Totalitarianism: An Essay In the Philosophy of History


1. Preface
The present essay will sketch my philosophy of history,
with a focus on the concept of totalitarianism. It will be
self-consciously broad in scope; it really has to be if I
am to present a truly coherent picture. Being merely an
outline of my theory, it will have to leave many objections
unanswered for the time being. I realize that to some it
may seem foolhardy to try to handle so many issues at once;
but I stress that this is merely a research program, a
related set of hypotheses that may prove to be wrong, but
so far seem to me to have remarkable explanatory power.
2. The Christian Roots of Totalitarianism
Western society's first totalitarian civilization began
with medieval Christianity. For the first time, an
all-encompassing ideology could be and was forcibly imposed
on everyone. Around the same time, most urban centers
collapsed or drastically de- populated, leaving the
overwhelming majority of the population as serfs, tied to
the land for life.1 As Catholic historian Paul Johnson
describes early medieval Christian society,
"Men had agreed, or at least had appeared to agree, on an
all- enveloping theory of society which not only aligned
virtue with law and practice, but allotted to everyone in
it precise, Christian- oriented tasks. There need be no
arguments or divisions because everyone endorsed the
principles on which the system was run. They had to.
Membership of the society, and acceptance of its rules, was
ensured by baptism, which was compulsory and irrevocable.
The unbaptized, that is the Jews, were not members of
society at all; their lives were spared but otherwise they
had no rights. Those who, in effect, renounced their
baptism by infidelity or heresy, were killed. For the
remainder, there was total agreement and total commitment.
The points on which men argued were slender, compared to
the huge areas of complete acquiesence which embraced
almost every aspect of their lives."2
Now this form of totalitarianism was peculiar in several
First of all, Christian ideology did not focus on
justifying the medieval economic system; it was accepted as
a given that most people would be serfs, tied to the land,
rather than argued for as the most desirable economic
system. The totalitarianism of medieval Christian society
therefore existed only partially on principled grounds (in
the realm of intellectual, cultural, and personal matters),
and partially from sheer inertia (in the economic realm).
Neverthless, the freedom of the individual was virtually
non- existent, and the denial of his freedom was in large
part an essential doctrine of the reigning ideology. The
second oddity was that Christian totalitarianism co-existed
with remarkable division of powers. The Church co-existed
with the state, sharing power with it, and within
Christendom there were many sovereign and semi-sovereign
rulers. Still, if we identify totalitarianism by the
complete absence of individual freedom coupled with a
comprehensive and compulsory ideology, medieval Christian
society definitely qualifies.
2. The Erosion of Catholic Totalitarianism: The Growth of
Cities and the Renaissance
Now the division of powers within medieval Christendom
proved to be one of its central weaknesses. The first major
break with totalitarianism came with the rebirth of cities.
Local rulers frequently found it profitable to grant
charters to cities which guaranteed certain rights and
liberties. Once they arose, these cities spelled the
beginning of the end for the medieval economic order. As
Henri Pirenne writes, "An increasingly intimate solidarity
bound them together, the country attending to the
provisioning of the towns, and the towns supplying, in
turn, articles of commerce and manufactured goods. The
physical life of the burgher depended upon the peasant, but
the social ife of the peasant depended upon the burgher.
For the burgher disclosed to him a more comfortable sort of
existence, a more refined sort, and one which, in arousing
his desires, multiplied his needs and raised his standard
of living."3
If all power had been monopolized in the hands of a central
government, the long-term risks of this policy to the
social order might have been recognized. As it was,
financial incentives to local rulers overshadowed the
long-run social effects. But these were substantial; the
cities directly undermined the manorial system by creating
new (if illegal) economic opportunities for serfs, and
indirectly undermined it by showing that a better, richer,
freer way of life was within reach. Again quoting Pirenne,
"The first thing which should be considered is the status
of the individual as it was when city law was definitely
evolved. That status was one of freedom. Every vestige of
rural serfdom disappeared within its walls. Whatever might
be the differences and even the contrasts which wealth set
up between men, all were equal as far as civil status was
concerned. 'The air of the city makes free,' says the
German proverb (Die Stadtluft macht frei), and this truth
held good in every clime."4
But the growth of cities touched chiefly the lack of
economic freedom; the first movement towards intellectual
and cultural freedom came with the Renaissance. The two
were of course closely linked: the Renaissance began in the
most advanced cities in Europe, centering in Italy.5
Naturally it could not safely challenge the compulsory
ideology of Catholic Christianity directly. Rather it began
a two-fold indirect attack. On the one hand, there was a
revival of the classical authors; on the other hand, the
growth of secular art. Together these made an impressive
dent in the ideological monopoly of the Church, and
contributed to a new atmosphere of relative tolerance.
4. The Protestant Reformation's Reaction
Most historians present the Protestant Reformation as
somehow the religious corollary of the Renaissance, but
even a cursory study of the theology of Luther and Calvin
makes this intepretation hard to believe. While the
classical revival did indirectly influence the Reformation
by stimulating interest in accurate Biblical translation,
the central thrust of both Lutheranism and Calvinism was
implacable hostility to the emerging tolerant, worldly,
humanistic society of the Renaissance. In particular, both
Luther and Calvin were adamant opponents of any sort of
religious toleration (Luther waited till he attained
significant power to adopt this view, while Calvin from the
earliest stage of his career argued that, "Because the
Papists persecute the truth, should we on that account
refrain from repressing error?"6) Against the humanist
celebration of man, their theologies emphasized the depths
of human depravity. And against the renewed appreciation of
reason stemming from the Renaissance, and indeed against
the more moderate Catholic position which left some
legitimate place for reason, Lutheran and Calvinist
theology placed a strong emphasis upon the need for
unquestioning faith and the impotence of reason. As with
earlier Catholic totalitarianism, the focus of Protestant
ideology was not on economic matters, but they were in no
way enthusiastic proponents of the growing commercial
Naturally the emergence of two new militant Christian
factions led the mainstream Catholic establishment to
"reform" itself; but this internal reformation was in many
ways a reversion to the totalitarian ways of the past. As
Nietzsche puts it, "Luther restored the church: he attacked
it."8 The fanatical intolerance of all three factions
became evident in the subsequent religious wars and
internal persecutions.
5. The Rise of Liberalism and the Enlightenment
Yet it must be admitted that the indirect effect of the
Reformation was the opposite of what its founders intended.
For once the European religious monopoly collapsed, the
only alternatives were endless war or toleration.
Especially in the religiously divided nations, religious
toleration began to be adopted, albeit with reluctance. And
once toleration existed in the religious realm, it began to
spread to philosophy, science, and art. Accepted
reluctantly at first, intellectual freedom found ardent and
principled defenders among the thinkers who had finally
been freed from the demands of religious conformity. To a
large extent the earliest principled proponents of
toleration centered in Britain, beginning during the
upheaveals of the 1640's. Milton was the most famous of
these, and later decades added the illustrious names of
Locke, Spinoza, and Voltaire.
So we have seen that medieval totalitarianism first broke
down on the economic side, and that intellectual freedom
had to wait for several additional centuries. But it was
the theory of intellectual freedom that matured first, with
the theoretical defense of economic freedom trailing
behind. The first steps toward a general theory of human
freedom came with the radical Whigs, and especially with
Locke. While of course there was considerable continuity
with the preceding religious traditions of natural law, it
was the "true" Whigs who gave natural law a radical
intepretation that was deeply subversive of what remained
of feudalism. As Locke forthrightly stated his basic theory
of human rights, "every Man has a Property in his own
Person. This no Body has any right to but himself. The
Labour of his Body, and the Work of his hands, we may say,
are properly his."9
But as radical as this theory was, it was too vague to
constitute a full theory of the most desirable economic
system. It was all well and good to proclaim each person's
right to his own person and property, but how exactly would
a system based on this principle work? Wouldn't it lead to
utter chaos? About a century after Locke, the theory of
economic freedom took a giant step forward with the work of
the Physiocrats and the classical economists. For in the
work Quesnay, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, David Hume,
Jean-Baptiste Say, and other economists, the workings of a
free-market economy based closely upon Lockean rights were
explained in rigorous detail. Their central conclusion was
that unregulated markets, free international trade, private
property, and freedom of labor -- the very economic
features that had been slowly emerging in Europe over the
previous six or seven hundred years -- were the key to
economic prosperity for everyone. And far from being
chaotic, the market economy was an intricate and orderly
network held together quite well by the price system alone.
The economic theory of laissez-faire and the political
theory of tolerance and individual freedom (which together
came to be known as classical liberalism) were closely
linked to a broader cultural movement, the Enlightenment.
Taken together, we can see that the Enlightenment synthesis
was for the most part the antithesis of the totalitarian
society that it had replaced. Gone were the Christian
doctrines, shared by orthodox Catholics and Protestants
alike, of the weakness of human reason, the need for faith,
human depravity, and compulsory belief. Gone too was the de
facto total government management of economic life. In its
place arose a strong confidence in human reason and
science, optimism, the quest for individual happiness,
freedom of thought and discussion, and laissez-faire in
economic matters. Of course even the most "enlightened"
societies fell short of these ideals, but a full critique
and radical alternative to Christian totalitarianism had
6. Rousseau and the Conservative and Socialist Critics of
the Enlightenment
Of course not every 18th-century thinker embraced the
Enlightenment whole-heartedly. Psychologically speaking, it
was very difficult to make a complete break with the past.
And it was easy to criticize the Enlightenment on Christian
grounds, since it implicitly (and often explicitly)
rejected the whole cultural tradition of the preceding
centuries. At the same time, there were naturally many
thinkers who wanted to build some kind of synthesis between
the old values and the new.
The most pivotal figure in this respect was probably
While closely linked personally to other Enlightenment
thinkers, even his contemporaries recognized that he was
not fully behind their program. And while Rousseau spoke
the language of freedom, many of his ideas bore an ominous
resemblance to the preceding era of totalitarianism. Each
of Rousseau's three most influential works targets one of
the bastions of the Enlightenment, offering either a
rejection or a synthesis with non-Enlightenment views.
Thus, The Discourse on the Arts and Sciences argued that
the development of the arts and sciences tends to corrupt
morals, offering a dire list of the consequences of the
growth of civilization: "No more sincere friendships; no
more real esteem; no more well-based confidence.
Suspicions, offenses, fears, coldness, reserve, hate,
betrayal will hide constantly under that much vaunted
urbanity which we owe to the enlightenment of our
century."11 The Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of
Inequality argued strongly against the natural right to
property, and therefore implicitly against laissez-faire
economics. And Rousseau's Social Contract, while
maintaining a nominal commitment to freedom, gave it a
majoritarian rather than an individualistic slant. As
Rousseau expresses the "essence" of his social contract:
"Each of us places in common his person and all his power
under the supreme direction of the general will; and as one
body we all receive each member as an indivisible part of
the whole."12 And he does not shrink from the potentially
totalitarian implications of this idea: the losing minority
to a vote remains bound to it, because "When, therefore,
the motion which I opposed carries, it only proves to me
that I was mistaken, and that what I believed to be the
general will was not so. If my particular opinion had
prevailed, I should have done what I was not willing to do,
and, consequently, I should not have been in a state of
freedom."13 The irreconcilability of this doctrine with
Europe's new-found cultural and intellectual freedom is
Interestingly, scholars still debate whether Rousseau was a
socialist or a conservative or something else. Interesting,
because in the 19th century two distinct factions opposed
to the theory and practice of classical liberalism arose.
These were the conservatives and the socialists. Of course
these two groups were different from each other in many
ways: class background, religious views, attitude towards
tradition and established authority. But more important was
what they shared: a suspicion or active hostility to either
laissez-faire economics, intellectual and cultural freedom,
or both.
The socialists' opposition to laissez-faire is well-known;
and while there was certainly some disagreement on the
issue of intellectual and cultural freedom among
socialists, it must be admitted that a very large part of
19th-century socialism regarded these as unjustifiable
"bourgeois rights." The orthodox Marxist tradition
certainly had little respect for the rights of free
expression; and other seminal socialists such as
Saint-Simon were explicitly opposed to these sorts of civil
Less well-known, but very significant, is the fact that
19th- century conservatives had many of the same complaints
as the socialists with regards to both economic and
personal freedom.
Thus, in his European Socialism, Carl Landauer explains
that, "The socially minded Tories believed that the
medieval relationship of allegiance between the lord and
the men under his manorial jurisdiction, or among the
members of a guild had given the lower classes more
security and real satisfaction than they could enjoy under
the modern economic system in which human beings figure
only as buyers and sellers of commodities and labor. The
aristocratic guardians of tradition and authority should
accept the responsibility for leading the masses in their
struggle against the evils of industrialism."14 Similar
strains of thought could be found among the German and
French aristocracy, for example in Bismark's social
programs. And like many socialists, the conservatives had a
hard time adjusting to intellectual and cultural freedom,
though of course the particular doctrines and practices
that they sought to suppress differed.
The key fact is that these conservatives had no sympathy
for laissez-faire economics, and on this issue they were in
agreement with the socialists. Their alternative economic
programs differed, with the conservatives leaning towards a
return to feudalism, and the socialists leaning towards a
state-managed industrialism. But there was significant
overlap: there were medievally-oriented socialists, and
especially by the mid-19th-century, there were pro-
industrialization conservatives.15
7. The Triumph of Classical Liberalism and the Return to
But the conservative and socialist critics of classical
liberalism, especially its economic program, met with
relatively little practical success in the 19th century.
And to summarize one of the few questions on which there is
virtually unanimous agreement among economists, classical
liberalism fulfilled all of its promises. The standard of
living for everyone rose at a fantastic rate throughout the
nineteenth century, generally long before any sort of
social legislation was passed which could possibly lay
claim to a share of the credit.16 The classical economists'
claim that free trade and small government promoted peace,
while economic nationalism and powerful government promoted
war, seemed to be at least partially confirmed by the
relative absence of war in the 19th century.
If all this is true, then why did the socialist and
conservative movements grow throughout the 19th century?
The simplest explanation is that despite all of its
achievements, people wanted even more. Conditions for
ordinary people prior to the Industrial Revolution were so
horrible that even a tremendous magnification of their
previous wealth still left them poor in absolute terms.
Still, the mere wish for a faster rate of progress hardly
supplied convincing evidence that there was any economic
system that could deliver more. And yet the conservatives
and socialists were convinced that such a system had to
Since the facts gave so little support to their views, it
seems likely that the real foundation of the
anti-capitalist critique stemmed not from facts, but from
underlying values. The basic values of Christian
totalitarianism were never fully destroyed by the
Enlightenment. The masses and government officials were
never won over to classical liberalism, and the
intellectuals were won over only briefly. Then came the
reaction. It once again became intellectually acceptable to
attack the open society, with its values of reason,
individualism, and individual freedom. Intellectuals began
to develop new, anti-liberal systems of thought.
Some of these intellectuals were direct descendents of
Christian totalitarianism -- for the most part, the
Others were secular heretics, equally opposed to religious
totalitarianism and classical liberalism. Philosopher
George Walsh describes this group as "the secular
discontents of the modern world," which he defines in the
following way: "(1) He holds to Judeo-Christian ethics; (2)
He has very largely lost the religious beliefs which would
alone give him a metaphysical foundation for these values;
(3) Still, he judges and even condemns the modern world for
falling short of these values; (4) And finally he concludes
that the problem has to be solved by any means other than
rejecting the Judeo-Christian ethics."17 They planned out
new societies based on secular totalitarian creeds.18 These
were the socialists.
Of course, it would be unfair to claim that all of the
critics were totalitarians; some of them merely wanted to
take what they saw as the best features of liberalism with
the best features of either conservatism or socialism. But
the trend, away from liberalism and towards a new coercive
society, was clear.
By the end of the 19th century, it was clear that classical
liberal policies, to the extent that they had been adopted
in the first place, were going to be seriously modified
with a healthy dose of conservatism or socialism.
Initially, the move was chiefly away from laissez-faire
economic policies: Germany, France, England, and the United
States had all made important concessions to the critics of
capitalism by 1900, and the gradual trend was towards a
larger economic role for the state. On the sidelines stood
the implacable opponents of any compromise with classical
It must be admitted that but for some unfortunate
historical coincidences, these implacable opponents of
liberalism might have stayed permanently marginalized. As
it happened, though, war, political unrest, and other
factors made it possible for one of the most anti-liberal
factions of socialists, the Bolsheviks under Lenin, to
seize power in Russia. Then the world saw how modern
industry and science could be wedded to totalitarianism to
make it more total that it had ever been under Christian
totalitarianism. Lenin's Bolsheviks swiftly moved towards a
sociey of compulsory belief and total economic planning by
the state; and while there were a few periods of
liberalization during which other socialist parties were
tolerated and some economic decisions were left to the
market, within about a decade every vestige of freedom of
any kind had been completely destroyed.19 The history and
extent of Communist despotism is well-known, so there is no
need to elaborate here.
Once the first modern totalitarian state had been
established, totalitarians of the socialist variety had a
model to point to and emulate. But there was another
element that wanted emulate the Bolshevik state, but at the
same time attack it and use the fear of Communism as their
path to power. The first to do so were the Italian
fascists. To some extent, their ideology was was a
totalitarian variant of 19th-century conservatism, whose
connections to socialism we have already seen. And yet
fascism was also to some extent a direct descendent of
totalitarian socialism. As democratic socialist historian
Carl Landauer puts it, "In a history of socialism, fascism
deserves a place not only as the opponent which, for a
time, threatened to obliterate the socialist movement.
Fascism is connected with socialism by many crosscurrents,
and the two movements have some roots in common, especially
the dissatisfaction with the capitalist economy of the
pre-1918 type."20 Or as Mussolini stated, "It is the State
alone that can solve the internal contradictions of
capitalism. Where are the shades of Jules Simon, who, at
the dawn of liberalism, proclaimed that 'the State must
strive to render itself unnecessary and to prepare for its
demise,' of the MacCullochs who, in the second half of the
last century, affirmed that the State must abstain from too
much governing? And faced with the continual, necessary and
inevitable interventions of the State in economic affairs
what would the Englishman Bentham now say, according to
which industry should have asked of the State only to be
left in peace? It is true that the second generation of
liberal economists was less extremist than the first. But
when one says liberalism one says the individual; when one
says Fascism, one says the State."21 Fascism of course
often aligned with big business, but hardly to promote
laissez-faire; as Adam Smith and other classical liberals
had observed, businessmen are always eager for the
government to protect them from competition and grant them
privileges, which was one of their central arguments for
drastically restraining government's ability to intervene
in business.
After the rise of Italian fascism, both socialist and
conservative totalitarians had inspiring models of the sort
of society that they wished to bring to the world. And even
more liberal societies came to believe that the very
existence of such societies offered an argument for more
moderate expansions of state power; indeed, the existence
of such societies showed that communism or fascism might be
in their own future. This belief turned out to be justified
in Weimar Germany when another fascist movement, the Nazis
under Adolf Hitler, managed to seize power by a combination
of electoral and extraparliamentary methods. Again, the
Nazi movement drew on both conservative and socialist
totalitarianism for its program, as its full name (National
Socialist German Workers' Party) starkly suggests. As Carl
Landauer explains, "The earlier protagonists of a merger
between conservatism and proletarian anticapitalism had
been traditionalists. Although this element, too, was
present in the minds of the men around the Tat [a
conservative, anti-capitalist, but non-Nazi magazine] and
in the Strasser wing of the Nazis - as it was, indeed, in
the whole Nazi movement - yet the emphasis had shifted,
especially in the field of economics: in the creed of
Strasser and the Tat groups, there was some affinity to the
feudal hostility against the moneyed interest, but there
was an even stronger element of Marxism purged of
There were many doctrinal differences between the fascists
and Nazis on the one hand and the Communists on the other.
In fascism, the Communist emphasis on class struggle was
transformed into racial and national struggle. Communists
generally claimed that totalitarianism was merely a
transition phase, whereas the fascists seemed to conceive
of totalitarianism as permanent. Fascism appealed more to
the lower-middle class and farmers, and less to the working
class than the Communists did. All this and more may be
freely conceded, yet the essential similarity of these two
forms of totalitarianism, in both origins and practice, is
hard to dispute. Perhaps Paul Johnson best sums up the
relationship between Communism and fascism when he writes
that, "As early as 1923 the Bulgarian peasant regime of
Aleksandr Stamboliski, which practiced 'agrarian
Communism,' was ousted by a fascist putsch. The Comintern,
the new international bureau created by the Soviet
government to spread and co-ordinate Communist activities,
called on the 'workers of the world' to protest against the
'victorious Bulgarian fascist clique,' thus for the first
time recognizing fascism as an international phenomenon.
But what exactly was it? There was nothing specific about
it in Marx. It had developed too late for Lenin to
verbalize it into his march of History. It was unthinkable
to recognize it for what it actually was - a Marxist
heresy, indeed a modification of the Leninist heresy
8. A Few Objections Answered
Here I will briefly counter a few objections, though
obviously a great deal more space would be needed to be
a. Does the Bible authorize totalitarianism? There are two
replies to this. First of all, it needn't be the case that
the Scriptures authorized totalitarianism; it is only
necessary that historical Christians assumed that it did
and acted accordingly.
Secondly, the textual argument is not that difficult to
make: the Old Testament unambiguously embraces a compulsory
religion and unlimited cruelty against unbelievers where it
is convenient, and the New Testament, though it does not
focus on such topics, never repudiates the totalitarianism
of the Old Testament. To view Jesus and the early
Christians as proto-liberals strikes me as a bizarre
interpretation of the Gospels and the Pauline texts.24
b. Was medieval Catholicism really thoroughly totalitarian?
No, of course not. Some measure of freedom of thought
existed, but only within carefully regulated boundaries.
Several doctrines limiting the power of rulers such as the
doctrine of the right of resistance and the theory of
natural rights later evolved into important checks upon
government power and even a positive program of liberation.
But the effect of these doctrines in mitigating the
essential totalitarianism of medieval life was minimal.
c. Was the Protestant Reformation thoroughly totalitarian?
Again, of course not. The Protestants were instrumental in
developing theories of the right of resistance and the
right of revolution (later Protestants, that is; not Luther
or Calvin). And as I conceded, the long-run effect of the
Reformation was liberating, since it made religious
toleration necessary on pragmatic grounds, and thereby
paved the way for religious toleration on principle.
d. Doesn't your reading of the radical Whigs and especially
Locke downplay the democratic element in their thought in
favor of the liberal element? Yes, to some extent.
Basically, I see a serious gap in Locke's thought between
his doctrine of natural rights and his attempt to reconcile
these rights with a social contract that falls short of
unanimity. On the other hand, there is little textual
evidence for the view that Locke was a proto-welfare
liberal (section 42 of the First Treatise seems like a
rather slim basis for this interpretation); and there is
much textual evidence that even after the establishment of
a democratic government he mainly envisioned government as
a means for protecting property.
e. Don't you under-estimate the Christian influence upon
the Enlightenment? Again, of course there was some
continuity between the two traditions, and most of the
Enlightenment intellectuals retained some kind of religious
belief. But there was a rather extreme break at least with
the Christianity of medieval Catholicism, or that of Luther
and Calvin. In any case, a central part of my argument is
that the Enlightenment never really rid itself of its
Christian background, and that this background later
returned to haunt it.
f. Doesn't your analysis presuppose the desirability of
laissez- faire? Partially; but a large part of my obvious
sympathy for laissez-faire stems from the study of history
itself. Obviously in so short a space I cannot answer the
many objections to laissez-faire economic policy, but my
general observation is that laissez-faire correlates with
vast economic growth as well as non-economic freedom,
whereas government economic activity correlates with lower
or even declining economic welfare, and to a lesser but
still significant extent with the suppression of
non-economic freedoms.
g. Aren't you overlooking important differences between
socialists and conservatives in the 19th-century, and
Communists and fascists in the 20th-century? I have already
admitted a large number of differences, and I don't think
that it would seriously alter my general thesis if more
differences were found. So long as it is conceded that
these groups shared a common rejection of laissez- faire,
and a preference for extensive government involvement in
economic life, I think I have established an important link
between these allegedly disparate movements.
9. Conclusion
The idea of totalitarianism has deep roots in Western
civilization, and therefore great explanatory power. In
particular, when we view history as a struggle between the
polar opposite ideas of totalitarianism on the one hand and
classical liberalism on the other, a large number of
seemingly disparate events and ideas cohere neatly with
each other: medieval Christianity, the rise of cities, the
Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, liberalism,
socialism, conservatism, communism, and fascism all fit
logically together.
Now it would be a mistake to try to force every historical
detail into an a priori mold, but a sound philosophy of
history can avoid this error by appropriately qualifying
its conclusions, admitting exceptions, and continuing to
search for falsifying as well as confirming evidence.
To briefly comment on the contemporary relevence of my
theory of history: the collapse of Communism marks the
second death of totalitarianism. The rhetoric of classical
liberalism, with its appreciation for both personal and
economic freedom, can now be heard from every political
faction. Nevertheless, actual government policies in even
the most capitalist nations bear far more resemblance to
the ideal of moderate socialism than to laissez- faire. Now
that the world has repudiated totalitarianism, steeped in
anti-capitalist philosophy, the time has come to re-examine
whether any aspect whatever of that anti-capitalist
philosophy is valid. More fundamentally, the time has come
to re-examine the philosophy of the Enlightenment, with its
commitment to autonomous reason, a secular outlook,
individualism, the pursuit of personal happiness, progress,
and individual freedom, and see whether the modern
civilization's partial rejection of that philosophy was
justified or mistaken. 


1: On de-urbanization after the fall of the Roman Empire,

Henri Pirenne, Medieval Cities: Their Origins and the
Revival of Trade 

(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1925), esp.

2: Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity (New York: 

Atheneum, 1976), pp.191-192. 

3: Pirenne, op. cit., p.102. 

4: Ibid, p.193. 

5: On the connection between the Renaissance and the rise

cities, as well as further information on the liberating
aspects of 

city life, see Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern

Thought, Vol. 1: The Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge

Press, 1978), esp. pp.3-22. 

6: Quoted in George Smith, "Philosophies of Toleration," in 

Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies (Buffalo, NY:

Books, 1991), p.109. 

7: For an interesting case study of Calvinist hostility to

capitalism in the Netherlands, see Simon Schama, The

of Riches (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1987), pp.323-343. "But
even if 

the Calvinist clergy, as Weber has it, allowed this [the
spread of 

capitalist values] to happen unintentionally, it is
certainly not 

apparent from the tenor of their remarks about the place of
money in 

Christian life. Indeed, there seems to be no real break at
all in the 

uninterrupted flow of polemics against wealth from Flanders

Holland, from Antwerp to Amsterdam. Far from endorsing

capitalism, the Dutch general synods did their level best
to proclaim 

their disapproval," ibid, pp.329-330. 

8: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist in Walter Kaufman,

The Portable Nietzsche (New York: Viking Press, 1954),

9: John Locke, The Second Treatise of Government, in Peter 

Laslett, ed., Two Treatises of Government (Cambridge:

University Press, 1960), pp. 287-288. 

10: On the Enlightenment generally, and particularly the 

influence of Enlightenment ideas upon European monarchs,
see John 

Gagliardo, Enlightened Despotism (Arlington Heights, IL:

Davidson, 1967). 

11: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Arts and 

Sciences, in Roger and Judith Masters, eds., The First and

Discourses (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1964), p.38. 

12: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, or

of Political Right (New York: Hafner Publishing co., 1947),

13: ibid, p.96. 

14: Carl Landauer, European Socialism: A History of Ideas

Movements (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959),

15: See ibid, pp.21-71. For more on conservative hostility

laissez-faire, see Frank O'Gorman, British Conservatism
(New York: 

Langman, 1986). 

16: See for example T.S. Ashton, The Industrial Revolution: 

1760-1830 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1948), or
virtually any 

economic history of the period. 

17: From his lecture series "Marxism: Philosophy and


18: Others, such as Auguste Comte and Enfantin, borrowed 

from both trends by defining new religious systems. 

19: See Landauer, op. cit., pp.701-789, 1183-1242. 

20: Ibid, p.873. 

21: Benito Mussolini, "The Doctrine of Fascism," in Carl

Capitalism, Socialism, and Fascism, p.362. 

22: Landauer, op. cit., pp.1463. 

23: Paul Johnson, Modern Times (New York: Harper & Row, 

1983), p.102. 

24: A plausible argument could be made that the differences 

between the Old and New Testaments stem from the fact that

Old Testament was canonized after Judaism was already an 

established religion, whereas the New Testament was

when Christianity was still a small minority sect.


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