Religion and the Modern State

By Christopher Dawson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
THE COMING OF DICTATORSHIP

As I said at the beginning of the introduction our civilization during the last twenty years has been passing through a great crisis of which the economic crisis of 1929-1933 is itself only one episode. These years have witnessed the breakdown of what is usually called the capitalist order : that order which was dominant from the age of the Napoleonic Wars to the Great War of 1914 and which was characterized in economics by capitalist industrialism and the ideal of free trade, by parliamentarism and democratic ideals in politics, and in thought by liberalism, humanitarianism and the belief in the ideal of progress. It was an age of immense practical achievements and material prosperity, which seemed to justify the naïve idealism and optimism of nineteenth-century thought. Nothing seemed impossible in a century when the whole world was thrown open to creative enterprise, and the ordinary middle‐ class Englishman and American were conquering empires wider than that of Rome with their railways and steam‐ ships and mines and plantations. It seemed obvious that so long as government and religion minded their own business, trade and industry would go on increasing and prospering under the guidance of the capitalist and the engineer until the world was as rich and contented as an English suburb.

Then the War came and put an end to all that. Not that the War was solely responsible; it was itself to a great extent the product of the forces of disintegration that were already breaking up the nineteenth-century

-i-

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