936 London lecture, too (see The war for England).

According to Ross, his post-1918 travels around the globe were not motivated by adventure, but by his intention to explore the changes the war had brought, even in countries that were only indirectly involved in this global event. These changes, however, are rooted in a specific shift of the people’s world view that actually goes back to prewar times. This shift, deepened by the war, goes hand in hand with a “shift of the races”, which by and large points to a global crisis in the hegemony of the ‘whites’.1 The “thoughts thought through” suggest, among others, the failure of British colonial politics based on an emancipatory ideology that enabled indigenous populations to outrival the colonists socially and economically—one of the most important points made by Ross in his London lecture.

Ross’s messy argumentative tactics become obvious in the next step. While he describes the change in ideological orientation of the “colored races” as a threat, he considers the traditional “world hypothesis” (i.e. world view) equally harmful. He exemplifies this statement by evoking his propaganda activity in Ukraine, where soldiers described their front experiences in the most stereotypical manner: ready-made ideology had become a framework for depicting both the events and themselves. Nonetheless, Ross takes the need for a “world hypothesis” for granted and he defines the aim of his book as a search for a new one. Which, in  the end, turns out to be rather conventional, since it applies well-known thought patterns à la Oswald Spengler and Otto Weininger to the fate of cultures or states and to the cohabitation of communities such as those of men and women. (see The void to be filled).

Katalin Teller

Colin Ross. Zu Ende gedachte Gedanken. In: Die Welt auf der Waage. Der Querschnitt von 20 Jahren Weltreise. 29. Aufl. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus; 1937 [1929]; 5-10.

Topic: The Great War
Case: Speaking engagements


1 Ross’s apologies regarding his ignorance of scholarly (anthropological, ethnographic, archaeological, and religious) sources are counterbalanced by assertions of his objectivity, as he directly relates everything he experienced. Moreover, his travels across various continents enabled him to see things from different angles. Finally, his argument of the organic, unconscious development of his thoughts is another common device in contemporaneous ethnographic and geopolitical accounts to claim the speaker’s integrity and authenticity.

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