Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Politics of Nostalgia

From Sancrucensis:
The great transformation that brought the modern world into being changed things, but this transformation took many centuries, and many resisted it—especially Catholics. When revolutionaries killed King Loius XVI of France, Pope Pius VI commented as follows:
The most Christian King, Louis XVI, was condemned to death by an impious conspiracy and this judgement was carried out. We shall recall to you in a few words the ordering and motives of this sentence. The National Assembly had no right or authority to pronounce it. After abolishing the monarchy, the best form of government, it had transferred the civil power in its entirety to the people, which acts neither by reason nor by good counsel, which does not conform itself in any way to just ideas, which evaluates few matters in accordance with truth and a great number in accordance with opinion; which is always inconsistent, can easily be deceived and drawn to every excess, and is ungrateful, arrogant and cruel; which rejoices in slaughter and in the shedding of human blood, and draws pleasure from watching the sufferings which precede the last breath, just as men in former times used to go to watch gladiators die in the ancient amphitheatres.[2]
At the time, his reaction was by no means extraordinary.

I want to examine why it is that today most people think about democracy and monarchy so differently from Pius VI. I will first consider the view of politics that one finds in the greatest thinkers of the Middle Ages: the ideal of Catholic monarchy that comes from a synthesis of classical philosophy and Christian theology. I then want to explain why modernity sees democracy as the best form of government, and how this is connected to the modern rejection of classical philosophy and the Christian faith. I shall argue that modern preference for democracy is unreasonable, that it flows from a false conception of the end or goal of political life, a false conception of the common good, and a false conception of the source of political authority. And then I shall ask whether any practical consequences can be drawn from my position; after all, it is hardly likely that there will be a restoration of the monarchy here in central Europe any time soon, and it is unclear how one could work for such a thing, if at all. I shall argue that nevertheless there are practical consequences—although it is not feasible to work directly for a restoration, one can work toward a more authentic realization of the common good. Moreover, seeing through the false self-evidence of liberal politics allows one to gain a necessary critical distance from the ideology of our time, thus allowing one to resist certain evils more effectively. (Read more.)

1 comment:

julygirl said...

Seems like the U.S. has had an Imperial Presidency for the past 16 years.