by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Fans of the historian John Lukacs will no doubt enjoy his latest book, one billed as perhaps his final book-length release. While History and the Human Condition consists mainly of only marginally related essays and reviews from the past decade, it nonetheless covers interesting ground: Alexis de Tocqueville’s influence on American politics and society, the origins of the Cold War, and Arthur Schlesinger’s shortcomings as an observer of modern American political history, to name a few.
One of the more striking passages emerges from the book’s final chapter, in which the Hungarian immigrant Lukacs muses on some of the major changes he’s seen in America in the more than 50 years since he moved to his current home in the countryside not far from Philadelphia. Lukacs takes to task those who take a linear approach to history.
There is one great and grave fault in the thinking of American conservatives as well as American liberals. This is their belief in (linear) Progress. The liberals’, ever more strained, propaganda for the extension of limitless human “freedoms,” their clinging to the Darwinist categories of revolution and “progress,” not only compromises but goes counter to their once noble protection and defense of human dignity. The conservatives’ propagation of American power throughout the world and, above it, into space, their thoughtless belief in the endless benefits of technology, amounts to a denial of every conservative view of human nature and of its limits. Liberals adulate Science; conservatives adulate Technology. No great difference there.
One suspects plenty of people on the left and right will take issue with Lukacs’ assertions, but his concerns about the blind pursuit of some perceived linear “Progress” seem well-founded.
Meanwhile, JLF’s own John Hood has devoted plenty of attention over the years to the factors contributing to conservative, liberal, and progressive views of the world. That analysis helped inform his 2012 book Our Best Foot Forward.