The Roots of Our Turmoil

SCHAPIRO, J. SALWYN

The Roots of Our Turmoil WRITERS and WRITING Politics and Opinion in the Nineteenth Century. By John Bowie. Oxford. 512 pp. $4.50. Reviewed by J. Salwyn Schapiro Professor Emeritus of History,...

...How could stability be attained after the Revolution had shown how an existing order could be swiftly and completely destroyed...
...A revolt against reason now began...
...Myths became dogmas, and dogmas became weapons of offense in social warfare...
...The current in the direction of change became evident in the rise of new schools of thought: socialist, anarchist and, in some ways, even fascist...
...Saint-Simon was brimful of ideas, some fantastic and even farcical, others sound, such as industrial efficiency, social legislation, and the great importance of technology under modern conditions...
...Proudhon is treated by the author in his traditional role of "anarchist," animated by a passionate love of individual freedom and social justice...
...Unlike Comte and Saint-Simon, the new sociologists, notably Emile Durkheim in France and Graham Wallas in England, had little use for abstract speculations and a priori generalizations...
...Proudhon was a forerunner of fascism...
...It developed a concept of dynamic stability which found fullest expression in English utilitarianism as expounded by Bentham and his disciples...
...Its leading protagonist was Joseph de Maistre, whose philosophy the author aptly characterizes as a combination of "an Augustinian conviction of original sin with a Hobbesian political pessimism...
...His outlook is not always clear, but this reviewer detected a nostalgia for Victorian liberalism, "a high and powerful civilization" which asserted "creative personality, the achievements of the human spirit, against the impoverishment and sub-normality of war...
...As a consequence, progress was interpreted in terms of conflictóbetween individuals, classes, nations and races...
...Especially interesting is the author's treatment of the creators of social Utopias, Saint-Simon, Comte and Proudhon, whose influence was felt throughout the nineteenth century and even beyond...
...Glorification of war was the very soul of Treitschke's nationalism...
...In his view, the competitive and ruthless aspects of Darwinism were then unduly stressed at the expense of its overall picture of "organic interdependence...
...Both dedicated themselves to the annihilation of the liberal world and contributed "handsomely to the bedevilment of mankind...
...How then account for its complete annihilation by totalitarian dictatorship in so large a part of the world...
...Sorel's philosophy "blended the Marxist class war with a new Nietzschean myth...
...Proudhon is the "Dr...
...According to the author, the expanding industrial society of the period demanded new and vigorous myths, and it got them, chiefly from Germany...
...The emphasis placed by the utilitarians on progressive "improvement" through legislative reform and administrative efficiency reconciled progress with stability...
...German romanticism had in it the germ of a new mythology of political and social doctrines, containing a large dose of vivid obscurity, which had the effect of creating in its believers a mood of secular exaltation...
...Class war and ruthless dictatorship are basic in Marxism, whose faithful disciples "have been Lenin and Stalin, with their historic background of tyranny and disregard for life...
...hence, universal peace was not only impossible but also immoral...
...His positivism was a cult that reflected "a rather crazy lucidity and an uncompromising dogmatism...
...What every historian knows is that something never comes out of nothing, that every event, even the most revolutionary, has its roots in the past...
...The "Mr...
...In Germany, it became a "cult of will, of intuition, of history expressed in national terms...
...The myth of the warlike, superior nation was proclaimed by Treitschke...
...Liberalism made an indelible impression on all schools of English political thought, conservative as well as radical...
...He was sincerely convinced that only the authoritative Old Regime conformed to the necessities of a stable society and to what he regarded as the evil nature of men...
...Equally remarkable as a myth-maker was Nietzsche, who proclaimed "an atheist humanism devoid of charity or common sense...
...The great value of this book is that it brings out with great clarity and understanding the ideological situation in Western Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century...
...In a sense, they can be considered the pioneer philosophers of today's welfare state...
...Liberalism as the protagonist of reason in politics dominated the century, and the idea of a constitutional commonwealth became deeply rooted in the thought of Western Europe...
...Consciously and deliberately, Sorel created the myth of the general strike as the supreme inspiration of the new revolution...
...Along with his description of an intellectual movement is a running commentary of relevant piquancy and stimulating flavor...
...The first part of the book is devoted to a discussion of the many-ideas and schemes of political and social reorganization that appeared during the first half of the nineteenth century...
...Lenin, Mussolini and Hitler did not fall from the skies...
...Somewhere between reaction and utopianism was romanticism...
...To him, violence became a spiritual activity because of "ethical values by means of which it brings salvation to the modern world...
...Bowie has done an outstanding job in reevaluating well-known ideas by his close analysis and incisive criticism...
...Social reform through state intervention became the new liberal doctrine...
...As the author proceeds with his study, his leading theme becomes more apparent...
...Bowie comes to the conclusion that, toward the end of the nineteenth century, there existed a tendency to flout reason as a form of "rationalization" and to exalt myth as the vital reality...
...He observes that, like Rousseau's theory of the general will, Marx's theory of surplus value proves "how important obscurity can be in giving force to a doctrine...
...author, "The World in Crisis" The history of the nineteenth century has to be rewritten in order to make sense of the twentieth...
...Comte, a brilliant crank like Saint-Simon, sought to create a new society in which man's place would be, according to the author, that of "contented subjection...
...Hyde" of social philosophers, and the author gives only the "Dr...
...Tylor's studies in anthropology systematically related nineteenth-century civilization to its primitive origins...
...Different as Marx and Nietzsche were, they had a common hatred of the bourgeoisie and a common aversion to liberalism...
...Bentham's "exasperation with tradition, his desire for efficiency, his brisk intolerance, his faith in reason, and his rejection of historic myth are all apparent...
...It can be briefly stated as the struggle between two potent forces in the field of politics: reason and myth...
...Though definitely on the side of reason, the author takes great pains to analyze the appearance of its counter-force, the social myth, a non-rational pattern of thought with an imaginative appeal and explosive effect...
...Jekyll" aspect, which makes his treatment of that enigmatic thinker, in my opinion, inadequate and misleading...
...Inspired by Darwin's "creation of a new and spreading sense of environment in space and time," this school devoted itself to the study of the actual structure and ways of modern society...
...The author is at his very best in analyzing Darwinism in its relation to the political and social thought of the period...
...This is a one-sided view...
...Wallas developed a sociological and psychological approach to politics which aimed to remove, as he put it, "that constant apprehension of undeserved misfortune which is the peculiar result of capitalist production...
...A school of sociology appeared which repudiated the hallowed liberal doctrine of laissez-faire...
...De Maistre hated the French Revolution and feared its influence as destructive of all order and all morality...
...They were not prophets but experts, interested in the proper methods of adjusting institutions to changing conditions...
...Another answer came with "liberalism...
...It is a survey and a description of the political philosophies of Western Europe during the nineteenth century...
...Marx had a "Jewish and German thirst for total explanation," and he gave to political thought "a fanaticism unparalleled since the religious wars of the seventeenth century...
...This came largely as a result of the impact of Darwinism...
...A new socialism came to the fore with Marx, who preached a "mythology of class warfare, with its parade of pseudo-scientific dogmas...
...From France came Georges Sorel, another contributor to the disasters of our time...
...Hegel, the great philosopher of political romanticism, had the "Germanic sense of the totality of life" which so often "achieved results shocking to its originators...
...Nearly all the histories of the last century were written in terms of the advance of liberalism, on the assumption that its ideals of individual freedom and democratic government were destined to triumph everywhere...
...Liberalism was obliged to shift its ground to counter the attacks of these new enemies...
...In the aftermath of the French Revolution, two currents of thought flowed in opposite directions: one toward stability, the other toward change...
...The "lineaments of the primitive beneath the veneer of civilization" were revealed by Maine, who gave a non-rational interpretation of the history of law by stressing its relation to tradition and custom...
...He writes in a lively style unusual in a work of intellectual history, which makes his book interesting as well as informative...
...During the second half of the century, new intellectual movements appeared which were directed toward non-rational explanations of human behavior...
...Man was to be redeemed not through the Church but through the national state, the supreme example of which was Germany...
...Progress through conflict became the basic idea of new schools of myth-makers to whom liberalism in any form was anathema...
...One answer was "reaction," or the reconstitution of the pre-1789 past...
...The great danger today, he warns, "derives from the misuse of scientific power by men enslaved to obsolete nine-teenth-century metaphysical myths of inevitable national and class conflict, It is a timely warning...
...In the author's view, he provided fascism with its political philosophy...
...Bagehot's notion of the tenacity of the "cake of custom" came from "his vivid sense of the irrational element in civilization...
...Jekyll and Mr...
...In the book under review, the reader will get an idea of the complex of historical forces that made possible the unexpected appearance of totalitarianism...
...To restore the Old Regime was the only way to avoid the disaster of revolution...
...The author's aversion to Marxism is not only intellectual but temperamental...
...Reviewed by J. Salwyn Schapiro Professor Emeritus of History, CCNY...
...Like Carlyle...
...This struggle took different forms and was conducted in different terms as the century wore on...
...Hyde" aspect of Proudhon is that he bitterly hated democracy, upheld Negro slavery, was virulently anti-Semitic, applauded the coup d'etat of Louis Napoleon, and praised war as the source of man's highest moral aspirations...

Vol. 37 • August 1954 • No. 31


 
Developed by
Kanda Sofware
  Kanda Software, Inc.