This is a book which I have known about for a long time, which I knew I would fully appreciate and learn from, but which I only finally got around to reading this past Spring (2017).
Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (EKL) was an enormously erudite man, a claim which is supported by the mammoth bibliography provided at the back of this book. The author uses his extensive historical knowledge to show how liberty and equality are infact 'contradictory' (von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, p. 3). He begins with an outline of his definition of liberty, which is not congruous 'with an unlimited capitalism of the Manchester school' (Ibid., p. 5), but instead refers simply to a condition of liberty; the 'liberal' in his sense is not tied to any specific political position, but loosely denotes a certain disposition towards a more meaningful sense of freedom: 'A liberal is a man or a woman who is interested in having people enjoy the greatest amount of liberty - and this regardless of the juridical type of government they are living under' (Ibid., p. 3).
For EKL, the 'type of government' which makes for the best conditions of liberty is not a democracy, but an aristocracy, or a monarchy supported by an aristocracy. In his arguments for this assertion he marks himself as the follower of Alexis de Tocqueville and William Edward Hartpole Lecky, who warned of the dangers to individual liberties that increasingly democratic policies may present, and the predecessor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, who maintains that a monarchy is less offensive to the personal livelihood of the common man than the highly bureaucratized modern democracy. He goes further than all of them, however, in his defense of 'personal rule' and the old order, which he recognizes as far more natural to humanity; the personhood of the King, for example, recalls the character of the family patriarch, who in the ideal sense rules his household justly and with an eye to keeping the peace among all its parts. The relation of the king to his subject, says EKL, is that of an elder father to his mature son:
To the cultural anthropologist monarchy is a patriarchal institution. Its underlying ideology is thus “familistic.” The ideal monarch is a father – a concept expressed in the symbolic pictorial representation of kings and emperors. The king of the playing-cards, or of the illustrations in children’s stories, is usually a bearded, middle-aged or old man with eyes expressing a mixture of benevolence, jollity and occasional severity. He appears to be neither too young nor too smart – and he is decidedly not a superman. He exudes authority, but he nevertheless gives the impression that shrewder subjects would get the better of him. Now, a father in the narrower sense is a creator, a procreator with a subsequent evanescent authority; a father in a wider sense is a man with full responsibility over minors, and a position of respect, seniority and leadership in relation to mature persons. This relation is intimate, emotional and affectionate. There is a mutual interest which is partly personal and partly “generational,” i.e., directed towards the ruler’s family, and thus transferable to the heir. Baruch Spinoza thought that monarchy is a form of government in which subjects are treated like children, whereas tyrants treat them like slaves. Yet in a traditional monarchy the relationship between king and subject is that of a middle-aged father and his mature son, not that of a young father and an infant. In a similar way Dante saw (De monarchia, iii, 16) in the Holy Roman Emperor a “first-born son of the Pope,” who owes him reverence, but not secular obedience. (Kuehnelt-Leddihn, pp. 138-39)
A substantial portion of the book is dedicated to showing the 'democratic' nature of totalitarian societies, which have to gain and preserve power through the manipulation of public opinion. Given the natural inequalities between men and groups of men, the metapolitical doctrine of 'equality' has to either be reconciled with the hypocrisy of expounding an egalitarian principle while maintaining a polity filled with inequalities, or it has to be pummeled into society through coercive measures in the attempt to actually attain the dreamed-of equality. Thus Henri-Frederic Amiel says, 'The only counterpoise to pure equality is military discipline.... [I]s it not curious that the regime of individual right should lead to nothing but respect for brutal strength? Jacobinism brings with it Caesarism; the rule of the tongue leads to the rule of the sword. Democracy and liberty are not one but two' (Amiel, pp. 136-37).
The hypocrisy of preaching equality but slyly allowing for the growth of inequality provides the best case scenario for the egalitarian creed, while the sincere pursuit of 'real equality' provides the experiences of Jacobinism, Communism, and National Socialism. The 'general will' is allegedly the bearer of universal equality, but in reality it only achieves its intent by subjecting those who do not conform to its common denominator to a crippling dehumanization – whether metaphorically in the sense of a superior living according to an inferior condition or literally under the guillotine. Thus, the ideas of 'democracy' and 'liberty' are indeed not synonymous or even sympathetic at all, but mutually opposed.
In his program for a new order, Dostoyevsky's raving revolutionary Verhensky provides a chilling and rather prophetic exposition of the real dangers inherent in the arguments for the realization of equality in society:
Every member of the society spies on the others, and it’s his duty to inform against them. Every one belongs to all and all to every one. All are slaves and equal in their slavery. In extreme cases he advocates slander and murder, but the great thing about it is equality. To begin with, the level of education, science, and talents is lowered. A high level of education and science is only possible for great intellects, and they are not wanted. The great intellects have always seized the power and been despots. Great intellects cannot help being despots and they’ve always done more harm than good. They will be banished or put to death. Cicero will have his tongue cut out, Copernicus will have his eyes put out, Shakespeare will be stoned—that’s Shigalovism. Slaves are bound to be equal. There has never been either freedom or equality without despotism, but in the herd there is bound to be equality, and that’s Shigalovism! (Dostoevsky, Part II, Ch. VIII)
It is not, however, the 'totalitarian' state alone that exhibits the 'menace of the herd'; the so-called 'liberal democracy' (a contradictio in adjecto if there ever was one) is characterized by the same homogenizing and levelling tendencies of its Bolshevik and National Socialist rivals. These tendencies are no less destructive for the more permissive nature of representative democracy, but are infact in some ways more effective for it, since open repression has for a consequence the active resistance against it while a more subtle form of 'social planning' can silently change cultural mores and attitudes by instigating a desired public opinion without the citizenry ever noticing it. The freedom of original ideas to form in the West is constrained by the tyranny of majority rule, which dictates what is intellectually acceptable, what is 'politically correct.' De Tocqueville noticed this already in the middle of the nineteenth century: 'In America the majority builds an impregnable wall around the process of thinking. The Inquisition was never able to prevent the circulation in Spain of the books opposed to the religion of the majority. The majestic rule of the majority does better in the United States; it has removed even the thought of publishing them’ (quoted in Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, p. 36).
We must not forget, however, that the 'rule of the majority' is itself ruled by the intellectual and moral currents that are fed to it through the prevailing institutions of the day. Thus, under the disguise of the notion of 'progress,' which teaches that we must know more than our forefathers simply because we are older and more 'mature' as a civilization, the architects of public perception can slowly manipulate it into increasingly 'liberal' and 'tolerant' feelings towards things which express its degeneracy, e.g., sodomy masquerading as something normal, abortion, pornography, unchecked immigration under the philanthropic auspices of 'saving the less fortunate,' etc.
The idea that our society is formed by the popular will is therefore only a half-truth, since the popular will is itself conditioned by what certain plutocratic 'elites' wish it to be. Through the media, education, entertainment, and a general sidelining of the traditional position of the father in the upbringing of the next generation, public opinion becomes the expression of an artificially-created ethos instead of the authentic popular will, which is best represented by the traditions and customs of the people as they have been cultivated for centuries.
This is not merely a circumstantial situation, either, something that happened as though by accident, but something that occurs as the natural result of a political order that relies on plebiscitarian consent for it to function. A democracy that requires the will of the people as such for its legislation and decision-making is highly vulnerable to the corruption that subverts the will of the people to the will of a cunning and flexible power base. This is because, especially in the age of the 'mass man' who is subject to a hundred different forces pulling him every which way, the people are as a whole a malleable entity, and will follow the fashion of the day or the first strongman who appears as Caesar here to save them; therefore Goethe says, ‘I have nothing at all against the masses; / But whenever they get into a tough spot / In order to protect themselves against the devil, / They call those scoundrels, the tyrants.’
Despite the honest if naive convictions of the ideologues of equality, it is in the best interests of the grotesquely unequal that their egalitarian programs are realized and the privileges of the past are torn down. This is because it is far easier to control and dominate a protean mass of wage-slaves than a graded hierarchy in which the bulk of men know their rank and position and actually find meaning in their work, which is expressed as a vocation rather than as a 'job.' The intellectual and political responsibilities afforded to the common man have proven to be beyond him, who has shown himself to be more easily moved by the arts of propaganda and the false promises of consumerism than by the more serious and durable content of his culture. Therefore Nietzsche is able to say of him in The Will to Power: 'The distinctive quality of people in modern Europe lies in their ability to be easily trained and broken in; people who learn easily, obey easily, are the rule; a herd animal... has evolved. He who can give commands quickly finds those who are born to obey.'
Before we conclude this review, we must go over the author's considerations of the different Christian religions and how they impact the social and political dimensions of the modern nation, for they comprise a substantial and rather important portion of the book.
Since religion is the strongest 'of all the "external" elements shaping the character of individuals as well as of groups' (Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, p. 179), exploring the religious adherence of a particular nation is a crucial factor in understanding it. The truth of this is shown in the dramatic changes that take place upon the conversion of a people, as in Scotland or England before and after the Reformation, new Protestant countries who had to forcibly expunge the traditional Catholic elements from the populace over the course of centuries. It is also shown by a juxtaposition between two communities of the same country who hold different faiths; the cultural differences of Calvinist and Catholic Hungary, for instance, are sufficiently deep as to provoke the question whether they belong to the same nation at all. Of course, as the modern nations are increasingly secularized, these differences tend to wither away, but this is only because a new 'religious' creed is replacing the old ones, not because the differences were merely temporary or transitional. This point is important to keep in mind throughout EKL's thoughts on this matter, since religious attitudes have deteriorated as an influential force in Europe since the time of this book's composition (1952).
EKL defines Catholic Europe as following 'a basically patriarchal pattern, characterized by a ubiquity of fatherhood which automatically fostered royal over republican institutions' (Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, p. 184). The progressive push for equality is not so keenly felt in Catholic countries, which have a tendency to cling to the old hierarchical modes of social structure. This is not to say that Catholic countries are necessarily 'elitist' by nature; the defense of the peasant and the rural way of life is almost invariably more vigorous in Catholic cultures than in Protestant ones, who are often in the vanguard of industrial and technological progress. EKL summarizes this phenomenon by saying that Catholic nations are 'demophile but not democratic' (Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, p. 186), and the Spanish proverb 'Tener un hijo, plantar un arbor, escribir un libro' does even better in expressing their rooted, subdued, and organic way of life ('To have a son, to plant a tree, to write a book'). 'As for commercialism,' EKL says, 'it was never forgotten by Catholic nations that the merchants and money changers in the Temple were the only ones physically chastised by Our Lord' (Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, p. 185).
The Catholic religion can be generalized as being that which looks to preserve the traditions belonging to man wherever he is found, or at least to understand them in ways congenial to Christian reform without necessarily destroying or replacing them completely; the Catholic evangelical approach is synthetic rather than substitutive. In Africae Munus, the document addressing evangelization in Africa, Pope Benedict XVI said that it 'would help to manifest the treasures of the Church’s sacramental life and spirituality in all their depth and to pass them on more effectively in catechesis, if the Church were to carry out a theological study of those elements of the traditional African cultures in conformity with Christ’s teaching.' While certainly this document bears the signs of Vatican II's stress on ecumenical harmony, it is still essentially the same method that the Church has always prescribed: that which can be seamlessly reinterpreted in a Christian light may stay while everything injurious to the person or is otherwise contrary to natural law must be abandoned and forgotten.
There is moreover a general attempt to retain, or rather to respect, the essential conditions of man. This follows firstly from the realism of Catholic theology which, drawing from Plato and Aristotle, depends on a formal definition of reality. Briefly stated, this view regards certain things as immutable, or impossible to change; the passions or vices of a man are not something that can simply be eliminated once and for all, but they can be altered or sublimated into something that lives in harmony with the soul. Things have a certain telos, a reason for their existence, a final end that they must seek, and our task as individual and social humans is to determine those ends and ensure that they are fulfilled. For the culture informed by the Catholic faith, this philosophy results in a relatively stable order that is content with one compartment of society engaged in the life of the spirit (the City of God) while the other toils in the world (the City of Man), seeing no contradiction or hypocrisy in their co-existence, seeing no problem with the monk in his cloister praying for the shopkeeper in the villa.
The 'Reformation' is aptly named, because it is at this time that radical ideas materialize into movements seeking the total reform of the old ways, which are seen as unsuited for a society truly in communion with Christ. Over the course of centuries the realism of the medieval era is replaced by the nominalism of the modern era, which no longer sees the universe as fixed and unchangeable but as something that can be shaped and conquered by the human will. Reform-minded Catholics like Savonarola in the 15th century and Charles Borromeo in the 16th century were instrumental in the attempt to fully 'Christianize' the peoples of Florence and Milan, both in the sense of purifying the ecclesial corruptions, which is normal, and of purifying the social body itself, which is something new.
It was Lutheran and Calvinist theology, however, which, being influenced by the nominalism and voluntarism of late scholastics like William Ockham and Gabriel Biel, formed the real engines of change in Europe. In this perspective, since things in this world are not as they are because that's just how they are, but because they are willed to be so by God (or, in later understandings, by man), this allows for the possibility of change. The fallen nature of man must be at least masked if not totally transformed by the creation of holy societies, which, led by the 'Elect' who have a responsibility to manage the damned, will finally eradicate the poisons of the City of Man.
Thus the Calvinist Jan Laski says that, in a truly reformed society, 'wars would cease among the nobility.... Virtue would be prized; vices corrected... brothels would be abolished; the poor would be cared for and all begging eliminated; the sick would be visited and consoled....' (Quoted in Taylor, pp. 105-6). A truly reformed society, in other words, would be heaven on earth, for all the things that characterize earthly existence would be abolished; man would be redeemed, not through the spiritual sense by which the medieval world typically understood redemption, but through a social organization that alleviated or even cured all of the ills born of the Fall.
The Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anabaptist reactions against Rome also exemplify the revolutionary tendency to reject the given edifices of authority. Given the eschatological temperament that characterizes a great part of the Reformation, which sees its work as tearing down the 'Fourth Kingdom' foreseen by David, the Roman Catholic Church (also seen as the 'Whore of Babylon), it is a matter of necessity that the old religious structure give way to the new, as the New Jerusalem shall take the place of the old. Karl Marx himself saw this when he said in 1844 'Germany's revolutionary past is theoretical, it is the Reformation. At that time it was the monk, now it is the philosopher, in whose brain the revolution begins.' We can therefore see the contributions of the German Reformation to the democratic impetus in European history, a particular branch of which culminates in the revolutionary fervour of Marxian socialism. Eric Voegelin goes deeper into this connection:
Luther's Reformation was the first step of a German revolution. He broke the faith in authority, but he put in its place the authority of faith. He liberated man from external religiousness but he made religiousness the substance of man. Protestantism, thus, has not brought the true solution, but it has revealed the true task, that is: the struggle against the priest. The struggle of the layman with the priest outside himself had been won; now the struggle has to be continued against the priest within man, against the priestly substance of man. "The most radical fact of German history," the Peasant War, broke against the wall of the new Protestant theology. Today, when this theology itself has broken down, the anachronistic, political state will be broken by the new philosophy. These passages show that Marx was perfectly aware of the connection between his own thought and German Protestantism. There is, indeed, an intelligible line of meaning running from Luther's destruction of ecclesiastical authority, through the destruction of dogmatic symbols in the generation of Strauss, Bruno Bauer, and Feuerbach, to the destruction of "all the gods," that is of all authoritative order, in Marx. While it would be incorrect to say that the way of Protestantism leads with any inner necessity from Luther to Hegel and Marx, it is true that Marxism is the final product of disintegration in one branch of German, liberal Protestantism. (Voegelin, p. 283)
We will get into more of this when we review Charles Taylor's A Secular Age, but it has relevance for our present subject in that EKL similarly attributes to Protestantism a forceful desire for change, for willing something to be something better. This explains the customary Protestant approach to education, for example. In its attempt to universally educate the masses, the Protestant mind believes that, for man to become better, that is, to improve himself in a fundamental way, all he needs to do is learn about the world, to know the things that the scholar knows, that the priest knows, the vocational and intellectual differences between a philosopher and a baker notwithstanding. Thus, in the Protestant trust in the Holy Spirit and the common man's reception to it, the Bible is given to him unreservedly, without any formal guidance whatsoever; 'he will understand it,' they say; 'the Holy Spirit assures us of that.'
As opposed to the traditional relationship between a scholarly clergy and an unlearned laity, or between an intellectual elite and an unwitting peasantry, the Protestant country typically takes a democratic approach to the question of education, and therefore seeks to remove these vital differences altogether. If everyone is literate, if everyone is well-versed in the classics, mathematics, the sciences, etc., there will no longer be a stark contrast between a 'patrician' and a 'plebeian'; all will be equal. EKL talks about 'good averages,' which is 'the optimum for a democracy' (Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, p. 189). As opposed to the Protestant-secular ideal of a race entirely composed of genius polymaths, the result inevitably tends to be something altogether lukewarm, mediocre. In trying to abolish the natural differences native to man, we do not suddenly find a fair and equal and homogeneous group of men uplifted to a loftier, nobler state; instead we find a group of men which is no longer marked by a few outstanding personalities, but by its faded, jaded uniformity. This is nevertheless a net positive for the democrat, since it is not really a profound individuation that represents the ideal citizen, but a willingness to conform (because homogeneity is equated with 'equality'):
There is no doubt that the great pride of the democracies, compulsory education (and, to a lesser degree, conscription), is a prime factor in the process of forming the minds of citizens into a uniform pattern. It is obvious that the situation which existed in the Weimar period of the German Republic, when parties were totally unable to establish a real “dialogue,” had to lead to anarchy or to the iron rule of one victorious party.... (Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, p. 200)During the Nuremberg Trials, EKL relates, Julius Streicher argued that, for his 'anti-Semitic' beliefs, Martin Luther would be among the accused were he alive today. He then recounts the similarities between Lutheranism and National Socialism, or rather contends how the former allows for the latter.
This starts with the Lutheran rejection of 'reason,' which in Protestant thought is generally established as a rival of faith, whereas Thomistic theology views them as allied, philosophy being the ancilla theologiae, the 'handmaiden' of theology. The fideism of the early Lutherans accords with the 'irrationalism' stressed by the National Socialists, who were not only reacting against the Enlightenment idea of reason, but against the entire Western tradition of Logos, dismissing not only Descartes and Locke but Plato and Aristotle as well. The 'Providence' that is frequently mentioned in Mein Kampf is not used in the normal meaning of the term, but as a special kind of megalomania that seems to tell us that Hitler really considers himself as 'blessed,' as chosen by God to redeem and restore the German people to their glory (see Richard Landes, Heaven on Earth for an admirable study on this).
The Lutheranism of Germany not only helped shape the ideology of the National Socialists, but equipped the German populace with a kind of fortitude that numbed them to the thought of resisting the regime. Luther may have rejected the authority of the Church, but he did no such thing in regards to the state: 'Even if the magistrate is wicked and unjust there should be no excuse for rioting or rebellion. For not everybody has the right to punish wickedness; only the secular authorities in the possession of the sword' (quoted in Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, p. 223). This obeisant sturdiness, born and cultivated in Lutheran Prussia, which meekly bowed to the Hohenzollerns and Junkers for centuries, meant that the Protestant response to the National Socialist imposition on their religious freedoms, its subversion of their beliefs, its anti-Christian policies, and its attempts to altogether replace it via 'positive Christianity,' was muted indeed.
The Catholic resistance was not on the whole very much better, but there was clearly a deepening tension between the Church and Hitler's regime as the German government continued to violate the Concordat, institute eugenic practises, and attack the clergy itself. Pope Pius XII himself maintained relations with German resistance groups, and his encyclical Mystici corporis Christi ranks alongside Bishop von Galen's homilies as outstanding intellectual comfort to those who felt a conscientious need to rebel against the regime. Moreover, in spite of the early National Socialist support around Munich, the decisive 1932 and 1933 elections clearly show a marked parallel between Protestant demographics and support for the NSDAP, while Catholic demographics largely remained loyal to Zentrum, the Catholic Centre party. This illustrates from the beginning a stronger antithesis between the National Socialist ethos and the Catholic religion, an antithesis which only grew as the regime established itself more deeply into German society.
There is nevertheless also something of the Catholic religion in the National Socialist phenomenon, which is alleged to be 'the combination of the degenerative process of Protestantism with Catholic absolutism and extremism' (Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, p. 232); the number of lapsed Catholics in the upper echelons of the National Socialist hierarchy (Goebbels, Himmler, Hess, Goering, Hitler himself) only provide further support to the idea that the ideology and the political power are stimulated by the 'absolutist' and 'pseudo-monarchical' qualities inherent in the social understanding of the Catholic religion. If EKL is right, if the unified German state were wholly Protestant instead of being religiously mixed, the impact of the National Socialist regime on German society may well have been much milder, even if its intellectual content would be no less venemous. That is, of course, assuming that an entirely Protestant NSDAP would have the success that the historical NSDAP had.
As a final aside on this question, in view of the National Socialist treatment of 'minority' peoples, the very structure of democratic thought cannot consistently dispense real justice to the minorities of any which society, insofar as it presupposes a division between majority and minority in the management of the nation. Unless the polls are manipulated or coerced, which they very often are, the 'general will' or 'public opinion' is never unanimous; there is always going to be a minority dissent. This is merely the bad luck of the few, who, according to the democratic principle, must yield to the many. As opposed to the multi-ethnic empire, which is free from any such constraints and can consistently dispense justice to all its minorities, regardless of their prominence, the democratic regime, as the expression of the people's will, must do what the majority wishes (or what the regime supposes or imagines the majority's wish to be).
Thus, Europe never knew the barbarism of compulsory displacement informed by popular ideologies prior to the democratic age, certainly not to the extent that the twentieth century was responsible for. EKL uses the example of the Ruthenian minority, comparing their relative security in the Austro-Hungarian Empire with their having to leave their homes according to the arbitrary notions of nationality of the Bolsheviks (Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, p. 314). This is not merely a symptom of totalitarian states, either, something to which the unfortunate saga of the Nisei in the United States testifies (though it should be noted that the use of Hollywood pictures to caricature Japanese-Americans as saboteurs is an instance of 'manufactured consent,' which is of course a key element of totalitarian society). While the democratic regime can slyly resort to the 'people's consensus' as an excuse for virtually any action, the monarchical state is subject to higher laws and principles, which recognize the claims to justice on the part of the many as well as of the few:
The monarch… is potentially the protector of minorities – especially the small, powerless and uninfluential minorities – just because he is “everybody’s monarch.” The very concept of a “minority” is non-monarchical and democratic. The constant counting and comparing of numbers characterizes all egalitarian-parliamentary regimes. The protective role of kingship is clearly seen in the oath of the Holy Roman Emperor. In democratic republics, on the other hand, we have always seen tiny, unpopular minorities being sacrificed to the whim of the majorities, who in times of stress blissfully disregard constitutional injunctions.... A monarch can, at least, be reminded of his coronation oath, but the citizenry stands under no special obligation or pressure – save from their weak and vacillating consciences. (Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, p. 158)
Liberty or Equality is a diversely concentrated text that covers a broad portion of the intellectual and political landscape in the 1950's, but throughout the work there is a singular devotion to the freedom and the dignity of man. The democrat insists that equality and liberty are synonymous, but the history of democratic movements proves otherwise, especially in the 20th century. EKL carefully diagnoses the symptoms belonging to the majoritarian tumour, persuasively showing how the claims of the democrat to provide a fair and meaningful political existence to the citizen are increasingly unfounded in reality. With the aid of a wide array of social critics who are quoted extensively, the reader comes out of this book with a firmer idea of the inherent contradictions and the unsustainable presumptions in the modern order.
The clearest way that EKL clarifies this is in showing the profound division between the pre-modern and modern forms of government. In contrast to the impersonal democratic order of the West, which pretends to take seriously the meaningfulness of the ballot while its results are more the product of contrived public opinion than of the real wishes of the demos, EKL subscribes to the traditional idea of an organic social hierarchy wherein each and every individual is cohesively integrated into a purposeful whole. Moreover, even if the popular will were sincerely expressed, the millions upon millions of votes that are tallied in the hope of achieving a majority opinion on the future of the nation's leadership or on the legislation of a moral issue reduce the significance of the political action of casting a vote to such a degree that the voter can hardly be deemed to be a real participant – especially when his options are already effectively chosen for him through the partocratic system that merely crystallizes the ideological sentiments in vogue.
In a democracy, a person is weighed mechanically, quantitatively, as though he were nothing but a number. Instead of the democratic slogan 'nobody is indispensable,' EKL substitutes the reassurance that 'Everybody is unique. Everybody is indispensable' (von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, p. 107). An honest political order recognizes both innate qualities and those which are won through personal accomplishment, and it aims to produce a bonum commune wherein every man participates in a world of his own making.
Yet we cannot expect any 'soteriological' miracles from any system of government, which properly considered is more an agent of restraint than an agent of positive change. Recalling the 'Katechontism' of his contemporary Carl Schmitt, which redirects the Pauline concept of the katechon into a political repellent of chaotic revolution, EKL considers the fundamental aim of politics to be the cultivation of space for the individual to develop his own qualities, most especially those regarding his immortal soul. Families, for instance, which are likened as 'minor kingdoms' to the kingdom as a whole, are 'ideal spheres for the development of personality; and free societies always have strongly developed hierarchically built cells' (Ibid., p. 108).
Thus, the multi-dimensional Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn belongs not only to the tradition of counter-revolutionary writers such as De Maistre and Donoso Cortes, and not only to the tradition of 'liberal conservatives' such as Alexis de Tocqueville and Jacob Burckhardt, but also to the overarching domain of Catholic Social Teaching. This notion of the family as a microcosm of the polity, for instance, is preceded in Pope St. Leo XIII:
A family, no less than a State, is, as We have said, a true society, governed by an authority peculiar to itself, that is to say, by the authority of the father. Provided, therefore, the limits which are prescribed by the very purposes for which it exists be not transgressed, the family has at least equal rights with the State in the choice and pursuit of the things needful to its preservation and its just liberty. We say, "at least equal rights"; for, inasmuch as the domestic household is antecedent, as well in idea as in fact, to the gathering of men into a community, the family must necessarily have rights and duties which are prior to those of the community, and founded more immediately in nature. (Leo XIII, Article 13)In Liberty or Equality we therefore encounter a rich political critique of the modern democratic creeds, which gather around immanent ideologies that pay no heed to the spiritual principles that played such an important role in the founding of our civilization. The problems are not laid out in a difficult, theoretical, or even a very in-depth way, but are presented as a matter of common sense with eminently practical consequences. The basis of the historical Western social organism is positively contrasted with an unrestrained pursuit of equality, with all its attendant symptoms. We come out of this text with an improved insight into how a rationalistic desire to 'improve' society often produces the opposite effects, as well as with a sense of urgency to cleanse our oldest institutions of all the intellectual bile and personal iniquity that currently occupy them.
Only love makes one truly liberal, for only love does not separate right (rule) from duty (service), possession from being possessed, or allowing oneself to be possessed. (Franz von Baader)
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Voegelin, Eric, From Enlightenment to Revolution (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press)