Totalitarian humanism is only the latest manifestation of a more traditional enemy. Ultimately, our enemy is not any one ideology but the state itself, as Albert Jay Nock pointed out.
By Sean Gabb
Last month, I wrote a defence of Charlie Elphicke, my Member of Parliament. He had been suspended from the Conservative Party while the Police investigated him for an alleged sexual assault. He has still not been arrested or charged. He has still not been told the nature of the complaint against him. It may be that he is about to be unmasked as a serial sex-murderer. More likely, the sinister clowns who direct law enforcement in this country have found nothing that even they regard as an assault worth prosecuting. But, if the former of these possibilities might embarrass me, the general reflections I made on his case stand by themselves. What I wish now to do is to elaborate on these reflections.
I begin by granting that ideologies are in themselves important. They are sets of propositions about the world that are true or false in much the same way as a scientific hypothesis is true or false. They are true or false regardless of what motives people may have for adopting them. This being granted, every person is born with a set of dispositions that draws him to accepting a particular ideology. Some of us are born with a dislike of pushing others around. This will not invariably make us into free market libertarians. But it will incline us to less intrusive formulations of whatever ideology is accepted. There are liberal Catholics and liberal Moslems. There have even been liberal Marxists. Others are born with a will to dominate. These will gather round the most fashionable intolerant ideology on offer.
Last month, I used the examples of Calvinism and Cultural Marxism. These were and are legitimising ideologies. Each has different formal propositions. Each has different enemies. Each has different effects on the character. But their essential function, so far as they can be made hegemonic, is to justify the gaining and use of power by an authoritarian élite – or by “The Puritans.”
If you want to see this case made at greater length, I refer you to my earlier essay. The case briefly stated, I turn to what may follow from it.
This is to suggest that direct argument with the Puritans is of limited value. Our own Puritans are Cultural Marxists for reasons other than the truth or falsehood of Cultural Marxism. Because its surface claims about treating people as individuals, and not being rude to them, are broadly in line with public opinion, it is an ideal legitimising ideology. If our Puritans had, after about 1970, taken up traditional Calvinism, or Orthodox Marxism-Leninism, or National Socialism, they would have got nowhere. The social liberalism of the previous two decades would have rolled straight over them. Instead, there was the combination, in Britain and America, of a large cohort of those inclined to Puritanism and an ideology, or set of ideologies, that could be shaped into a powerful legitimising ideology. It may be that the universe as a whole is locked into a rigid scheme of cause and effect. In this case, what happened was inevitable. But looking only at those parts of the universe we can understand and control, I think there was an element of contingency here. We are where we are because of a largely accidental discovery by the Puritans of a legitimising ideology that worked for them.