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Reenchanted Science:
Holism in German Culture from Wilhelm II to Hitler
Anne Harrington

Paperback | 1999 | $55.00 | £45.95 | ISBN: 9780691050508
336 pp. | 7 3/4 x 10 | 20 halftones 10 line drawings
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By the 1920s in Central Europe, it had become a truism among intellectuals that natural science had "disenchanted" the world, and in particular had reduced humans to mere mechanisms, devoid of higher purpose. But could a new science of "wholeness" heal what the old science of the "machine" had wrought? Some contemporary scientists thought it could. These years saw the spread of a new, "holistic" science designed to nourish the heart as well as the head, to "reenchant" even as it explained. Critics since have linked this holism to a German irrationalism that is supposed to have paved the way to Nazism. In a penetrating analysis of this science, Anne Harrington shows that in fact the story of holism in Germany is a politically heterogeneous story with multiple endings. Its alliances with Nazism were not inevitable, but resulted from reorganizational processes that ultimately brought commitments to wholeness and race, healing and death into a common framework.

Before 1933, holistic science was a uniquely authoritative voice in cultural debates on the costs of modernization. It attracted not only scientists with Nazi sympathies but also moderates and leftists, some of whom left enduring humanistic legacies. Neither a "reduction" of science to its politics, nor a vision in which the sociocultural environment is a backdrop to the "internal" work of science, this story instead emphasizes how metaphor and imagery allow science to engage "real" phenomena of the laboratory in ways that are richly generative of human meanings and porous to the social and political imperatives of the hour.


"Anne Harrington has confirmed the status of German culture in the first half of this century as the principal crucible of modernity."--Daniel Johnson, The Times Literary Supplement

"Reenchanted Science succeeds marvelously in demonstrating the complexity with which science is embedded in its own historical and cultural moment.... A great sense of nuance and a deftly constructed narrative.... Hardly any study of Weimar culture has so masterfully evoked the complexity of its history with such clarity of exposition."--Luke Springman, Configurations


"[Harrington's] book will serve as a model to an entire generation of historians of science attempting to understand the cultural meaning of science in a far deeper way than their precursors."--Evelyn Fox Keller, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations
Ch. 1 The "Human Machine" and the Call to "Wholeness" 3
Ch. 2 Biology against Democracy and the "Gorilla-Machine" 34
Ch. 3 World War I and the Search for God in the Nervous System 72
Ch. 4 "A Peacefully Blossoming Tree": The Rational Enchantment of Gestalt Psychology 103
Ch. 5 The Self-Actualizing Brain and the Biology of Existential Choice 140
Ch. 6 Life Science, Nazi Wholeness, and the "Machine" in Germany's Midst 175
Conclusion 207
Notes 213
Bibliography 275
Index 303

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