What is Zeitgeist?

§ September 16th, 2014 § Filed under Uncategorized § No Comments

Zeitgeist written by: mistydawnm Zeitgeist is a German word translating to meaning the spirit of an era. The word is attributed to the philosopher Georg Hegel, although he never specifically used the word itself. It is a philosophical idea that the dominant intellectual schools of thought of any given age will shape and characterize the cultural production produced within it. No individual may surpass their time, as they are necessarily a product of it. This is in direct contradiction with the philosophical ideals of Thomas Carlyle, who’s ‘Great Man’ theory characterizes history through the manifestations of individual geniuses.

The zeitgeist approach to leadership can be best viewed in opposition to Carlyle’s ‘Great Man’ theoretical approach to leadership. The ‘Great Man’ theory approaches leadership in a manner that certain individuals have certain innate personality characteristics that make them born leaders. In psychology, this theory is further extended under the trait approach. Psychologists engaging in trait research, seek out personality characteristics that would give insight to an individuals aptitude to lead or conform. Trait researchers believe that certain individuals are more pre-dispositioned to leadership roles than others. In contrast, the zeitgeist approach to leadership sees leaders as a manifestation of the social conditions of their time. It is believed that any individual might develop leadership capabilities if their social circumstances warranted it. This is compared to situationism in psychology.

The zeitgeist approach to history indicates that complimentary revolutionary ideas will emerge simultaneously by different people regardless of actual contact with one another. It is believed that due to the nature of the times, and the ideas that are circulating among the populace, individuals would come up with similar theories. For example, had Charles Darwin not published his theory of evolution, Alfred Wallace would have. Wallace had come to the same conclusions regarding natural selection. Darwin wasn’t a ‘Great Man’, but merely a product of his time. Zeitgeist theory shows that ideas will only circulate and become popular when the general populace is ready to receive them. For example, Twitmeyer’s paper on knee-jerk was too divergent of the times in 1902, and was better received later in the 1920s when the zeitgeist shifted to logical positivism.

In contemporary society, business executives, journalists, and venture capitalists have argued that evaluating the zeitgeist is helpful for the success of new industries and releasing product innovations. The likeliness of success for a new product is very much intwined with the circumstances of the times surrounding its launch. The zeitgeist market is inundated with new developments at such a rapid speed, that the business model needs to shift from service innovation from product innovation in order to be successful in today’s open source global market. This has worked very well in a number of markets, including the Fort Myers real estate market.