wiser today

A man should never be ashamed to own that he is wrong, which is but saying in other words that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.

Matthew Stibbe

German Anglophobia and the Great War, 1914—1918

From this basic conflict between the English 'trader' and the German 'hero', Sombart was able to derive all the commonly held negative stereotypes about the English national character: the reluctance to wage war unless by 'sly and unheroic' commercial means or the use of mercenaries, the application of the purely commercial or handlerisch doctrine of the 'balance of power' to the sphere of international relations, and the ability to equate selfish national interests with the interests of international justice and equality. Finally, there was the tendency to treat war itself as a kind of sport, the point at which Sombart argued the English national character differed most from the idealistic outlook of the German warrior.
When the captured Englishmen marched out of the fortress at Liege they held out their hands to our soldiers in field grey: just like at the end of a [football] match! And they were quite shocked when they received the appropriate response: namely a kick in a certain part of the body.
Sombart dedicated his book to the 'young heroes out there facing the enemy' and warned his readers at home that the struggle against British materialism would have to continue even after the military battles had been won. He even went so far as to condemn pan-German expansionist demands on the grounds that they merely served the materialistic interests of mammonistic industrialists and diverted the need for cultural and spiritual renewal in Germany itself. Only against England—and this in itself is revealing, given the doctrines of the time—did Sombart make specific demands for territorial gains:
If it is necessary to expand so that our growing people have space to develop, then we shall take as much land as we regard as necessary. We shall also put our foot where we think it essential for strategic reasons to maintain our unassailable strength. Therefore, if it is useful for our power position on earth, we shall establish naval bases in perhaps Dover, Malta and Suez. Nothing more [sic!]. We do not wish to expand at all. For we have more important things to do, we have to develop our own spirit, we have to keep the German soul pure, we have to take precautions against the enemy, the commercial spirit invading our own mentality. The task is tremendous and full of responsibility. For we know what is at stake: Germany is the last dike against the muddy flood of commercialism which threatens to swamp all other people because none of them is armed against this threat by the heroic Weltanschauung which alone provides protection and salvation.
Reflecting on this quotation, Sombart's latest biographer, Friedrich Lenger, has spoken recently of the 'modesty' (Bescheidung) of Sombart's war aims programme, which, he argues, had little to do with respect for the territorial integrity of other European nations. He nonetheless demonstrates that the programme intended by Handler und Helden was 'primarily one of cultural regeneration'. However, although Lenger makes much of Sombart's refusal to take part in nationalist propaganda before the war—apart from a brief involvement in naval agitation—and of the relative unpopularity of his extreme ideas on German militarism, the above quotation can only really be interpreted as an unambiguous declaration in favour of German Weltpolitik and the aspirations proclaimed by Admiral von Tirpitz and by the Kaiser himself since 1897.

Indeed, that Sombart in no way stood alone with his extreme views on England and the English national character can also be seen if we compare his ideas with those of his friend, the philosopher Max Scheler. In his book Der Genius des Krieges und der deutsche Krieg (1915), which was previewed in Die Neue Rundschau in October 1914 and therefore known to many educated Germans even before the appearance of Sombart's Handler und Helden, Scheler showed a very similar contempt for England and English commercialism. The English, he argued, tended to confuse 'culture with comfort, the warrior with the robber, thought with calculation, reason with economy. God's eternal order with the interests of England, nobility with wealth, power with necessity [and] community with society'. The rise of Germany, on the other hand, represented the rise of the fourth estate, whose revolutionary ethos of work would expel the bourgeois powers of the west from the stage of world history.

Like Sombart, Scheler argued that the war was 'to the first and last an Anglo-German war' and therefore also a 'war against capitalism and its manifestations everywhere'. Not only did he repeatedly emphasise the alleged superiority of the German war ethic over the cunning business ethic of the English; he also sought to underline this by including at the end of the book a fifty-page appendix on the 'psychology of English cant', which he defined as the 'equivalent of lying with a good conscience'.

The key difference between Sombart and Scheler lay less in a difference of temperament or style, and rather in Scheler's concern that, although the immediate cause of the war lay in the Anglo-German conflict, its deeper meaning was to be sought in what he saw as an irreconcilable conflict of interest between Europe and 'Asiatic' Russia. In the long run he was even prepared to accept England as a junior partner in a coalition led by Germany against 'the entire Russian-Byzantine and Yellow [i.e. Far Eastern] world'—provided that England could be cured of its 'sickness', which he defined as an overvaluation of commerce and money-making, favouring natural sciences above the humanities, and misunderstanding civil liberty.

These differences aside, Scheler was also adamant that Germany should not be tempted to make peace in the west until Britain had been purged of the spirit of capitalism and greed which was threatening to spread to other parts of Europe, including France and Germany itself. Indeed, it is this anti-capitalist critique of England which provides the best clue to the sociological origins of modern German anglophobia-the search for a 'German socialism' or that elusive 'third way' between unfettered laissez-faire capitalism (often referred to as 'Manchesterism') and the Marxists' outright repudiation of private ownership and control of the means of production. This search in turn revealed a profound revulsion at the effects that economic growth and industrial change had had on society and equally a widespread belief—particularly among the educated class in Germany—that the state, and above all the civil service, should intervene to check the materialistic excesses of self-seeking minorities in the interests of the general good.