Magazine June 22, 2009, Issue

Can We Outlast the Contradictions?

(Chasethesonphotography/Getty Images)
Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville, and the Modern Prospect, by Paul A. Rahe (Yale, 400 pp., $38)

Conservatives are accustomed to books, from The Road to Serfdom in 1944 to Liberal Fascism in 2008, warning of the affinities between the leftist project and hard despotism. Now comes a valuable new book from Paul Rahe, a Hillsdale College historian, warning of the dangers of soft despotism.

Where hard despotism brutalizes, soft despotism infantilizes. Hard despotism conquers the social spaces where citizens live their lives and exercise their freedoms. Soft despotism slowly and imperceptibly fills the vacuum formed when citizens voluntarily abandon those spaces.

Rahe directs our attention to modern Western European social democracies to understand the encroachments of soft despotism, …

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners


How It Was

A review of Right Time, Right Place: Coming of Age with William F. Buckley Jr. and the Conservative Movement, by Richard Brookhiser.

The Other O’Connor

There was another Catholic novelist named O’Connor at work in the Fifties and Sixties, and for a time he was both better known and vastly more popular.