The Renaissance was a spectacular time for literature, arts, and anatomy. The sheer wealth of geographical expansion reinvigorated Europe and invited it to explore, research, and discover. This period was crucial for the conflict between religion and knowledge, a subject thoroughly explored in Doctor Faustus. The Italian Renaissance especially brought forward many crucial questions about life and death, religion, exploration and other issues.
But this is no longer at the forefront of Renaissance studies. The calls for decolonisation have been sounding for quite a while and it’s slowly becoming a subject mainly discussed by right-wing self-proclaimed pseudo-intellectual political commentators. Is it still worth talking about? It might be.
Many students join the English departments armed with an entire collection of Shakespeare’s works and a copy of Doctor Faustus, anticipating learning all there is to know about Renaissance in literature.
Well, those students would be sorely disappointed. The loudest calls for decolonisation have been coming from The Globe, the first Shakespearian theatre. On the very front of their website, we can see ‘Anti-Racist Shakespeare’ in big red letters. When looking at their blog entry from August 2020, a completely innocuous and not totally coincidental date, the quote from Professor Farah Karim-Cooper sheds a lot of light on what’s happening with Shakespeare:
As the custodians of Shakespeare’s most iconic theatres, we have a responsibility to talk honestly about the period from which he emerged and challenge the racist structures that remain by providing greater access to the works and demonstrating how Shakespeare speaks powerfully to our moment.
This is fascinating, as this then led to many movements to decolonise the literary genius. Universities advise students to listen to a podcast about the importance of ‘decolonising Shakespeare’ and the first lecture is basically a lesson on why Shakespeare is not universal and must be redefined.
The lecture material encourages students to look out for ‘colonial oppression’ and invites students to not only decolonise Shakespeare but also the Renaissance. Put your Marlowe in the rubbish, the reading list is now filled with race-related, women-related plays, geared not at looking into the genuine literary wealth of Shakespeare, but at intersectionality. The anti-Semitism in The Merchant of Venice is barely visible under the colossal shadow of the potential ‘queerness’ within the novel. The patriarchy and the search for something that isn’t there take precedence over trying to uncover important truths.
The lecturers may find it laughable that some people oppose decolonisation. They seem to be engaging in strawman ‘oh does that mean that we’re not going to teach Shakespeare? Of course not!’ But that’s not the point.
I think that if we’re tearing down statues in Bristol and across the US, Shakespeare is potentially one of the cultural statues that could come down
Professor Ayanna Thompson, ‘Shakespeare Teachers’ Conversation’
If universities endorse the above message, what signal are they sending to their students? Of course, they may laugh trying to explain that it doesn’t mean literally tearing down Shakespeare, but the point stands. What they are trying to do is to reconstruct the existing understanding of Shakespeare and re-create it in order to accommodate people who hate them.
Shakespeare was a white Anglo male and lived during the beautiful age of colonial expansion. No one should be worried about saying this one way or another. There’s nothing wrong with it either. I personally believe that Doctor Faustus is a far more important novel than ‘The Masque of Blackness’ by Ben Jonson who wrote quite a dull play about black people searching for the land where they can become white and beautiful.
I understand that this is supposed to make the students uncomfortable and convince them to engage critically with the racism in the past; but don’t we all already know this? Isn’t it much more productive to focus on the plays that could relate better to contemporary issues? Apparently not.
Midsummer Night’s Dream is apparently about patriarchy and The Merchant of Venice is gay. The problem with academia these days is not that there are modules that are ideological; no, the ideology very easily just seeps into everything. There is no way out anymore – most academics are left-wing so naturally their modules will be geared in that direction also. This wouldn’t be an issue as this has been happening for aeons. The problem is that this then creates a whole army of impressionable young people whose main focus will be the discussion on intersectionality and race when there is so much more that Shakespeare can offer. The only way to circumvent it is to rediscover the truths that Renaissance literature has to offer. Reject intersectionality and race and embrace tradition.
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Many Conservatives have noticed a worrying trend in polling recently. YouGov suggests that support for the Monarchy is falling, especially among younger people. For the first time in British history 19-24 year olds apparently support having an elected head of state instead of a hereditary one. When combined with His Highness the Prince of Wales’s constantly mediocre approval ratings, a grim future seems to loom ahead of us. Many of my colleagues have dismissed these signs as unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps they are right, but I cannot help but be worried, and my worry has driven me to write this article in defence of Monarchy against the evil that haunts modern Britain: Republicanism.
In Britain, and I do not intend to comment on any other nation in this article, we have been ruled by Kings, Queens, and occasionally Emperors and Empresses, since written records began. Because of this it seems fair to regard Monarchy, in one form or another, as the native political system of the British peoples. Whilst our Monarchs have often been foriegn, the Throne has always been a native institution, never forced on us. The same cannot be said of Parliament, a Norman-French perversion of the Anglo-Saxon Witan. The only period where every part of Britain was not ruled by a Monarch was during Oliver Cromwell’s brief stint as Lord Protector during the interregnum, where he established himself as a hereditary Absolutist ruler, a King in all but name and legitimacy. As we all know, this unprecedented period was so terrible that after Cromwell’s death Charles Stuart, son of the previous King who Parliament murdered, was asked to come home from France and be Crowned King Charles II. The only time in history where Monarchy was abolished lasted a few short decades, and ended with Monarchy’s restoration.
I believe one of the most important reasons to defend Monarchy in Britain is because it is one of the few fully domestic institutions left. Indeed, it is the domestic institution, it acts as an immaterial liferope stretching back thousands of years, on one end it is held by our ancestors, and on the other end it is held by us today. Whilst in the past we may have had more ropes strung between us, none were as important as the Throne, and all others have been cut in the name of reform and progress. If we choose to let go we lose our last real connection to our forefathers, forcing us to drift aimlessly into the future like a raft untethered from a larger ship. Some would argue, of course, that just because a system is native does not necessarily lead to its being good and worth protecting. I admit that this is true in some cases; to the Aztecs human sacrifice was native, and so too was widow-burning native to the Indians. However, a system being native almost always acts as a reason in favour of its preservation, as it is these unique elements that make each nation recognisable against one another, or connects lands far apart which share common heritage. The Throne simultaneously differentiates us from our neighbours, whilst also ties us together with our friends in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and many other nations who share the Queen as their Head of State. Until Monarchy is proven completely rotten it must stay, for our ancestors sake as much as ours.
Many have already written on the economic benefits the Monarchy brings for Britain. I find these arguments boring and unconvincing. For example, they often imply that we should support abolition if the Monarchy cost more than it brought in, an idea I find abhorrent. Instead an argument I find far more convincing, and one I hope Republicans will struggle to argue against, is the fact that the Monarchy acts as a foundation for every law in the country. Britain is well known for our unwritten “constitution”. Instead of writing a single document to clarify everything from rights to how Parliament is to sit we simply use the laws that our fathers, grandfathers, great grandfathers and so on wrote to settle these issues. If we find these laws no longer suit us, we pass new ones that supersede and replace them. I love this system. It grants us both flexibility and structure. Even if at times it can be confusing, it is uniquely ours. However, unlike in America where their constitution essentially derives its authority from itself, our beautiful tangled mess of a constitution is built on the firm foundation of the Monarchy. It is the only institution that was not founded by some law, rather each law gains its force and legitimacy from the Monarch themself. When one keeps this in mind, it seems impossible for Abolition to occur without also requiring huge constitutional reform. Trying to get rid of the Monarchy without upsetting our delicate Constitutional arrangement, like trying to remove a house’s foundations without causing the whole thing to collapse. It would not be enough to pass an amendment removing any mention of the Monarch from every law ever passed, the powers of the Monarch would have to be given to someone, and who does the general public trust with such immense power; Boris Johnson? Keir Starmer? The House of Commons? None of these people have proven themselves to be as prudent or farsighted as Her Majesty the Queen or any of her predecessors and none are worthy of the powers of State. Do you trust anyone to rewrite the entire British Constitution and not make a mess of it, or worse edit it in a way that benefits their party and their interests? You clearly shouldn’t, and the safest way to ensure they don’t is to fight to protect the Monarchy at all costs.
There are many points that I have failed to make in this article. Whether because I found them overdone or unconvincing, I have not written any argument that cannot in part explain my own personal devotion to our greatest institution, or why I will fight for its continuation until I draw my last breath. Such arguments can be found elsewhere, and perhaps I will write a more general ‘Monarchist Manifesto’ at a later date. I only hope to have contributed a few somewhat unique points in this extremely important debate.
God save the Queen.
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To begin, it’s worth saying I owe something of a debt to Douglas Murray. He brought me to many of the positions I hold today, and while my overall impression of ‘War on the West’ was disinterest, it is only upon looking back at my own political journey I’m beginning to understand why I felt that way.
‘War on the West’ follows ‘The Madness of Crowds’ and the ‘Strange Death of Europe’ as Murray’s third book discussing the state of political affairs in the Western world. Murray’s thesis is best laid out by Murray himself:
“People began to talk of “equality”, but they did not seem to care about equal rights. They talked of “anti-racism”, but they appeared deeply racist. They spoke of “justice” but they seemed to mean revenge.”
Herein lies the problem with ‘War on the West’, and why I moved away from Murray in my own life: there is no examination of what equality is to mean, what anti-racism is to look like, or what kind of justice is to be enacted, if any. The primary objection Murray has to the armies waging a war on the West is that their vision is not a classically liberal one. Explicitly antagonising white people with terms like ‘white fragility’, ‘white tears’, or ‘white privilege’ is bad because it racialises things Murray believes to have been deracialised by the Civil Rights Movement and other changes that occurred between the 1950’s to early 2000s. In his previous work, Murray uses an analogy of a train of equality pulling into the station, only to careen off down the tracks at a greater speed than ever before without allowing its passengers to get off. Throughout Murray’s work is an unexamined liberalism, that at best, is only ever criticised for being too pure. Liberalism, by its nature, criticises social orders for creating barriers for individuals. The many freedoms the West has provided have always come at the expense of the social orders liberalism eroded. Freedom for women came with the erosion of a patriarchal social order, and took with it the benefits such a system provided – such as the ability to raise a family on one income, a high degree of social trust, and a defined relationship between the sexes. It was inevitable that liberalism would eventually critique itself, and many of the authors Murray cites, from Kendi to DiAngelo, often build on those drawing on Herbert Marcuse and Theodore Adorno. The former was given money by the Rockefeller Foundation, and even worked for what would become the CIA. In many ways, it was Western liberalism with its free flow of capital and revolving door between the academy and influential roles of state that enabled these theories to promulgate.
In his interview with the Telegraph promoting the book, Murray states:
“As long as people are armed with the right facts and the right arguments, I just don’t see how the cultural revolutionaries can win. I don’t know about you, but I’m not spending the rest of my life cringing and being told I’m guilty of things I never did. Not doing it, not guilty.”
This really begs the question of how exactly we got to this position to begin with. What’s most striking about ‘War on the West’ is that it does read almost like a recap of a war. Battlefields are specified, different players and their decisions are named, and Lord knows there are a huge number of casualties in the culture wars Murray describes. But, were the people who permitted things to reach this stage simply incapable of posing arguments against it? In one chapter, Murray notes that claims that America is founded upon stolen land are self-refuting because the many tribes of America stole the land from one another. Are we to believe Americans are so ignorant of their own history that this argument has never been made? Murray himself notes in the conclusion that outlets such as MSNBC and the New York Times will deny that Critical Race Theory is taught in schools, but acknowledge that it exists when forced. There are no arguments that can be used against such a thing.
Left out of ‘War on the West’ is any truly systemic analysis of the problem. The aforementioned New York Times moved to a paywall model in 2011, and from that point forward, the focus on things like ‘racism’, ‘sexism’, ‘homophobia’, and ‘transphobia’ increased many times over. Around this time, legacy media was dying slowly. So newspapers moved from selling papers to many people to selling stories to a niche audience. The niche audience of the New York Times is the kind of cosmopolitan liberal who is very interested in niche identitarian trends, and in pitching themselves as radical while at the heart of the very system they claim to dislike. Despite this being a veritable War on the West, according to Murray, the emergency powers of war are never called upon. There are no calls to take decisive action to halt or prevent these systemic changes that led to this point. And in the conclusion, he defends the same economic system of capitalism that gave the New York Times its power, and forced it to change its business model to appeal to a niche audience of people hostile to Western people.
This attachment to a liberal historiography, in which individuals are given The Arguments and Make The Case, with spontaneous and emergent bottom-up change coming about as a consequence blinds Murray to the economic and legal realities that influence and shape this War on the West. Multiple universities are stated as battlegrounds for this war, but there is not a single mention of the fact universities are public authorities under the Equality Act (2010). That they have an ‘equalities duty’ to publish routine equalities reports, and must legally keep permanent members of staff dedicated to pushing this anti-Western message.
The only law Murray appears to mention in this vein is the Civil Right Act, which he defends as an example of the kind of good equality that he desires. Yet it was the Civil Rights Act which created the Civil Rights Commission, which in 1973 wrote to the Civil Service Commission and had them drop the standards for algebra in order to allow them to hire more non-white civil servants. Similar acts can be found in the UK. The Race Relations Act of 1973 (which performed the same anti-discrimination function as the Civil Rights Act he praises) created the Commission for Racial Equality. Today, the Race Relations Act has been assimilated into the aforementioned Equalities Act, and the Commission for Racial Equality has become the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which forces compliance with the Equalities Duty. There is a clear through-line from the civil rights legislation both in the USA and the UK, to the situation we are in now. The back of ‘War on the West’ reads as follows:
“The anti-Western revisionists have been out in force in recent years. It is high time we revise them in turn…”
Fundamentally however, there isn’t much of a revision of dominant left-wing narratives within ‘War on the West’ at all. Instead, it seeks to remind leftists that their own heroes, from Marx, to Foucault are also not spotless figures. This can only go one of two ways: either they ignore this, and nothing changes, or they recognise this, and move away from those figures, and as a consequence have doubled down on their principles of removing any and all unsavoury figures from public life. Regardless, none of this is at all revisionary, nor does it fundamentally challenge the values and beliefs of the cultural revolutionaries. A truly revisionist view of things would challenge the dominant understanding of things like the Civil Rights Movement, which was not (as Murray describes) people ‘making the case’ for rights, that the American public was so blown away by that they accepted and endorsed. Academic studies like that done on Rosedale show the side of desegregation that was forced upon people, and came at the cost of schools, neighbourhoods, communities and lives. Rosedale was a segregated community, but desegregation and the tensions that came with it made it difficult for authorities to maintain peace. The result was that many of the former residents who didn’t move out of their homes, found themselves the victims of racial violence by those who moved into the area, and had no regard for the police, who stopped policing the area out of fear of creating tensions. When Brown v. The Board of Education ended the desegregation of schools in America, and people protested, the national guard was sent in to disperse the crowd at gunpoint.
All of these changes were not the natural unfolding of human progress. They came today as they did in the civil rights movement, through force. Eisenhower and the national guard did not make the case for desegregation in light of Brown, they imposed it down the barrel of a gun. Whether that was right or wrong is irrelevant, that fact alone disproves the notion Murray insists upon in his recent public life – that the train of equality was chugging along gently, and only recently got out of hand. Equality is not a train chugging along set tracks, it is an amorphous blob that seeks to desacralise everything and dissolve all boundaries between all things. It does not progress in one direction alone, like a train, but expands in all directions and infects all things, including our supposedly right wing public figures.
In light of this, I still see some utility in Douglas Murray. Challenging double standards and hypocrisy is a cheap tactic which ultimately will not defeat those Murray opposes. Yet it is often the first chink in the armour for many people. I know I first came to move away from liberal beliefs because I found them to be contradictory, it was only in time I rooted out my own inherently liberal views, and ultimately moved to the political views and positions I hold now. In this respect, Murray is useful – he can confirm people’s suspicions about the modern left, and give them comfort that there is a public figure who opposes these things. It’s incumbent upon people with more bravery and introspection to take that one step further, and marry it with a systemic analysis of the situation, and propose and action a plan to undo these things and institute something new in its place.
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A rarely remarked upon effect of Covid-19 has been the neglect of works that would have ordinarily garnered broader acclaim. Thus, as we’ve been distracted by the medical events, an assortment of commendable offerings have largely escaped public attention. One such work is ‘The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies’ by Polish academic and European Parliament member, Ryszard Legutko. Originally published in 2012 as Triumf Człowieka Pospolitego (Triumph of the Common Man), then edited and first appearing in English in 2016, Legutko’s book is a rare recent work of real import. A decade on from its original publication, Legutko’s book is still one of the best indictments yet of our liberal age
In a similar vein to the works of Christopher Lasch and John Gray, Legutko’s is an account that is tepid towards the Thatcherite consensus that has come to define the right whilst resisting the easy overtures of our dominant left-liberalism. It’s a book that illuminates the errors of the age as it rejects the pieties that our epoch demands.
Like Ed West, Michael Anton and Christopher Caldwell, Legutko is one of few contemporary writers willing to provide an honest account of the liberal status quo. By not succumbing to our assorted unrealities, Legutko is able to articulate the inadequacies of liberal democracy without the pusillanimous equivocation that’s sadly all too prevalent. The book is thus a welcome addition to what is an otherwise bleak scene for the conservatively inclined, entrapped as we are in the all-pervasive mould of liberalism.
Such commendations aren’t restricted to this reviewer, however. Figures such as Harvard’s Adrian Vermeule and Notre Dame’s Patrick Deneen have been equally effusive. For as Vermeule wrote: “Legutko has written the indispensable book about the current crisis of liberalism and the relationship of liberalism to democracy”, while for Deneen the book is a “work of scintillating brilliance. [With] every page…brimming with insights.”
High praise, undoubtedly, yet it’s well vindicated upon reading. The central thesis is that despite an outward appearance of difference, communism and liberal democracy share a range of similarities. An observation that appears prima facie preposterous, yet after 180-odd pages of tightly-packed prose the reader is unable to avoid this unsettling insight.
The rationale for this claim is as such: both are inorganic systems that involve unnatural impositions and coercive zeal in their pursuit of illusory utopias. Utopias that are to be achieved practically through technology and ‘modernisation’ and buttressed theoretically by the purported fact of human equality. The two are thus historicist projects, seeking to ground human affairs in delusions of ‘progress’ in lieu of any underlying nature.
Both platforms are thus mere dogma. They are, as Legutko states:
“Nourished by the belief that the world cannot be tolerated as it is and that it should be changed: that the old should be replaced with the new. Both systems strongly and – so to speak – impatiently intrude into the social fabric and both justify their intrusion with the argument that it leads to the improvement of the state of affairs by ‘modernizing’ it.”
The two systems are hence unable to accept human beings and political affairs as they actually are: man and the polis must be remoulded along the lines of each respective ideology. For the communists, this involves the denial of man’s natural egotism and the subordination of his individual efforts towards an ostensible communal good. That this requires extreme coercion in implementation, unfathomable violence in practice, and has been deemed a delusion since at least Plato’s Republic, is a tragedy that’s all too commonly known.
So far, nothing new. Yet it’s the author’s elucidation of the unsavoury aspects of liberal democracy that is of particular note, especially for us here at the so-called ‘end of history’ and in light of the easy-going liberalism that permeates our societies, even as they slip further and further into evident decay. As Legutko suggests, liberal democracy shares a proselytising urge akin to that of Leninist communism, yet it’s as equally blind to its theoretical errors and its evangelical impulses as was its communist forebear.
As Legutko sees it, a liberal-democratic man can’t rest until the world has been vouched safe for liberal democracy. Never mind that this liberal-democratic delusion requires a tyranny over the individual soul – we’re neither wholly liberal nor democratic – and entire groups of people. An emblematic example is the recent US-led failure to impose either democracy or liberalism (terms that Legutko fuses and distinguishes, as appropriate) on the largely tribal peoples of Afghanistan.
The justification for this liberal-democratic ‘imperialism’ is, of course, its final and glorious end. Once there’s a left-liberal telos insight, then all means to its achievement are henceforth valid. For the communists, their failures are now common lore. Yet for our liberal-democrats, their – still largely unacknowledged – fantasies continue apace, aided as they are by their patina of ‘enlightened improvement’ and by the imperial patron that enables them.
That the effects of all this liberalising are unnatural, usually unwanted and often utterly repulsive to the recipients tends not to matter. Like all movements of ‘true believers’, there is no room for the heretic: forever onward one must plough.
The ideological spell cast by liberalism is thus as strong as any other. As Legutko observes:
“The liberal-democratic mind, just as the mind of a true communist, feels as inner compulsion to manifest its pious loyalty to the doctrine. Public life is [thus] full of mandatory rituals…[in which all] must prove that their liberal-democratic creed springs spontaneously from the depth of their hearts.”
With the afflicted “expected to give one’s approving opinion about the rights of homosexuals and women and to condemn the usual villains such as domestic violence, racism, xenophobia, or discrimination, or to find some other means of kowtowing to the ideological gods.”
A stance that is not only evident in our rhetoric, but by material phenomena as well. One need only think of the now-ubiquitous rainbow flags, the cosmopolitan billboards and adverts, the ‘opt-in’ birth certificates, the gender-neutral bathrooms, the Pride parades, the gender-transition surgeries, the biological males in female events and so on to confirm the legitimacy of Legutko’s claims and our outright denial of physiological reality.
Indeed, here’s Legutko again: [the above] “has practically monopolized the public space and invaded schools, popular culture, academic life and advertising. Today it is no longer enough simply to advertise a product; the companies feel an irresistible need to attach it to a message that is ideologically correct. Even if this message does not have any commercial function – and it hardly ever does – any occasion is good to prove oneself to be a proponent of the brotherhood of races, a critic of the Church, and a supporter of homosexual marriage.”
This sycophantic wheedling is practised by journalists, TV morons, pornographers, athletes, professors, artists, professional groups, and young people already infected with the ideological mass culture. Today’s ideology is so powerful that almost everyone desires to join the great camp of progress”.
Thus whilst the tenets of liberal democracy clearly differ from those of 20th Century communism, both systems are akin in their propagandistic essence, as he writes:
“To be sure, there are different actors in both cases, and yet they perform similar roles: a proletarian was replaced by a homosexual, a capitalist by a fundamentalist, exploitation by discrimination, a communist revolutionary by a feminist, and a red flag by a vagina”.
Variations on this theme inform the entirety of the book and are developed throughout its five chapters: History, Utopia, Politics, Ideology, and Religion. Whilst there is some overlap, the book is written with a philosophical depth reflective of Legutko’s status and which only a few contemporary writers can muster. As Deenen remarks:
“I underlined most of the book upon first reading, and have underlined nearly all the rest during several re-readings. It is the most insightful work of political philosophy during this still young, but troubled century”.
Yet the book isn’t exclusively an arcane tome. Aside from Legutko’s evident learnings, what further enhances the work is the author’s ability to draw upon his own experience. Born in the wake of the Second World War, raised in the ambit of Soviet communism, and employed in the European Parliament in adulthood, Legutko’s is a life that has witnessed the workings of both regimes at first hand.
The author recalls that the transition from communism to liberal democracy was greeted with an early enthusiasm that soon devolved into disenchantment. As he states, any initial exuberance steadily subsided, with Legutko sensing early on that “liberal democracy significantly narrowed the area of what was permissible – [with the] sense of having many doors open and many possibilities to pursue [soon evaporating], subdued by the new rhetoric of necessity that the liberal democratic system brought with itself.”
An insight which deepened the longer he worked within that most emblematic of our institutions of modern-day liberalism: the European Parliament. He writes:
“Whilst there, I saw up close what…escapes the attention of many observers. If the European Parliament is supposed to be the emanation of the spirit of today’s liberal democracy, then this spirit is certainly neither good nor beautiful: it has many bad and ugly features, some of which, unfortunately, it shares with communism.”
Even a preliminary contact…allows one to feel a stifling atmosphere typical of a political monopoly, to see the destruction of language turning into a new form of Newspeak, to observe the creation of a surreality, mostly ideological, that obfuscates the real world, to witness an uncompromising hostility against all dissidents, and to perceive many other things only too familiar to anyone who remembers the world governed by the Communist Party”.
And it is this tyrannical aspect of liberal democracy to which Legutko ultimately inveighs. After some brief remarks on the eclipse of the old religion (Christianity) at the hands of the new, Legutko’s parting words are an understandable lament that liberal-democratic man – “more stubborn, more narrow-minded, and…less willing to learn from others” – has vanquished all-comers. As he adds:
“With Christianity being driven out of the main tract, the liberal-democratic man – unchallenged and totally secure in his rule – will become a sole master of today’s imagination, apodictically determining the boundaries of human nature and, at the very outset, disavowing everything that dares to reach beyond his narrow perspective.” A sad state whereby “the liberal democrat will reign over human aspirations like a tyrant”.
In this regard, Legutko’s remarks echo the German proto-fascist-democratic-dissident, Ernst Junger, who ‘hated democracy like the plague’ and saw the triumph of America-led liberalism as an utter catastrophe. A posture which is also evident in Junger’s compatriot and near contemporary, Martin Heidegger, and in his notion of the ‘darkening of the world.’
Yet it’s perhaps the most famous German theorist of all, Friedrich Nietzsche, to whom we should finally turn and in whose light Legutko ends the book. Largely accepting the popularised Hegelianism of Fukuyama – that there’s no alternative to liberal democracy – Legutko nevertheless muses over whether our current status as Zaruthustrian ‘Last Men’ is a concession we must make to live in this best of all possible worlds or an indictment of our political and spiritual poverty.
As he concludes, the perpetuation of liberal democracy “would be, for some, a comforting testimony that man finally learned to live in sustainable harmony with his nature. For others, it will be a final confirmation that his mediocrity is inveterate.”
A more accurate precis of our current situation I’ve yet to see, and one of many such reasons to read this most wonderful of books.
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