Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The Power of Ideology: Christopher Dawson on the Modern Age

By The Imaginative Conservative

In the 1920s, a youngish Christopher Dawson belonged to the Chelsea group, also known as the Order Men, a literary and philosophical society—comprised of young poets, authors, and impatient men of letters—dedicated to the rather strident promotion of Christian humanism, especially within the Catholic tradition. They wanted not only to challenge the reigning Church of England, but also the more complacent and timid English Roman Catholics. As a group, they especially admired Jacques Maritain. The order of the “Order Men” was not the mechanistic, brutal, and inhumane order of the Italian fascists or the Soviet communists, but rather of a Stoic, spontaneous, and libertarian variety, rooted in the common law tradition of trials by juries and being innocent until proven guilty. It was the kind of order that emerges from individual (and corporate) free choice employed to be commensurate with the Natural Law.

To profess their views more widely, Dawson and Tom Burns published a journal called Order. Though it only survived for four issues, all published between 1928 and 1929, Order was an intellectual and cultural tour de force, with articles covering everything from Catholic primary education to Western civilization (its origins and existence) to the psychology of sex. The journal even included original art by the soon-to-be famous modernist poet, David Jones. As a mission statement for the journal, Dawson and Burns proclaimed:


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