Totalitarianism and Political Religion: An Intellectual History

Totalitarianism and Political Religion: An Intellectual History

A. James Gregor

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 0804781303

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The totalitarian systems that arose in the twentieth century presented themselves as secular. Yet, as A. James Gregor argues in this book, they themselves functioned as religions. He presents an intellectual history of the rise of these political religions, tracing a set of ideas that include belief that a certain text contains impeccable truths; notions of infallible, charismatic leadership; and the promise of human redemption through strict obedience, selfless sacrifice, total dedication, and unremitting labor.

Gregor provides unique insight into the variants of Marxism, Fascism, and National Socialism that dominated our immediate past. He explores the seeds of totalitarianism as secular faith in the nineteenth-century ideologies of Ludwig Feuerbach, Moses Hess, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Giuseppe Mazzini, and Richard Wagner. He follows the growth of those seeds as the twentieth century became host to Leninism and Stalinism, Italian Fascism, and German National Socialism—each a totalitarian institution and a political religion.












humanity.39 That consciousness, with which idealism had forever occupied itself, was a derivative product of matter, of nature,40 entirely altered the direction of German philosophy. Thereafter, much of German philosophy, particularly radical thought in Germany, ceded priority to sensation as the foundation of knowledge. Ideas were a function of sensation. “That which perception [gives] is appropriated by thought, and that which is the function and concern of the senses, of perception and of

sought evidence that reason constituted “the inner essence” of all reality—evidence that traditional religion failed to provide. With Feuerbach, he reminded his audience that the Engels, “Diary of a Guest Student,” ibid., vol. , p. . Engels, “Centralization and Freedom” and “To Friedrich Graeber,” ibid., , pp. , , . 15 As early as , Engels spoke of history as having a “course” and “rushing” from one set of human ideas to another. See Engels, “Retrograde Signs of the Times,”

Holy Family or Critique of Critical Criticism, Marx and Engels took the occasion to sharpen and systematize some of the concepts they would carry forward into their subsequent life’s work.73 In doing so, they would hardly modify the thrust of their argument. What would change would be the specificities of its content. Their claims would become more emphatic, and they would employ various forms of evidence in order to make more persuasive their case. In the pages of The Holy Family, we are told

the end of the nineteenth century. His journal, Sovremennik (The Contemporary), was among the most important of those publications advocating elemental change in autocratic Russia. Chernyshevsky had grown up in a household of profound Orthodox conviction. In his youth he had been a sheltered and devoted seminarian—and there had been talk of the priesthood in his future. Even as he began to abandon his formal religious convictions, Chernyshevsky remained pious in many ways. He even continued to

and gives him the consciousness of a mission to fulfill . . . ; it is that which makes all of his life a scene of self-sacrifice and charity. . . . From it flow strength and constancy . . . indifference to danger, noble resignation in persecution and misfortune.” Mazzini, “The Patriots and the Clergy,” ibid., p. . 19 Ibid., p. . In “The Duties of Man,” Mazzini provides the “criterion” of truth as “the agreement” of the individual “voice of conscience” with that of the “general opinion of

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