From a reader:
Dear Mr. Goldberg,
Thank you for your, I was going to say “delightful” book, but that seems inadequate. LF was a hoot to read and I only wished I had had it at my fingertips ten years ago as an undergraduate. Of course I feel duty bound to tell you that when I visited the Borders Bookstore at the Pittsburgh Mills to purchase it, it was sequestered away in a dark corner on the bottom shelf. Several things struck me while reading LF,
I couldn’t help but think of T. S. Eliot’s Christianity and Culture, written on the eve of World War II, so I re-read Eliot and it struck me how much both he and the fascists had in sympathy, both seeking some sort of alternative to industrial commercial and urban society; but Eliot at least saw the implicit dangers of Communism and Fascism, and I think he would agree with your thesis. Also Eliot instinctively felt that the form of Democracy being practiced in both Britain and the US were in general similar to and sympathetic to much of what was politic in Germany and Russia. It struck me with how he agrees with those in Britain who argued that Hitler could have a form of “democracy”. Eliot also saw the roots of Fascism in 18th and 19th century romantic fantasies, and he puts much of the blame at Hegel’s feet, especially in terms of theological aberrations. His solution however was not unlike those proposed by the fascists themselves – namely to found a superior culture, a unified culture of state and church regulated by the laity’s adherence to Christian theology and morality, and in part regulated by a team of very intelligent and spiritual developed Christians. I suppose that such thinking was so much in the air it would be hard to escape it, even while rejecting Fascism and Communism, both of which he equates with Paganism – interestingly he referred to the State and Church essay of Coleridge, which is itself (in essence) another progenitor of the fascistic mentality. Albeit a very harmless and English one…contrast him with C. S. Lewis and his far more classically liberal approach to such matters, perhaps Lewis’ Protestant Ulster Irish roots wouldn’t allow of any such clap-trap.
The issue of the rise of fascism seems to be in large part a general rejection of the alienation that an industrial world created for many and I feel that the flaw in classical liberalism as a philosophy is its inability to address this non-economic, non-policy aspect of in the inner life. I think the continued fragmentation of modern life, in spite of a higher rate of connectivity, coupled with our general prosperity disinclines people to embrace classical liberalism even if they no longer feel as alienated as those who lived in the earlier part of the last century. Perhaps people still feel this deep alienation, but I think nihilism is more common, though it is a very middle class and private sort of nanny nihilism. Many of my friends, especially young men close to my age feel a sense of enslavement and disconnection in their daily lives. I find my religion answers these issues very nicely. My non-religious friends however feel all at sea – perhaps in that sense Eliot was right, you cannot take Western Civilisation away from Christianity and expect it to function. When the underlying myth of your culture (whether true or not) no longer underpins your culture people will fashion new gods as you so nicely demonstrate. It is also true that classical Liberalism is a rigorous philosophy and we leave in an age of mothering. Your book hit the nail on the head here, and the ongoing Obama mania rather frightens me. Keep up the good work, I am sharing your book and its contents with all who will borrow it or listen to me extol it, and as a final aside, as a man who was raised in a rural village, I can state categorically that Hillary has no idea whatsoever of what life in a village is like. In my native village she would have been treated with the contempt she deserves as a meddling busy-body who couldn’t care for her own home or husband. The good rural folk I knew as a boy would probably think her a fool for marrying such a man in the first place, and that alone would be enough to put the kibosh on anything she said.