DW recently: The first vaccine opposition groups were founded in 1869 in Leipzig and Stuttgart — five years before the imperial vaccination law. The Imperial Association Opposing Compulsory Vaccination soon had 300,000 members [!]

This was one of the seeds that later grew into the Lebensreform movement. I am beginning to appreciate Gadamer more, Heidegger too. Perhaps Foucault. Is this a way out of the continual invasions (Einfall) of capitalism upon us? Particularly Gadamer.

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    "the continual invasions (Einfall) of capitalism upon us" What does it mean? Sep 10, 2021 at 6:29
  • They were dealing with a very rapid industrialization of German Society. Here is the DW article m.dw.com/en/in-germany-vaccinations-have-always-been-political/…
    – Gordon
    Sep 10, 2021 at 6:43
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    This question is awfully unclear. Is what a way out of the "continual invasions" of capitalism, and which "invasions" in particular are you talking about? Are you saying mandatory vaccination is an "invasion" and you want to know if Gadamer, Heidegger, or Foucault are "ways out" of vaccination? Certainly not.
    – causative
    Sep 10, 2021 at 7:14
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    I fail to see how capitalism and compulsory vaccination are necessary context for the question whether Gadamer (or Heidegger, or Foucault, for that matter) can be used to support the case made by the Lebensreform movement.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Sep 10, 2021 at 7:15
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    It's interesting to me that people claim government actions like stay-at-home orders and mask mandates are illegitimate. But, clearly, if it was an ebola outbreak, or the black death, governments have always taken the power to act for collective interest. Opposition to the smallpox vaccine is fascinating: bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-50713991 But wasn't allowed to prevent eradication. It seems vaccine hostility is at least largely driven by the disgust response & 'behavioural immune system' ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6518846
    – CriglCragl
    Sep 10, 2021 at 15:48

2 Answers 2


Lebensreform is not about capitalism per se, but about appropriateness of Lebenswelt to the physical and psychological needs of human Being, ie. the horrible working and living situations that arose in the early days of industrialisation. Essentially, it is a turn against everything that makes humans sick and is tied only to their life circumstances, ie. can be encountered actively by nutrition, sports, different work and living settings, social and (if to one's liking) spiritual engagement. I'd be very careful to put more into it, since it can take (and took) fascistoid twists of imposed, unified ("superior") values quite fast then.

Understanding Lebensreform as I just did, I would deem there can be a case for Heidegger as providing arguments for such a movement. I am more skeptical when it comes to Gadamer, as he essentially is the one who turned Philosophical Anthropology and Lebensphilosophie back into rationalistic thought patterns. I would rather think Plessner and, when it comes to the more spiritual aspects of Lebensreform, Scheler, are better addressees here.

As of vaccination, I would be even more careful. There is a mingling of anti-capitalism, contemporary Lebensreform, and far-right movements who are unified under the "we are just critical/skeptical"-banner but essentially adhere to and spread conspiracy theories. One may think about how companies are allowed to make money out of it as one wants but vaccines are the single most important factor of improved health and life duration over the last 150 years. We could (we could not, a significant part of the world population would die horribly in famines before that, btw) all live "happily" on our farms (who's to say "we" want that and who is "we"?! -> danger of turning into fascistoid thinking), working hard every day to have something to eat and die earlier due to simple bodily attrition, we'd still have (and had) horrible diseases which wiped out significant parts of the human population time and again before we invented vaccines.

I know the latter is a rediculum and it should be taken with a pinch of salt. I just wanted to point out that there is a slippery slope if we romanticise pre-industrial life as the only possible physically and psychologically appropriate Lebenswelt - as many adherents of Lebensreform did and still do. It should not turn into essentialistic thinking of what "the human life" has to be like. The plasticity and indeterminancy of human life is, after all, a central part of the human condition (pace Plessner).

(Disclaimer: I think vaccination should be and remain a personal choice, and at the same time that it is a choice which affects the health and bodily integrity of all of us, since a certain quota is needed for them to be effective. Thus, if someone decides against it for whatever reason, they shouldn't be surprised if others decide that what has consequences for the rest should have consequences for them as well)

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    '+1 also if I strongly disagree on the assertion that "vaccination should be and remain a personal choice". Current "COVID-affected" state of the world shows that pandemic, its effects and its countermeasures are basically social facts. If the "single individual" lives alone (but it is not possible...) no pandemic at all. Sep 10, 2021 at 10:04
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    @MauroALLEGRANZA Generally, I think we aren't too far away from each other there. It's just that direct intervention into bodily integrity vs. passive impact on bodily integrity does, in my book, only allow for consequences that interfere with "lesser" rights, both constitutionally and ethically. For example, instead of saying "compulsory vaccination", I think it's more appropriate to say e.g. "We won't force you, but without vaccination, you cannot continue to work here under the current circumstances" - which is, I think, what is actually happening.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Sep 10, 2021 at 10:11
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    Agreed, it "sounds" less compulsory: but is it really so? Of course, if you want to go to Everest and live there alone, you are free to do it and no need of vaccination. But social life is interaction, like "working together". Sep 10, 2021 at 10:16
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    @MauroALLEGRANZA The consequence of enforcement is very different: We don't strap people on a table and force syringes into them, we impose social and economic consequences if they freely choose not to be vaccinated. Effectively, we tie social and economic consequences to a choice which has social and economic consequences.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Sep 10, 2021 at 10:18
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    It is hard to describe the situation in the USA right now. It’s rather shocking in some respects. Biden reminds me of the authoritarian Woodrow Wilson. I am opposed to mandates, even when done through proxies like employers. Some of Biden’s supporters are in lockstep behind him. I see now that the liberal technocrats may take up the worst interpretation of Nietzsche and become “Nihilists of mere Comfort” instead of the aristocratic more austere “we philosophers” I think I understand Heidegger a bit better now, but I’m not sure.
    – Gordon
    Sep 10, 2021 at 10:31

In the USA, President Biden announced some rather dramatic interventions to “solve” our Covid problem. This is a health problem, and and economic problem: the desire to get the economy on it’s feet and the involvement of corporations, Pfizer, Moderna and an intervention into the body, power over the body (Foucault).

I have studied the Lebensreform movement for a while. It was a German response to capitalism in my opinion. This today we have other problems attributed to capitalism by some: Climate Change. Can the response to this today be Marx? Probably not since he would naturally take over the capitalist economic base. Fast, potentially destructive growth would still occur.


This set me thinking of Heidegger and Gadamer. As people here know, I often make mistakes with Heidegger! I already asked a question about Heidegger and Lebensreform. We do know of Heideggers warning about technology. And though I know very little of Gadamer, maybe he offers a way forward for us? I don’t know. Perhaps he does.

NB I think Heidegger cites Count Yorck. So there is the Dilthey connection. Lebensphilosophie. Life philosophy we also see in Ortega y Gasset (influenced by Heidegger) and Julian Marias. Lebensreform perhaps down a level. It was in the “air” so to speak, when Heidegger was young.

The criticism of G. Lukacs was that this was all simply irrational. [Destruction of Reason],But how do respond to the super-rational? Not too well it seems at the moment.

I’m thinking too of Heidegger’s little hut in the mountains. The well. Lebensreform had a “to the countryside” idea too.

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