“Dangerous Minds:” Wagner and Bakunin’s Social Imaginaries – Nationalist or Anarchist?

By María Castro and Javier Sethness Castro

Introduction: The Ring as Anarchist Social Imaginary?

Richard Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung (1874)based on medieval German and Scandinavian sources (The Nibelungenlied and The Völsunga Saga, respectively), explores the confrontation and mutual destruction of two distinct ideologies: that of Wotan, king of the gods, the archetype of greed, unlimited power, and transgressive behavior towards nature, and that of the Völsung (Aryan) Siegfried’s world, based on the desire to transform society, overthrow the gods, and achieve “natural balance.” The Ring thus explores the dialectical struggle, both in the imagination and in the physical world, between the forces of conservative reaction and the yearning for a more humane and equitable existence – however disgraced the latter cause is by the composer’s white supremacism. Wagner’s interest in the politically transformative potential of German mythology prompted him to read medieval literary sources that would serve as a basis for the creation of The Ring. He dedicated time to studying The Nibelungenlied with the purpose of creating a musical drama that would convey, through symbolism and allegory, an expression of his view of the need for total societal change—or palingenesis, a “rebirth,” from the ancient Greek.[1] For Wagner, art had a heroic purpose and the power to change audiences politically through the realization that they are part of a community.[2] As a counterpart to his actual music creation, Wagner’s literary work Opera and Drama (1851) theoretically outlines a musical-dramatic artwork that would be instrumental to his paradoxically reactionary and pseudo-revolutionary approach to social change.

If we examine Immanuel Kant’s critiques of judgment and reason, we see that this philosopher distinguishes between what he calls theoretical (or empirical-scientific) and non-theoretical judgment, and that within the latter realm lie pragmatic, moral, aesthetic, teleological, and potentially socio-political judgments.[3] While this language may be confusing for our own contemporary understanding, since we often consider philosophy to be theoretical and science not to be, Kant’s distinction is germane to his differentiation between the roles played by ideas in human knowledge, particularly between the constitutive and regulative functions. Constitutive ideas help to build collective human knowledge, whereas regulative ones seek to guide and inspire our thoughts and actions.[4] In The Critique of Pure Reason, Kant lists “God, freedom, and immortality” as principal regulative ideas of reason; for revolutionaries throughout history, freedom, justice, equality, and liberation have served as similar inspirations.[5] John Clark sets forth a similar framework with reference to the “social imaginary” and “social ideology,” by which he means collective fantasy life and mis/representations of reality, respectively.[6]

In The Ring, we see that Wagner employs progressive and anarchist regulative ideas, including the critique of capitalism and oppression, private property as theft, the exploitation of labor, and revolutionary insurrection.[7] Yet more than straightforwardly collectivist, or communist-anarchist, Wagner’s social imaginary includes national-anarchist, Aryanist, “national revolutionary,” “conservative revolutionary,” and proto-fascist fantasies.[8] In this crossover can be seen how Wagner’s operas were readily adopted as cultural symbols of German National Socialism. Indeed, Adolf Hitler was reportedly very moved while watching a performance of Wagner’s Rienzi, asserting that the opera had encouraged him to enter politics.[9] Parsifal, an opera that has clear anti-Semitic overtones, similarly attracted and had enormous power over the future German dictator.[10] Jew-hatred for Wagner in fact forms an important part of his palingenetic or “redemptory-regenerative” ultranationalism, as the plot of The Ring reveals. Controversially, this pseudo-revolutionism has clear affinities with the social ideologies of anarchists like Mikhail Bakunin and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, thus highlighting the cross-over between revolutionary left-wing thought and palingenetic ultranationalism, when mediated by racism and hierarchy. Attack! and National Vanguard, the newspapers of the US-based neo-Nazi National Alliance, founded in the 1970’s, would publish articles describing Hitler’s seizure of power as a “German Revolution,” and that called on their readers to “Smash the System!”[11] Like Wagner, the National Alliance sought to create a totalitarian political religion reminiscent of the Nazi strategy of uniting bureaucratic terror with “symbols, mythology and rituals.”[12] 

It is clear to us that the process of composing The Ring cycle—which is comprised of the four operas Das Rheingold (“The Gold of the Rhine”), or part I; Die Walküre (“The Valkyries”), or part II; Siegfried, or part III; and Götterdämmerung (“Twilight of the Gods”), or part IV—was in part influenced by Wagner’s collaboration and comradeship with Bakunin, with whom he fought on the barricades in Dresden during the 1849 uprising. Proudhon’s mutualism and Ludwig Feuerbach’s anti-theism resonate as well. 

The politics of Wagner’s art surely resonate today in the calls to “cancel” the rocker Morrissey, following his open support for the rightist and Islamophobic “For Britain” party.[13] While there is an informal ban on public performances of Wagner’s music in Israel, Slavoj Žižek argues that there are parts of Wagner that are “worth saving,” and that we should “leave behind this search for the ‘proto-Fascist’ elements in Wagner”—thus reflecting his own Stalinism.[14] Certainly, we disagree with Žižek, and sympathize with Israeli historian David Witztum’s view that “there is humanistic justification for not” holding public performances of Wagner’s music.[15] We also agree with Guardian journalist Jeff Sparrow’s view that, though contemplating fascist ideology and practice may be unpleasant, the neo-fascist threat must be understood, and so we must discuss it, “without euphemisms and evasions.”[16]

Let us now briefly consider some of the evidence favoring the thesis that Wagner, by promoting a palingenetic vision, contributed to the collective anarchist social imaginary – putting his contributions to having also prepared an Aryan political religion taken up by the Nazis to the side, for a moment.[17]

“Dragon roof,” Casa Battló by Antoni Gaudí (Barcelona, 1906)

Many nineteenth-century radicals themselves loved Wagner’s music, considering it an expression of the possible liberated future, while contemporary conservatives would often associate Wagner’s music with an advocacy of atheism, free love, and the “further[ing of] socialism and the throwing of bombs.”[18] The Russian Marxist Georgi Plekhanov, for one, heard anti-capitalist elements in Wagner’s music, which also influenced the anarchist-sympathizing Symbolists in France and Russia.[19] It is also known that Wagnerism was a predominant artistic current in Barcelona’s bohemian milieu during the 1890s.[20] Indeed, Gaudí and the Art Nouveau artists professed a deep admiration for Wagner, due to his chromatic musical innovations and progressive vision, which coincided with the rebellious spirit of the moment. In parallel, Patricia Leighton likens Wagner to Mallarmé and Pissarro in terms of their common equation of “artistic [and] political liberation,” whereas Richard Sonn argues that Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerken (“total art-works” or “syntheses of all the arts”) anticipated Peter Kropotkin’s “dream of a collective as well as total work of art produced by co-operatives in the anonymous manner of medieval art.”[21]

Nonetheless, the direct connection between Wagner and anarchism is seen most vividly in his befriending of Bakunin, to whom he was introduced by August Röckel, and his participation along with the Russian militant in the Dresden revolt of May 1849, one of the final irruptions of the 1848 Revolutions in Europe. Though Bakunin was not yet at this time a self-proclaimed anarchist, he had already seven years prior outlined his faith in the “passion for destruction” being a “creative passion” as well, and accordingly had been sought by the authorities of the Prussian, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian Empires following his agitation in favor of rebellions throughout Europe. George Bernard Shaw thus has a point in hypothesizing that Bakunin served as a model for Siegfried, Wagner’s messianic hero in The Ring.[22]

By examining the commonalities in the social ideologies to which Wagner and Bakunin subscribed – namely, anti-Semitism, feminism and anti-feminism, and a palingenetic commitment to revolution – we discuss how anarchism and anti-theism influenced the creation of The Ring as an epic opera that depicts the rise and fall of capitalism. Nevertheless, in light of the anti-Semitism that drives The Ring, we cannot overlook the undeniable Aryanist, national-anarchist, and proto-fascist social ideologies contained within Wagner’s pseudo-revolutionism, which represent disturbing lines that connect typically left-wing notions of anti-statist and anti-capitalist upheaval with ultranationalist myth.

Dresden, May 1849: Wagner and Bakunin’s Joint Revolutionary Effort

Before their joint participation in the May 1849 rebellion in Dresden, Wagner and Bakunin had made each other’s acquaintance through Röckel, a German composer, conductor, editor, and Proudhonian socialist radical. In My Life, Wagner’s autobiography written in 1870, the author discusses Bakunin’s exposition of liberatory ideas about social revolution through the destruction of the sources of misery of the modern world and the creation of a new order by humans who would arise autonomously.[23] Wagner’s interest in the regulative idea of an artistic remodelling of human society found a strong philosophical connection to Bakunin’s social imaginary regarding the demolition of hegemonic cultural institutions.[24] Indeed, the Götterdämmerung’s finale (part IV) echoes Bakunin’s belief referring to Russian peasants, that “it was perfectly right for them to burn their lord’s castles, with everything in and about them.”[25]

During the May uprising of 1849, one of the last upheavals against despotism that began in March 1848 in the Prussian states, Bakunin, Röckel, and Wagner took to the streets of Dresden and fought in defense of their revolutionary ideas. Wagner apparently posted the following sign on the barricades: “Are you with us against the foreign troops?”[26] In My Life, Wagner narrates the details of the insurrection and Bakunin’s strategic actions in commanding the defense from Dresden’s Town Hall as well as the latter’s arrest by the police of the local government in the town of Chemnitz. Once the uprising was defeated, Wagner managed to avoid imprisonment by denying his participation in the uprising to the Prussian authorities, a story that was supported by Bakunin’s own denial of their joining in common action. In this way, Wagner escaped Bakunin’s fate as a political prisoner.[27] After his arrest, Bakunin was removed to Altenburg under a strong military escort, tried, and sentenced to death, only to be subsequently transferred to the Austrians, who decreed the same fate before extraditing him to Tsar Nicholas I.[28] In contrast, Wagner fled to Switzerland on a fake passport, settling ultimately in Zurich, where he would suspend work on The Ring to write such prose works as “Judaism in Music,” Opera and Drama, Art and Revolution, and The Art of the Future. The composer’s wife Minna had by May 1850 already recognized the “destructive influence” that Wagner’s “association with Bakunin and Röckel” had had on him.[29]

After May 1849, there is no evidence of further contact between the musician and revolutionary philosopher. Nonetheless, Bakunin’s anarchist ideas of creative and redeeming destruction are essentially echoed in the development of Wagner’s Ring, and the impact of their ideological collaboration for a new societal order profoundly resonates in the social imaginary of this Gesamtkunstwerk. Wagner’s dissatisfaction with contemporary Germany, which he believed to have been disenchanted by the hegemony of commercial interests – or, as he believed, “Jewish domination” – led him to read German medieval epics such as the Nibelungenlied and the Völsung sagas with the purpose of expanding his knowledge of Germanic culture and charting a path to find a literary and musical way to undo what he saw as the ills of society. For Wagner, the answer would be Aryan ultranationalism, and a central part of this social ideology is the anti-Semitism that Wagner and Bakunin shared. 

Affinities in Wagner and Bakunin’s Social Imaginaries

Much affinity exists between the socio-political imaginaries of Wagner and of the anarchists Proudhon and Bakunin. Though we cannot measure the relationship quantitatively, we wish to explore three spheres in which significant overlaps between anarchism and Wagner’s perspective can be found: anti-Semitism, feminism and anti-feminism, and revolutionism. 

Wagner typically portrays women in traditionalist, misogynist fashion, thus following Proudhon, though he does at times express a pro-feminist spirit in The Ring that is highly reminiscent of Bakunin’s approach. Yet even when Wagner portrays women as heroines, such ‘liberatory’ depictions cannot be divorced from the composer’s German nationalism and racism, and therefore remain opposed to universalistic and humanist conceptions of feminism. Indeed, Proudhon, Bakunin, and Wagner shared a hatred of Jews and Judaism. Theodor W. Adorno remarks that Wagner’s anti-Semitism is “something he shared with other representatives of what Marx called the German Socialism of 1848,” a chauvinistic and pseudo-revolutionary philosophy that in ways anticipated National Socialism.[30] Politically, although Wagner was known to favor constitutional monarchy in the wake of the suppression of the uprisings of 1848, and despite “having a king’s resources at his disposal” to finance his operas,[31] his early essays and several of his major artworks communicate revolutionary regulative ideas that are more in sync with Bakunin’s anarcho-collectivism than Proudhon’s gradualist mutualism, let alone any sense of monarchism. In fact, his biographers Hans Mayer and Ernst Newman believe that Wagner “was genuinely involved in revolutionary politics,” and that the composer felt compelled to “link his philosophical and literary reminiscences of young Germany [with his readings of] Feuerbach, Proudhon, and Stirner.”[32] In addition, Wagner’s anti-Semitism and Aryanism formed important parts of his social imaginary of revolution, leading to the conclusion that Wagner was a “conservative” or “national revolutionary” figure who contributed centrally in preparing the Nazi political religion.


Wagner’s anti-Semitic social ideology is expressed in his essay “Judaism in Music” (1850). In this tirade, Wagner describes stereotypes of Jewish appearance and speech as disagreeably foreign and alien to European nationalities, insisting on the necessity of “emancipation” from the supposed yoke of Judaism. To this point, Adorno remarks that one facet of Wagner’s hatred of Jews is his “fantasy of their universal power.”[33] In “Judaism and Music,” Wagner effectively expresses a vision of anti-Semitism as the “socialism of fools,” clarifying his racist antipathy towards what he considers the Jewish propensity to egoistic interest, profit and vanity, as well as Jews’ supposed incapacity for mutual interchange of feelings. According to Wagner, these personality features result in coldness and indifference to art-making, leading him to believe all Jews to be incapable of creating music as a vivid expression of life.

Anti-Semitism is thus a common ideology that Wagner and Bakunin share as regards their mutual rejection of capitalist society, which they viewed as being dominated by a Jewish conspiracy.[34] Bakunin, who equated the 1871 victory of Otto von Bismarck in the Franco-Prussian War with “the triumphant reign of the Zhids [!], of a bankocracy under the powerful protection of a fiscal, bureaucratic, and police regime which relies mainly on military force […] but cloaks itself in the parliamentary game of pseudo-constitutionalism,” also believed in the fantasy of universal Jewish power.[35] Bakunin held Marx in contempt for his triple identity as a “Hegelian, a Jew, and a German,” and he denounced militants such as Moses Hess for being “Jewish pygmies.”[36] Through his engagement with Feuerbach, Bakunin rather mechanically came to view Jewry as a mirror-image of Jehovah, who is portrayed in the Torah as “very brutal, very selfish, [and] very cruel,” and he concludes that the oppressiveness and irrationality of Christianity emanated from its Jewish rather than Greek side.[37] For Wagner’s part, the plot of The Ring posits a racial conflict between Aryans (or Völsungs), the gods, the giants, and the Nibelungs (or Jewish caricatures) that ends—in Siegfried at least—with Völsung victory over these ‘alien forces.’

Indeed, The Ring’s very action begins with the Nibelung character Alberich plundering the sacred gold of the Rhine river: the hapless Rhinemaidens can recognize the “loathsome one” from the very beginning, recalling that their “Father [had] warned us / of such a foe,” though they cannot ultimately avoid his appropriation of the Rhinegold and subsequent flight.[38] Given that forging the ring from the Rhinegold would “wi[n] its owner the world,” Alberich’s cunning transgression expresses and echoes well-known anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, to say nothing of the depiction of this dwarf’s enslavement of others of his kind in the hellish Nibelheim to accumulate capital.[39] When the gods descend to steal the ring from him in turn, Alberich curses it, dooming its wearer to oblivion. Later, he and his “hate” are described inexplicably as persisting beyond the eclipse of the immortal gods. Such nefarious occult powers resonate throughout the plot: even the messianic Siegfried, who expropriates the ring from the dragon Fafner after Mime (another Nibelung) puts him up to it, cannot avoid betrayal and murder at the hands of Hagen, Alberich’s son, who wishes to “recover” the ring for the Nibelungen in the Götterdämmerung (part IV). Wagner consciously depicts Hagen’s half-brother Gunther placing a blood curse on Hagen at the very end of the Götterdämmerung: “Woe and grief / For aye be thy portion!”[40]

This is highly reminiscent of the curse found in Matthew 27:24-25, describing how the crowd of Jews portrayed as demanding Pontius Pilate’s execution of Jesus the Nazarene supposedly acknowledged that his “blood [will be] on us and on our children.” As is known, this single line has been used as social ideology and imaginary to rationalize Christian violence against Jews for millennia, however dubious its claim to historical truth. As the biblical scholar Israel Knohl has recently emphasized, to generalize hatred for Jews based on the decision of the single Sadducee court which referred Jesus to Pilate is highly irrational and unjust, considering that the Sadducee sect was but a minority of Jews at the time, and one that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.[41]

Additionally, the closing cry of Wagner’s final opera, Parsifal – “The Redeemer redeemed!” – has a clearly anti-Semitic meaning, given the context of its plot: the opera’s finale shows the young Aryan hero Parsifal defeating the sorcerer Klingsor, yet another Jewish stereotype. The centrality of Jewish caricatures serving as antagonists in Wagner’s operas follows naturally from the composer’s openly anti-Semitic analysis of “Judaism and Music,” and it is reflected in his follower Carl Glasenapp’s assertion that the composer responded to the reported deaths of four hundred Jews in the 1881 fire in the Viennese Ringtheater by joking about this tragedy.[42] In The Ring, according to Adorno, Wagner had already “conceived the notion” of the “annihilation” of the Jews, thus providing ample inspiration to his “ideological descendants,” the Nazis.[43]

Racial conflict is very prominent in Wagner’s operas, especially Lohengrin (1850), The Ring (1874)and Parsifal (1882), and in some of Bakunin’s social ideology as well, at least at the time of Statism and Anarchy (1873). Both thinkers hence come together to seemingly prioritize racial conflict over class struggle in these texts or, to some degree, blend the two together, as in the paradoxical if not self-contradictory concept of a national or nationalist anarchism. Consider Adorno’s citation of Glasenapp recalling an older Wagner’s comment during a trip to Venice, when the composer remarked in Proudhonian fashion that private property, being theft, is the “source of all corruption,” before passing to claim the transfer of property in marriage to be the reason for “racial degeneration.”[44]

In Statism and Anarchy, written after Germany’s stunning victory in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), Bakunin advances a racialist interpretation of history, noting the existence of putatively “mutually antagonistic races.”[45] He essentializes Germans as “intrinsically bourgeois” and “statists and bureaucrats by nature,” and posits the existence of interminable racial conflict between Slavs and Germans, as based on a supposedly mutual hatred stemming from Bakunin’s view of “the historic mission of the Germans since ancient times:” namely, “to conquer the Slavic lands, to exterminate, subjugate, and civilize […] the Slavs.”[46] This contrast is especially relevant in terms of resisting the Tsarist Romanov dynasty, which Bakunin and the Slavophiles held to have been a German imposition resulting from the centralized power established by Peter the Great.[47]Though he explicitly distances himself from pan-Slavism, Bakunin nonetheless presents an essentially romantic social imaginary regarding the Slavs, who he proudly (if questionably) declares “never [to have been] a conquering nation,” and to have pioneered the idea of the destruction of Russian imperialism through the creation of a Slavic federal republic “with all land to be distributed to the people.”[48] About the non-Slavic ethnicities of the Russian Empire, Bakunin has less to say.

Undoubtedly, Bakunin’s propagandizing about the Slavs and his reduction in this text of the “German character” to being irretrievably supportive of despotism cannot readily be separated from his titanic ideological struggle with Karl Marx in the First International, which had formally ended with Bakunin’s expulsion by the German Communist at the Hague Congress of 1872 due to the Russian anarchist’s agitation against Marx’s preference for an electoral-statist strategy for the organization—and possibly due also to homophobia on Marx and Engels’ part, in terms of their aversion over a stipulated relationship between Bakunin and his nihilist protégé Sergei Nechaev.[49] As such, it is ironic that Bakunin would come to agree with Wagner about the centrality of racial conflict in history two decades after their meeting—et, starting from a profoundly anti-German orientation, in contrast to Wagner’s Aryan ultranationalism. Adorno’s comments on Wagner’s substitution of pseudo-biological concepts for social ones could then also be applied to Bakunin’s late racialist theories.[50] As the German Marxist writes, “[r]ace theory assumes its rightful place in the no man’s land between idiosyncrasy and paranoia.”[51] Racism is much more a hallmark of the social imaginary of fascism and proto-fascism than that of anarchism or Marxism, and Wagner wields it proudly.

Feminism and Anti-Feminism

In several of his operas, including The Flying Dutchman, Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, and Parsifal, Wagner advanced a traditionalist and misogynist social ideology through his depiction of female characters. For this reason, his anti-feminism echoes that of the sexist Proudhon. However, in The Ring, Wagner overthrows this perspective to an extent, possibly reflecting the influence of Bakunin, a feminist who resisted arranged marriage for his sisters; publicly demanded the equalization of the sexes, only to be ridiculed by Marx for so doing; and identified the patriarchal despotism of the Russian mir (rural commune), even as he hails its emphasis on the commons, cooperative labor, and the political commune, as “the main historical evil […] against which we are obliged to struggle with all our might.”[52]

Pro-feminist perspectives can be gleaned in Das Rheingold (part I)wherein Wagner depicts the conflict over Wotan’s dishonorable sale of the goddess Freia to the giants as payment for their construction of Valhalla. Fricka, Wotan’s wife, openly chastises her husband’s sexist criminality, remarking also on its utter uselessness, in light of her understanding that Valhalla will serve only for more war-making. Wagner’s anti-clerical, protofeminist social imaginary is well-encapsulated in the exchange in this scene between Wotan and Donner (or Thor): as Donner prepares to wield his hammer to defend Freia from capture, Wotan the patriarchal despot intervenes to forbids any such recourse:

Nothing by force!

All bonds and treaties

My spear protects.[53]

Hence, the observation of law and contract leads to systemically oppressive outcomes that disproportionately impact women, suggests Wagner at the opening of The Ring. This pro-feminist spirit resonates through much of the rest of Wagner’s opera. Siegmund’s emancipatory values are clearly represented in The Valkyries, the second part of the musical drama, which arguably reflect a matriarchal social imaginary, as he defines his mother as “dauntless.”[54]

On the other hand, Wagner’s incorporation of the mythological Valkyries into The Ring and his naming the second opera after them attests significantly to the feminine power that pervades the musical drama. As these mythical female warriors would decide which soldiers would die in battle and which would live, transporting the worthy slain back to Valhalla where they would serve as fighters awaiting Ragnarök  (“the end of the world”), the Valkyries as such serve as an alternative to the traditional roles defined for women in patriarchal Norse society. Illustrating this dynamic, when Wotan punishes Brünnhilde for defying his orders to kill Siegmund by expelling her from the sisterhood, he clarifies that she will no longer be able to ride “her swift steed” into battle, but rather will be stripped of her immortal status and be subjected to patriarchal domination as an oppressed wife and domestic worker.[55] Yet Wotan’s utterance is a merely symbolic threat, given that the war-god actually punishes his daughter by entrapping her in fire for rebelling against him.

The Valkyrie Brünnhilde (Arthur Rackham)

Reflecting the proactive side of the dialectical struggle against divine patriarchal authority, Brünnhilde’s eight Valkyrie sisters collectively defend her and sympathize with her rebellious cause against Wotan. Brünnhilde’s heroic leadership and wisdom is also present when she protects Sieglinde by whisking her away from the battlefield to save her life, and that of the Völsung line. Brünnhilde’s collection of the fragments of Siegmund’s sword destroyed by Wotan and her handing them to Sieglinde should be considered another admirable and powerful act, as the reconstruction of the sword is essential for the redeeming spirit of the opera in Siegfried (part III). Van Der Veer Hamilton believes that Siegfried’s rescue of Brünnhilde serves “as a metaphor for the emancipation of women,” and also anarchism – though the Valkyrie’s passivity in this situation makes both such claims somewhat perplexing.[56] Siegfried reveals himself as a parallel to Siegmund in his action seeking to emancipate women who are made powerless, thus resulting in a feminist social ideology encouraged by men, and in this particular case, Völsung (or Aryan) men. Nevertheless, at the end of Götterdämmerung, Brünnhilde reveals herself to be the true anarcha-feminist heroine of the cycle through her return of the ring to the Rhinemaidens as she immolates herself with the horse Grane on Siegfried’s pyre—but not before directing Wotan’s ravens to command Loge (Loki) to collect the fire that previously had entrapped her, launching it against the halls of Valhalla. Brünnhilde’s insurrectional suicide expresses her revenge against Siegfried’s betrayal and the responsibility of the gods for the various manipulations leading to his death. In particular, she singles out Wotan as the guilty party:

Round me I hear

Thy ravens flapping.

By them I send thee back

The tidings awaited in fear. 

Rest in peace now, O God![57]

Her sacrificial act that annihilates divine authority and restores the ring thus closes the operatic cycle by affirming the idea of love and victory in death, a romantic and nihilistic notion at once.                                                                                                                                                                           

Despite the fact that The Ring displays many feminist ideas, the Götterdämmerung to some extent reverses Wagner’s portrayals of women in the prior operas which comprise the music drama – more in keeping with his previously established misogynistic social imaginary. In The Flying Dutchman, Senta, the female protagonist, offers to save a cursed stranger who has been punished to roam the seas forever, losing her life voluntarily by throwing herself into the sea to demonstrate her desire to achieve his salvation. Tannhäuser exhibits similarly regressive values: the protagonist Elisabeth chooses to die to redeem Tannhäuser’s sins of lust and infidelity. Returning to The Ring, this regression is seen when the rope of wisdom and destiny breaks in the prelude to the Götterdämmerung (part IV). As a result, the Norns lose their clairvoyant powers and are forced to descend to mother earth, becoming voiceless, bound together with the broken rope. 

Wagner’s anti-feminist imagination is mostly clearly reflected in Brünnhilde’s brutal victimization by Siegfried, who appears in disguise only to forcibly remove the ring that the hero had previously given her to symbolize their union and assault her.[58] The patriarchal abuser in turn has been exploited by the king’s half-brother Hagen, who drugs the ‘hero’ and commands him to kidnap the ex-Valkyrie precisely in order to learn the requisite knowledge to bring about his own downfall. Brünnhilde’s new, forced marriage and her representation as an obedient wife attest to the anti-liberatory social ideology present in this opera.[59] In this same scene, indeed, Siegfried declares that Brünnhilde “lives for me.”[60] The protagonists of The Ring, then, are greatly disempowered by the end of the cycle, as their love-bond falls apart, and Siegfried is ultimately murdered by Hagen. Yet Wagner in the finale reverses himself once again to present Brünnhilde as the avenging angel of death: the heroine that goes further than Siegfried himself in outright destroying the gods, in an expression of her undying love for him, and in continuation of his own redemptive socio-political project.


Bakunin’s revolutionism needs no introduction, for the Russian firebrand was the principal founder of anarcho-collectivism and insurrectionism as well as Marx’s great anti-authoritarian rival in the International Workingmen’s Association (IWMA), otherwise known as the First International. Bakunin is well-known for his belief that revolutionary change presupposes “widespread and passionate destruction,” a perspective that resonates importantly in Wagner’s art and philosophy.[61] Bakunin’s anarchism was greatly influenced by the thought of Alexander Herzen, the ‘father’ of Russian socialism, who in turn had combined Hegelian rationalism with a revolutionism inspired by those who desired a ‘return’ to a Russia from before the time of Peter the Great.[62] Intriguingly, this represented a reiteration of German romantic nationalism in Russia. According to his student Friedrich Nietzsche, Wagner believed in revolution “as none but a Frenchman had believed in it,” and he utilized and recreated ancient German myths and legends to convey his meanings.[63] Such beliefs are arguably readily gleaned in The Ring.[64] Examining The Ring’s plot, we see that the laboring giants express a Proudhonian critique of the inequality in power, wealth, and leisure between the ruling class and the workers. Addressing the gods after having completed the construction of Valhalla with his brother, Fafner observes:

Soft sleep

Sealed thine eyes

While we, both sleepless,

Built the castle walls […][65]

In parallel, Wagner depicts the Jewish caricature Alberich as a demon who enslaves to extract maximum surplus value. His brother Mime, a slave to Alberich, is portrayed as stereotypically crafty in his plot to gain control of the ring by exploiting Siegfried. In contrast to the epic hero, furthermore, Mime can only think of personal gain and the inversion of existing hierarchies, rather than their abolition. The same is true of Hagen, the “ruthless fascist executive,” who consummates Mime’s plot of stealing the ring from Siegfried by assassinating him in the Götterdämmerung (part IV).[66] Therefore, it is clear that Wagner subscribed to a racialist conception of revolution, given that the Völsungs are shown as the liberators of humanity, and the Nibelungs their oppressors. Slavoj Žižek observes rightly that Wagner’s “‘revolution’ looks rather like the restitution of the organic unity of the people who, led by the Prince, have swept away the rule of money embodied in Jews.”[67] Thus, the Völsung insurrection against authority is anti-Semitic, just as it is anti-militarist and anti-theistic: without divine domination, there is no longer the irrationality of a centralized power threatening total destruction, as Wotan does in The Ring.

Brünnhilde and the Völsungs serve as the ‘natural’ foils to Wotan’s warmongering spirit. As the chief god himself declares to Fricka:

Listen, woman!

Some one we need,

A hero gods have not shielded,

And who is not bound by their law.[68]

This anti-theistic, revolutionary figure is of course Siegfried. In fact, the very opposition between Siegfried and Fafner, the giant who becomes a dragon under the ring’s influence, may have originated in Wagner’s mind from the composer’s reading of Proudhon, who describes property in an imaginative passage as

the right to increase: this axiom will be for us like the name of the heart of the apocalypse, a name that includes the whole mystery of the beast […]. [W]e are going to follow the coils of the old serpent, we shall number the homicidal twistings of this hideous taenia whose head, with its thousand suckers, always lies hidden from the sword of even its most high-spirited enemies […]. [I]t was written that the monster would not die until a proletarian, armed with a magic rod, had taken its measure.[69]

Wagner’s Ring, in sum, presents an anarchist critique of the State and capitalism, yet one that is unfortunately also tainted with Aryanist, anti-Semitic, patriarchal, and ultranationalist social ideologies.

The Ring: National Revolution in Opera

Nonetheless, while Wagner’s Ring cycle features many strong anti-capitalist themes, Siegfried, the third part and climax of the composer’s Ring cycle, advances a basically national or conservative-revolutionary social imaginary. The plot is derived from that of Der Junge Siegfried (“The Young Siegfried”), which Wagner composed in 1851-1852, before writing the earlier parts of The RingSiegfried portrays the “metaphysics of yearning, rapture and redemption” involved in the revolutionary overthrow of the oppressive system through the titular hero’s destruction of the power of the gods, the State, and capitalism.[70] Much of the plot of The Ring has to do with the “struggle for regeneration” and the allegorical reversal of the “pollution” of the Rhine by the Jewish caricature Alberich. Siegfried provides a stark resolution of the drama, reflecting Wagner’s desire that The Ring present the resounding idea that the purpose of art is the cleansing of “corruption” and the clearing away of commercialism. Such desire is inseparable from the composer’s anti-Semitic and pseudo-revolutionary ideologies.

The Aryanist idea of a Volk (“People’s”) identity and the belief that Germans were the original volk of Europe contributed to a semi-religious and romantic vision of unity and direction that began to emerge strongly in the 1830s and 1840s. Wagner read völkisch (“popular”) literature and embraced the resurrection of mythology to promote political unification and nationalist values. In parallel, the Romantic movement in art and literature advanced the cult of the heroic figure as national leader, a special human who professes deep reverence for nature, in consonance with Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “natural man.”[71] In The Ring, accordingly, Wagner’s heroes are the Völsungs, forest-dwelling members of a semi-divine race sired by Wotan in order to overturn Alberich’s world-domination.

Wagner depicts Brünnhilde’s conversion to rebel status as resulting from the Valkyrie’s force of compassion for the Völsung. In this composer and character alike echo Arthur Schopenhauer, who argues – in contrast to Kant’s rationalistic approach – that compassion is the basis of morality.[72] Even so, Siegmund is no match for Wotan, whose spear shatters the hero’s sword, allowing Hunding to deliver the coup de grâce. For Adorno, it is Siegmund, “the hero dying without hope, who keeps faith with the dream of freedom.”[73]

After slaying the dragon Fafner, the Völsung Siegfried tastes his blood (Arthur Rackham)

Symbolizing anti-clerical and anarchist ideas, Siegfried the ring-bearer warns Wotan that “For me further / Use thou hast none,” and then wields Nothung, the same sword used by his father, to shatter the god’s shaft of authority.[74] Siegfried’s clearing of the way of these hegemonic forces corresponds to both Proudhon and Bakunin’s identification of capital, the State, and organized religion as the principal enemies of humanity. In fact, Nietzsche wrote that Wagner considered Siegfried the perfect revolutionary, and the composer also named his son after the hero.[75] Wagner shares Proudhon and Bakunin’s anti-Semitic conflation of Judaism with wealth and intrigue, depicting a fantasy of a stateless “Aryan utopia” at the close of Siegfried, as the lovers Siegfried and Brünnhilde unite erotically to greet the morning light of the new world freed from the rule of gods and hierarchies, other than ethno-racial ones. Wagner thus makes a clear association between a liberated (hetero)sexuality and the idea of national revolution.[76]

The former Valkyrie, indeed, presents an unmistakably national-anarchist view of Siegfried’s accomplishments and the “liberation” of history at the very close of the act:

Farewell Valhalla’s

Radiant world

Its stately halls

In the dust laid low!

Farewell, glittering

Pomp divine!

End in bliss,

O immortal race!

Norns, rend in sunder

Your ropes of runes!

Dusk steal darkly

Over the Gods!

Night of their downfall

Dimly descend!

Now Siegfried’s star

Is rising for me […][77]

This national-revolutionary ending to the act, composed in 1852, arguably reflects Bakuninist and Proudhonian social ideology. It contrasts with the original ending of Siegfrieds Tod (Siegfried’s Death) written in 1848, whereby Siegfried and Wotan reconcile and the hero is carried by Brünnhilde to Valhalla. In Siegfried, the break with authority is decisive. 

Wagner’s Pseudo-Revolutionary Message

Returning to more closely examining Siegfried’s allegorical enemies, the giants Fafner and Mime, we find that giants represent the forces of chaos, negativity, and hostility in Norse mythology.[78] Fafner, a giant who serves in The Ring as an archetype for the biblical Cain, slays his brother Fasolt over control of the ring. Fafner then undergoes a metamorphosis, becoming a dragon, a more menacing form with which to guard the ring and the Rhinegold hoard for himself. It is unclear whether Wagner means to symbolize the corrupting and base influence of commerce and wealth with this transformation; it may also follow the anarchist or Marxist views of the State, whereby the capitalist class resorts to centralism, despotism, and militarism to uphold private property.

Fafner, as a giant, kills his brother Fasolt over control of the ring (Arthur Rackham)

It is clear that Fafner represents one-half of the State apparatus in The Ring, given his direct and menacing protection of accumulated capital and privilege, with Wotan the enforcer of laws and contracts representing the other. The giant also symbolizes capitalism and the rich, together with the “gold-grabbing, invisible, anonymous, exploitative” Alberich and the “shoulder-shrugging, loquacious” Mime, “overflowing with self-praise and spite.”[79] After having encountered the highly pregnant Sieglinde in the wilderness, Mime, in yet another anti-Semitic trope, treats her son Siegfried, whose birth ends her life, as an “investment” or “exchange.” In effect, he dedicates a number of years to raising the child, and in return dispatches Siegfried to confront and defeat Fafner, so that he can subsequently poison the youth, kill him, and gain control of the ring. In fact, this would seem to directly reflect Wagner’s chauvinist view that Jews associate with Gentiles only regarding questions of money.[80] Siegfried is warned of Mime’s treacherous plans by a wood-bird whose language he comes to understand after slaying Fafner. In this way, “nature” ensures that the Nibelung’s treacherous plans are cut short, such that the Romantic Aryan hero can proceed to confront Wotan, overthrow clericalism, and liberate Brünnhilde, thus consummating the regulative idea of “national revolution.” It is significant in this sense that Siegfried uses the term comrade true to refer to his partner Brünnhilde. Siegfried and Brünnhilde’s union at the close of Siegfried clearly serves as a projected social imaginary of Wagner’s fantasy of a new, Aryan-run world.

As a Völsung, Siegfried is the archetypal “natural man,” for he knows no order, custom, law, or fear, having been raised in the wilderness, and he never knew his father or mother. The hero attests to his proletarian nature in the Götterdämmerung (part IV)remarking even on his “depreciation” with time:

Nor land nor folk have I got give,

Nor father’s house nor hall;

In my body

Is all my wealth

As I live it grows less.[81]

Adorno highlights this heroic representation of the working class, remarking that the “final judgment on world history, which Siegfried is preparing to implement, can only be carried out by those who, like him, […] are exempt from the mythic yoke of contract and property.”[82] It is Siegfried’s fearless spontaneity which reduces the hegemonic power of Wotan, Fafner, and Mime in the world of The Ring; in its stead, Siegfried “stand[s] for an undivided primordial world,” which is “to be irrational.”[83] Be that as it may, this Wagnerian hero is no sympathetic reincarnation of Jesus of Nazareth, but rather “a bully boy, […] imperialistic in his bearing,” radiating “big-bourgeois self-confidence.”[84] His domineering cruelty toward Mime in part reflects his understanding that Mime has deceived him in claiming to be his single parent. Having seen his own appearance reflected in the water, Siegfried knows that Mime is foreign, and not of his “blood.” This racist separation between “true” and “fake” German propagated by Wagner finds a stark echo in Germany after World War I, when ultranationalists accused Jews and leftists of having betrayed the German Empire during the war leading to the rise of Nazism. Hence we see the proto-fascist and national-socialist elements of Wagner’s idealized depiction of Siegfried, whom he considered to be “perfect.”

In sum, the composer’s ultranationalist, white-supremacist fantasies in The Ring seem clearly to have borrowed at least in part from the anarchist idea of revolutionism as the means of progression through history. As developed by Herzen and Bakunin, collectivist anarchism presents a framework for human liberation. Regardless, Bakuninist anti-Semitism and the anarchist’s late turn toward racialist conflict in history cannot simply be overlooked. They form a key part of the crossover between anarchism and ultranationalism that Wagner champions in The Ring.

Brünnhilde and Siegfried embrace, their union symbolizing freedom from the gods and Nibelung (Arthur Rackham)

Götterdämmerung: Nihilist or Liberatory Social Ideology?

Götterdämmerung (“Twilight of the Gods”)the conclusion to The Ring, is based on Siegfried’s Tod (“Siegfried’s Death”), which Wagner first composed in 1848. Its final form is based on the so-called Feuerbach ending version, dated 1852, which concludes with Brünnhilde directing the destruction of the the gods assembled in Valhalla as she immolates herself on Siegfried’s funeral pyre. This finale, a resounding anti-theistic declaration, arguably reflects Feuerbach’s thought in its portrayal of the destruction of divine authority through human self-assertion. It can similarly be considered Bakuninist and perhaps an even higher expression of Siegfried’s shattering of Wotan’s spear symbolizing law at the end of the previous opera. In contrast, Adorno and Žižek interpret the finale as communicating the “despairing conclusion” that Siegfried, in overturning the established system, “brings about not only his own destruction […] but also the downfall of the whole” and “the reactionary resignation and disavowal of the very will to live,” respectively.[85] Whether or not Adorno and Žižek are correct, it is undeniable that Wagner in the Götterdämmerung presents several regressive, nihilistic, and anti-feminist ideologies. 

The tragedy and absurdity of Siegfried’s death, communicated musically in the poignant “Funeral March,” expresses the critical point that, as Adorno writes, that “[w]ithin the system dominated by private property, there can be no reconciliation between subjective pleasure–love–and the objective, organized reproduction of life in society.”[86] In parallel, Adorno finds an anti-capitalist critique in the “bourgeois attitude” expressed by Siegfried in his final exchange with the Rhinemaidens: “When the Rhine Maidens offer Siegfried his last chance, he rejects it with an appeal to the ultimate shibboleth, the formula of private property […].”[87]

Nevertheless, Wagner does celebrate death in his portrayal of the passing of the principal hero and heroine “by presenting [this] as ecstasy:” sacrifice as a “Happy End.”[88] In fact, the mortally wounded Siegfried announces, “Death, thou art welcome— / Sweet are thy terrors— […]”![89] Such utterances could be considered as reflecting a nihilist ideology. For her part, Brünnhilde remarks to Grane, the steed on which she will ride into Siegfried’s funeral pyre:

Thou neighest with joy

To think thou shalt join him?

Laughing, the flames 

Allure thee to follow?[90]

Having ordered the arson of Valhalla, Brünnhilde immolates herself on the horse Grane over Siegfried’s funeral pyre (Arthur Rackham)

Admittedly, the Götterdämmerung‘s finale is open to interpretation. Does it reflect Wagner’s nihilism and bourgeois resignation, “call[ing] a halt to the action and hence, too, to the life process of society,” or does it amplify the finale of Siegfried, carrying it to a higher level?[91] Does Wagner here echo Hobbes as a “typical example of the late bourgeoisie,” idealizing the “kingdom of death,” as Adorno charges, or do elements of Feuerbach, Proudhon, and Bakunin resonate instead?[92] Brünnhilde’s destruction of Valhalla, introduced in the 1852 version of Siegfrieds Tod (Siegfried’s Death)likely reflects the latter explanation. After all, both can be seen as appropriate interpretations. Since seeming opposites like anarcho-socialism and fascism can coexist within Wagner’s art, it would be fair to say that the composer idealizes death, both in a heroic and nihilist fashion. Politically speaking, the first version of Siegfrieds Tod – written before the Dresden uprising – shows Siegfried and Wotan reconciling in the afterlife. In contrast, consider Brünnhilde’s sacrificial observation in the final monologue of the 1852 ending:

Though the race of gods

Passed away like a breath,

Though I leave behind me

A world without rulers […].[93]

While such anarchistic diction is missing from the final version of Wagner’s text, the heroine’s final insurrectional act remains intact. It is significant, then, that Spencer and Millington explicitly liken Loge (Loki), the arsonist of Valhalla acting on Brünnhilde’s orders, to Bakunin.[94] This last act is self-evidently key to Wagner’s resolution of the cycle. While representing revolutionary-feminist self-assertion against despotism and history, the finale demonstrates to Adorno in contrast that “nothing has happened,” and “[n]othing is changed.”[95] On this account, whereas The Ring begins with the Rhinemaidens losing the golden hoard to Alberich, it ends with the ring’s restoration to them. For Adorno, Wagner’s “music [thus] acts as if time had no end, but its effect is merely to negate the hours it fills by leading them back to their starting-point.”[96] That Wagner inserted a “Schopenhauerian ending” which portrays Brünnhilde’s self-immolation as liberating her from the cycle of samsara (“pain”)into a version from 1856 would therefore follow logically on Adorno’s account.[97] Even so the revolutionary-socialist imaginary of the Wagnerian mosaic is clear enough. Before Brünnhilde is betrayed by Siegfried, she expresses an openly anti-clerical repudiation of the entreaty to have the heroine return the ring that Siegfried gave her to the Rhine:

What dreadful dream-born fancies,

Sad one, are those thou dost tell? […]

I grasp not what thou art saying; 

Dark its sense,

Wild and confused […].[98]

Brünnhilde’s passionate rapture also embodies Wagner’s notion, as inspired by his reading of Schopenhauer, of “love as a fundamentally devastating force” which condemns the gods to destruction.[99] Thus Feuerbach, Bakunin, and Schopenhauer resonate in the different endings Wagner composed for The Ring, and all three are present in the version as it exists today. Still, these philosophers’ perspectives are somewhat incompatible. Whereas Feuerbach inspired Bakunin’s dual critique of religion and the State, Schopenhauer’s politics are generally pessimistic and conservative. This returns us precisely to the question of what regulative idea The Ring’s finale communicates: does it signify a revolutionary destruction of divine authority, or does it symbolize a nihilistic representation of collective self-destruction at the hands of the bourgeoisie? 

Although most sources describe the end of Götterdämmerung as portraying Brünnhilde’s destruction of Valhalla and the gods, the author Mary Cicora interprets the ending of the Ring cycle as also including the doom of the world over which Wotan rules, in a parallel to distinct creation and destruction myths.[100] Adorno and Žižek concur, with the former viewing the finale as symbolizing the destruction of both Valhalla and the world as a whole, thus communicating Wagner’s putative bourgeois-apologist belief that Siegfried’s “attempt to change the world comes to nought, but changing the world is what is at issue.”[101]This interpretation is consistent with Adorno’s view of Wagner as a capitalist, but it definitely contradicts the view that sees in The Ring’s ending the survival of the Feuerbachian and Bakuninist social imaginaries which so clearly inspired the cycle, permeating it even in its final version.

María Castro is professor in the French and Spanish Department at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Her publications in specialized literary journals include work on themes related to the intersection of art and literature in the Spanish-speaking and European worlds. She is a non-Jewish member of LA Jews for Peace.

Javier Sethness Castro is author of Imperiled Life: Revolution Against Climate Catastrophe (IAS/AK Press) and Eros and Revolution: The Critical Philosophy of Herbert Marcuse (Brill) and editor/translator of  I Am Action: Literary And Combat Articles, Thoughts, and Revolutionary Chronicles by Praxedis Guerrero (AK Press). He is a co-founder of the Transnational Solidarity Network (TSN).

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[1] Palingenesis, a “rebirth,” from ancient Greek (palin, “again,” + genesis, “birth”).

[2] Simon Williams, Wagner and the Romantic Hero (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 20.

[3] Robert Hanna, “Supplement to Kant’s Theory of Judgment.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Available online: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-judgment/supplement4.html. Accessed 25 December 2018.

[4] Wayne P. Pomerleau, “Immanuel Kant: Philosophy of Religion.” Internet Encylopedia of Philosophy. Available online: https://www.iep.utm.edu/kant-rel/. Accessed 25 December 2018.

[5] Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1965), A3.

[6] John Clark, The Impossible Community: Realizing Communitarian Anarchism (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013), 2.

[7] Carol Van Der Veer Hamilton, “Wagner as Anarchist, Anarchists as Wagnerians,” Oxford German Studies 22, issue 1 (1993): 192–93.

[8] Slavoj Žižek, “Foreword: Why is Wagner Worth Saving?” in Theodor Adorno, In Search of Wagner

trans. Rodney Livingstone (London: Verso, 2005 [1952]), xi.

[9] Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007), 340.

[10] Lennart Svensson, Richard Wagner – A Portrait (Ontario, Canada: Manticore Books, 2015), 147.

[11] Martin Durham, “The Upward Path: Palingenesis, Political Religion and the National Alliance,” Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, vol. 5, no. 3 (2004), 456-60.

[12] Paul Jackson, “Political Religions and Fascism,” Open Democracy, 29 July 2019. Available online: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/countering-radical-right/political-religions-and-fascism/. Accessed 17 August 2019.

[13] Bethan Johnson, “Cancel Morrissey? Controversy over music and free speech,” Open Democracy, 17 July 2019. Available online:https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/countering-radical-right/cancel-morrissey-controversy-over-music-and-free-speech/. Accessed 17 August 2019.

[14] Žižek xxvi-xxvii.

[15] Hagai Hitron, “’The Tradition of Not Playing Wagner in Israel Is Silly,’” Ha’aretz, 15 August 2019. Available online: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-the-tradition-of-not-playing-wagner-in-israel-is-silly-1.7683652. Accessed 17 August 2019.

[16] Jeff Sparrow, “What induces men to imitate the Christchurch massacre?” Guardian, 4 August 2019. Available online: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/05/what-induces-men-to-imitate-the-christchurch-massacre. Accessed 17 August 2019.

[17] Durham 465.

[18] Van Der Veer Hamilton, “Wagner as Anarchist,” 170–171, 175, 190–191.

[19] Ibid, 175n27–177, 180.

[20] Robert Hughes, Barcelona (New York: Vintage Books, 1992), 291.

[21] Van Der Veer Hamilton, “Wagner as Anarchist,” 175, 170–171n6.

[22] George Bernard Shaw, The Perfect Wagnerite (Chicago: Stone, 1899).

[23] Richard Wagner, My Life (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1911), 466–470.

[24] Wagner, My Life, 471.

[25] Ibid, 469.

[26] Van Der Veer Hamilton, “Wagner as Anarchist,” 173.

[27] Ibid, 173n18.

[28] Mikhail Bakunin, Statism and Anarchy, trans. and ed. Marshall Shatz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), xxxix.

[29] Van Der Veer Hamilton, “Wagner as Anarchist,” 173n17.

[30] Theodor Adorno, In Search of Wagner, trans. Rodney Livingstone (London: Verso, 2005), 12–13.

[31] Van Der Veer Hamilton, “Wagner as Anarchist,” 174n24; Leo Tolstoy, What Is Art? Trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (London: Penguin, 1995), 109.

[32] Van Der Veer Hamilton, “Wagner as Anarchist,” 174.

[33] Adorno, In Search of Wagner, 15.

[34] Žižek,“Foreword,” x.

[35] Mikhail Bakunin, Oeuvres, ed. P. V. Stock, 5th ed., vols. 1–3. (Paris, 1907), 12.

[36] Bakunin, Oeuvres, 142; Mark Leier, Bakunin: The Creative Passion (New York: Thomas Dunne, 2006), 248.

[37] Bakunin, Oeuvres, vol. 3, 99–100; Bakunin, Oeuvres, vol. 1, 175, 252.

[38] Richard Wagner, The Ring of the Niblung Illustrated, trans. Margaret Armour (London: William Heinemann, 1910), 13.

[39] Wagner, The Ring, 40.

[40] Ibid, 341.

[41] Aderet, Ofer 2019. “The Jews Aren’t to Blame for Jesus’ Death, a Bible Scholar Asserts.” Ha’aretz. Available online: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-the-jews-aren-t-to-blame-for-jesus-death-a-bible-scholar-asserts-1.7913272. Accessed 5 October 2019.

[42] Carl F. Glasenapp, Das Leben Richard Wagners, vol. 6 (Leipzig: 1911), 551.

[43] Adorno, In Search of Wagner,16.

[44] Ibid, 7.

[45] Bakunin, Statism and Anarchy, 33–39.

[46] Ibid, 34–38.

[47] Martin Malia, Alexander Herzen and the Birth of Russian Socialism (New York: Universal Library, 1965), 278–95.

[48] Bakunin, Statism and Anarchy, 39, 121.

[49] Hubert Kennedy, “Johann Baptist von Schweitzer: The Queer Marx Loved to Hate,” Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 29, no. 2/3 (1995), 69-96.

[50] Adorno, In Search of Wagner, 7.

[51] Ibid, 15.

[52] Leier, Bakunin, 51–4, 237; Bakunin, Statism and Anarchy, 209–10.

[53] Wagner, The Ring, 35.

[54] Ibid, 98.

[55] Ibid,161–2.

[56] Van Der Veer Hamilton, “Wagner as Anarchist,” 191.

[57] Wagner, The Ring, 344.

[58] Žižek 2005: p. xv.

[59] “[She] obeyed her husband for the whole of the bridal night” (Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung, 314).

[60] Wagner, The Ring, 274.

[61] Bakunin, Statism and Anarchy, p. 28.

[62] Malia, Alexander Herzen, 278–309.

[63] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Case of Wagner (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1899), 14.

[64] Van Der Veer Hamilton, “Wagner as Anarchist,” 183.

[65] Wagner, The Ring, 31.

[66] Žižek, “Foreword,” xiii.

[67] Ibid, ix.

[68] Wagner, The Ring, 118.

[69] L.J. Rather, Reading Wagner, Louisiana State UP, 1990, 249 (emphasis added), quoted in Van Der Veer Hamilton, “Wagner as Anarchist,” 182.

[70] Adorno, In Search of Wagner, 100.

[71] Williams, Wagner and the Romantic Hero, 8.

[72] Arthur Schopenhauer, The Basis of Morality, trans. A.B. Bullock (Swan Sonnenschein & Co.: London, 1903).

[73] Adorno, In Search of Wagner, 142.

[74] Wagner, The Ring, 250.

[75] Nietzsche, The Case of Wagner, 14.

[76] Wagner, The Ring, 265.

[77] Ibid, 264–265.

[78] World Mythology: Myths and Legends of the World Brought to Life, ed. William G. Doty. (New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 2002), 135.

[79] Adorno, In Search of Wagner, 12–13.

[80] Richard Wagner, Prose Works, Vol III.: The Theatre, trans. William Ashton Ellis (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd., 1907). 85.

[81] Wagner, The Ring, 283.

[82] Adorno, In Search of Wagner, 119.

[83] Ibid, 97.

[84] Ibid, 129.

[85] Ibid, 122; Žižek, “Foreword,” viii.

[86] Adorno, In Search of Wagner, 130–131.

[87] Ibid, 131.

[88] Ibid, 136–138.

[89] Wagner, The Ring, 338.

[90] Ibid, 346.

[91] Adorno, In Search of Wagner, 50.

[92] Ibid, 108.

[93] Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung, eds. Spencer and Millington, 362 (emphasis added).

[94] Ibid, 374.

[95] Adorno, In Search of Wagner, 30.

[96] Ibid, 32.

[97] Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung, eds. Spencer and Millington, 363.

[98] Wagner, The Ring, 295.

[99] Richard Wagner, Letter to August Röckel, 23 August 1856, quoted in Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung, eds. Spencer and Millington, 370n151.

[100] Mary Cicora, Mythology as Metaphor. Romantic Irony, Critical Theory and Wagner’s Ring (London: Greenswood Publishing Group, 1998), 150.

[101] Adorno, In Search of Wagner, 106.