Völkisch movement

The völkisch movement (German: völkische Bewegung, "folkish movement") was the German interpretation of a populist movement, with a romantic focus on folklore and the "organic", i.e.: a "naturally grown community in unity", characterised by the one-body-metaphor (Volkskörper) for the entire population during a period from the late 19th century up until the Nazi era.


The term völkisch (pronounced [ˈfœlkɪʃ]) derives from the German word Volk (cognate with the English "folk"), corresponding to "ethnic group" of a population and people, with connotations in German of "people-powered". According to the historian James Webb, the word also has "overtones of 'nation', 'race' and 'tribe'".[1] The term völkisch has no direct English equivalent, but it could be rendered as "ethnonationalistic", "racial-nationalistic" or "ethno-racialist".

The völkisch "movement" was not a unified movement but "a cauldron of beliefs, fears and hopes that found expression in various movements and were often articulated in an emotional tone", Petteri Pietikäinen observed in tracing völkisch influences on Carl Gustav Jung.[2] The völkisch movement was "arguably the largest group" in the conservative revolutionary movement in Germany.[3] However, like "conservative-revolutionary" or "fascist", völkisch is a complex term ("schillernder Begriff").[3] In a narrow definition it can be used to designate only groups that consider human beings essentially preformed by blood,[3] i.e. by inherited characteristics.

The defining idea, which the völkisch movement revolved around, was that of a Volkstum (literally "folkdom", with a meaning similar to a combination of the terms "folklore" and "ethnicity"). Volkstümlich would be "populist", or "popular", in this context.[citation needed]