Paul Johnson's Peroration
By Arnold Kling
Since we have been discussing his Modern Times, I thought I would excerpt his conclusion, below.
by the year 1900 politics was already replacing religion as the chief form of zealotry…At the democratic end of the spectrum, the political zealot offered New Deals, Great Societies and welfare states; at the totalitarian end, cultural revolutions; always and everywhere, Plans…all united by their belief that politics was the cure for human ills: Sun Yat-Sen and Ataturk, Stalin and Mussolini, Khruschev, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, Castro, Nehru, U Nu and Sukarno, Peron and Allende, Nkrumah and Nyerere, Nasser, Shah Pahlevi, Gadafy and Saddam Hussein, Honecker and Ceausescu. By the 1990s, this new ruling class had lost its confidence and was rapidly losing ground, and power…Was it possible to hope that the ‘age of politics’, like the ‘age of religion’ before it, was drawing to a close?
…But it was not yet clear whether the underlying evils which had made possible its catastrophic failures and tragedies–the rise of moral relativism, the decline of personal responsibility, the repudiation of Judeo-Christian values, not least the arrogant belief that men and women could solve all the mysteries of the universe by their own unaided intellects–were in the process of being eradicated. On that would depend the chances of the twenty-first century becoming, by contrast, an age of hope for mankind.
That was written nearly twenty years ago. What we know now is that the ‘age of politics” is back, at least in Congress and the White House.
Also, as I said in a previous post, I do not believe that the rise of moral relativism and the other social/intellectual trends can carry all the weight that Johnson puts on them.