segunda-feira, 2 de agosto de 2004

A Great Catholic Liberal: Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn

Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (1909-1999) held as his principal aim the study of politics so one might find ways to "strengthen the great Western tradition of human freedom, now under attack from so many sides."(...)

Born in Austria, Kuehnelt-Leddihn studied theology and law in Vienna, and later earned his doctorate in political science at the University of Budapest. In America, he taught at Georgetown and Fordham; in 1947, he returned to his native Austria, where he studied, lectured and wrote. A man of letters, he spoke eight languages, and created novels, books on political theory, essays, and (not very) occasional pieces. If a legacy be granted to the Doctor, it is his enormous contribution to conservative explication (which he correctly describes as "liberal theory and practice").(...)

Leddihn calls himself an "extreme rightist arch-liberal." We understand his self-description more fully as we develop along with him the sorry state of the raucous mind of the Leftist. The French Revolution typifies (grandiloquently) the Left at its best. The influence of de Sade and materialism is made clear as we find the French influence on the Utopians, Marx, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, and I suspect, to make current, (and further analysis is needed of which I am currently not capable of rendering), the mindset of the Neoconservative of today.

Kuehnelt-Leddihn's marvelous ability to synthesize, condense, and abbreviate is portrayed as he charts for the reader what Aristotle and the Scholastics would consider as prudent or rash:

Good Form: Monarchy, the rule of one man in the interest of the common good.
Bad Form: Tyranny, the rule of one man for his own benefit.
Good Form: Aristocracy, the rule of a group in the interest of the common good.
Bad Form: Oligarchy, the rule of a group for its own benefit.
Good Form: Republic or Polity, the rule of the better part of the people in the interest of the common good.
Bad Form: Democracy, the rule of the worse part of the people for their own benefit."

Kuehnelt-Leddihn admits to simplification as to his dissection (as well he should). Nevertheless, the variegated complexities surrounding today's Liberal/Conservative/Neoconservative/ Libertarian arena of discussion is given a great boost by Kuehnelt-Leddihn. (...)~

Kuehnelt-Leddihn.: It is, in fact, easily explained. The 'old-fashioned liberal' was often the man who went along with what might be called the Wave of the Future. The conservative (and even more the 'reactionary'), on the other hand, as often took a stand against change. And change was largely a leftward movement. The leftist ideologies had...assumed...a 'futuristic' character. They all claimed the future, utopia, they all claimed the millennium in a chialistic spirit. They believed in the concept of near-automatic progress (which needed just a little 'push'). In their eyes, this fictional road had the character of an 'advance.' The conservatives, meanwhile, adhered to the 'status quo,' while the reactionaries looked ever backward.


Kuehnelt-Leddihn examines the War Machine, which, he makes clear, is of Leftist origin. His critique of American foreign policy as practiced by Wilson and Roosevelt has sinister tone and I suspect is somewhat overblown (he likes to jolt). His analyses of the Vietnam conflict and the terror-filled government of Pol Pot is less animated and clearer. But, regardless of the myriad of facts thrown quickly and heatedly (not that he's off-base, he's just too much to read at one time for even the devotee of things military), his final paragraph in the chapter, "Another Leftist War" shows his brilliant libertarian spirit:

"Today, world conflicts take place on several levels. The time of the old-fashioned cabinet wars is over, war has become total, partly because technology has produced staggering means of destruction, partly because of the withering away of religion, enabling totalitarian ideologies, capable of mobilizing the masses and fanaticizing pragmatists, to fill the void. Hot wars destroy bodies, cold wars destroy immortal souls. Today, more than ever, the words of Rivarol, one of the most brilliant spirits of old France, ring loud, 'Politics is like the Sphinx: It devours all those who cannot solve its riddles.'

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