Historian of Art and Culture
Jacob Burckhardt, fully Carl Jacob (or Jakob) Christoph Burckhardt
Historian of Art and Culture
Great men are necessary for our life, in order that the movement of world history can free itself sporadically, by fits and starts, from obsolete ways of living and inconsequential talk.
Only the fairy tale equates changelessness with happiness... Permanence means paralysis and death. Only, in movement, with all its pain, is life.
The biggest mischief in the past century has been perpetrated by Rousseau with his doctrine of the goodness of human nature. The mob and the intellectuals derived from it the vision of a Golden Age which would arrive without fail once the noble human race could act according to its whims.
The essence of tyranny is the denial of complexity.
The more recently power has originated, the less it can remain stationary - first because those who created it have become accustomed to rapid further movement and because they are and will be innovators per se; secondly, because the forces aroused or subdued by them can be employed only through further acts ...
The state incurs debts for politics, war, and other higher causes and 'progress'. . . . The assumption is that the future will honor this relationship in perpetuity. The state has learned from the merchants and industrialists how to exploit credit; it defies the nation ever to let it go into bankruptcy. Alongside all swindlers the state now stands there as swindler-in-chief.
To each eye, perhaps, the outlines of a great civilization present a different picture. In the wide ocean upon which we venture, the possible ways and directions are many; and the same studies which have served for my work might easily, in other hands, not only receive a wholly different treatment and application, but lead to essentially different conclusions.
True universality does not consist in knowing much but in loving much.
Every successful wickedness is, to say the least, a scandal... The only lesson to be derived from the successful misdeeds of the strong is to hold life here and now in no higher esteem than it deserves.
It seems that an essential condition for crises is to be found in the existence of a highly developed system of communications and the spreading of a homogenous mentality over vast areas.
The people no longer believe in principles, but will probably periodically believe in saviours.
Neither in the life of the individual nor in that of mankind is it desirable to know the future.
In history the way of annihilation is invariably prepared by inward degeneration, by decrease of life. Only then can a shock from outside put an end to the whole.
To each eye, perhaps, the outlines of a great civilization present a different picture. In the wide ocean upon which we venture, the possible ways and directions are many; and the same studies which have served for my work might easily, in other hands, not only receive a wholly different treatment and application, but lead to essentially different conclusions
All spiritual growth takes place by leaps and bounds, both in the individual and, as here, in the community. The crisis is to be regarded as a nexus of growth.
Not every age finds its great man, and not every great endowment finds its time. There may not exist great men for things that do not exist. In any case, the dominating feeling of our age, the desire of the masses for a higher standard of living, cannot possibly become concentrated in one great figure. What we see before us is a general leveling down, and we might declare the rise of great individuals an impossibility if our prophetic souls did not warn us that the crisis may suddenly pass from the contemptible field of “property and gain” on to quite another and that then the “right man” may appear overnight – and all the world will follow in his train.