Category Archives: Politics

Decline and Fall

The decline of empire may for a time be delayed but it can never be averted. Rome was torn apart by recurring civil wars amidst cultural and moral decay. Barbarian incursions dealt the final blow, yet they were more a … Continue reading

Posted in History, Politics

Mankind is Governed by Names

I have continued my reading of Gibbon, with his discussion of the Roman Constitution and the decline of the republic. The true and lasting origins of imperial power, we are told, lay not in the spectacular and short-lived dictatorship of … Continue reading

Posted in History, Literature, Politics

Orwell on Socialism and Happiness

“All efforts to describe permanent happiness… have been failures.” That is the opinion of  George Orwell in his perceptive essay “Can Socialists Be Happy?” (Tribune, 1943). He adds that Utopias “seem to be alike in postulating perfection while being unable … Continue reading

Posted in George Orwell, Philosophy, Politics

The Crisis of the Intellectuals

“The French concept of the intellectual remains bound up with the notion of a social, political and moral crisis. Better still: it implies the notion of a permanent state of crisis. Given this state of crisis, the intellectual considers it … Continue reading

Posted in History, Philosophy, Politics

Orwellian Paradoxes

Stephen Jay Greenblatt’s Three Modern Satirists (1965) is an obscure but insightful volume that I found while browsing the increasingly depleted shelves of the public library. It examines the careers of English authors Evelyn Waugh, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. … Continue reading

Posted in Fiction, George Orwell, Literature, Politics

Propaganda at Work

“The misuse of language is not only distasteful in itself, but actually harmful to the soul.”—Socrates No political party is immune to the misuse of language as a way of gaining power over others. Nevertheless, in recent decades the excesses … Continue reading

Posted in Politics, Roger Scruton

Ideology and the Despotism of Modern Politics

I recently checked out Kenneth Minogue’s Politics: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 1995). It is a brilliant survey of Western civic order as well as an unstinting critique of ideological “orthodoxy.” Minogue, who died in 2013, represented a … Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Politics

Politics of Resentment

“Totalitarian ideologies are ways to recruit resentment.”—Roger Scruton The role of resentment in civil life is as old as Cain and Abel. We read of the terrible class strife between democrats and oligarchs in Athens and the conflict between plebeians … Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Politics, Roger Scruton

Dostoyevsky’s Devils

I have come back to Dostoyevsky’s novel The Devils (referenced in a recent post). It is a work of great artistry. One of the more striking passages occurs when the young nihilist Kirilov proclaims that human history will be divided … Continue reading

Posted in Literature, Politics

Johnson on Milton

Taking time out to meditate on Samuel Johnson’s “Life of Milton” (Lives of the English Poets, 1779-81) was a well-earned holiday treat. This particular biography is rich in Johnsonian wisdom. Consider this comment on the poet’s mercurial religious allegiances: From … Continue reading

Posted in History, Literature, Politics, Samuel Johnson