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En europeisk apokalyps? Om Viktor Rydbergs 'Den hvita rasens framtid'

Lindén, Anna LU (2005) In Fråm Kadmos till CAP - åtta uppsatser om europeiska nätverk, nationer och narrativ, CFE Working papers series No. 30
Abstract
Summary

In 1895 a posthumous essay by the Swedish poet and scholar Viktor Rydberg (1828-

1895) was published with the, for many modern Europeans, provoking title Den hvita

rasens framtid (“The future of the white race”). In the late 20th century however “the white

race” was a commonly used expression, it did not indicate any right-wing sympathies.

Rydberg himself was a leftist, a social liberal. Compared to the imperialistic arrogance of

many of his contemporaries, right and left, he sounds in his essay rather like a balanced

humanist.

Rydberg’s conception of race is not equivalent with the modern term; the meaning

he gives the word is in fact more cultural... (More)
Summary

In 1895 a posthumous essay by the Swedish poet and scholar Viktor Rydberg (1828-

1895) was published with the, for many modern Europeans, provoking title Den hvita

rasens framtid (“The future of the white race”). In the late 20th century however “the white

race” was a commonly used expression, it did not indicate any right-wing sympathies.

Rydberg himself was a leftist, a social liberal. Compared to the imperialistic arrogance of

many of his contemporaries, right and left, he sounds in his essay rather like a balanced

humanist.

Rydberg’s conception of race is not equivalent with the modern term; the meaning

he gives the word is in fact more cultural than biological. When he speaks of “the white

race” Rydberg does not simply mean (Christian) Europeans, he includes Jews, Muslims,

Hindus, Buddhists living in Asia, America and to some extent Africa in this expression;

but what he actually criticizes is a phenomenon within Europe, not on other continents.

That is the reason why I am treating his essay as an example of internal European cultural

criticism. Rydberg’s essay was originally published as introduction to the Swedish

translation of Benjamin Kidd’s international bestseller Social evolution (1894), but it was

written independently of Kidd’s book. The Swedish author is, unlike Kidd, not a Social

Darwinist and far more pessimistic about the European future than the Irishman. A

common feature is however that both of them view religion and ethics as most important

for the survival of a “race”.

Evolution is rightly said to be one of the most typical theme in 19th century Europe,

but parallel to this optimism in the second half of the century there was a widespread,

nearly apocalyptic, anxiety for the degeneration of the population caused by exceptional

fast development. Rydberg shared this anxiety: he was very critical to industrialism and

unhealthy milieu of the big European metropolises, like London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna,

Petersburg and Moscow. According to what he says in his essay, death rates were much

higher in these towns than on the countryside, the surviving people living in the former

also suffered from bad health. In combination with low nativity this was a dangerous

threat to Europe, especially compared to the steadily growing, physically as well as morally

sound population in China and the Far East. If nothing is done about it, Rydberg fears

that East Asia in the future will conquer Europe in “the struggle for existence”. The

biggest threat to the western world, according to Rydberg, is however the atomistic,

egoistic individualism among Europeans themselves, especially among some of the

industrialists and businessmen, only interested in money. This lack of morals will in the

long run ruin the ecological system as well as the poor people on our continent.

To Rydberg the only alternative to decline and final cultural destruction of Europe

is a revival of the Christian idea of an organic fellowship of humanity in the body of

Christ, including living, past and coming generations. Furthermore he advocates

agricultural development and small, instead of large-scale industry. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
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Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding
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in
Fråm Kadmos till CAP - åtta uppsatser om europeiska nätverk, nationer och narrativ, CFE Working papers series No. 30
editor
Önnerfors, Andreas and
publisher
Centrum för Europaforskning, Lunds universitet
ISSN
1403-6754
language
Swedish
LU publication?
yes
id
614a0c21-68fe-4efb-91fa-7a0b2b4c95cc (old id 535529)
alternative location
http://www.cfe.lu.se/pdf/cfewp30.pdf
date added to LUP
2007-09-26 10:38:41
date last changed
2016-04-16 05:31:16
@inbook{614a0c21-68fe-4efb-91fa-7a0b2b4c95cc,
  abstract     = {Summary<br/><br>
In 1895 a posthumous essay by the Swedish poet and scholar Viktor Rydberg (1828-<br/><br>
1895) was published with the, for many modern Europeans, provoking title Den hvita<br/><br>
rasens framtid (“The future of the white race”). In the late 20th century however “the white<br/><br>
race” was a commonly used expression, it did not indicate any right-wing sympathies.<br/><br>
Rydberg himself was a leftist, a social liberal. Compared to the imperialistic arrogance of<br/><br>
many of his contemporaries, right and left, he sounds in his essay rather like a balanced<br/><br>
humanist.<br/><br>
Rydberg’s conception of race is not equivalent with the modern term; the meaning<br/><br>
he gives the word is in fact more cultural than biological. When he speaks of “the white<br/><br>
race” Rydberg does not simply mean (Christian) Europeans, he includes Jews, Muslims,<br/><br>
Hindus, Buddhists living in Asia, America and to some extent Africa in this expression;<br/><br>
but what he actually criticizes is a phenomenon within Europe, not on other continents.<br/><br>
That is the reason why I am treating his essay as an example of internal European cultural<br/><br>
criticism. Rydberg’s essay was originally published as introduction to the Swedish<br/><br>
translation of Benjamin Kidd’s international bestseller Social evolution (1894), but it was<br/><br>
written independently of Kidd’s book. The Swedish author is, unlike Kidd, not a Social<br/><br>
Darwinist and far more pessimistic about the European future than the Irishman. A<br/><br>
common feature is however that both of them view religion and ethics as most important<br/><br>
for the survival of a “race”.<br/><br>
Evolution is rightly said to be one of the most typical theme in 19th century Europe,<br/><br>
but parallel to this optimism in the second half of the century there was a widespread,<br/><br>
nearly apocalyptic, anxiety for the degeneration of the population caused by exceptional<br/><br>
fast development. Rydberg shared this anxiety: he was very critical to industrialism and<br/><br>
unhealthy milieu of the big European metropolises, like London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna,<br/><br>
Petersburg and Moscow. According to what he says in his essay, death rates were much<br/><br>
higher in these towns than on the countryside, the surviving people living in the former<br/><br>
also suffered from bad health. In combination with low nativity this was a dangerous<br/><br>
threat to Europe, especially compared to the steadily growing, physically as well as morally<br/><br>
sound population in China and the Far East. If nothing is done about it, Rydberg fears<br/><br>
that East Asia in the future will conquer Europe in “the struggle for existence”. The<br/><br>
biggest threat to the western world, according to Rydberg, is however the atomistic,<br/><br>
egoistic individualism among Europeans themselves, especially among some of the<br/><br>
industrialists and businessmen, only interested in money. This lack of morals will in the<br/><br>
long run ruin the ecological system as well as the poor people on our continent.<br/><br>
To Rydberg the only alternative to decline and final cultural destruction of Europe<br/><br>
is a revival of the Christian idea of an organic fellowship of humanity in the body of<br/><br>
Christ, including living, past and coming generations. Furthermore he advocates<br/><br>
agricultural development and small, instead of large-scale industry.},
  author       = {Lindén, Anna},
  editor       = {Önnerfors, Andreas},
  issn         = {1403-6754},
  language     = {swe},
  publisher    = {Centrum för Europaforskning, Lunds universitet},
  series       = {Fråm Kadmos till CAP - åtta uppsatser om europeiska nätverk, nationer och narrativ, CFE Working papers series No. 30},
  title        = {En europeisk apokalyps? Om Viktor Rydbergs 'Den hvita rasens framtid'},
  year         = {2005},
}