NONTHEMATIC / Vol. 19, No. 1 (Spring 1952)
It is necessary to acknowledge frankly the danger that the American way of life and of political thinking may change fundamentally. Has it not already become a fact that the people have ceased to form an opinion of their own on questions of great importance; that they receive major decisions ready-made from Washington, without previous discussion—is in the instances of Casablanca, Yalta, Potsdam, Korea, and more recently of German rearmament and negotiations with Franco? All this can hardly be different once the expansion of our military boundaries is accepted. Yet it is a practice in conflict with fundamental American ideas of government.
Originally, the questions concerning the first things and the right way are answered before they are raised. They are answered by authority. For authority as the right of human beings to be obeyed is essentially derivative from law, and law is originally nothing other than the way of life of the community. The first things and the right way cannot become questionable or the object of a quest, or philosophy cannot emerge, or nature cannot be discovered, as long as authority as such is accepted without doubt, or as long as any general statement of any being whatsoever is accepted on trust. The emergence of the idea of natural right presupposes, therefore, the doubt of authority. [reprinted in 51:2 50th Anniversary Issue Pt. 2]
Against a background of voiced and unvoiced hopes, the experience of the first five years of British industrial nationalization is both sobering and instructive, far from achieving a smoothly working and peaceful social atmosphere, the nationalized mines and railroads and the semi-nationalized docks have undergone recurrent labor turmoil on a formidable scale. In the mines a rash of strikes has deprived British industry of at least a million tons of coal a year, and has twice erupted into stoppages of industry-shaking proportions. On the railroads and unresolved wage struggle between union and management has resulted in an atmosphere of labor tension so acute that government intervention has been needed to insure a continuation of railway services. And on the docks a regular cycle of violence has again and again brought such economic disruption that armed forces have reluctantly been employed to avert serious disaster.
Corresponding to the limitation of our so-called world history to our own historical world, the quest for the meaning of history is in itself historically conditioned. It is a specifically Western, even Christian, quest. It can be traced back to the Old and New Testaments’ faith in a purposeful story of salvation. It is derived from the assumption that history is directed by a will, and therefore toward a purpose and fulfillment. The end or purpose, and therefore meaning, was originally grounded in the providential will of God. Since the ancient theologies of history became superseded by the modern philosophies of history, the will of God became transformed into the will of man, who plans creatively his own historical destiny.
Ten years ago, there existed a considerable groundswell of pro-American feelings outside Hitler’s Europe, Mussolini’s Africa, and Hirohito’s Asia. However, age-old, anti-American counter-currents have always operated. And their pull is particularly strong today. In Europe anti-Americanism is a historical fact. Aesthetes and conservatives of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have left a fund of writings sharply critical of, or bitterly hostile to the United States. And superimposed on this historical antagonism between the Old and the New World are the massive, modern, and organized attacks conducted by totalitarian propaganda machines.
It is hard for us to think of Hermann Broch as of one who has passed away, whose earthly course has come to an end. That is hard for us to realize, not only because his presence was so dear to his friends and so precious in our troublesome times, but also for another reason, peculiar to his life and his work, a life constantly at work, a work that was one with his innermost, personal life.
Review of book by Ferdinand Hermens. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame. 1951. 291 pp.
Review of book by Alan Gewirth. New York: Columbia University Press. 1951. 342 pp.
Review of book edited by Edmund H. Volkart. New York: Social Science Research Council. 1951. 338 pp.
Review of book by Solomon M. Schwarz
Foreword by Alvin Johnson. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press. 1951. 380 pp.
Review of book by Wilbert E. Moore. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 1951. 410 pp.
Review of book by Shepard B. Clough. New York: McGraw-Hill. 1951. 291 pp.