schiller: shakespeare plus freedom


In turn, part of Schiller’s anthropological realism was his recognition of fundamental “drives” or desires in Man. They were of a lesser physical denomination than Freud was to posit later, even though the subconscious and sexual drives are addressed in some of his plays, most importantly in Don Carlos. But the two main drives that Schiller identified in his theoretical writings are what he called the Stofftrieb and Formtrieb. They refer to Man’s desire to accumulate matter, “stuff”, substance, but also to the necessity to give shape to the amassed material. Again, the issue is how these drives relate to, or are compatible with, Schiller’s concept of freedom. He did not suggest that we could, or should, attempt to emancipate ourselves from those urges. Freedom means that we make use of them “freely”. We should “play” with them, for they should not govern or even overpower us. Schiller’s concern about how we can preserve our freedom in the face of conflicting interests, external pressures and expectations was echoed some 200 years later when Heinrich Böll, the 1972 Nobel Prize winner for Literature, said in his last major interview: “Every day one segment of our liberties passes away.” These concerns are today more relevant than ever. We need to be careful not to turn into captives of our ever-growing desire to increase self-protectionism. To live means to be exposed to risk. We can try to minimise it but we will never eliminate it. Fate and failure strike when we least expect them. We should remain free in the way we deal creatively with risk. The risk assessors and managers of today, who failed so blatantly prior to the recent credit crash, should read more Greek and Shakespearian tragedies, and a great deal of Schiller before they start assessing risks again. In short, we cannot afford ever to forget Schiller again, in this country or anywhere else.

more from Rüdiger Görner at Standpoint here.