“The Struggle of an Old World with a New One” – Edvard Beneš’s Assessment of the Post-War Crisis
Similar to Elémer Hantos, the Hungarian economist quoted in the call for papers, also Edvard Beneš, the foreign minister of the newly formed Czechoslovak Republic (and later its president), viewed the world after the Great War as a time of change: “Our whole postwar existence is characterized by restlessness, nervosity, and insecurity, which always mark the change from one generation to another. This marks also the struggle of an old world with a new one, the subversion of old conceptions and the concrete forms of a previous life and the creation of conceptions and concrete forms of a new one.”1Beneš, Edvard: Die moralische Krise der Nachkriegswelt (The Moral Crisis of the Postwar World), 1928, Archiv AV ČR, Fond Edvard Beneš IV/1, ID 252, box 78., p. 2
Unlike Hantos, however, he voiced his views on this crisis, its dangers and chances, already during the 20ies in a lecture, in which he focused on different aspects of the crisis (which in general he considered as one of society as a whole), like the crisis of nationalism, of democracy, of socialism, of science, and of religion. In later talks on the subject, held in the early 30ies, also economic aspects and implications for foreign policy were discussed. The proposed presentation will explore Beneš’s assessment of the post war world; the hopes he had and the potential he saw in the crisis will be discussed critically as well as the dangers he warned of. As Beneš was not only a sociologist by training, but also an active politician of a post-Habsburgian state, a review of his views might be an interesting contribution to the discourses which form the conference’s subject.
- 1Beneš, Edvard: Die moralische Krise der Nachkriegswelt (The Moral Crisis of the Postwar World), 1928, Archiv AV ČR, Fond Edvard Beneš IV/1, ID 252, box 78., p. 2