The Lebensreform

“The Lebensreform movement had offshoots in the vegetarian, clothing reform and anti-alcohol movements which demanded a transformation of lifestyle with rejection of unbridled consumerism and commercialism”[1] stated P. Weindling in 1989.

Many might be thinking what is all this issue about the Lebensreform and why it is significant. The truth is that this particular subject is not very well-known outside the German-speaking countries, but I do consider it should be something to revise and rethink as it could be useful to understand and reconsider the actual situation that we are living.

The Lebensreform (or life reform movement) started a t the end of the 19th century, but it had a bigger impact during the first decades of the 20th century, particularly in Germany and Switzerland. It aimed to return mankind’s lifestyle to a more natural way of life. These “first hippies” followed ideals related to a healthier diet based on natural ailments, natural medicine, and sexual freedom. As one of their principal figures understood it, they were the “champions of a new culture who adopt a negative attitude to the machine age in Western Europe”[2]. This was the period of philosophical uprisings and social utopies, and this one was not an exception. Their ideals were extremely influenced by Nietzsche and Darwing, and encouraged by the failure of the capitalist welfare {3}. They thought life should be lived in an easier way; it should be easy-going, simple, but especially full of freedom.

The new generations (the youth) and particularly the students were the mayor supporters of the movement as they were impregnated with the new socialist ideas, and were those in closer contact with these changing world full of toxins (mental and physical)[4]. However, the ideas they followed were susceptible to interpretation and this ended up in the division and fragmentation of the movement in different subcultures and submovements. For instance, one of the more popular ones was the Volkische Bewegung, which promoted the revival of traditional societies based on agriculture and crafts[5]. Some others turned to be communists, and even members of the National Socialist party. Nonetheless, they all shared common features that could be summarised as follows: they anxiety to escape their suffocating society and a wish to turn the tables[6].

As one can easily expect, the movement died easily, mostly due to the fragmentation of its supporters in different subgroups, in addition to the revival of capitalism. It could be said that it survived somehow in the later american hippies, as many of these Lebensreformers ended in the United States, hoping to find a more open-minded population. Some could say that the clear, existing legacy of the movement is the company of retail stores called Reformhaus, and other similar entities (organic food markets, herbalists, etc…). But, anyways, the fact is that it failed…If not you all would know about it, would you?

So, why paying attention to a lost cause like this one? Well, as you may have suspected already, June is the month we have decided to dedicate to all this good ideas that for some reason or another did not have the impact desired in their times. But that they failed then does not mean they cannot succeed now. Who knows, with all these crises around the world, all this suffering and war, lack of resources…Humanity is screaming for a change…Maybe it is time to look back in history, and give the Lebensreform another chance…Even if it is just recycling a couple of good ideas, we can make changes happen…

So please, listen to this message: do not give up on something just because it did not work once…Things just not suddenly happen, they need effort…Maybe you can take a couple of ideas from this or our following posts.


Weindling, P., Health, Race and German Politics Between National Unification and Nazism, 1870-1945 (Cambridge, 1989)

Thomas, R.H., Nietzsche in German Politics and Society, 1890-1918 (Manchester, 1983)

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