The dual effect of pre-1914 Vienna

Atanu Dey has reprimanded me for not mentioning Vienna in my recent blog about the importance of the surrounding culture in fostering innovation (“How to be creative” 26 December).  Indeed !   As the imperial capital of the Habsburg Empire, it is not surprising that Vienna was a highly cosmopolitan city in which the native Austrians were joined with quite large contingents of Italians, Slovaks, Chechs, Hungarians, Moravians, Germans and Jews.  In the period from 1880 to the outbreak of World war One in 1914, Vienna turned out to be what was arguably the most creative city that has ever existed.

All of the different groups had arrived in Vienna at specific times for specific political or economic reasons and were not inclined to be pleasant to one another.  Their relationships were much as those of hunter-gatherer tribes towards their neighbours — extreme wariness at the best of times and downright venomous at their worst.

Only two things held the city in one piece.  One was the liberal-minded Emperor Franz Joseph and the other were the friendships of the intelligentsia of all the national groups as they met at afternoon tea parties, salons, university faculties, symposia and concerts.

With a few additions of my own, the list below has been taken from Democracy, the God that Failed (2001) by Hans-Herman Hoppe. There are at least half-a-dozen geniuses below and a goodly crop of Nobel prize winners.

Among philosophers:
Otto Neurath, Ludwig Boltzmann, Franz Brentano, Rudolph Camap, Edmund Husserl, Ernst Mach, Alexius Meinong, Karl Popper, Moritz Schlick, and Ludwig Wittgenstein;

Among mathematicians:
Kurt Godel, Hans Hahn, Karl Menger, and Richard von Mises ;

Among economists:
Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk, Gottfried von Haberler, Friedrich A. von Hayek, Carl Menger, Fritz Machlup, Ludwig von Mises, Oskar Morgenstern, Joseph Schumpeter, and Friedrich von Wieser ;

Among psychologists:
Sharlotte Buehler, Richard Krafft-Ebbing, Rudolph von Jhering, Hans Kelsen, Anton Menger, and Lorenz von Stein, Alfred Adler, Carl Jung, Joseph Breuer, Karl Buhler, and Sigmund Freud;

Among lawyers and legal theorists:
Max Adler, Otto Bauer, Egon Friedell, Heinrich Friedjung,

Among historians and sociologists;
Paul Lazarsfeld, Gustav Ratzenhofer, and Alfred Schutz;

Among writers and literary critics:
Hermann Broch, Franz Grillparzer, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Karl Kraus, Fritz Mauthner, Robert Musil, Arthur Schnitzler, Georg Trakl, Otto Weininger, and Stefan Zweig;

Among artists and architects:
Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Adolf Loos, and Egon Schiele, and Alban Berg;

Among composers:
Johannes Brahms, Anton Bruckner, Franz Lehar, Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schonberg, Johann Strauss, Anton Webern, and Hugo Wolf

For the sake of historical balance it must be mentioned that, in the same period as the fecundity above, Vienna also gave birth to a right-wing anti-Semitic political party led by Georg Schoenerer.  This became a major influence in the minds of many, including a recent out-of-work immigrant to Vienna, Adolf Hitler.  In later years, anti Semitism became one of the basic creeds of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party which Hitler founded.  Most of those in the above list were Jews and escaped to live abroad, usually England and America, before certain death awaited them.

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