The New Inquisitions: Heretic-Hunting and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Totalitarianism

The New Inquisitions: Heretic-Hunting and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Totalitarianism

The New Inquisitions: Heretic-Hunting and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Totalitarianism

The New Inquisitions: Heretic-Hunting and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Totalitarianism

Synopsis

The only book of its kind, The New Inquisitions is an exhilarating investigation into the intellectual origins of totalitarianism. Arthur Versluis unveils the connections between heretic hunting in early and medieval Christianity, and the emergence of totalitarianism in the twentieth century. He shows how secular political thinkers in the nineteenth century inaugurated a tradition of defending the Inquisition, and how Inquisition-style heretic-hunting later manifested across the spectrum of twentieth-century totalitarianism. An exceptionally wide-ranging work, The New Inquisitions begins with early Christianity, and traces heretic-hunting as a phenomenon through the middle ages and right into the twentieth century, showing how the same inquisitional modes of thought recur both on the political Left and on the political Right.

Excerpt

This book represents an inductive intellectual journey, a form of intellectual history with relatively few precedents or analogues. Its closest analogues are—perhaps ironically—those works and authors to which it is most indebted, but of which it is sometimes most critical. I had read before nearly all the broad interpretations of political and intellectual history offered by figures such as Oswald Spengler, Isaiah Berlin, John Lukacs, and others, and had taken from each the particular insights that they offered. Intellectual history requires an interpretation, an argument, if it is to reveal insights into history and a better understanding of our present time. It is not enough to creep over the minutiae of the past and never come to any conclusions—much more valuable is to make broad sense of what one sees, to make a case. To writers like these, I am indebted.

In making my case, I have undertaken an inductive inquiry: I begin with a conundrum, and slowly, by accumulating evidence, seek to solve it. Our conundrum is nothing less than the great scourge of the twentieth century: the emergence of totalitarianism in a variety of forms. Previous ages saw nothing like the barbarism of the twentieth century as manifested in totalitarianism. For the first time, a massive technical apparatus was marshaled against individual freedom, and was responsible for the slaughter not of thousands, but of millions upon millions of people. Understandably, totalitarianism is often treated as having come nearly ex nihilo into the world in the twentieth century, and is depicted as having few . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.