Lecture by ZeMKI member Prof. Dr. Rainer Stollmann

On the topic "On the high wire between feudalism and capitalism : Till Eulenspiegel in Bremen".

The lecture by ZeMKI member Prof. Dr. Rainer Stollmann on the occasion of the Focke Museum's exhibition "Till Eulenspiegel in Bremen" will take place in Lloyd-Passage 5 from 1 September.

The lecture will cover the following topics:

The Russian cultural researcher Mikhail Bakhtin (1895 - 1975) speaks of a "millennia-old carnivalesque folk culture" that began with the invention of agriculture. Farmers in Lower Saxony still say today when they spread manure: "Let's go tickle the field," i.e. make nature "laugh" (blossom, bear fruit). This agrarian optimism is enlightenment before enlightenment. It is not directly directed towards reason, but towards laughter, which is directed against medieval fear. When Immanuel Kant speaks of the "courage" one needs to think for oneself, he could have drawn on this oral grotesque laughter culture if he had known it.

The sociologist Norbert Elias says of the Middle Ages that it was "the rule of bands of robbers". Objectively, that may be true. Subjectively, however, according to the desires, as an ideal, feudalism was a fidelity relationship like a good marriage or friendship. One exchanges loyalty for loyalty, there is no cheating. The lord protected his vassal, and in return the vassal had to pay taxes. If the lord could not or would not protect him, the free peasant, who was not a slave, was allowed to look for another lord. The peasants in the so-called Peasants' War were still concerned with restoring this relationship of loyalty.

Since the 11th century, in the developing cities, this principle of a personal allegiance eroded. Marx speaks of "exchange value having no atomic use value", i.e. it is completely indifferent to use value. A clever entrepreneur pays attention to what comes out the back of the deal, whether he sells milk or machine guns. How powerful early capitalism, indifferent to human fidelity relations, became over the centuries can be seen in the Fuggers in the 15th/16th century. They were able to buy an emperor and finance mercenaries against the rebellious peasants.

From Marx also comes the idea that "capitalism and feudalism are one epoch". Capitalism, in fact, cannot separate itself from fidelity relations, they are its prerequisite: the primal trust with which children come into the world, the parental child-rearing out of "love", which is still unpaid today; but also all human relational relations that really keep social life going in enterprises and administration. Capitalism ignores the fact that it depends on such fidelity relationships. Eulenspiegel's name characterises capitalism's relationship to feudalism. It is a Low German name which - as will be shown - illustrates this relationship in a drastically sensual way and reveals its contradiction. Eulenspiegel (but also, for example, Don Quixote andRabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel) is a fantasy vessel that takes this contradiction to grotesque or absurd ends in all sorts of ways. Like any serious theorist, he is a rider of principles of the Enlightenment on his horse, who wants to show: things cannot remain as they are. This is particularly evident in the four Eulenspiegel stories, which are set in Bremen and affect all estates. There is the sentence: "Wars will only stop when people begin to be disgusted by weapons." For this reason, the bourgeois Enlightenment must be supplemented by the peasant and plebeian Enlightenment.