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Political Ideas in the Twentieth Century Author(s): Isaiah Berlin Reviewed work(s): Source: Foreign Affairs, Vol.

28, No. 3 (Apr., 1950), pp. 351-385 Published by: Council on Foreign Relations Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20030256 . Accessed: 30/11/2012 16:11
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FOREIGN
Vol. 28 APRIL

AFFAIRS
No. 3 1950

POLITICAL IDEAS IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY


By Isaiah
Anyone
twentieth

Berlin
to be born in the

desiring
century.?L.

a quiet

life has done badly

Trotsky.

of ideas, however scrupulous and minute HISTORIANS they may feel it necessary to be, cannot avoid perceiving in terms of some kind of pattern. To say their material to not subscribe to any form of Hegelian this is dogma necessarily in about the dominant r?le of laws and metaphysical principles ? ? our a accord in time influential view history increasingly ing to which there is some single "explanation" of the order and this consists in attributes of persons, things and events. Usually or the advocacy of some fundamental "principle" "category" which claims to act as an infallible guide both to the past and to
the future, a magic lens revealing "inner," inexorable, all-perva

sive historical laws, invisible to the naked eye of the mere recorder of events, but capable, when understood, of giving the historian a
unique sense of certainty ? certainty not only of what in fact oc

curred, but of the reason why it could not have occurred other wise, affording a secure knowledge which the mere empirical in vestigator, with his collections of data, his insecure structure of accumulated evidence, his tentative approxima painstakingly tions and perpetual liability to error and reassessment, can never
hope to attain.

as notion of "laws" of this kind is rightly condemned mystery; but the contrary notion of nothing but a metaphysical ? facts which are nothing but facts, hard, inescapable, bare facts untainted by interpretation of arrangement inman-made patterns ? and contrast and To comprehend is equally mythological. The
classify and arrange, to see in patterns of lesser or greater com

plexity,

is not a peculiar

kind of thinking,

it is thinking

itself.

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And we accuse historians of exaggeration, distortion, ignorance, bias or departure from the facts, not because they select, com are in part, at pare and set forth in a context and order which own of their in part conditioned by the circum least, choosing, stances of their material and social environment or their character
or purpose ? we accuse them only when the result deviates too

far, contrasts too harshly with the accepted canons of verification and interpretation which belong to their own time and place and society. These canons and methods and categories are those of the normal "common sense" outlook of a given period and culture, at their best a sharpened, highly-trained form of this outlook, which of all the relevant scientific techniques avail takes cognizance the criticisms directed able, but is itself not one of them. All against this or that writer for an excess of bias or fantasy, or too weak a sense of evidence, or too limited a perception of connec tions between events, are based not upon some absolute standard of truth, of strict "f actuality," of a rigid adherence to a perma the past discovering nently fixed ideal method of "scientifically" "wie es eigentlicht gewesen ist" in contrast with mere theories in the notion of about it, for there is in the last analysis no meaning "objective" criticism in this timeless sense. They rest rather on the and scrupulous most refined concept of accuracy and objectivity a in given society at a given "fidelity to the facts" which obtain the subject in question. period, within in the writing of his revolution the great Romantic When from of individuals the achievements tory transferred emphasis to the growth and influence of institutions conceived in much was to of the the facts" less personal terms, "fidelity degree not thereby automatically altered. The new kind of history, let us say, of public and pri the account of the development, or literature, or social habits during vate law, or government, some given period of time, was not necessarily less or more or accounts of the acts and accurate than earlier "objective" or Calvin or Louis XIV. or Marcus Aurelius fate of Alcibiades or was or not subjective or vague Voltaire Tacitus Thucydides a or fanciful sense in which Ranke or Savigny or Miche in from what let was not. The new history was merely written called a "different angle." The kinds of fact the is nowadays new history was intended to record were different, the empha in the ques sis was different, a shift of interest had occurred in the methods used. The concepts tions asked and consequently

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and terminology reflect an altered view of what constitutes evi dence and therefore, in the end, of what are the "facts." When the "romances" of chroniclers were criticized his "scientific" by torians, at least part of the implied reproach lay in the alleged in the work of the older writers from the findings discrepancies of the most admired and trusted sciences of a later period ; and these were in their turn due to the change in the prevalent concep to the change in tions of the patterns of human development ? themodels in terms of which the past was perceived, those artistic, or psychological models theological, mechanical, biological which were reflected in the fields of inquiry, in the new questions asked and the new types of technique used, giving answers felt to be more interesting or important than those which had become
outmoded.

The history of these changes of "models" is to a large degree the history of human thought. The "organic" or the Marxist of investigating methods history certainly owed part of their to of the the vogue prestige particular natural sciences, or the particular artistic techniques, upon whose model they were sup constructed ; the increased interest, for ex posedly or genuinely in both biology and inmusic from which many basic met ample, aphors and analogies derived, is relevant to the historical writ ing of the nineteenth century, as the new interest in physics and and history of the eighteenth ; mathematics is to the philosophy and the deflationary methods and ironical temper of the his torians who wrote after the war of 1914-18 were conspicuously and accepted in terms of? influenced by? the new psycho had gained public logical and sociological techniques which The confidence this relative during period. of, proportions say, social, economic and political concepts in a once admired historical work throw more light upon the general character istics of its time and for this reason are a more reliable index to the standards adopted, the questions asked, the respective r?les of "facts" to "interpretation," and, in effect, to the en an tire social and political outlook of age, than the distance of in question from some imaginary, fixed, unaltering the work ideal of absolute truth, "factual" or "abstract." It is in terms of of treating the past or the whether such shifts in the methods or of and the and the catchwords, the idioms the present future, and fears which and exhortations doubts they expressed, hopes, of political the conceptual appara ideas? that the development

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354
?

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tus of a society and of itsmost gifted and articulate representatives can best be judged. No doubt the concepts in terms of which people speak and think are symptoms and effects of other proc is the task of this or that empirical esses, the discovery of which and science. But this does not detract from their importance to know constitutes what interest for those who wish paramount the conscious experience of the most characteristic men of an its fate. And its causes and whatever age or a society, whatever we are, of course, for obvious reasons of perspective, in a better this in the case of past societies than for situation to determine our own. But the very sense of contrast and dissimilarity with the past affects us provides the only relevant background which stand against which the features peculiar to our own experience out in sufficient relief to be adequately discerned and described. the mid The student of the political ideas of, for example, nineteenth century must indeed be blind if he does not, sooner or later, become aware of the profound differences in ideas and ? of the in view the ways in which general things terminology, to be related to one are conceived the elements of experience ? which divide that not very distant age from our own. another He understands neither that time nor his own if he does not per ceive the contrast between what was common to Comte and Mill, on the one hand, and and Marx, Herzen and Michelet, Mazzini and Beard, Lytton and William toMax Weber James, Tawney on the other ; the continuity of the European Strachey andWells, intellectual tradition without which no historical understanding at all would be possible is, at shorter range, a succession of specific the remarks and dissimilarities. discontinuities Consequently, in favor of the which follow deliberately ignore the similarities our characterize which outlook in differences political specific own time, and as far as possible, solely our own. ii of the nineteenth two great liberating political movements century were, as every history book informs us, humanitarian their differ and romantic nationalism. Whatever individualism were ences ? and they notoriously profound enough to lead to a ? and ultimate collision of these two ideals sharp divergence that the problems they believed they had this in common: could be solved if only the of societies and both of individuals forces of intelligence and of virtue could be made to prevail over The

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as against the pessi They believed, ignorance and wickedness. mists and fatalists, both religious and secular, whose voices, audible indeed a good deal earlier, began to sound loudly only toward the end of the century, that all clearly understood ques tions could be solved by human beings with the moral and intel schools lectual resources at their disposal. No doubt different of thought returned different answers to these varying problems; romantics ? Tory said one thing, and neo-feudal utilitarians
? democrats, Bonapartists, Pan-Germans, Slavophiles another.

in the unlimited power of education and the believed to overcome economic misery and power of rational morality on the contrary, believed that without inequality. Socialists, and control of economic in the distribution radical alterations resources no amount of change of heart or mind on the part of individuals could be adequate; or, for that matter, occur at all. and Socialists believed in the power and influence Conservatives of institutions and regarded them as a necessary safeguard against individ the chaos, injustice and cruelty caused by uncontrolled ualism ; anarchists, radicals and liberals looked upon institutions to the realization of as such with suspicion as being obstructive so that free (and, in the view of most such thinkers, rational) it if man and conceive could both will of the which build, ciety un residue of ancient abuses (or were not for the unliquidated ? whether the which existing rulers of society reason) upon ? leaned so heavily, and individuals or administrative machines were of which so many of them indeed typical expressions. relative the about degree of the obligation of the Arguments versa filled the air. It is scarcely to vice and individual society Liberals
necessary to rehearse these familiar questions, which to this day

institutions form the staple of discussion in the more conservative wide the to however realize that ofWestern disagree learning, ments about the proper answers to them, the questions themselves alike. There were of were common to liberals and conservatives ? course even at that time isolated irrationalists Stirner, Kierke main all the parties in the but moods certain in Carlyle ; gaard, even Calvinists and ultramontane to the great controversies, in varying Catholics, accepted the notion of man as resembling two he is a idealized Either or one of other the types. degrees and in frustrated hemmed but and creature free naturally good, as or sinister institutions masquerading or obsolete corrupt by saviors and protectors and repositories of sacred traditions; or

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356
he

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is a being largely, but not wholly, free, and to a high degree, but not entirely, good, and consequently unable to save himself unaided and therefore by his own wholly efforts; the great frameworks ? states, rightly seeking salvation within For unions. these edifices great promote only solidarity, churches, security and sufficient strength to resist the shallow joys and self-destructive liberties peddled by those dangerous, ultimately or self-deceived conscienceless individualists who in the name of some bloodless for an intellectual dogma, or noble enthusiasm ideal unrelated to human lives, ignore or destroy the rich texture of social life, heavy with treasures from the past ? blind, leaders of the blind, robbing men of their most precious resources, expos ing them again to the perils of a life solitary, brutish, nasty and
short. Yet there was at least one premise common to the contro

that the problems were real, that it took versy, namely men of exceptional to formulate them training and intelligence men with exceptional grasp of the facts, will power properly, and and capacity for coherent thought to find and apply the correct the belief
solutions.

and two great currents finally ended in exaggerated These and Fascism ? the first indeed distorted forms as Communism as the treacherous heir of the liberal internationalism of the as and bankruptcy the culmination previous century, the second national move which animated the of the mystical patriotism ments of the time. All movements have origins, forerunners, : nor does the twentieth century stand beginnings imperceptible divided from the nineteenth by so universal an explosion as the even in our day the greatest of all historical French Revolution, and landmarks. Yet it is a profound fallacy to regard Fascism more violent as and in main the Communism uncompromising
manifestations of an earlier crisis, the culmination of a struggle

the po long before. The differences between fully discernible nineteenth the and movements of twentieth the litical century are very sharp, but they spring from factors whose full force was not properly realized until our century was well under way. For there is a barrier which divides what is unmistakably past and done with from that which most characteristically belongs to our of this barrier must not blind us to its familiarity day. The of the elements of the new outlook is the One relative novelty. and irrational influences which outweigh notion of unconscious the forces of reason ; another the notion that answers to problems exist not in rational solutions, but in the removal of the problems

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357

themselves by means other than thought and argument The inter saw history as the battle play between the old tradition, which between the identifiable forces of light and dark ground easily
ness, reason and obscurantism, progress and reaction; or alterna

intuition and scienti tively between spiritualism and empiricism, fic method, institutionalism and individualism ? the conflict be tween this order and, on the other hand, the new factors violently ? opposed to the humane psychology of "bourgeois" civilization is to a large extent the history of political ideas of our time. m And yet to a casual observer of the politics and the thought of the twentieth century it might at first seem that every idea and movement our of time is best understood as a natural typical of tendencies already prominent in the nineteenth development case In the of the of international century. institutions, growth for instance, this seems a truism. What are the Hague Court, the old League of Nations and its modern successor, the numerous and for international prewar postwar agencies and conventions ? what and social humanitarian purposes political, economic, are they, if not the direct descendants of that liberal international ism? Tennyson's "Parliament of Man" ? which was the staple of all progressive thought and action in the nineteenth century, and indeed of much in the century before it? The language of for the great founders of European liberalism ? Condorcet, ? or not in does differ Helv?tius substance, example, greatly nor indeed in form, from the most characteristic moments in the or Thomas Masaryk. Wilson European speeches of Woodrow
liberalism wears the appearance of a single coherent movement,

little altered during almost three centuries, founded upon rela laid by Locke or Grotius tively simple intellectual foundations, or even Spinoza; stretching back to Erasmus and Montaigne, the Italian Renaissance, Seneca and the Greeks. In this movement there is a rational answer to every question. Man is, in principle at least, everywhere and in every condition, able, if he wills it, to discover and apply rational solutions to his problems. And these solutions, because they are rational, cannot clash with one form a harmonious system inwhich another, and will ultimately the truth will prevail, and freedom, happiness and unlimited for untrammeled will be open opportunity self-development
to all.

True,

the consciousness

of history which

grew

in the nineteenth

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the severe and simple design of the classical century modified as was it in the eighteenth conceived century. Human theory was seen to be conditioned by factors of greater progress presently of in the springtime of ra than conceived had been complexity : education, rationalist propaganda, were tionalist individualism perhaps not always, nor everywhere, quite enough. Such factors as the particular and special influences by which various societies ? were historically some due to physical conditions, shaped more to and what were elusive emotional others vaguely to as "cultural" allowed classified factors ? were presently have greater importance than they were accorded in the over and all forms simple scheme of Diderot or Bentham. Education, now of social action, must, it was thought, be fitted to take men account and their of historical made needs which institutions somewhat less easy tomould into the required pattern assumed in earlier and more than had been too optimistically
na?ve times.

in its various the original program continued Nevertheless, forms to exercise an almost universal spell. This applied to the Right no less than to the Left. The thinkers of the Right, unless the liberals and they were concerned solely with obstructing and acted upon the belief that, provided their allies, believed no excessive violence was done to slow but certain processes the faster all might of "natural" development, yet be well; and in this the aside must be restricted from pushing slower, way all would arrive in the end. This was the doctrine preached by Bonald early in the century, and it expressed the optimism of that tra sin. Provided in original even the stoutest believers were structure of outlook and social ditional differences pro as the tected from what conservatives were fond of describing "mechanical" levelling processes "artificial," "unimaginative," favored by the liberals; provided that the infinity of "intangible" distinctions or "historic" or "natural" or "providential" (which to them seemed to constitute the essence of fruitful forms of life) into a uniform collec were preserved from being transformed at a pace dictated by some units moving tion of homogeneous
"irrelevant" or "extraneous" authority, contemptuous of pre

scriptive or traditional rights and habits; provided too reckless instituted against safeguards were
upon the sacred ? past with these guarantees,

that adequate a trampling


reforms

rational

and changes were

allowed

to be

feasible

and even

desirable.

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these guarantees, conservatives no less than liberals were prepared to look upon the conscious direction of human affairs by qualified experts with a considerable degree of approval; a and not merely number of in by experts, but by growing dividuals and groups, drawn from, and representing, wider and wider sections of a society which was progressively becoming more and more enlightened. This is amood and attitude common to awider section of opin in ion in the later nineteenth century in Europe, and not merely the West but in the East too, than historians, affected by the politi cal struggles of a later or earlier period, allow us to see. One of ? in so far as it was a causal factor and not the results of it ? was the wide a symptom of the process development merely in in of political the the end, in West whereby representation the succeeding century, all classes of the population began to at
tain to power, sooner or later, in one country or another. The

nineteenth century was full of unrepresented groups engaged in Its for self-expression, the struggle and later for control. men and of counted among them heroes martyrs, representatives the moral and artistic genius whom a genuine struggle of this kind brings forth. The twentieth century, by satisfying much of the social and political hunger of the Victorian period, did in in the material condition of deed witness a striking improvement the majority of the peoples ofWestern Europe, due in large meas ure to the energetic the transformed social legislation which social order. results of this trend (although But one of the least predicted isolated thinkers like Tocqueville, and, of Burckhardt, Herzen, an had more than course, Nietzsche, inkling of it) was a steep decline in the quality of moral idealism, and of romantic, artistic the early struggles of the dissatis rebelliousness, which marked fied social groups during their heroic period when, deeply tyrants, were, together against they fought divergent though they the injustices and philistines. Whatever priests and militant ? no are our fewer than those and time of miseries they plainly ? of the immediate past they are less likely to find expression in monuments of noble eloquence, because that kind of inspiration seems to spring only from the oppression or suppression of entire classes of society. There arrives a brief moment when the leaders of the most articulate, and socially and economically most de veloped, of these suppressed groups are lifted by the common

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36o
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and for a moment speak not for their own class or milieu name in the but of all the oppressed ; for a brief instant alone, a their utterance has universal quality. But a situation where all or nearly all the great sections of or on the point of being, in at any rate are have society been, the formal possession to that truly of power is unfavorable ? at disinterested disinterested least because partly eloquence fulfillment is remote, because principles shine forth most clearly in the darkness and void, because the inner vision is still free from the confusions and and obscurities, the compromises blurred outlines of the external world forced upon inevitably it by the beginnings of practical action. No body of men which a short distance of doing so, can has tasted power, or is within avoid a certain degree of that cynicism which, like a chemical the pure reaction, is generated by the sharp contact between in the wilderness ideal nurtured and its realization in some or to which form seldom conforms the fears of unpredicted hopes an earlier times. It therefore takes effort of the im exceptional to context of later discard the years, to cast ourselves agination back into the period when the views and movements which have since triumphed and lost their glamor long ago were still capable of stirring so much vehement idealistic feeling: was not in principle for example, nationalism felt to when, a growing be incompatible with degree of internationalism, or civil a rational organization of society; liberties with as as when this was believed conservatives almost much by and the gap between the moderates of by their rivals, both sides was only that between the plea that reason must not be to increase the pace of progress beyond the limits permitted that "la raison a tou imposed by "history" and the counterplea and shadows were less important jours raison/9 that memories in the clear light of than the direct perception of the real world a turn was in their themselves began time when liberals This day. to feel the impact of historicism, and to admit the need for a cer tain degree of adjustment and even control of social life, perhaps the inhumanity of by the hated state itself, if only to mitigate unbridled private enterprise, to protect the liberties of the weak, to safeguard those basic human rights without which there could be neither happiness nor justice nor freedom to pursue the ends of life. foundations of these liberal beliefs in the The philosophical

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de mid-nineteenth somewhat obscure. Rights century were scribed as "natural," "inherent," absolute standards of truth and justice, were not compatible with tentative empiricism and utili tarianism ;yet liberals believed in both. Nor was faith in demo cracy strictly consistent with belief in the inviolable rights of minorities or dissident individuals. But so long as the right-wing opposition set itself against all those principles, the contradictions could, on the whole, be allowed to lie dormant, or to form the sub academic disputes, not exacerbated by urgent ject of peaceful need for immediate factual application. Thus the contradictions in the further enhanced the r?le of rational criticism by which, one all and could would be settled. Social The end, day questions in believing in the ists on their part resembled the conservatives existence of inexorable laws of history, and, like them, accused for timeless abstrac the liberals of legislating "unhistorically" ? an activity for which history would not neglect to take tions in due revenge. But they also resembled the liberals in believing on the supreme value of rational analysis, in policies founded from "scientific" premises, deduced theoretical considerations and with them accused the conservatives of misinterpreting "the to status facts" quo, of condoning misery and justify the miserable not indeed like the liberals ; by ignoring history, but by injustice a or manner in it calculated consciously unconsciously misreading to preserve their own power upon a specious moral basis. But
genuinely revolutionary as some among them were, and a thor

in theWestern world, the majority of oughly new phenomenon which the attacked the common with them shared parties they assumption that men must be spoken and appealed to in terms of the needs and interests and ideals of which they were, or could
be made to be, conscious.

differed indeed Conservatives, liberals, radicals, Socialists of historical in their interpretation change. They disagreed in fact the deepest needs and interests and about what were ideals of human beings, and who held them, and how deeply or for what length of time, or about their validity or widely differed about the facts, they in this or that situation. They to and ends differed about means, they seemed to themselves ? too agree on almost nothing. But what they had in common ? was the belief that their to realized be age clearly obviously was ridden with social and political problems which could be of truths upon which solved only by the conscious application

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all men endowed with adequate mental powers could agree. The did indeed question this in theory, but not in practice: Marxists even they did not seriously attack the thesis that when ends were not yet attained, and the choice of means was limited, the proper way of setting about adapting the means to the ends was by the use of all the skill and energy and intellectual and moral insight some regarded these problems as akin to available. And while those of the natural sciences, some to those of ethics or religion, while others supposed that they were altogether sui generis and ? needed altogether unique methods, it seemed they were agreed ? too obvious to need stating that the problems themselves were in more or less similar terms genuine and urgent and intelligible to all clearheaded men, that all solutions were entitled to a hear ing, and that nothing was gained by ignorance or the supposition that the problem did not exist. This set of common assumptions ? they are part of what the
word "enlightenment" means ? were, of course, deeply rational

istic. They were denied implicitly by the whole Romantic move ? ment, and explicitly by isolated thinkers Carlyle, Dostoevsky, And there were obscurer proph Baudelaire, Tolstoy, Nietzsche. Leontiev ? who ets? B?chner, pro Bakunin, Kierkegaard, tested against the prevailing orthodoxy with a depth and original itywhich became clear only in our own time. Not that these think
ers

fiable

they display an "trend;" but in one relevant particular affinity. They denied the importance of political action based on and to this extent they were rightly ab rational considerations, horred by the supporters of respectable conservatism. They said in any form was a fallacy derived or implied that rationalism from a false analysis of the character of human beings, because the springs of human action lay in regions unthought of by the sober thinkers whose views enjoyed prestige among the serious ec public. But their voices were few and discordant, and their to Lib were aberrations. ascribed centric views psychological their artistic genius, were re admired much however they erals, a as conceived what volted by they perverted view of mankind, or looked it and either ignored it violently. Conservatives rejected rationalism and in upon them as allies against the exaggerated and liberals of both Socialists, but treated furiating optimism a as little them nervously queer visionaries, unhinged, not to be too closely. The Socialists looked on imitated or approached

represent

any

one

single

movement,

or

even

an easily

identi

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their them as so many deranged scarcely worth reactionaries, on on currents and the and the The main both shot. powder Right Left flowed round and over these immovable, isolated rocks with their absurd appearance of seeking to arrest or deflect the central current. What were they, after all, but survivals of a darker age, or interesting misfits, sad and at times fascinating in casualties of the advance of history, worthy of sympathetic ? men of talent or even out of their born time, gifted genius sight poets, remarkable artists, but surely not worthy of detailed atten tion on the part of serious students of social and political life? There was (it isworth saying again) a somewhat sinister ele ment dimly recognized from its very beginning inMarxism ? in ? to the main a highly rationalistic system which seemed hostile this entire outlook, denying the importance of reason in their alike on the part of choice of ends and in effective government of the natural sciences individuals or groups. But the worship which Marxism shared with its liberal antagonists was unpropi tious to a clearer perception of its own true nature ; and so this until Sorel brought it to life aspect of it lay largely unrecognized and combined it with the Bergsonian anti-rationalism by which his thought is very strongly colored ; and until Lenin, stemming from a very different tradition, translated it into an all too effec tive practice. But Lenin did not, and his followers to this day it influenced their do not, seem aware of the degree to which not and do not admit it. This was actions. Or, if aware, they did so when the twentieth century opened. IV frontiers are seldom landmarks in the history Chronological of ideas, and the current of the old century, to all appearances into the new. Presently irresistible, seemed to flow peacefully liberalism encountered the picture began to alter. Humanitarian more and more obstacles to its reforming zeal from the conscious or unconscious opposition both of governments and other centers of social power, as well as the passive resistance of established to found itself compelled institutions and habits. It gradually organize those classes of the population on whose behalf it fought to work effectively into something sufficiently powerful against the old establishment. and Fabian of gradualist The history of the transformation and Syn formations of Communism tactics into the militant

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as well as the milder formations of Social Democ dicalism, a trade is and racy history not so much of principles unionism, as of their interplay with new material facts. In a sense Com to an ex humanitarianism driven is doctrinaire munism treme in the pursuit of effective offensive and defensive meth at first sight seems to differ more sharply ods. No movement from liberal reformism than does Marxism, yet the central doc trines? the possibility of creating a per human perfectibility, the belief in the compatibility fect society by a natural means, are com of liberty and equality ? (indeed the inseparability) mon to both. The historical transformation may occur continu or in sudden revolutionary leaps, but it must proceed in ously, an connected accordance with pattern, logically intelligible, abandonment of which is always foolish, always Utopian. No one doubted that liberalism and Socialism were bitterly opposed in in and both ends methods: yet at their edges they shaded off into one another. Marxism is a doctrine which, however strongly nature of action and thought, itmay stress the class-conditioned in theory sets out to appeal to reason, at least among nevertheless the class destined by history to triumph ? In the the proletariat. Communist view the proletariat alone can face the future without flinching, because it need not be deterred into falsification of the facts by fear of what the future may bring. And, as a corollary, this applies also to those intellectuals who have liberated them and superstitions of their economic selves from the prejudices side in the class, and have aligned themselves with the winning are social struggle. To the since them, fully rational, they use of and all of free of their intellectual democracy privileges are to Marxists be accorded. faculties may what They were to the Encyclopedists: the enlightened their philosophes task is to transform all those who are historically capable of it into their own liberated and rational likeness. But in 1903 there occurred an event which marked the cul mination of a process which has altered the history of our world. At the conference of the Russian Social Democratic Party held in that year, which began in Brussels and ended in London, dur ing the discussion of what seemed at first a purely technical ques tion? how far centralization and hierarchical should discipline ? a govern the behavior of the Party delegate named Posadovsky ? the laid whether emphasis inquired by the "hard" Socialists ? Lenin and his friends upon the need for the exercise of ab

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solute authority by the revolutionary nucleus of the Party might not prove incompatible with those fundamental liberties towhose realization Socialism, no less than liberalism, was officially dedi civil liberties ? the basic, minimum cated. He asked whether ? "the sacrosanctity of the person" could be infringed and even violated if the party leaders so decided. He was answered by one of the founders of Russian Marxism, and itsmost Plekhanov, sensitive venerated figure, a cultivated, fastidious and morally Western scholar of wide outlook, who had for 20 years lived in Europe and was much respected by the leaders of western Social "scientific" thinking among ism, the very symbol of civilized revolutionaries. Russian speaking Plekhanov, solemnly, and a for the words, with grammar, pronounced splendid disregard if the revolution de Salus revolutiae suprema lex. Certainly, manded it, everything ? democracy, liberty, the rights of the in dividual ? must be sacrificed to it. If the democratic assembly elected by the Russian people after the revolution proved amen able toMarxist tactics, itwould be kept in being as a Long Parlia if it would be disbanded as quickly as possible. A ment; not, could not be carried through by men obsessed Marxist Revolution of bourgeois liberals. by scrupulous regard for the principles was in these whatever like valuable Doubtless every principles, and would be realized else ultimately desirable, by good thing the victorious working class ;but during the revolutionary period preoccupation with such ideals was evidence of a lack of serious
ness.

Plekhanov, who was brought up in a humane and liberal tradi tion, did, of course, later retreat from this position himself. The mixture of Utopian faith and brutal disregard for civilized moral ity proved too repulsive to aman who had spent the greater part life among Western workers and of his civilized and productive of Social Democrats, their leaders. Like the vast majority like was too to Marx and Engels try to European themselves, he in the words of Shigalev in Dostoevsky's realize a policy which, from unlimited "The Possessed," liberty ends in un "starting the Lenin But limited despotism." accepted premises, and being logically driven to conclusions repulsive tomost of his colleagues, apparent qualms. His assump accepted them easily and without some in tions were, perhaps, sense, still those of the optimistic and nineteenth centuries: the co rationalists of the eighteenth total of the individual suppression ercion, violence, executions,

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differences, the rule of a small, virtually self-appointed minority, were necessary only in the interim period, only so long as there was a powerful enemy to be destroyed. It was necessary only in order that the majority of mankind, once itwas liberated from the of fools by knaves and of weak knaves by more exploitation ? trammeled no longer by igno powerful ones, could develop rance or idleness or vice, free at last to realize to their fullest extent the infinitely rich potentialities of human nature. This or dream may indeed have affinit?s with the dreams of Diderot St. Simon or Kropotkin, but what marked it as something rela
tively novel was the assumption about the means required to trans

late it into reality. And the assumption, although apparently or from concerned and with derived Babeuf solely methods, or or was Marx the French differ very Communards, Blanqui ent from the practical program set forth by the most "activist" and least "evolutionary" Western towards the end of Socialists the nineteenth century. The difference was crucial and marked the birth of the new age. What Lenin demanded was unlimited power for a small body for one pur of professional trained exclusively revolutionaries, in pose, and ceaselessly engaged in its pursuit by every means their power. This was necessary because democratic methods, and the attempts to persuade and preach used by earlier reform ers and rebels, were ineffective : and this in its turn was due to the fact that they rested on a false psychology, sociology and ? men that acted as they of the namely history assumption theory did because of conscious beliefs which could be changed by argu ment. For ifMarx had done anything, he had surely shown that such beliefs and ideals were mere "reflections" of the condition classes of men, to determined of the socially and economically some one of which every individual must belong. A man's beliefs, and Engels were right, flowed from the situation of his ifMarx ? so far, at least, as the mass of men and could not alter class, ? a was concerned without change in that situation. The proper therefore was to change the "objective" task of a revolutionary task in the to i.e. prepare the class for its historical situation, classes. overthrow of the hitherto dominant Lenin went further than this. He acted as if he believed not that it was useless to talk and reason with persons pre merely and acting upon the cluded by class interest from understanding mass them of the proletarians but that the truths of Marxism,

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POLITICAL

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367

to grasp the r?le which history had selves were too benighted called on them to play. He saw the choice as between, on the one hand, the gradual stimulation among the army of the dispossessed of a "critical spirit" (which would awaken them intellectually, but lead to a vast deal of discussion and controversy similar to that which divided and enfeebled the intellectuals), and on the other, the turning of them into a blindly obedient force held to and a set of perpetually gether by a military discipline ingemi nated formulae (at least as powerful as the patriotic patter used by the Tsarist r?gime) to shut out independent thought. If the choice had to be made, then itwas mere irresponsibility to stress the former in the name of some abstract principle such as democ racy or enlightenment. The important thing was the creation of a state of affairs in which human resources were developed in
accordance with a rational pattern. Men were moved more often

too solutions. The masses were by irrational than reasonable stupid and too blind to be allowed to proceed in the direction of their own choosing. Tolstoy and the populists were profoundly the simple agricultural laborer had no deep truths, mistaken; no valuable way of life, to impart; he and the city worker and the simple soldier were fellow serfs in a condition of abject pov erty and squalor, caught in a system which bred fratricidal strife among themselves ; they could be saved only by being ruthlessly ordered by leaders who had acquired a capacity for knowing how to organize the liberated slaves into a rational planned system. Lenin himself was in certain respects oddly Utopian. He started with the belief that with sufficient education, and a rational eco
nomic organization, almost anyone could be brought in the end

to perform almost any task efficiently. But his conclusion was in and Fascists practice strangely like that of those reactionaries that man was everywhere wild, bad, stupid and who believed unruly, and must be held in check and provided with objects of unreasoning worship. This must be done by a clear-sighted band of organizers, acting in accordance with the truths perceived by such men asNietzsche, Parcto, or the French absolutist thinkers toMaurras, himself ? and indeed by Marx from De Maistre men who by some process superior to scientific reasoning had and in the light of grasped the true nature of social development, their discovery saw the liberal theory of human progress as some his crudities thing unreal, thin, pathetic and absurd. Whatever not Locke, turned out and errors, on the central issue, Hobbes,

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to be right : men sought neither happiness nor liberty nor justice, all above and before all, security. Aristotle, but, too, was right: a great number of men were slaves by nature, and when liberated from their chains did not possess the moral and intellectual re sources with which to face the prospect of responsibility, of too wide a choice between alternatives; and therefore, having lost one set of chains, inevitably searched for another or forged new chains themselves. It follows that the wise revolutionary legis lator, so far from seeking to emancipate human beings from the framework without which they feel lost and desperate, will seek to the rather to erect a framework of his own, corresponding new needs of the new age brought about by natural or techno logical change. The value of the framework will depend upon the faith with which its main features are accepted ; unquestioning otherwise it no longer possesses sufficient strength to support and contain the wayward, anarchical and self-destructive potentially creatures who seek salvation in it. The framework is that system of political, and religious those social, economic institutions, "myths," dogmas, ideals, conventional categories of thought and of of modes scales language, feeling, values, "socially approved" attitudes and habits (called by Marx repre "superstructure") and symbolic repre "sublimations" senting "rationalizations," cause men to function sentations which in an organized way, state. This fulfill function of the the Hobbesian prevent chaos,
is not so very remote

and in the supernatural authority whereby unprobed mystery whose name rulers can rule and inhibit their subjects' unruly tendencies, above all the tendency to ask too many questions, to can be permitted rules. Nothing question too many established and which might even a little weaken that sense of reliability to it of is the the framework which business security provide. Only thus (in this view) can the founder of the new free society control whatever threatens to dissipate human energy or to slow alone prevents men from down the relentless treadmill which to acts of commit alone protects suicidal folly, which stopping them from too much freedom, from too little restraint, from the vacuum which mankind, no less than nature, abhors. M. Bergson had, of course, been speaking of something not too unlike this when he had contrasted the flow of life with the cannot create or unite, but only forces of critical reason which make Freud, too, contributed dead, disintegrate. divide, arrest,

from

De

Maistre's

central

and

deliberately

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369

to this ; not in his work of genius as the greatest healer of our time, but as the originator, however innocent, of the misapplica tion of psychological and sociological methods by muddleheaded fools of good will and quacks and false prophets of every brand and hue. By giving currency to exaggerated versions of the view that the true reasons for a man's beliefs were most often very different from what they themselves thought them to be, being they were frequently caused by events and processes of which neither aware nor in the least anxious to be aware, these eminent to discredit the rational thinkers helped, however unwittingly, own their ist foundations doctrines which upon purported to rest. For itwas but a short step from this to the view that what as they themselves made men most permanently happy was not? ? the discovery of solutions to the questions which per supposed plexed them, but rather some process natural or artificial where by the problems were made to vanish altogether. They vanished or their psychological "sources" had been diverted because dried up, leaving behind only those less exacting questions whose solutions did not demand resources beyond the patient's
strength.

the troubled and the perplexed, That this short way with which underlay much right-wing thought, should be advocated from the left, was new indeed. It is this change of attitude to the function and value of the intellect that is perhaps the best in dication of the great gap which divides the twentieth century from the nineteenth. v I wish to make is The central point which the centuries of recorded history the course of deavor, the purpose of education, the substance about the truth or value of ideas, presupposed
certain mount questions, How importance. crucial the valid, answers it was to which asked,

this : during all intellectual en of controversies the existence of


were of the para various

were

of discovering absolute knowledge claims to the best methods as meta and truth made by such great and famous disciplines physics, ethics, theology, and the sciences of nature and of man? What was the right life for men to lead, and how was it dis covered? Did God exist, and could His purposes be known or even guessed at? Did human and in particular the universe, a did did How If it fulfil? have whose so, purpose life, purpose?

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370
one set about

FOREIGN AFFAIRS
answering such questions? Were they or were they

not analogous to the kind of questions to which the sciences or common sense provided satisfactory, generally accepted, replies? If not, did it make sense to ask them? And as inmetaphysics and ethics, so in politics too. The politi cal problem was concerned with asking why any individual or individuals should obey other individuals or associations of in dividuals. All the classical doctrines which deal with the famil iar topics of liberty and authority, sovereignty and natural rights, the ends of the state and the ends of the individual, the General Will and the rights of minorities, and theocracy, secularism functionalism and centralization ? all these are but various ways to formulate methods of attempting in terms of which this a fundamental question can be answered in manner compatible with the other beliefs and the general outlook of the inquirer and his generation. Great and sometimes mortal conflicts have arisen over the proper techniques for the answering of such questions. Some sought answers in sacred books, others in direct personal insight, others in the pronounce revelation, some inmetaphysical ments of infallible sages or in speculative systems or in laborious investigations. The questions were of vital importance empirical for the conduct of life. There were, of course, skeptics in every generation who suggested that there were, perhaps, no final an swers, that solutions hitherto provided depended on highly vari the theorist's life was able factors such as the climate in which or or or economic his social condition, or those political lived, of his fellows, or his or their emotional disposition, or the kinds of intellectual interests which absorbed him or them. But such as were either frivolous and so not im treated usually skeptics so that or and even dangerous; else unduly disturbing portant, in times of instability they were liable to persecution. But even ? or Montaigne or Hume ? did even Sextus Empiricus they of the themselves. not actually doubt the importance questions was of the doubted What obtaining final and possibility they absolute solutions. It was left to the twentieth century to do something more dras tic than this. For the first time it was now asserted that the way those recurrent issues which to answer questions, particularly had perplexed and often tormented original and honest minds in the tools of reason, still every generation, was not by employing less those of the more mysterious capacities called "insight" and

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POLITICAL IDEAS
"intuition," this method

37*

the questions themselves. And but by obliterating consists not in removing them by rational means ? for that by proving, example, they are founded on intel or or ignorance of the facts lectual confusion verbal muddles ? the need for for to prove this would in its turn presuppose rational methods of logical or psychological argument. Rather so it consists in treating the questioner that problems which ap once at peared overwhelmingly important and utterly insoluble like evil dreams vanish from the questioner's consciousness no more. and trouble him It consists, not in developing the the and the context, logical implications elucidating meaning, or the relevance and origin of a specific problem ? in seeing ? it "amounts what to" the outlook which but in altering to in for whose it the rise first solu Questions gave place. are tion no ready-made all could be easily produced technique too easily classified as obsessions from which the patient must be cured. Thus if a man is haunted by the suspicion that, for full individual example, liberty is not compatible with coer cion by the majority in a democratic state, and yet continues to hanker after both democracy and individual liberty, it may treatment to rid him of his id?e fixe, be possible by appropriate so that it will disappear to return no more. The worried ques tioner of political institutions is thereby relieved of his burden and freed to pursue socially useful tasks, unhampered by disturb ing and distracting reflections which have been eliminated by the
eradication of their cause.

The method has the bold simplicity of genius : it secures agree ment on matters of political principle by removing the psycho logical possibility of alternatives, which itself depends, or is held to depend, on the older form of social organization, rendered ob solete by the revolution and the new social order. And this is how
Communist

totalitarian societies and secular and religious creeds ? have in in the task of imposing political and ideological fact proceeded

and

Fascist

states

and

all

other

quasi-

and

semi

conformity.

are not more directly to For this the works of Karl Marx blame than the other tendencies of our time. Marx was a typi cal nineteenth century social theorist, in the same sense as or Comte or Buckle. A policy of deliberate psychologi Mill cal conditioning was as alien to him as to them. He believed that many of the questions of his predecessors were quite genuine,

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372

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and thought that he had solved them. He supported his solutions with arguments which he honestly supposed to conform to the canons of his time. Whether his best scientific and philosophical outlook was in fact as scientific as he claimed, or his solutions as is another question. What matters is that he recognized plausible, the genuineness of the questions he was attempting to answer and offered a theory with a claim to being scientific in the accepted sense of the term; and thereby poured much light (and darkness) on many vexed problems, and led to much fruitful (and sterile) revaluation and reinterpretation. states and, more But the practice of Communist logically of Fascist the states (since they openly deny and denounce not at value of the rational question-and-answer is method), all the training of the critical, or solution-finding, powers of in them of any capacity their citizens, nor yet the development for special insights or intuitions regarded as likely to reveal cen the truth. It consists in something which any nineteenth have tury thinker with respect for the sciences would regarded with genuine horror ? the training of individuals incapable of being troubled by questions which, when raised and discussed, en danger the stability of the system; the building and elaboration of a strong framework of institutions, "myths," habits of life and thought intended to preserve it from sudden shocks or slow decay. attends the rise of totali This is the intellectual outlook which ? satires of tarian ideologies the substance of the hair-raising ? the state of mind inwhich George Orwell and Aldous Huxley troublesome questions appear as a form of mental perturbation, noxious to the mental health of individuals and, when too widely is an attitude which discussed, to the health of societies. This looks on all inner conflict as an evil, or at best as a form of futile self-frustration ;which considers the kind of friction, the moral kind of the particular or emotional or intellectual collisions, rises to a condition of agony acute spiritual discomfort which intellect and imagination, human of the works from which great sprung, as being no inventions, philosophies, works of art, have ? diseases better than purely destructive neuroses, psychoses, mental derangements, genuinely requiring psychiatric aid; above in from that line to which all as being dangerous deviations and societies must adhere if they are to continue in a dividuals
state of well-ordered, painless, contented, self-perpetuating equi

librium.

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IDEAS

373

and something far is a truly far-reaching This conception, more powerful than the pessimism or cynicism of thinkers like Plato or Machiavelli, Swift or Carlyle, who looked on the ma as unalterably stupid or incurably vicious, jority of mankind and therefore concerned themselves with how the world might or otherwise su be made safe for the exceptional, enlightened or con individual. For their view did at least perior minority cede the reality of the painful problems, and merely denied the to solve them ; whereas the more radical capacity of the majority attitude looks upon intellectual perplexity as being caused either by a technical problem to be settled in terms of practical policy, or else as a neurosis to be cured, that ismade to disappear, if pos sible without a trace. This leads to a novel conception of the truth and of disinterested ideals in general, which would hardly have to previous centuries. To adopt it is to hold that been intelligible outside the purely technical sphere (where one asks only what are the most efficient means towards this or that practical end) words like "true," or "right," or "free," and the concepts which they denote, are to be defined in terms of the only activity recog the organization of society as a nized as valuable, namely, for of such of machine the needs providing smoothly-working are as to The survive. and words itsmembers ideas in permitted such a society will reflect the outlook of the citizens, being ad justed so as to involve as little friction as possible between, and leaving them free to make the "optimum" within, individuals, use of the resources available to them. utilitarian nightmare. In the course This is indeed Dostoevsky's of humanitarian of their pursuit social welfare, liberals, deeply outraged by cruelty, injustice and inefficiency, discover that the these evils is not by providing only sound method of preventing for free intellectual or emotional de the widest opportunities for who can tell where this might not lead? ? but velopment? the motives for the pursuit of these perilous ends, by eliminating by suppressing any tendencies likely to lead to criticism, dissatis faction, disorderly forms of life. I shall not attempt here to trace how this came to pass. No doubt the story must at historically in tempo and some stage include the fact that mere disparity and social change, together extent between technical development to harmonize with the fact that the two could not be guaranteed ? ? of Adam Smith the and indeed optimistic promises despite clashed more and more often, led to increasingly destructive and

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374
apparently

FOREIGN
unavertable economic

AFFAIRS
crises. These were accom

the general panied by social, political and moral disasters which ? of framework the patterns lan behavior, habits, outlook, ? of the victims guage, that is the "ideological superstructure" could not sustain. The result was a loss of faith in existing po litical activities and ideals, and a desperate desire to live in a uni
verse which, however sense of the dull and flat, was at any rate secure against

the repetition
growing

of such catastrophes.
greater or

An

element

in this was
of such

lesser

meaninglessness

or truth, ancient battle-cries as liberty or equality or civilization to the surrounding scene was no longer as since their application as in the nineteenth century. had it been intelligible in the majority of cases, there Together with this development, went a reluctance to face it. But the once hallowed phrases were not abandoned. They were used ? robbed of their original value ? to cover the different and sometimes diametrically opposed in terms of the old system of notions of the new morality, which and brutal. The Fascists alone values, seemed both unscrupulous to did not take the trouble pretend to retain the old symbols, and of the more un while political diehards and the representatives bridled forms of modern big business clung half cynically, half to such terms as freedom or democracy, the Fascists hopefully, theatrical with of and disdain them gestures outright rejected as scorn outworn them the of and husks upon poured loathing, rotted had the But differ ideals which away. long ago despite the use of specific symbols there is a ences of policy concerning substantial similarity between all the variants of the new political
attitude.

Observers
similarities

in the twenty-first
of pattern more easily

century will
than we who

doubtless
are

see these
can

involved

them as naturally and possibly do today. They will distinguish ? that hortus inclusus of the immediate their from past clearly so nineteenth century inwhich many writers both of history and of journalism and of political addresses today still seem to be liv ? aswe distinguish the growth of romantic nationalism or of ing from that of enlightened na?ve positivism despotism or of patri cian republics. Still, even we who live in them can discern some thing novel in our own times. Even we perceive the growth of common to widely different spheres. On the new characteristics
one hand, we can see the progressive and conscious subordination

of political

to social and economic

interests. The most vivid

symp

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IDEAS

375

are the open self-identification toms of this subordination and conscious solidarity of men as capitalists or workers; these cut across, though without destroying, national and religious loyal ties. On the other, we meet with the conviction that political use it, and to the without is useless economic liberty strength or denial of the rival open implied consequently proposition to politically is of use only that economic opportunity free men. This in its turn carries with it a tacit accept ance of the proposition that the responsibilities of the state to its citizens must and will grow and not diminish, a theorem which is today taken for granted by masters and men alike, in Europe than in the United perhaps more unquestioningly States, but a even to there which seemed accepted degree Utopian only 30,
let alone 50, years ago. This great transformation, with its genu

ine material gains, and no less genuine growth in social equality in the least liberal societies, is accompanied by something which forms the obverse side of the medal ? the elimination, or, at the of those for free very best, strong disapproval propensities inquiry and creation which cannot, without losing their nature, remain as as the twentieth century demands. conformist and law-abiding A century ago Auguste Comte asked why, if there was rightly no demand for freedom to disagree in mathematics, it should be allowed and even encouraged in ethics or the social sciences. And indeed, if the creation of certain "optimum" patterns of behavior and thought and feeling in individuals or entire societies is the main goal of social and individual action, Comte's case is un answerable. Yet it is the degree of this very right to disregard the forces of order and convention, even the publicly accepted "optimum" goals of action, that forms the glory of that bourgeois culture which reached its zenith in the nineteenth century and of which we have only now begun to witness the beginning of the
end. v

new attitude, resting as it does upon the policy of dimin ishing strife and misery by the atrophy of the faculties capable of causing them, is naturally hostile to, or at least suspicious of, disinterested and looks curiosity (which might end anywhere), not the of all arts upon practice obviously useful to society as at of best social forms being frivolity. Such occupations, when are a not they positive menace, are, in this view, an irritating and The

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wasteful irrelevance, a trivial fiddling, a dissipation or diversion of energy which at all and is difficult enough to accumulate to should therefore be directed wholeheartedly and unceasingly ? some the task of building and maintaining the well-adjusted times called the "well-integrated" ? social whole. In this state of mind it is only natural that such terms as truth or honor or obligation or beauty become transformed into purely offensive or defensive weapons, used by a state or a party in the struggle to create a community impervious to influences beyond its own di rect control. The result can be achieved either by rigid censorship a world which re and insulation from the rest of the world ? sense at in to that least the its inhabitants continue mains free say what they wish, inwhich words are relatively unorganized, with all the "dangerous" consequences thereby brought about; or else area of strict control until it can the it be achieved by extending sources of anarchy, i.e. the whole stretches over all possible of mankind. Only by one of these two expedients can a state of affairs be achieved inwhich human behavior can be manipulated ? with relative ease of technically qualified specialists adjusters of conflicts and promoters of peace both of body and of mind, sociologists, engineers and other scientific experts, psychologists, this is not an economic and social planners and so on. Clearly of judgment, moral intellectual climate which favors originality or uncommon of powers insight. The entire trend independence of such an order is to reduce all issues to technical problems in particular the problem of how of lesser or greater complexity, in achieve a condition to survive, get rid of maladjustments, are or economic individual's the which capacities psychological of unclouded the maximum social con harnessed to producing tentment; and this in its turn depends upon the suppression of raise doubt or assert itself against the in him might whatever plan. all-clarifying, all-satisfying single all-embracing, The tendency has taken acute forms in, for example, the Soviet Union. There subordination to the central plan, and the elimina tion of disturbing factors, whether by education or repression, has in the literal in been enacted with that capacity for believing ? in and the of duty of human beings ability ideologies spiration into to translate ideas practice fully, rigorously and immediately ? thinkers of all schools seem singularly ad to which Russian dicted. The Soviet pattern is clear, simple and correctly deduced demonstrated" from "scientifically premises. The task of realiz

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POLITICAL

IDEAS

377

ing itmust be entrusted to technically trained believers who look on the human beings at their disposal as material which is in sciences. the revealed confines the within malleable by finitely Stalin's remark that creative artists are "engineers of human souls" is a very precise expression of this spirit. The presence of it in the various Fascist societies destroyed by the recent war, with intuition or instinct substituted for science, and cynicism for hypocrisy, are equally clear for all to see. InWestern Europe form of a shift of emphasis this tendency has taken the milder about political principles away from disagreement (and from party struggles which sprang from genuine differences of moral and spiritual outlook) tech towards disagreements, ultimately ? that about the best ways of achieving nical, about methods or of without which minimum social economic stability degree and the ends arguments concerned with fundamental principles to and unrelated of life are felt to be "abstract," "academic" the urgent needs of the hour. Hence that noticeably growing as opposed to cur lack of interest in long-term political issues? ? on the part of the rent day-to-day economic or social problems which is occa of the continent Western populations European and British shocked American observers sionally deplored by who falsely ascribe it to the growth of cynicism and disenchant ment with ideals. No doubt all abandonment of old values for new must appear to the surviving adherents of the former as conscienceless disre a as There But this delusion. for such. is great morality gard or apathetic, of conscienceless is all too little disbelief, whether
the new values. On the contrary, they are clung to with unreason

ing faith and that blind intolerance towards skepticism which inner bankruptcy, the springs, as often as not, from a profound a at least, narrow, dark, hope against hope that here is safe haven numbers of human beings are pre cut off, but secure. Growing pared to purchase this sense of security even at the cost of allow ing vast tracts of life to be controlled by persons who, whether to narrow the horizon of consciously or not, act systematically human activity tomanageable proportions, to train human beings ? more almost pre into easily combinable parts interchangeable, of a total pattern. In the face of such a strong fabricated? ? desire to stabilize, if need be, at the lowest level upon the floor cannot cannot which from which you fall, betray you, "let you ? all the ancient political down" begin to vanish, principles

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AFFAIRS

feeble symbols of creeds no longer relevant to the new realities. This process does not move at a uniform pace everywhere. In the United States perhaps, for obvious economic the reasons, nineteenth century survives far more powerfully than anywhere else. The political issues and conflicts, the topics of discussion, and the idealized personalities of democratic leaders are far more reminiscent of Victorian Europe than anything to be found
on that continent now.

was a nineteenth century liberal in a very Woodrow Wilson sense. The New Deal and the personality full and unqualified of President Roosevelt excited political passions far more like or Lloyd the of those battles which raged round Gladstone or the anti-clerical at the turn of the governments George, in than century France, anything actually contemporary with the it in Europe; and this great liberal enterprise, certainly most constructive individual between liberty and compromise
economic security which our own time has witnessed, corre

and economic ideals of sponds more closely to the political in his last, humanitarian-Socialist phase John Stuart Mill in the thirties. The con than to left-wing thought in Europe about the United Na troversy about international organization, as the other postwar as well inter tions and its subsidiaries, in the which controversies like the national years institutions, are fully intel after 1918 surrounded the League of Nations, ideals, and there ligible in terms of nineteenth century political
fore occupied far more attention and meant much more in

America than in Europe. The United States may have disavowed but it continued to live in a moral atmosphere President Wilson, the easily recog time? not very different from that ofWilson's values. moral world of the Victorian nizable black-and-white on for 25 American conscience the The events of 1918 preyed in Europe the exalt? atmosphere of 1918-1919 years, whereas ? a brief moment of illumination a trace without disappeared the more that European, American in retrospect seems which in Europe of a great but dying tradition in last manifestation a world already living, and fully conscious of living, in a new too well aware of its differences from, and resentful medium, a dramatic of, its past. The break was not sudden and total, in the of the seeds th??tre. de eighteenth or planted Many coup the in the twentieth: centuries have flowered only nineteenth unions were founded political and ethical climate in which trade

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POLITICAL

IDEAS

379

in Germany, or England, or France did of course contain as ele ments the old, familiar doctrines of human rights and duties which were the common property, avowed or not, of almost all
parties The and views main in the of liberal, humanitarian, century expansionist does, of hun

dred years of peaceful


current

progress.
the nineteenth course,

survive into the present, and especially in America and the British Dominions ;but it is not what ismost characteristic of our time. For in the past there were conflicts of ideas, whereas what our time is not the struggle of one set of ideas characterizes against another but the mounting wave of hostility to all ideas as such. Since ideas are considered the source of too much dis quiet, there is a tendency to suppress the conflict between liberal claims to individual political rights and the economic injustice which results from their satisfaction (which forms the substance of Socialist criticism) by the submersion of both in an authorita rian r?gime which removes the free area within which such con flicts can occur. What is genuinely typical of our time is a new con derive not from the cept of the society, the values of which desires or the moral sense of this or that individual's view of his ultimate ends but from some factual hypothesis or metaphysical
dogma about history, or race, or national character in terms of

which

to the question what is good, right, required, can be "scientifically" desirable, fitting, deduced, or intuited, or or that kind of behavior. There is one and only expressed in this one direction in which a given aggregate of individuals is con ceived to be travelling, driven thither by quasi-occult impersonal
forces, such as their class structure, or their unconscious selves,

the answers

or their racial origin, or the "real" social or physical roots of this or that "popular" or "group" "mythology." The direction is alterable only by tampering with the hidden cause of be havior ? those who wish to tamper being, according to this view, free to determine their own direction and that of others by an of the of social behavior having understanding machinery and skill inmanipulating it. In this sinister fashion have the words of St. Simon's prophecy ? words which once seemed so brave and opti finally come true mistic : "The government of man will be replaced by the admin istration of things." The cosmic forces are conceived as omnipo tent and indestructible. Hopes, fears, prayers cannot wish them out of existence; but the ?lite of experts can canalize them and con

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38o

FOREIGN

AFFAIRS

trol them to some extent. The task of these experts is to adjust human beings to these forces and to develop in them an unshak able faith in the new order, and unquestioning loyalty to it,which will anchor it securely and forever. Consequently the technical natural and which direct forces disciplines adjust men to the
new order must take primacy over humane ? pursuits philo

serve artistic. Such pursuits, at most, will sophical, historical, only to prop up and embellish the new establishment. Turgenev's na?ve materialist, the hero of his novel "Fathers and Sons," the nihilist Bazarov, has finally come into his own, as St. Simon and his more pedestrian follower Comte always felt sure that he would, but for reasons very different from those which seemed a century ago. Bazarov's faith rested on the claim plausible that the dissection of frogs was more important than poetry the poetry of Pushkin did because it led to the truth, whereas
not.

The reason given today ismore devastating: anatomy is supe rior to art because it generates no independent ends of life, pro vides no experiences which act as independent criteria of good or evil, truth or falsehood, and which are therefore liable to clash with the orthodoxy which we have created as the only bulwark strong enough to preserve us from doubts and despairs and all To be torn this way and that the horrors of maladjustment. it a form of malaise. Against or is intellectually emotionally
? nothing in equal will work but that the choice elimination between of them balance so nearly alternatives ? or even is appears

possible.

in Dostoevsky's This is, of course, what the Grand Inquisitor that with "Brothers Karamazov" maintained deadly eloquence: what men dreaded most was freedom of choice, to be left alone to grope their way in the dark; and the Church by lifting the from their shoulders made them willing, grateful responsibility and happy slaves. The Grand Inquisitor stood for the dogmatic of the life of the spirit: Bazarov for its theoretical organization ? free scientific inquiry, the facing of the "hard" facts, opposite the acceptance of the truth however brutal. But by an irony of history they have formed a (not unforeseen by Dostoevsky) are almost indistinguishable. pact, they are allies, and today
Buridan's ass, we are told, unable to choose between two equi

bundles of hay, starved to death. Against only remedy is blind obedience and faith. Whether distant

this fate the the refuge is

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POLITICAL
a dogmatic religion or a dogmatic

IDEAS
natural science matters

381
rela

and faith such obedience tively little: for without no no confidence and hope, optimistic, "constructive," form of life. VI At
scribed stitution,

there

is no

"positive"

this point
is not every

it might
altogether irrationalist

be said that the situation


new. Has not movement,

I have

de
in

? the artificial stilling of doubts, the attempt thing of this kind either to discredit uncomfortable questions or to educate men not to ask them? Was this not the practice of the great organized churches, indeed of every institution from the national state to small sectarian establishments? Was this not the attitude of the
enemies of reason from the earliest mystery cults to the roman

authoritarian every been engaged upon

some

ticism, anarchistic nihilism or surrealism of the last century and a half? Why should our age be specially accused of addiction to the particular formed the central theme of tendency which the social doctrines of Plato, or of the sect of the mediaeval As sassins, or of much Eastern thought and mysticism? But there are two great differences which separate the political of our age from their origins in the past. In the characteristics first place, the reactionaries or romantics of previous periods, however much they might have advocated the superior wisdom of institutional authority or the revealed word over that of in unreason dividual of wildest reason, did not in their moments minimize the importance of the questions to be answered. On
the contrary they maintained that or so divine crucial was could it to obtain vouchsafe

the correct
leaders,

answer

that only hallowed


revelation,

institutions,
grace

or inspired

or mystical

a solution of sufficient depth and universality. No doubt a hier of questions underlies any archy of the relative importance ? a social the authority of which established system hierarchy the ob is itself not intended to be open to question. Moreover, some answers of in the offered has every age con among scurity to the questions cealed their lack of truth or their irrelevance which they purported to solve. And perhaps much hypocrisy has traditionally been necessary to secure their success. But hypoc risy is very different from cynicism or blindness. Even the cen sors of opinion and the enemies of the truth felt compelled to pay formal homage to the vital importance of obtaining true answers

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382

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to the great problems by the best available means. If their prac tice belied this, at least there was something to be belied : traitors and heretics often keep alive the memory ? and the authority ? of the beliefs which they are intent on betraying. The second difference consists in the fact that in the past such attempts to becloud the nature of the issues were associated specifically with the avowed enemies of reason and individual freedom. The alignment of forces has been clear at any rate since the Renaissance; progress and reaction, however much these words have been abused, are not empty concepts. On one side stood the supporters of authority, unreasoning faith, sus or the uncontrolled to, picious of, openly opposed pursuit of truth or the free realization of individual ideals. On the other, whatever their differences, were those supporters of free inquiry and Lessing, Mill and self-expression who looked upon Voltaire as and Darwin and Ibsen their prophets. Their common quality
perhaps their only common ? quality was some degree of de

and a hatred of all that votion to the ideals of the Renaissance ? or was associated, whether not, with the Middle Ages justly the hatred the stifling of all heterodoxy, darkness, suppression, of the flesh and of gaiety and of the love of natural beauty. There were of course many who cannot be classified so simply or so crudely; but until our own day the lines were drawn sharply enough to determine clearly the position of the men who most
deeply influenced their age. A combination of devotion to scien

social theory seemed alto tific principles with "obscurantist" and the unthinkable. tendency to circumscribe Today gether the range of what may be asked confine and limit, to determine and what may not, towhat may be believed and what may not, is no longer a distinguishing mark of the "reactionaries." On the comes as from the heirs of the radicals, it contrary, powerfully of the nineteenth century as the rationalists, the "progressives," is a persecution from the descendants of their enemies. There not only of science, but by science and in its name; and this is a nightmare scarcely foreseen by the most Cassandra-like prophets of either camp. are often told that the present is an age of cynicism and We of the fixed despair, of crumbling values and the dissolution our But this is neither civilization. standards and landmarks of true nor even plausible. So far from showing the loose texture is today stiff with rigid rules of a collapsing order, the world and codes and ardent, irrational religions. So far from evincing

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POLITICAL
the toleration which
sanctions, it treats as the

IDEAS

383
of the ancient

springs from cynical disregard


heterodoxy supreme

danger.

in the East orWest, the danger has not been greater Whether are called for much more since the ages of faith. Conformities than loyalties are tested far more today yesterday; eagerly severely; skeptics and liberals and individuals with a taste for if they private life and their own inner standards of behavior, do not take care to identify themselves with an organized faith, are objects of fear or derision and targets of persecution for either side, execrated or despised by all the embattled parties this in the great ideological wars of our time. And although averse to extremes ? is less acute in societies traditionally ? this makes little differ Great Britain, say, or Switzerland ence to the general pattern. In the world stu individual today are more easily than failure forgiven pidity and wickedness to be identified with a recognized party or attitude, to achieve an approved political or economic or intellectual status. In earlier periods, when more than one authority ruled human a man state of the the pressure escape might by taking life, in the fortress of the opposition ? of an organized refuge church or a dissident feudal establishment. The mere fact of room for a narrow and allowed conflict between authorities
shifting, but still never entirely non-existent, no-man's-land,

where private lives might still precariously be lived, because neither side dared to go too far for fear of too greatly strength the very virtues of the paternalistic ening the other. Today and disease and state, its genuine anxiety to reduce destitution to all and crannies the nooks penetrate neglected inequality, of life which may stand in need of its justice and its bounty ? its very success in those beneficent activities ? has narrowed the area within which the individual may commit blunders, has curtailed his liberties in the interest (the very real interest)of his welfare or of his sanity, his health, his security, his freedom
from want and fear. His area of choice has

as in the Dark Ages in the name of some opposing principle or during the rise of the nationalities ? but in order to create a situation in which of opposed principles, the very possibility cause to stress and mental with all their unlimited capacity is in of a eliminated and destructive favor collisions, danger a an faith in robust and better efficiently regulated life, simpler working order, untroubled by agonizing moral conflict. the social and eco Yet this is not a gratuitous development:

grown

smaller

not

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384

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nomic situation inwhich we are placed, the failure to harmonize the effects of technical progress with the forces of political and economic organization inherited from an earlier phase, do call
for a greater measure of social control to prevent chaos and

of human faculties destitution, no less fatal to the development than blind conformity. And certainly it is morally unthinkable that we give up our social gains and meditate for an instant the possibility of a return to ancient injustice and inequality and it skill makes hopeless misery. The progress of technological rational and indeed imperative to plan, and anxiety for the suc cess of a particular planned society naturally inclines the plan ners to seek insulation from dangerous, because incalculable, forces which may jeopardize the plan. And this is a powerful incentive to "autarky" and "Socialism in one country" whether or or isolationists, or New imposed by conservatives, Dealers, or Social Democrats, indeed imperialists. And this in its turn artificial and increasingly restricts the plan barriers generates
ners' own resources. In extreme cases it leads to repression of the

and a perpetual discontented until it tightening of discipline, absorbs more and more of the time and ingenuity of those who to a minimum conceived it only as a means of ef originally a to it grows be hideous end in itself, since its ficiency. Presently realization spells ruin to the system now caught in a vicious circle to re of repression in order to survive and of survival mainly
press. So the remedy grows to be worse than the disease, and takes

the form of those orthodoxies which rest on the simple puritani cal faith of individuals who never knew or have forgotten what
douceur de vivre, free self-expression, the infinite variety of per

sons and of the relationships between them, and the right of free choice, difficult to endure but more intolerable to surrender, can ever have been like. we cannot sacrifice either The dilemma is logically insoluble :
freedom or a minimum standard of welfare. The way out must

logically untidy, flexible, and even am every situation calls for its own specific biguous compromise: as Kant out of the crooked timber of humanity, policy, since therefore lie in some
once remarked, no straight thing was ever made. What is the it the age op

calls for is not

(as we

are so often

told) more

faith or stronger
skepticism, ad hoc and

or more Rather rational organization. leadership ? more less Messianic enlightened ardor, posite more more of toleration idiosyncrasies, frequent

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POLITICAL
ephemeral arrangements, more room

IDEAS
for the attainment of

385
their

tastes and by minorities whose personal ends by individuals and beliefs find (whether rightly or wrongly must not matter) little response among the majority. What is required is a less less fervent application of general principles, how mechanical,
ever rational or righteous, a more cautious and less self-confident

application of accepted, scientifically tested, general solutions in individual cases. We must not submit to authority unexamined because it is infallible but only for strictly and openly utilitarian
reasons, as a necessary evil. Since no solution can be guaranteed

is final. And therefore a loose tex against error, no disposition ture and ameasure of inefficiency and even muddle, even a degree of indulgence in idle talk, idle curiosity, aimless pursuit of this
or that without authorization ? "conspicuous waste" itself ?

may allow more spontaneous, individual variation (for which the individual must in the end assume full responsibility), and will more far neatest most worth be than the and always delicately fashioned imposed pattern. Above all, it must be realized that the kinds of problems which this or that method of education or of life is system of scientific or religious or social organization eo are to not solve the central facto guaranteed questions of hu man life. They are not, and never have been, the fundamental issues which embody the changing outlook and the most intense of their time and generation. It is from absorbed preoccupation with these fundamental issues and these alone, preoccupation at and without times technical unplanned equipment, more often than not without conscious hope of success, still less of the appro bation of the official auditor, that the best moments come in the lives of individuals and peoples.

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