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Theodor Herzl once contemptuously remarked that he regards Freiland as a joke. This statement surprises if one compares his novel Altneuland (Oldnewland) to Theodor Hertzka's Freiland. To say the least, both utopias share many themes and narratives structures. While Altneuland (1902) became the world-renowned manifesto of Zionism, Freiland (1890) cherished popularity only at the time of its publication. Both novels are products of Vienna's fin-de-siècle modernism. Herzl's utopia is set in Palestine, Hertzka places Freiland in the empty space of East Africa. His vision of a new civilization in Africa coincided with European colonialism, nationalism and the surge of anti-Semitism in Vienna. In the following, the essay investigates if Hertzka merely criticizes the culture of fin-de-siècle Vienna, or, if he produces a unique alternative?

[Hertzka's Freiland ] is an ingenious bit of fantasy, devised by a thoroughly modern mind schooled in the principles of political economy, but as remote from life as the equatorial mountain on which this [End Page 74] dream state is located. And even seeing Freeland associations come into being, I should regard the whole thing as a joke.

—Theodor Herzl

Theodor Herzl's contemptuous remark may come as a surprise when one compares his novel Altneuland (Oldnewland) to Theodor Hertzka's Freiland (Freeland). To say the least, both utopias are critiques of Vienna's fin-de-siècle decadence and share many themes and narrative structures. While Altneuland (1902) became the world-renowned manifesto of Zionism, Freiland (1890) enjoyed popularity only at the time of its publication. Herzl's utopia is set in Palestine; Hertzka's narrative takes place in the empty space of East Africa. If Altneuland oscillates between a vision of a sparsely populated Near East and a geopolitical action plan, Freiland seeks to inhabit previously unpopulated territory. Hertzka's vision of a new civilization in Africa coincided with European colonialism and the surge of anti-Semitism in Vienna. In the following, I investigate if Hertzka merely posits Freiland as a critique of Vienna's fin-de-siècle culture or if he produces a veritable alternative.

Figure 1. Frontispiece and title page of Theodor Hertzka's, Freiland: Ein Soziales Zukunftsbild, 10th ed. Dresden: E. Pierson, 1896. Author copy.
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Figure 1.

Frontispiece and title page of Theodor Hertzka's, Freiland: Ein Soziales Zukunftsbild, 10th ed. Dresden: E. Pierson, 1896. Author copy.

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Utopian fiction as a literary genre dramatizes the need for social change; these visions of a better society ought to shatter and overcome society's ideological status quo. Yet narrative utopias are neither literature presenting fictional experiences nor social theory presenting totalities. Paradoxically, utopias achieve their greatest influence because of their inability to represent alternative societies systematically, and their "historical originality . . . as a genre thus lies in its capacity to mediate between two different cultural and social realities, between the world that is and that which is coming into being."1 Hence, what renders Hertzka's utopia productive is not its literal representation of a perfect society but, rather, its contradictions, dislocations, and blind spots.

Unlike Germany in the 1880s, the Austro-Hungarian Empire did not participate in overseas European imperialism. In fact, the Habsburg Empire was the only European imperial power that did not possess overseas colonies and, at least officially, did not seek to obtain some. Some might view the Austrian extension into the Balkans as inner colonialism akin to Russia's expansionist policies in the same region. Hence the absence of Austrian overseas colonies should not deceive us into describing Habsburg as a nonimperialist power. As the Bosnian example illustrates, Austria, at the time others were looking for colonies overseas, was busy promoting Germanic culture, science, and humanism in Eastern Europe.2 It is precisely in this context of European colonial expansion and the intensification of anti-Semitism in Vienna that one man had his sudden vision of founding a new civilization in eastern Africa: "My intense delight at making this discovery, robbed me of the calm necessary to the prosecution of the abstract investigations upon which I was engaged. Before my mind's eye arose scenes that the reader will find in the following pages—tangible, living pictures of a commonwealth based upon perfect freedom and equity, and which needs nothing more to convert it into a reality beyond the will of a number of resolute men."3 The author who was thus diverted from his scholarly pursuits was Dr. Theodor Hertzka, a well-known commentator on current affairs in Vienna at the turn of the last century. He was born in 1845 in Budapest and studied macroeconomics in Vienna and Budapest. From 1872 to 1879 he was responsible for the economic section of the liberal Viennese daily Freie Neue Presse. At the same time Hertzka published several academic studies regarding financial and currency issues of the day, in which he stated his social-liberal convictions, such as [End Page 76] individual freedom in all economic aspects of life and approval of individual self-interest as a driving force for economic growth. He believed that societal affluence comes about "through planned growth, but, above all, a synthesis of communal ownership [and] individual effort and free trade."4

In the 1890s, with the publication of the novel Freiland and the accompanying journal Zeitschrift für Staats- und Volkswirtschaft, his professional life came under the spell of his utopian vision. With the growing public interest, Hertzka published a sequel, Eine Reise nach Freiland (A Journey to Freeland), in 1893. Soon "Freeland committees" were founded throughout Austria and Germany, and merely four years later, in 1894, a small group of dedicated activists organized a poorly supported expedition to the Freeland region in East Africa, but they soon encountered insurmountable problems and had to cancel the project after only six weeks. As the sociologist Franz Oppenheimer notes in his memoirs: "Like all utopians Hertzka clearly saw the goal but not the way toward its attainment. If it had been possible, to transport to Kenya even just a few thousand people, together with the minimally necessary simple tools and weapons, it might have been possible to bring about the development, albeit much more slowly than Hertzka hoped. . . . The English prevented the expedition from proceeding into the interior, and that was lucky for them; the Masai would most likely have slaughtered them."5 With the complete failure of the expedition, public interest rapidly ceased, and Hertzka adopted instead, in his little known third novel, Entrückt in die Zukunft (Removed to the Future [1895]), a temporal displacement scheme for a utopian colony. By the end of the century, he left Vienna and moved to Budapest, taking on various editorial positions. At the end of his professional career, Hertzka published Das sociale Problem (1912). In this study, he tries to elaborate and prove the real reasons for mankind's oppressive living situation. Hertzka ardently argues for the intertwined relationship between economics and religion. In the preface of the book, he states that "religion, and only religion, had the spiritual potential to succeed in domesticating the naturally free human species to alienated purposes."6 The last years of his life he spent quietly at his daughter's residence in Wiesbaden, where he died in 1924.


According to the historian Carl E. Schorske, Austrian bourgeois liberals during Hertzka's formative years perceived "themselves to be combating [End Page 77] the socially superior, and the historically anterior."7 Liberalism represented rational progress and enlightenment. This optimism of action shifted by the 1880s, when economic and political developments made it impossible for Austrian liberals to respond positively to perceived failures in the political arena. This cultural elite of alienated bourgeois liberals, according to Schorske's paradigm, withdrew into the aesthetic and artist realm and thereby shaped modernist fin-de-siècle Vienna. Suffice it to say, numerous scholars have revised Schorske's exalting paradigm. For instance, Steven Beller objects to the suggestion that Vienna's modernism was "the product of the cultural elite of an alienated liberal bourgeoisie." In his reading Viennese culture around 1900 appears as "something more particular: the response of a culture elite of an alienated Jewish liberal bourgeoisie."8

As we will see, Hertzka never abandoned his enlightened liberal convictions. Even in the face of an ever-growing tidal wave of anti-Semitism in Vienna, he continued to publish and lecture on contemporary politics. With nationalistic politicians like Georg von Schönerer and Karl Lueger, vicious anti-Semitism became more pervasive, and the possibility of a successful Jewish assimilation into Austrian society increasingly became doubtful. In fact, anti-Semitists attacked Hertzka's novel and movement early on. One example was the assertion that since Jews financed the Freeland movement, the whole enterprise could only be dirty business. Furthermore, the racists deceitfully convinced Christian workers that Dr. Hertzka only sought to lure them to Freeland in order to sell them through "his capitalistic middlemen as slaves down there."9 In reality, Hertzka sought after communities that were regulated by custom and tradition. Interestingly enough, such communal longing is close to Ferdinand Tönnies's conservative concept, which "rests on harmony and is developed and ennobled by folkways, mores and religion."10 However, Hertzka also emphasized enlightened universal values and proposed to supersede the opposition of town and country through radical land reforms and refined zoning laws.

The decline of liberalism and the surge of anti-Semitism in Vienna inspired Hertzka not only to write Freiland but at the same time to give many political speeches. To better understand Hertzka's motivations, it is revealing to read his speech "Arischer und Semitischer Geist" ("Arian and Semitic Spirit"), which he presented at the "Society of Austrian-Israelian Union" and was published in the Österreichische Wochenschrift on January 20, 1893. Explaining religious and technological progress, Hertzka expounds a [End Page 78] dichotomy between Jews and Christians: "We Semitists are suited to ethical inquiries, for philosophy, while the Aryan races have a great talent for natural scientific inquiries." But as an enlightened liberal he is equally interested in the subsequent synthesis: "It seems, therefore, that fate has preordained for these two races the achievement of a great purpose through their united powers."11 Judaism and Christianity share the biblical dictates of "love thy neighbor" and equal justice under God for all faithful, while the Romans, like the indigenous Germans, believed in a plurality of deities, which runs contrary to an equality of justice: "The Aryan nobles were descended directly from the various gods and the common people were the herd rising from the dust."12 Nevertheless, Christ explicitly calls for the brotherly equality advanced by the Jews. Hertzka dryly alludes to this insight with his comment: "Christ was, in a word, a Jewish Socialist and was executed as such in Jerusalem. If he had lived in Vienna, his destiny would not have been different.13 In other words, both Jews and Christians have emerged from the same Old Testament tradition, and contemporary anti-Semitism is not in any way attributable to the murder of Christ by the Jews.

Mindful of his bourgeois audience, the author considers the uprooting of the Jews from Viennese society as a harsh critique of their assimilated self-identity. Hertzka characterizes the extent of anti-Semitism in Viennese society in the following terms: "At least a third, perhaps half (voice from the hall: 75 percent!) of our fellow Viennese citizens, who are otherwise noted for their good-naturedness and harmlessness, have been infested with this plague."14 In light of these alarming premises, Hertzka might have been able to conclude without further discussion that Zionism provided the only realistic reaction to the prevailing xenophobia. Yet Hertzka sees in this distressing situation a chance for a fresh start rooted in brotherhood: "Hand in hand, and only hand in hand, with our Christian fellow citizens, we are called to manage a revolutionary transformation such as has never been seen before. We are poised on the threshold of a new era, which will be so different from that which preceded it that, in the entire course of the history of mankind, only one such transformation can be compared with it, that is the advance from cannibalistic barbarism to civilized culture."15 Although the utopian Hertzka seems unaware of the dialectic of enlightenment, he realizes the present pivotal moment of modernity with all its possibilities. Walter Benjamin calls those moments messianic holes in time "that mark the uneven, lurching and deeply contested movement of modernity."16 In these liminal moments, utopias could bridge [End Page 79] the differences between different social structures. But Hertzka's confidence in mutual Judeo-Christian resolution stems from the nineteenth-century liberal ideal of the good society situating the free individual at the center of the social world: "In that day in which Liberalism will proclaim that political freedom is only the beginning of freedom that economic freedom must first be brought into existence."17

His analysis emphasizes the economic aspect of this ontological crisis and is grounded in the liberal concept of free market forces, which seemingly can overcome even xenophobia and which will finally make possible the assimilation of the Jews. Hertzka posits the synthesis of the active, though xenophobic, research mentality of the Aryans with the contemplative ethics of the Jews. In this future heaven on earth, arts ("the incarnation of the beautiful" = Jewish) and science ("the incarnation of the sublime" = Christian) will reciprocally fulfill each other. Although Hertzka is fully aware of the anti-Semitism in Vienna, for his assimilated audience he portrays xenophobia as a catalyst to a beautiful liberal world. In this light, the freedom of the African plains that Hertzka is going to describe in Freiland appears as a reflection of a partially unperceived, but real, lack of freedom for Jews in Vienna.


Freiland recounts the utopian story of the settlement of enlightened European colonists in Kenya, near the nomadic Masai. The first part of the novel describes the proclamation of an international society for the envisioned project of a colony in the East African lake highlands. The main character, Dr. Karl Strahl (= "beam of light"), a thinly disguised alter ego of the author, is part of the Viennese establishment and, like Hertzka himself, a well-respected macroeconomic publicist. His announcement, published in all the leading European and American newspapers, petitions for support of his endeavor to settle down on an "ownerless, but fertile" area (1). The news of the proposed undertaking evokes an overwhelming and immediate response, and at the beginning of the following year a first expedition of two hundred Freeland followers is sent to the prospective region between Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya. The other significant protagonist is Henry Ney, a young engineer, who leads the expedition and narrates [End Page 80] the story in the form of a diary. Because of organizational commitments, Dr. Strahl remains in Europe, while preparations for the expedition move forward without interruption. A beautiful, young American, Ellen Fox, stirs up some controversy when she insists on joining the otherwise exclusively male expedition corps. In Henry Ney's sister, Klara, she finds a well-intended companion, who ultimately manages to broach a marital union between her brother and Ellen. The balance of the first part of the novel is dedicated to a detailed description of the expedition to Kenya: The assembly point is Alexandria; from there the route takes the Europeans to Zanzibar and finally to Mombasa in Kenya. On the fourth day of the journey, the expeditionary corps has a peaceful encounter with a regional warrior tribe, the Masai. At the beginning of July, merely one year after Dr. Strahl's announcement, Freeland, with its capital Edenthal, is founded.

The second part of the book reports the development of Freeland in the following five years from the perspective of a European visitor to Edenthal. Already within a year of its founding, ninety-five thousand people live in the city and work in 218 different associations incorporating eighty-seven diverse trades. As envisioned by the author, only three years later, the number of inhabitants has grown to 780,000, and merely twenty-five years after the inception of the colony, twenty-six million whites and fifteen million natives peacefully share Freeland territory. The narrator's diary meticulously describes the technological progress in the newly founded colony: Three thousand freight ships distribute the products of Edenthal throughout the world; an interlaced network of artificial canals (17,800 ships) and of rail lines with a combined length of 575,000 kilometers serves as infrastructure in this economic wonderland set in the heart of Africa.

Shortly after the twenty-fifth anniversary of the colony, Freeland is attacked by Ethiopia, but its youthful militia heroically defeats the aggressor. The victory also marks the final triumph of the colony's economic ideas and is an attempt to show the global proliferation of Edenthal's flourishing model. Committees from all over the world send delegates to an international congress. Leftist followers from Russia debate with rightist skeptics the historical and philosophical implications of Freeland. The congress concludes: "We have seen that all the bases of Justice, such as Reason, speak in favor of the transition from exploitative to free economic activity, with the transition accomplished peacefully through the [End Page 81] acknowledgement of collectively acquired rights and that the means are readily obtainable" (352). That is to say, utopian Freeland will become global reality.


In Hertzka's work, empty space is described as a possibility for another order of meaning and with potential for cultural alterability. Progress is expressed quantitatively in numbers, with scientifically measured space, plans for economic growth, and urban development. The new functional technoparadise embraces the trajectory of the Enlightenment in the malleable African environment: "Technology and rational organization of labor took the place of ancient magic and gave the imaginary society verisimilitude and, alas, a deadly earnestness."18 Freeland rapidly develops new technologies and methods of production, which yield national prosperity. This technological superiority comes in handy once the peace-loving Freelanders encounter the belligerent Masai. In a mere ten minutes, heavy and light artillery is set up, and the otherwise nonviolent Freelanders transform themselves into a straight line of cavalry ready to fight. After the Masai demand a levy as tribute, the seasoned Africa traveler Thomas Johnston, who happens to speak the Masai dialect, asks the warriors if the land belongs to them and explains to the Masai their options: "We won't pay levy to anyone, we offer gifts to our friends, and horrible weapons to our enemies!" (24). In a courtly gesture, Johnston demands instead from the Masai freedom for their African hostages, who are from a tribe that is already allied with the Freelanders. Disregarding this threat, the Masai warriors start the fight. The Masai, however, only endure one cannon salvo: "When the guns thundered, the rockets, hissing and crackling, swept over their heads, and, above all, the uncanny creatures with four feet and two heads rushed upon them, they turned in an instant and fled away howling" (24). Hertzka portrays this first encounter as a confrontation between civilization and nature. In his description, the African warriors merely perceive this encounter with civilization as the earthly manifestation of an uncanny mythological figure. The reference here is, of course, to the horse-mounted cavalry. In the following paragraph, the narrator depicts for the first time the African other in detail: "The captured Masai were fine daring-looking fellows, and maintained a considerable degree of self-composure in spite of their intense [End Page 82] alarm and of their expectation of immediate execution. Fortunately there was among them their leitunu, or chief and absolute leader of the party—a bronze Apollo standing 6ft 6 inches high. He looked as if he would like to thrust his sime, or short sword, into his own breast when the Wa-Duruma, who had begun to collect about us, ventured to mock at him and his people and to shout aloud for their death" (25). Rather than suffer loss of honor and pride, this brave fighter would prefer to take his own life with his short sword. Hertzka's narrator, Henry Ney, represents the Masai as "noble savages" (25), with a graceful bearing despite their looming defeat. Their leitunu (sovereign) is a "bronze colored Apollo" (25), with an imposing stature. The savage warrior turned God of light and muses is figuratively transferred from the African highlands to the cradle of Western civilization. It is remarkable how the European narrator instantly idealizes the exotic African warrior, projecting noble traits of ancient Greek mythology to the "native" other but without wanting to share his fate. What follows sounds like one of Karl May's "exotic" Native American stories: The Europeans invite the hostile Masai to become their blood brothers, thus swiftly resolving the first serious conflict of the expedition.

Although blood brothers by now, Henry Ney insists on a separation between the Europeans and Africans because he imagines that sexual transgressions between the European colonizers and Africans might occur: "It was almost sunset before the last of the Masai men left our camp whilst the prettiest of the girls and women showed no inclination to return to their household gods. The men realized this, but obviously did not mind that their women and daughters accompanied the generous strangers even after sunset. Masai custom demands this, and we had difficulty to save ourselves from the consequences, without insulting the smelly, but even for European standards well-figured, brown ladies."19 The European travelers resist the feminine lure of the "dark continent," and they repress their desires seemingly because of the awful oily smell of the otherwise "well-figured" women. Interestingly enough, in the English translation of Freiland and in the last German edition (tenth), which is commonly used in the research literature, the acknowledged sexual fantasies (in italic type) are omitted. On another occasion, Hertzka concedes that the high number of male immigrants to Freeland, and especially the resulting involuntary celibacy, at first caused intrigues involving native girls and women in the Masai country. Only after the foundation of Edenthal, he asserts, did the young European settlers without [End Page 83] exception resist temptation: " In Taveta and Masailand, a few isolated cases of intrigue with native girls and wives had occurred. In Kenia, our young people had, without exception, resisted the enticements of the ugly Wa-Kikuyu women; but our young people could not permanently be required to exercise a self-denial which, particularly in this luxurious country, would be contrary to nature."20 Moreover, only the first edition of Freiland admits the existence of "natural" desires and especially the initial sexual contact of Freeland "conquistadors" with native women. The savage beauties are brazen about their sexual desires, and this calls for a reserved and cultured response. The prudery of the two white ladies on the expedition is indicative of the civilization that first must be taught to these "naïve" people: "Prudery is unknown in Equatorial Africa; and the Taveta beauties would have been as little able to understand why anyone should think it wrong to open one's heart to a guest as their white sister's would have been to conceive of the possibility of talking freely and in all innocence of such matters without giving the least offence to friends and relatives" (33). Suffice it to say, as a journalist Hertzka must have been aware of the fledging women's liberation movement, but the two "white sisters," the beautiful American Ellen Fox and the smart sister of Henry Ney, find their fulfillment in marriage and the social sphere. Apparently, Freeland limits women's freedom to natural reproduction and the aesthetic realm. Consequently, it is Ellen Fox who describes the natural splendor of East Africa first. When the expedition arrives in the lush Mt. Kenya region, the breathtaking beauty of the crystal-clear mountain peaks affect both Europeans and Swahilis, although each quite differently: "Even the Swahili, who are generally indifferent to the beauties of nature, broke out into deafening shouts of delight; but we whites stood in speechless rapture, silently pressing each other's hands, and not a few furtively brushing tears from their eyes" (45). While the cultured Europeans honor the natural beauty with a respectful and restrained silence, the Africans cannot help but childishly voice their emotions. To paraphrase Hertzka's aesthetic inspiration, Johann J. Winckelmann: The simple minded cannot appreciate grandeur quietly. Speechlessness as a trope occurs again when our explorers come across a natural valley surrounded by hills and a crystal-clear lake. The only creatures resident in this stunning arena are elephants, zebras, and antelopes. The ineffable reaction to this paradise is speechless delight. But Ellen Fox regains her speech first, and ecstatically [End Page 84] she stammers: "Let us call this place Eden" (51). Like the Jews in his talk "Arian and Semitic Spirit," women are relegated to contemplation, while industrious white males guarantee Freeland's technological progress.


The enchantment of this unspoiled nature, together with the absence of any sign of civilization, exemplifies a uniquely Germanic colonial gaze within the larger context of European colonialism in general. As Russell Berman notes, the "difference vis-à-vis France and England is this: in place of threatening multiplicity, [and] the confrontation with barbarian hordes, its primal scene involves a self-assertion in a vacuum, emptied of any potential threat, an enforced singularity and a return to an origin."21 Accordingly, Hertzka, rather than dwelling on the confrontation with hostile warrior tribes, presents instead an idyllic empty space waiting to be civilized. That is to say, it is not the encounter with Africans that brings about an altered self but, rather, the imagined spatial transfer, with its revelation of natural beauty, that would dissolve Vienna's social and xenophobic problems. Berman observes in the German colonial literature contemporary with Hertzka a "capacity to recognize and appreciate—appreciate even at the moment of colonial appropriation—the other culture" and further hypothesizes "that there is a strain in German culture that allows for the appreciation of difference."22 But even if Hertzka's utopian armchair colonialism stresses peaceful European intentions, and the Africans are assured that they will not be forced to give up their land, the potential for the appreciation of African culture and the alteration of European attitudes as a direct result of the colonial experience is overlooked in Freiland. Not having traveled to Africa himself, Hertzka feels the need to justify his fictional image of Africa: "The highlands in Equatorial Africa exactly correspond to the picture drawn in this book. Who doubts this, check my narrative against Speekes, Grant, Livingstone, Baker, Stanley, Emin Pascha, Thomson, Johnston, Fischer, in short all who have visited the paradisiacal area" (443). Quite literally, Hertzka's utopia is informed by contemporary European travel writing and involuntarily reproduces the occidental image of Africa of the late nineteenth century. Furthermore, Hertzka is caught up in the codes and models of his metropolitan lifestyle, [End Page 85] and his narrative is lacking the meaningful colonial cross-cultural encounter he could write about.

Toward the end of the book, Karl Strahl, Hertzka's fictional alter ego, presents his universal, historic conception of human evolution: In the gray mist of prehistory, mankind lived in the tropics in paradisiacal tranquility with himself and with nature. Through the process of civilization people learned to exploit nature and its riches for human purposes, and the peaceful coexistence of mankind with nature lost its binding force. At the same time, a large part of the populace migrated to the temperate northern zones of the earth. Now situated in this inhospitable environment, people were compelled to subjugate nature. If this process is ended with the help of technology and the elements are mastered, then the Freeland adherents will return to their more human place of origin in the tropics and will redeem humanity. The reversion and return to tropical origins elucidate Hertzka's rhapsodic description of the African highlands and his allusion to paradise regained: "Alienation from the essential origin—reversal—return to origin and with it, redemption, is able to explain the nearly hymn-like description of the Central African highlands. Paradise is regained; humankind is redeemed."23 Put differently, Hertzka opts for an enlightened evolutionary approach through which humans ought to move out of their present dire situations to search for a more suitable place.


Edward Said's thesis of French and British Orientalism focuses on the nexus of nation-state, colonial expansion, and cultural production. For the German context he claims: "The German Orient was almost exclusively a scholarly, or at least a classical, Orient: it was made the subject of lyrics, fantasies, even novels, but it was never actual, the way Egypt and Syria were actual for Chateaubriand, Lane, Lamartine, Burton, Disraeli, or Naval."24 In the case of Hertzka's fiction, Said's statement rings—at least partially—true. Instead of creating a nation-state, Hertzka envisions a pan-European empire, guided, however, by a leadership grounded in the tenets of Germanic culture. The "International Association of Freelander" claims a common European identity that is beyond the narrow confines of the nation-state. Still the Europeans are so superior, technologically and scientifically, that they see it as their task [End Page 86] to educate the Africans while treating them as minors. Thus, colonization is not viewed as a hostile act toward the natives but, rather, as a pedagogical necessity to achieve advancement for all. Hence, the "reverse migration" of the Europeans does not cause Hertzka to have any qualms of conscience, and accordingly he mentions the cross-cultural encounter merely in passing.

Hertzka's ideal is closer to a creation of an elitist multicultural state than to a nation-state. And although Hertzka proposes an ideal of equality and ponders about employment of Africans freed of the usual colonial exploitation, the reality of Freeland would be a caste system, with little social contact between Africans as menial workers and whites as rulers. Effectively, Freeland would structurally not be too different from the actual nineteenth-century European colonies in Africa. Like Mary Louise Pratt's imperial travelers, Freelanders mention animals, humans, and cultural artifacts, but they "are most often disembodied, erased and robbed of their subjectivity."25 Thus the distant African people and landscape provide for Hertzka, unlike Berman's appreciative German explorers at the end of the nineteenth century, a screen onto which reflections of the self are projected.

As a narrative, Hertzka's novel may lose some of its appeal through a detailed depiction of the future society, or as Theodor Adorno dryly puts it: "As they [utopias] have been realized, the dreams themselves have assumed a peculiar character of sobriety, of the spirit of positivism, and beyond that, of boredom."26 Still, Edenthal is not merely an image of Vienna in reverse order but, rather, an attempt to mediate between two different organizations of a society. Freiland endeavors to resuscitate the positive aspect of technological progress by repressing the negative social implications of Viennese modernism. Even though Hertzka's utopia addresses most of the uncertainties of this liminal modernist moment, his prescription to overcome these uncertainties fails to fully realize his liberal concept of mutualism. For contrast, consider that the French philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon envisions in mutualism a society in which everyone possesses the means of production. For Proudhon mutualism balances individual and collective needs in order to avoid class struggles. By this standard Hertzka's narrative overlooks the plight of native Africans. Even if his liberal consciousness and empathetic conscience sympathized with the Viennese proletariat, Hertzka was seemingly blind to the similarities in the plight of the Viennese working poor with that of the Masai whose land he sought to colonize. While this limited perspective is characteristic of his time, it shows an inconsistency between his willingness [End Page 87] to dispossess the indigenous inhabitants and his progressive utopia, which strives for "a social synthesis between economic individualism and the principle of absolute justice."27 Hertzka, true to the conceits of his time, never questioned his belief in the moral superiority of the European culture.


In the introduction to Freiland, Hertzka compares himself to Francis Bacon, and like the British philosopher, the Viennese economist suspends his academic pursuits to compose a political novel based on sober reality. As he puts it: "First of all I hoped to bring about an understanding of these difficult questions—which are the topic of the book—through a most vibrant and descriptive arrangement and hopefully the book finds more readers than a dryly systematic report would have found" (XVI). While Bacon's explorers encounter a superior society in New Atlantis from which they learn, bringing home new scientific methods, Hertzka's Freelanders assert themselves by cutting through the umbilical cord joining them to the motherland while trying to export enlightened European values to Africa. Hertzka's Freeland in the heart of Africa and Herzl's Zionist state in the Near East were located in these empty or sparsely populated regions in order to avoid collision with existing societies. The fanciful travel narratives and social utopias fulfilled the popular yearning for openness, untrammeled by economic or political oppression. Undoubtedly, Hertzka had a profound influence on Herzl's Zionist utopia Altneuland. In addition to all sorts of technical inventions, it is primarily the cooperative economic order, which mediates between individualism and collectivism, that reveals their spiritual relationship. As the president of the "Jewish Territorial Organization for the Settlement of the Jews within the British Empire," Israel Zwangwill, puts it: "Herzl would not be without a Jewish State, . . . but there had not been a Jewish State without Freiland."28 In fact it was Zwangwill who opted for the British colonial secretary Joseph Chamberlain's offer to allow his group to take possession of six thousand square miles in the Ugandan highlands. If the Zionists had settled for Uganda, they would have been—ironically enough—in the immediate vicinity of the Freeland territory. However, history played itself out differently, since the majority of Russian Zionists voted against Chamberlain's proposal at the "6. Zionist Congress" in Basel in August 1903. [End Page 88]

But Hertzka's utopia is of more than mere historical interest to a present-day reader; some of its central issues are still relevant for the contemporary reader: alternative communities, free markets, property regulations, welfare state, or technological progress. Yet it is not the novel's innovations that set Freiland apart from comparable utopias of its time; rather, what makes it notable is Hertzka's successful attempt to influence the contemporary Viennese debates through his colonial utopia. Moreover, Hertzka rethought the social fabric of the Habsburg Empire at a point in time when most of his contemporaries were mired in the concept of the nation as something permanent and transhistorical. He developed instead the idea of a transnational European empire and envisioned a common European identity beyond the narrow confines of the imperial nation-state. This vision alone, I surmise, qualifies Hertzka as a veritable utopian thinker.

Ulrich E. Bach

Ulrich E. Bach is an assistant professor of German at Texas State University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a dissertation titled "Tropics of Vienna: Austrian Colonial Utopias." His present research focuses on late nineteenth- to early twentieth-century cultural studies. Recent works include an article called "Sacher-Masoch's Utopian Peripheries" in German Quarterly (2007) and the essay "The Book Collector Eduard Fuchs," in Publishing Culture and Reading the Nation, edited by Lynne Tatlock (2010).


. I am grateful to John Cumming, Andrew Hewitt, Charlton Payne, and Tanya Weimer for their indispensable comments, suggestions, and questions. I would also like to thank the anonymous Utopian Studies reviewers for providing such helpful and productive criticism.

1. Phillip E. Wegner, Imaginary Communities: Utopia, the Nation, and the Spatial Histories of Modernity (Berkeley: University Press of California Press, 2002), 37.

2. See Robert J. Donia, "The Proximate Colony: Bosnia-Herzegovina under Austro-Hungarian Rule," September 11, 2007, accessed September 15, 2010,

3. Theodor Hertzka, Freiland: Ein Soziales Zukunftsbild, 10th ed. (Dresden: E. Pierson, 1896), xxi; my translation. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text by page number, unless otherwise noted.

4. Paul Jackson, "Freiland. Theodor Hertzka's Liberal-Socialist Utopia," German Life and Letters, New Series, 33, no. 4 (July 1980): 269-75, at 270.

5. Franz Oppenheimer, Erlebtes, Erstrebtes, Erreichtes: Lebenserinnerungen (Düsseldorf: Johannes Melzer, 1964), 139-40.

6. Theodor Hertzka, Das sociale Problem (Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1912), ix.

7. Carl E. Schorske, Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture (New York: Vintage Books, 1981), 117.

8. Steven Beller, ed., Rethinking Vienna 1900 (New York: Berghahn Books, 2001), 9.

9. "Journalstimmen," Zeitschrift für Staats- und Volkswirtschaft 5, no. 13 (1894): 14.

10. Ferdinand Tönnies, Community and Society, ed. Charles P. Loomis (New York: Harper and Row, 1957), 223.

11. Theodor Hertzka, "Arischer und Semitischer Geist," Österreichische Wochenschrift 1, no. 20 (1893): 37-41, at 37. [End Page 89]

12. Ibid., 39.

13. Ibid., 38.

14. Ibid., 40.

15. Ibid., 41; emphasis added.

16. Walter Benjamin, paraphrased in Wegner, Imaginary Communities, 10.

17. Hertzka, "Arischer und Semitischer Geist," 43.

18. Frank Manuel and Fritzie Manuel, Utopian Thought in the Western World (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979), 767.

19. Theodor Hertzka, Freiland: Ein sociales Zukunftsbild (Leipzig: Duncker und Humblot, 1890), 35; my translation.

20. Ibid., 177; my translation.

21. Russell Berman, Enlightenment and Empire: Colonial Discourse in German Culture (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998), 102.

22. Ibid., 235.

23. Heinz Eberdorfer, "Africa Utopica: Das Bild Afrikas und der Afrikaner in literarischen Utopien und utopischen Projekten," Geschichte und Gegenwart 6, no. 2 (1984): 117-43, at 125.

24. Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), 19.

25. Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel, Writing, and Transculturation (London: Routledge, 1992), 125.

26. Theodor Adorno, in Ernst Bloch, The Utopian Function of Art and Literature: Selected Essays (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1988), 18.

27. Birgit Affeldt-Schmidt, Fortschrittsutopien: Vom Wandel der utopischen Literatur im 19. Jahrhundert (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1991), 110.

28. Quoted in Franz Neubacher, Freiland: Eine liberalsozialistische Utopie (Munich: R. Oldenburg, 1987), 55. [End Page 90]

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