The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Suicide of Western Civilization

In my previous post I provided a link to Elizabeth Scalia's blog, The Anchoress, but what I hadn't read at the time was her piece that appeared this morning on the website of First Things. Entitled, "Hating Ourselves to Death" it offers a brief glimpse of the West on its deathbed and provides what I believe is an accurate diagnosis of the likely terminal illness that has placed it there. It's well worth a read.

I've written a few posts recently on the subject Western Europe's probable demise and the spread of its fatal disease to our shores here in the USA. But what I find most interesting about this speculation (by me and others) is how James Burnham (1905-1987) anticipated it all almost a half-century ago. Back in 1964 Burnham recognized the basic flaws of modern liberalism and clearly saw the kind of future into which these errors would lead us. The title of Burnham's book, Suicide of the West, pretty much says it all.

Burnham, a once-radical Trotskyite, who is probably best known for his book, The Managerial Revolution, underwent a significant change in thinking back in the 1940s and became a stalwart of the conservative movement and a frequent contributor to William F. Buckley's National Review. It was there, back in the early sixties, in the pages of my father's copies of that journal, that I first encountered James Burnham. And it was just a few years later when I was handed a copy of Suicide of the West, also thanks to my father. According to Burnham, modern liberals are wracked with guilt and self-hatred, a syndrome that becomes manifest in all kinds of contradictory behaviors and beliefs. He would have agreed heartily with Scalia's article mentioned above.

In my opinion Burnham's best book, though, is The Machiavellians (1943), another prophetic look into the future (our present) in which he describes the ascendancy of a governing elite who will make effective use of the trappings of a democratic society as its members work toward one overreaching goal: the realization of their own personal interests.

James Burnham is still worth reading.

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