Poland after 1989 and Canada after the “Trudeau Revolution”: Comparing the Emergence of “National Democracy” and Late-Modern “Liberal Democracy”

The following paper was presented at the conference “After the End of Revolution: Constitutional Order amid the Crisis of Democracy,” co-organized by the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute and the National Research University Higher School of Economics, September 1–2, 2017, Moscow. For additional details about the conference as well as other upcoming events, please visit the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute website.

This presentation compares two societies, which, although both claim to be “Western” as well as vibrant liberal democracies, are in many aspects quite different. Those societies have been shaped by their history and political culture to evolve in quite different directions. Nevertheless, they can both be seen as “post-revolutionary” societies.

Poland has had a very checkered history, from being a Great Power, to disappearing from the map of Europe, which has contributed to a strongly “erotic” sense of belonging among the Poles. Poland after 1989—the so-called Third Republic—has been in the difficult process of attempting a restoration of a more traditional Polish society, whose organic evolution and development had been so cruelly interrupted since 1939.

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A View of the Future and the Social Tradition

The following paper was presented at the conference “After the End of Revolution: Constitutional Order amid the Crisis of Democracy,” co-organized by the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute and the National Research University Higher School of Economics, September 1–2, 2017, Moscow. For additional details about the conference as well as other upcoming events, please visit the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute website.

Today is the time when we get to discuss our future together. This is a rare occasion that may or may not occur every hundred years. For once, we now have Russians, Americans, and Europeans sitting in one boat and considering together how to pass the rapids without capsizing. Steering out of the impasse where we have been driven by the global crisis requires clear thinking and direct, candid dialogue, i.e., the return to the “direct statement” culture. And this is exactly the way in which I will take the liberty to speak. I term the manner of speaking plainly in scientific discussions as “intellectual diplomacy.” And there are times when it is capable of achieving greater results than the combined efforts of the foreign ministries of a number of countries of the world.

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Carl Schmitt and the Conservative Revolutionaries

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Linas Jokubaitis looks at Joseph Bendersky’s “Carl Schmitt and the Conservative Revolution” from Telos 72 (Summer 1987).

In his last book, Political Theology II, Carl Schmitt wrote that some books are fated to become academic legends, but contrary to the etymological meaning of the word Legende, they are not read, only cited. He knew that his persona was surrounded by many mythologies and that after his death an even greater complex of mythologies would develop around his personality and works. Today there seems to be no end to the multiplication of legends about Schmitt. Joseph Bendersky’s essay “Carl Schmitt and the Conservative Revolution” is a meticulous attempt to understand if there is any truth in the popular legend, according to which Schmitt belonged to a diverse group of intellectuals who were labeled as conservative revolutionaries.

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That’s So Liberal It’s Conservative

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Maja Sidzinska looks at James Kalb’s “Understanding Conservatism and Tradition,” from Telos 124 (Summer 2002).

Let’s start with the punch-line: James Kalb informs us, in his article “Understanding Conservatism and Tradition,” that “the modern emphasis is too much on technology, on breaking things down to their simplest parts and reconstructing them in accord with human will. The problem with applying that approach to human life as a whole is that one can make sense of one’s actions only by reference to standards and realities one does not create” (164). In Kalb’s view, tradition creates these standards and realities, and is irreplaceable in this role. He compares the role of tradition to the roles of bureaucracy and markets, and he holds these three operative approaches as constitutive of politics, public policy, and life more generally.

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The Disappearance of Left and Right Ideologies in Late Twentieth-Century France

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Johanna Schenner looks at Alain de Benoist’s “The End of the Left-Right Dichotomy: The French Case,” from Telos 102 (Winter 1995).

In his article “The End of the Left-Right Dichotomy: The French Case,” Alain de Benoist points to the gradual disappearance of traditional political ideologies in both socialist and conservative parties. In fact, Sofres Polls support this statement: in March 1981, 33% of the population viewed this delineation as outdated; in February 1986, 45% of the population shared this view; in March 1988, this proportion reached a new record level of 48%; and eventually in November 1989, more than half of the French population deemed this ideological antagonism as obsolete (73).

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“John Galt is a Heathen!” The Inconvenient Atheism of Ayn Rand

The following paper was presented at the Seventh Annual Telos Conference, held on February 15–17, 2013, in New York City.

The banking crisis of 2007–8 became interpreted by many commentators as a failure of the neo-liberal economics that had been internationally ascendant for approximately three decades. Following the government bailout of the banks, even some leading evangelists for laissez-faire capitalism, such as Alan Greenspan, came to reflect on “flaws” within their ideology.[1] The younger Greenspan had been a disciple of Ayn Rand, whose fiercely individualistic philosophy had been popularized in her best-selling novels The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957).[2] Yet the political fallout from the banking crisis provoked a resurgence of interest in Rand’s work,[3] with some on the political Right arguing the crisis had actually been provoked by state involvement in the economy. It was contended that the U.S. government had believed that large financial institutions were “too big to fail,” thus emboldening actors within these organizations to take far greater risks than they would otherwise have contemplated. In this regard Ayn Rand has even been referred to as a prophet of the crisis. Rand argued that government control over the economy would tend to induce deep problems that would then be blamed on the free-market and the avarice of businessmen. Consequently, demands would then be made for greater government control and more public spending. However (and as the plot transpires in Atlas Shrugged), these interventions only serve to make economic conditions worse as the creativity of entrepreneurs is further stifled by regulation. This explanation of the crisis has been influential within the renewal of the populist Right, evident in the “Who is John Galt?” banners that have appeared at numerous Tea Party events and anti-Obama protests.

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