April 15, 2009

What us schlubs need is "inspired tutelage..."

Fred Siegel, in FrontPage Magazine, has a very worth-reading history of the origins of American liberalism...

...The best short credo of liberalism came from the pen of the literary historian Vernon Parrington in the late 1920s. "Rid society of the dictatorship of the middle class," Parrington insisted, referring to both democracy and capitalism, "and the artist and the scientist will erect in America a civilization that may become, what civilization was in earlier days, a thing to be respected." Alienated from middle-class American life, liberalism drew on an idealized image of both organic pre-modern folkways and the harmony to come when it would re-establish the proper hierarchy of virtue in a post-bourgeois, post-democratic world....

....Croly, said literary critic Edmund Wilson memorializing him, "was a kind of saint." In another age he might have become the "founder of a religious order." Instead he founded The New Republic, which became the primary political organ of the new liberalism. Croly, whose sanctimony was sometimes mocked as "Crolier than thou," told Edmund Wilson that "he saw his culture as mainly French." He was the first child in the United States whose parents christened him, so to speak, into the mid-nineteenth-century French intellectual August Comte's "Religion of Humanity." Comte's concoction was designed to create a scientific, progressive, and comparably hierarchical alternative to Catholicism.

To attain that "religion of humanity," Croly called for a Rousseau-like "reconstruction" of American ideals "on a platform of possible human perfectibility." "What a democratic nation must do is not to accept human nature as it is, but to move it in the direction of improvement." The people in this picture "are not sovereign . . . even when united in a majority." His hope, however was that under inspired tutelage they can "become sovereign . . . in so far as they succeed on reaching and expressing a collective purpose," and that purpose was a strong unified nation in which religion and politics were melded into "the religion of humanity," which would be "a religion based not on conjecture but fact." The famous closing lines of The Promise read: "The common citizen can become something of a saint and something of a hero" if "his exceptional fellow-countrymen" are able to "offer acceptable examples of heroism and saintliness."....

Do read it. And when I write, as I often do, that "liberals" aren't liberals any more, this is the kind of thing I'm referring to. (And I'm sure you can already guess that I think that every morsel of the above quoted ideas are profoundly evil and dangerous. I don't need to spell it all out, right?)

Posted by John Weidner at April 15, 2009 8:20 AM
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