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Gunnar Heinsohn

Gunnar Heinsohn

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Gunnar Heinsohn is a German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 and economist
An economist is a professional in the social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts from economics and write about economic policy...

. He was born in Gdynia
Gdynia is a city in the Pomeranian Voivodeship of Poland and an important seaport of Gdańsk Bay on the south coast of the Baltic Sea.Located in Kashubia in Eastern Pomerania, Gdynia is part of a conurbation with the spa town of Sopot, the city of Gdańsk and suburban communities, which together...

, Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, under German occupation used as Kriegsmarine
The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

-Arsenal and named Gotenhafen, on November 21, 1943 to Roswitha Heinsohn, née Maurer and the late Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Heinsohn, last serving on U-438. Since 1984, he has been a tenured professor at the University of Bremen
University of Bremen
The University of Bremen is a university of approximately 23,500 people from 126 countries that are studying, teaching, researching, and working in Bremen, Germany...

, where he heads the Raphael-Lemkin Institut for Comparative Genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

 Research named for Raphael Lemkin
Raphael Lemkin
Raphael Lemkin was a Polish lawyer of Jewish descent. He is best known for his work against genocide, a word he coined in 1943 from the root words genos and -cide...

. His list of publications includes almost 700 scholarly articles, conference presentations, and books. His research has been focused on developing new theories regarding the history and theory of civilization
Civilization is a sometimes controversial term that has been used in several related ways. Primarily, the term has been used to refer to the material and instrumental side of human cultures that are complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor. Such civilizations are generally...


Ancient history

Heinsohn proposed a revision of ancient chronology
Chronology is the science of arranging events in their order of occurrence in time, such as the use of a timeline or sequence of events. It is also "the determination of the actual temporal sequence of past events".Chronology is part of periodization...

 based upon stratigraphy
Stratigraphy, a branch of geology, studies rock layers and layering . It is primarily used in the study of sedimentary and layered volcanic rocks....

. Taking Immanuel Velikovsky
Immanuel Velikovsky
Immanuel Velikovsky was a Russian-born American independent scholar of Jewish origins, best known as the author of a number of controversial books reinterpreting the events of ancient history, in particular the US bestseller Worlds in Collision, published in 1950...

´s revised chronology as a starting point, Heinsohn went on to criticize Velikovsky's chronology as Biblical fundamentalism
Fundamentalism is strict adherence to specific theological doctrines usually understood as a reaction against Modernist theology. The term "fundamentalism" was originally coined by its supporters to describe a specific package of theological beliefs that developed into a movement within the...

, proposing an even more drastic revision that is being disputed in circles of chronological revisionists, but is generally being rejected by mainstream historians. What seems to be unique with Heinsohn's approach is that his relative chronology is exclusively based on stratigraphy.

His work on ancient chronology, based on an examination of the stratigraphic record, has reached some dramatic conclusions. He finds, for example, that 19th century archaeologists constructed their picture of the region around the chronology provided in the Old Testament, with the result that they created a "phantom" history which began two thousand years before any real history began. In other words, Heinsohn's interpretation of the stratigraphic evidence suggests that Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations arose around 1,100 BCE, not 3,200 BCE, as the textbooks say. He emphasizes, for example, the fact that the chronology now found in the textbooks does not differ to any great degree from the chronology established by Eusebius in the fourth century, who sought to "tie in" the histories of Egypt and Mesopotamia with that of the Old Testament, for the purpose of validating the latter. It was such Bible synchronisms which originally placed Menes, the first Pharaoh, in the fourth millennium BCE (he was equated with Adam, the first man) and placed Ramesses II
Ramesses II
Ramesses II , referred to as Ramesses the Great, was the third Egyptian pharaoh of the Nineteenth dynasty. He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire...

 in the fourteenth century (he was believed to have been the Pharaoh of the Exodus, owing to the Book of Exodus giving the name of "Ramesses" to one of the cities built by the Hebrew slaves). That this chronology was well entrenched long before the scientific investigation of the past is illustrated by the fact that Napoleon famously placed the Great Pyramid "forty centuries" before his time. The French commander therefore dated the structure to circa 2200 BCE - not far removed from the date still found in the textbooks. Yet Napoleon made his famous speech over twenty years before Champollion had even begun to crack the hieroglyphic code.

Heinsohn's ideas on ancient chronology were introduced to the English-speaking world in the Velikovskian journal Kronos
Kronos (journal)
Kronos: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Synthesis published articles on a wide range of subjects as diverse as ancient history, catastrophism and mythology. It ran 44 issues from the Spring of 1975 to the Spring of 1988. The title is an homage to the Greek name for the Roman god Saturn whose...

in 1985. They have found support with a small number of writers and academics, most of whom are favorably disposed towards Velikovsky; amongst whom are Professor of Philosophy Lynn E. Rose, Professor of Classics at Bard College
Bard College
Bard College, founded in 1860 as "St. Stephen's College", is a small four-year liberal arts college located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.-Location:...

 William Mullen, Professor of Art History Lewis M. Greenberg, speech writer and long-time observer of the Velikovsky scene Clark Whelton, German independent scholar Dr Heribert Illig
Phantom time hypothesis
The Phantom time hypothesis is a conspiracy theory developed by Heribert Illig in 1991. It proposes that there has been a systematic effort to make it appear that periods of history, specifically that of Europe during the Early Middle Ages exist, when they do not...

, and British writer Emmet Sweeney. However, his views have been severely criticized by several students of Velikovsky-inspired ancient chronology revision: Aeon editor Dwardu Cardona, New Zealand researcher Lester Mitcham, University of New Orleans Professor of History William H. Stiebing, Jr., British researcher Anthony Rees and Aeon publisher Ev Cochrane. Stiebing's critique argued four points: (1) The great antiquity of civilization is based on more evidence than just the Old Testament, (2) epigraphy and philology disprove Heinsohn's revision, (3) scientific dating is more reliable than Heinsohn admits, and (4) archaeological stratigraphy is more complicated than Heinsohn's simplistic perspective would have it. Mitcham concludes ". . . [I]t is quite clear that none of Heinsohn's claimed alter-ego identifications can be regarded as valid. Claimed alter-egos have totally different reign lengths, while within a dynasty it is often necessary for Heinsohn to omit mention of kings who have no corresponding alter-egos. The ancient records themselves prove Akkad as Babylonia, that rulers who Heinsohn claims did not exist are well documented, as are many others who receive no attention at all - probably because they cannot be placed within Heinsohn's revision." Cochrane concluded his critique of Heinsohn's equating Hammurabi with Darius as follows: ". . . Heinsohn's reconstruction cannot be taken seriously for the simple reason that it is entirely at odds with the historical record it seeks to reform. . . . [I]t seems clear that his theory raises more problems than it solves and requires ad hoc suppositions galore. That Heinsohn is forever misrepresenting his sources does not inspire confidence in his methodology. . . . Heinsohn's reconstruction cannot be made to square with the historical record." These critiques have been ignored by Heinsohn. Because of the problems with his methodology almost all professional ancient historians, Egyptologists, Assyriologists, archaeologists, and specialists in scientific dating methods reject Heinsohn's claims.


On the origin of sacrifice
Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals or people to God or the gods as an act of propitiation or worship.While sacrifice often implies ritual killing, the term offering can be used for bloodless sacrifices of cereal food or artifacts...

 and priest kingship in Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

, Heinsohn suggested an explanatory model based upon a catastrophist view of ancient history and a psychoanalytic interpretation of sacrificial rituals.


Heinsohn holds that the Jewish people were the first in occidental
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

 history to abolish sacrifice
Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals or people to God or the gods as an act of propitiation or worship.While sacrifice often implies ritual killing, the term offering can be used for bloodless sacrifices of cereal food or artifacts...

 in the name of a general prohibition of killing, thereby providing an example to other religions still practicing sacrifice that this is unnecessary. As the Jewish prophet Hosea stated: "For kindness I desired, and not sacrifice, And a knowledge of God above burnt-offerings.". According to this view that is in some respects similar to a psychoanalytic view, antisemitic hatred has its origins in the feelings of guilt towards the sacrificed human or animal; turning those feelings of self-hatred towards those who do not take part in the ritual of sacrifice allows for continuing with the sacrificial practice. Heinsohn contrasts Jewish abstinence from sacrifice with the Christian belief in Jesus as someone who died for the Christians' sins, which he interprets as a regression to sacrificial practices of prehistory and as a core source of Christian-Jewish controversy.

Heinsohn suggested that Hitler wished to erase—physically, intellectually and spiritually—the meaning and heritage of Judaism and Jewish ethics from Germany and its European allies by literally destroying the Jews as a people. This is how Heinsohn explained the Holocaust: as an attempt by Hitler and his Nazi cohorts to wipe out the memory and the idea of Jewish ethics. This was in order that the Germans as a people could have the "stomach" to wipe out and conquer other people and lands they wished to conquer, to make others slaves or to murder them without any pangs of what Hitler called the "Jewish invention": the conscience or ethical norms brought into Western civilization on the part of the Jews - and inherited by Christianity. According to Heinsohn, Hitler felt that it was the "Jewish conscience" he was fighting against and trying to eliminate for the Germans, so they would be able to do what Hitler thought they should do, to act with utter conscienceless brutality to get what he felt was entitled to them. According to Heinsohn, Hitler also saw in the Christian churches signs of this "Jewish conscience," so the Christian ethics he wanted to wipe out was a "Judaized" ethics and the church, insofar as they followed this "Jewish ethics," was equally endangered. For Heinsohn, it is this aspect of Hitler's thinking and his intentions and the power this form of anti-Semitism possesses that are vital as an explanation for the Holocaust.

Property and money

Heinsohn proposed the theory of property
Property is any physical or intangible entity that is owned by a person or jointly by a group of people or a legal entity like a corporation...

, interest
Interest is a fee paid by a borrower of assets to the owner as a form of compensation for the use of the assets. It is most commonly the price paid for the use of borrowed money, or money earned by deposited funds....

 and money
Money is any object or record that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts in a given country or socio-economic context. The main functions of money are distinguished as: a medium of exchange; a unit of account; a store of value; and, occasionally in the past,...

 and the role of free wage labour for the technical progress and continual process of innovation
Innovation is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society...

 of modern Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an civilization that is seen as a central feature of capitalist
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

In the social sciences, modernization or modernisation refers to a model of an evolutionary transition from a 'pre-modern' or 'traditional' to a 'modern' society. The teleology of modernization is described in social evolutionism theories, existing as a template that has been generally followed by...

 (whereas socialist modernization has been mainly imitative and not innovative). In collaboration with his colleague, economist Otto Steiger, Heinsohn criticized the "barter paradigm", the idea that money was historically invented as a medium of exchange to facilitate barter. He replaced it with a property based credit
Credit (finance)
Credit is the trust which allows one party to provide resources to another party where that second party does not reimburse the first party immediately , but instead arranges either to repay or return those resources at a later date. The resources provided may be financial Credit is the trust...

 theory of money that stresses the indispensable role of secure property
Property is any physical or intangible entity that is owned by a person or jointly by a group of people or a legal entity like a corporation...

 titles, contract law and especially contract enforcement, liability
Legal liability
Legal liability is the legal bound obligation to pay debts.* In law a person is said to be legally liable when they are financially and legally responsible for something. Legal liability concerns both civil law and criminal law. See Strict liability. Under English law, with the passing of the Theft...

 and collateral
Collateral (finance)
In lending agreements, collateral is a borrower's pledge of specific property to a lender, to secure repayment of a loan.The collateral serves as protection for a lender against a borrower's default - that is, any borrower failing to pay the principal and interest under the terms of a loan obligation...

 to create secure, transferable debt titles that central bank
Central bank
A central bank, reserve bank, or monetary authority is a public institution that usually issues the currency, regulates the money supply, and controls the interest rates in a country. Central banks often also oversee the commercial banking system of their respective countries...

s will accept as collateral for issuing bank notes. This paradigm provides institutional microfoundations for monetary theories of production developed in the Keynesian tradition. Credit theories of money have existed since mercantilism but have not become the dominating paradigm in monetary theory. Besides promoting their paradigm it as an alternative foundation for triggering economic development (much in line with the insights of Hernando de Soto
Hernando de Soto (economist)
Hernando de Soto is a Peruvian economist known for his work on the informal economy and on the importance of business and property rights. He is the president of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy , located in Lima, Peru.-Childhood and education:Hernando de Soto was born in 1941 in Arequipa,...

, Tom Bethell
Tom Bethell
Tom Bethell is a journalist who writes mainly on economic and scientific issues, and is known for his support of the market economy, political conservatism, and fringe science. He says that neither evolution nor intelligent design is falsifiable....

 and Richard Pipes
Richard Pipes
Richard Edgar Pipes is an American academic who specializes in Russian history, particularly with respect to the Soviet Union...

), Steiger has applied it to an analysis of the eurosystem
The Eurosystem is the monetary authority of the Eurozone, the collective of European Union member states that have adopted the euro as their sole official currency...


While this approach has similarities with institutional economics, its major differences are (1) a non-universalist, cross-cultural approach that is in line with results from economic anthropology
Economic anthropology
Economic anthropology is a scholarly field that attempts to explain human economic behavior using the tools of both economics and anthropology. It is practiced by anthropologists and has a complex relationship with economics...

 (Marshall Sahlins
Marshall Sahlins
Marshall David Sahlins is a prominent American anthropologist. He received both a Bachelors and Masters degree at the University of Michigan where he studied with Leslie White, and earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University in 1954 where his main intellectual influences included Karl Polanyi and...

, Karl Polanyi
Karl Polanyi
Karl Paul Polanyi was a Hungarian philosopher, political economist and economic anthropologist known for his opposition to traditional economic thought and his book The Great Transformation...

, Marcel Mauss
Marcel Mauss
Marcel Mauss was a French sociologist. The nephew of Émile Durkheim, Mauss' academic work traversed the boundaries between sociology and anthropology...

 and others) and strongly doubts "homo oeconomicus
Homo Oeconomicus
Homo Oeconomicus is an interdisciplinary peer reviewed academic journal publishing studies in classical and neoclassical economics, public choice and social choice theory, law and economics, and philosophy of economics....

", providing instead a specific explanation for how strategies of economic efficiency become functional only in monetary economies based on property and enforceable contracts; (2) a systematic reconstruction of the connection between property, enforceable contracts, interest, credit/money and the banking system as a basis of a monetary theory of production, and (3) a systematic explanation for technical progress and innovation based on this reconstruction and the phenomenon of free wage labour, which explains the differences in innovativity and progress between the monetary economics of antiquity and modern times. Heinsohn and Steiger's model has been discussed in some post-Keynesian circles, and it has been criticized by Nikolaus K.A. Läufer.


Heinsohn has discussed the origin of modern European demographic patterns (starting with an intense increase in population growth
Population growth
Population growth is the change in a population over time, and can be quantified as the change in the number of individuals of any species in a population using "per unit time" for measurement....

 in early modern times, leading to sub-replacement fertility
Sub-replacement fertility
Sub-replacement fertility is a total fertility rate that leads to each new generation being less populous than the previous one in a given area. In developed countries sub-replacement fertility is any rate below approximately 2.1 children born per woman, but the threshold can be as high as 3.4...

 at the dawn of the 21st century), including an interpretation of the European witch-hunts of early modern times as pro-natalist re-population policy of the then dominant Catholic Church after the population losses the black death
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

 had caused This interpretation has received mixed responses. It has been criticized and rejected by German historians Walter Rummel, Günther Jerouschek, Robert Jütte and Gerd Schwerhoff - replies to those criticisms can be found in. Prominent historian of birth control John M. Riddle
John Riddle
John Riddle is an Alumni Distinguished Professor emeritus of History at North Carolina State University and a specialist in the history of medicine.His specialization is the history of drugs particularly during the classical and medieval periods....

 has expressed agreement.

Youth bulge

He is known most widely for his theory of the Youth Bulge. He argues that an excess in especially young adult male population predictably leads to social unrest, war
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

 and terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

, as the "third and fourth sons" that find no prestigious positions in their existing societies rationalize their impetus to compete by religion or political ideology. Heinsohn claims that most historical periods of social unrest lacking external triggers (such as rapid climatic changes or other catastrophic changes of the environment) and most genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

s can be readily explained as a result of a built up youth bulge, including European colonialism, 20th century Fascism
Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood...

, and ongoing conflicts such as that in Darfur
Darfur conflict
The Darfur Conflict was a guerrilla conflict or civil war centered on the Darfur region of Sudan. It began in February 2003 when the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and Justice and Equality Movement groups in Darfur took up arms, accusing the Sudanese government of oppressing non-Arab Sudanese in...

, The Palestinian uprisings in 1987-1993 and 2000 to present, and terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...



Heinsohn's contributions to genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

 research include an encyclopedia of genocides, a generalized version of youth bulge theory and a new theory of Hitler´s motivation for the Holocaust.

External links