With the left's scorched-earth strategy in response to the Trump administration, we have entered a new stage of politics. Some, including the great German philosopher Eric Voegelin, would point to that strategy as proof that we have entered the end stage of progressive activism. When progressives would rather see the country fail than admit defeat, we are in serious difficulty.
Voegelin, who fled Nazi Germany in 1938, devoted his life to understanding the rise of modern statist culture, a development he saw as part of a larger tendency toward Gnosticism in Western culture. Derived from the name of an early Christian sect who claimed secret knowledge of divine mysteries, Gnosticism is indeed a dangerously "knowing" attitude toward the world.
In its modern emanation, Gnosticism assumes that human agency can perfect society through centralized control and regulation. Its checkered history includes everything from 19th-century social experiments based on the thinking of Charles Fourier and Robert Owen to 20th-century debacles including Hitler's Third Reich and Mao's Great Leap Forward.
in the power of humans to control the world in which they live. It is one thing to have created the wonders of modern medicine, the labor-saving technology of the computer, and the advances of modern-day agriculture. It is quite another to pretend that a small, unelected ruling elite, all of them educated at the same universities and sharing the same predilections, should presume to govern by edict and court order.
How will it be with a president who promises to go "much further," as Hillary Clinton did in the recent campaign? Obama's executive actions, as bad as they were, were just the preamble – testing the waters for a full-scale assault. The end form of progressive civilization will not be, as some assume, a nonviolent democratic welfare state. It will be a vast government bureaucracy through which the State, turning its vast powers against the people, will govern all aspectsof life.
At that point, all constitutional liberties will have been lost, and we will subsist at the whim of a progressive elite dedicated to "perfecting" society, as they see it. That end point will constitute, as Voegelin predicted long ago based on his observation of earlier totalitarian movements, "the end form of progressive civilization." At that point, America will endure a catastrophe similar to what every other progressive state has done in the past.
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