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Americanism and Comfortism By Ernst Niekisch

Original Russian and German text can be found here:

( from : Ernst Niekisch: European Balance Sheet,Potsdam: Rütten & Loening 1951)

The unconditional bourgeois economics of young America, unencumbered by any feudal tradition, soon allied itself with the aristocratic intellectual type of engineer; the types of priest and philosopher it adopted only as rudimentary appendages. The economic drive to conquer the world merged with the technical drive to overpower nature; the result was an economic and political momentum of unprecedented victoriousness. There was not a thing for which the price could not be found , there was no difficulty for which the necessary means and ways could not be found. One was in each respect the country of unlimited possibilities and what seemed impossible became possible. Old Europe always had a feeling for borders and the individuality woven into its own borders, that is, for qualities. Young America knows no borders, qualities are of no interest, they are outdated junk, consolation for those who immerse themselves in small things and have to discover charms in small things. Where there are no borders, you only have an eye for quantities, behind the vastness there is something else that lures, behind the big the huge, the gigantic. The small and the narrow are contemptible; one proves one’s healthy strength by not being crushed to the ground by any monstrosity.

This young Americanism proved its worth in the management of space on the one hand and in industrialization on the other. The businessman and the engineer work hand in hand; one finances and the other constructs, and where the prospect of a new job opens up, the technician also has a new constructive idea ready. Since there is no tendency to stand still, there is no rooting anywhere; the peasant is no more tied to the soil than is the industrial producer. The financier, the pure plutocrat seizes the reins; he’s pounding industries out of the ground where the location favors them and relocates them as soon as a better location beckons. The financial bourgeoisie that is emerging is rising to incredible power. She doesn’t flaunt her wealth, she doesn’t challenge it; she dresses simply; it involves the masses in the business through high wages. In addition, it forms a very special system of mass bribery, which represents a kind of earthly distribution of salvation goods and happiness in this world: it is comfortism.

Comfortism is the most obvious and probably also the most honest form of realization of democratic liberalism. He pays the bills that promised heaven on earth for all. Every citizen should have his own home with a vacuum cleaner, an electric cooker, a bathroom and all the necessities of modern times; the hygiene precautions are taken to the extreme in all factories, in bakeries, slaughterhouses and dairies; every job, including household chores, is done by machine. But above all: everyone has their car, their cheap fuel; the smallest employee becomes the ruler of the American expanse. comfort is all; the amount of comfort one enjoys is a measure of the culture one possesses. The comfort of external living creates paradise; the inner personality values ​​have sunk to nonvaluable, after which nobody asks any more.

You are a personality if you bathe and change your linen every day, observe all hygiene regulations and drive in your own car. Any social insincerity is smothered in the sea of ​​comfortism. Revolutionary is he who has nothing to lose but his chains. Those who live in comfort are careful not to be radical; as long as one has comforts one prefers to make oneself comfortable.

Comfortism is a powerful substitute for religion; he moderates dispositions by making happy. It is an effective reinsurance for the existing state of society; it creates a community of all those who benefit from comfort against those who question it.

It was no coincidence that comfortism, a means of mass appeasement and bribery, thrived in America; comfortism presupposed the abundance of natural riches that the “blessed” country has at its disposal and at the same time the intensity of the technical-industrial development that was expended here. Technology contributes the tremendous amount of labor that, in addition to natural wealth, produces the additional artificially-industrially conjured wealth that is necessary and must be mobilized to carry out the wholesale mass bribery on which the hitherto unshakeable American democracy rests. Genuine liberal pride in how gloriously far one has come is fed by comfortism: whoever the automatic escalator carries up, towards all peoples and people who cannot come up with such progress? One is a higher human being insofar as one has comfort: that is roughly the concept of culture in Americanism.


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