Thanks to Peter Robinson for his post, below, about my new book, The Great Lie. I'd be just delighted to discuss the book right here on Ricochet with anyone who'd like to ask questions or offer comments.
First, a word about The Great Lie. The book is a collection of essays by some of the greatest minds of the past century on the themes of ideology and totalitarianism. Though there is certainly now no shortage of books on Nazi Germany and Soviet Communism, I would argue the most penetrating accounts of totalitarianism come from the thinkers collected here. The authors in this volume most certainly speak to the political dilemmas of their own time and place, but they also address themselves to enduring questions of politics. What is tyranny? How is totalitarian tyranny distinct from ordinary tyranny? What enabled human beings to perpetrate such horrific crimes against their fellows? What does the longevity of Communist regimes reveal about human liberty? Why did human beings suffer ideological lies for so long, and what kept them open to the truth? Contributors to The Great Lie include: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Václav Havel, Czeslaw Milosz, Hannah Arendt, Eric Voegelin, Raymond Aron, Leo Strauss, Pierre Manent, Michael Burleigh, Alain Besançon, and many more. There is no other book that brings such a roster of thinkers together between two covers.
Can we say with confidence that the totalitarian temptation has been overcome? There are some disquieting arguments in this book that suggest this is far from the case. Chantal Delsol, for one, argues that, “The foundations of contemporary thought remain those of the same revolutionary modernity that gave rise to totalitarianism.” Though we inhabitants of the 21st century think we have turned a corner and left totalitarianism behind, perhaps we remain in the same dark hallway. We who must navigate the political challenges and temptations of this century are fortunate to have the wisdom collected in The Great Lie. But we must ensure that this inheritance endures as a living wisdom. As Waldemar Gurian once put it, “A living lie—and that is the tragedy of human life—is superior, as force, to a dead truth.”