Published Essays, 1953-1965

Published Essays, 1953-1965

Published Essays, 1953-1965

Published Essays, 1953-1965


The period covered by the material published in this volume marks the transition in Eric Voegelin's career from Louisiana to Munich. After twenty years in the United States, in 1958 Voegelin accepted an invitation to fill the political science chair at Ludwig Maximilian University, a position left vacant throughout the Nazi period and last occupied by the famous Max Weber, who had died in 1920.

The themes most prominent in the fourteen items reprinted here reflect the concerns of a transition, not only in a scholar's career, and in the momentous shifts in world politics taking place around him, but also in the development of his understanding of the stratification of reality and the attendant demands for a science of human affairs adequate to the challenges posed by the persistent crisis of the West in its latest configurations and by contemporary philosophy.

Several of the items herein originated as talks to a specific organization on problems facing German democratization and the development of a market economy amid the ruins of a fragmented culture and infrastructure in a society without historically evolved institutional supports for a satisfactory social and political order. Accordingly, pragmatic matters occupy a central place in a number of these pieces, especially the overriding question of how Germany could move from an illiberal and ideological political order into a modern liberal democratic one.

Those accustomed to the theoretical profundity of Voegelin's writings may find welcome relief in the down-to-earth, commonsensical drift of this material addressed, often, to laymen and businessmen. But, of course, the philosophical subject matter lurks everywhere. It findsfull expression in several instances as the controlling context of even the least pretentious presentations. One of the attractions of these essays is what the author brings forward as serviceable elementary guideposts under ad


The vast majority of all human beings alive on earth are affected in some measure by the totalitarian mass movements of our time. Whether men are members, supporters, fellow travelers, naive connivers, actual orpotential victims, whetherthey are underthe domination of a totalitarian government, orwhetherthey are still free to organize their defenses against the disaster, the relation to the movements has become an intimate part of their spiritual, intellectual, economic, and physical existence. The putrefaction of Western civilization, as it were, has released a cadaveric poison spreading its infection through the body of humanity. What no religious founder, no philosopher, no imperial conqueror of the past has achieved—to create a community of mankind by creating a common concern for all men—has now been realized through the community of suffering under the earthwide expansion of Western foulness.

Even under favorable circumstances, a communal process of such magnitude and complexity will not lend itself easily to exploration and theorization by the political scientist. In space the knowledge of facts must extend to a plurality of civilizations; by subject matter the inquiry will have to range from religious experiences and their symbolization, through governmental institutions and the organization of terrorism, to the transformations of personality under the pressure of fear and habituation to atrocities; in time the inquiry will have to trace the genesis of the movements through the course of a civilization that has lasted for a millennium. Regrettably, though, the circumstances are not favorable. The positivistic

This essay was published originally in the Review of Politics 15 (1953) as a review essay on Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 1951).

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