23 Februarie 2017 Lasă un comentariu
Conflict and Consensus by Scott Spillman
In 1953, the historian Daniel Boorstin testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Boorstin had been a Communist Party member in the late Thirties, and he proved to be an unusually cooperative witness, providing a full account of his own and others’ activities in the Party. Asked how he was working to combat communism today, he replied that his opposition took two forms: the first was his active involvement in religious organizations, the second his attempt to “discover and explain to students, in my teaching and in my writing, the unique virtues of American democracy.” He wanted to use history to show how Americans had avoided extreme ideologies like communism in the past—and how they might continue to avoid them in the future.
Two years earlier, while on a teaching fellowship in Rome, Boorstin had been struck by a profound difference between European and American politics. Europeans tended to have deep and irreconcilable conflicts over the ends of society, he observed, while Americans had an unspoken agreement about what society ought to look like and differed only on the practical means—how much taxation, how much regulation—by which that shared objective could be attained. The root cause of this distinction, Boorstin wrote in The Genius of American Politics (1953), was that Europeans tended to be susceptible to the “romantic illusion” that society could be remade following the blueprint of abstract political principles. Geography and history had saved Americans from that kind of idolatry, which led straight to tyrannies like “Nazism, fascism and communism.”