By: Ivan Šokić
Suicide of the West: An Essay on Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism by James Burnham, Ship of Fools: An Anthology of Learned Nonsense about Primitive Society by C. R. Hallpike, and Journey with Orwell by Jože Biščak. If you read at least one book in 2021, it should be one of the three listed.
Unfortunately, the books of Burnham and Hallpike are not translated in Slovene. The injustice is all the greater in the case of Burnham, as it is a work that was published as far back as 1964 and should have been translated a long time ago. That this did not happen during communism is easy to understand. However, that this did not happen in the three decades of Slovenian independence is somewhat more difficult to comprehend.
James Burnham is an American philosopher. He is a reformed “Trotskyist” who became one of the most influential voices of the conservative movement in America after the World War II. In his essay on the meaning and destiny of liberalism, he devotes himself to justifying why liberalism is poison that is slowly killing the West. At the time the book was published, this might had been necessary to explain, however, today this is obvious to all who can see.
Nevertheless, I do not recommend the book just because it would further consolidate all the already established patterns of thinking of the right wing. Rather the opposite. In my opinion, Burnham’s insight into liberalism is also crucial for understanding today’s left wing in both America and Slovenia. Furthermore, Burnham shows us how certain left wing practices that came under the spotlight because of the Internet are nothing new, liberals in the West have been using Maoist approaches in the fight for the Cultural Revolution ever since the second half of the 20th century.
Yes, you read that right. Liberals. Just as it seems to us that modern liberals have nothing in common with classical liberals, so did Burnham think almost 70 years ago. I would dare saying that liberal has become a politically correct term for socialist, to which Burnham also indirectly asserts when he mentions the titles held by the equivalents of the liberals in other countries. It was only when I read Burnham’s book Suicide of the West that it became clear to me how the real communist could so easily disguise themselves as liberals when Slovenia left Yugoslavia. Before I assumed it was a combination of pragmatism and hypocrisy. I now know that the transition was much simpler. All that was needed was a change of name, no pretense, for everything remained the same.
I have mentioned Hallpike’s Anthology in the past. In the book, the old anthropologist tackled various –zofs, -logs, and –ics to dispel various modern myths about the working of primitive society throughout history. The reading is fun, but what is especially admirable is Hallpike’s dedication to the truth. On the one hand, Hallpike allows us an insight into a man in his juvenility, what a man without civilisation is like, and on the other hand, he shows us the delusions in which a civilised man is willing to persevere out of contempt for his own way of life.
The last one of the three books I am happy to recommend, is not philosophical but sci-fi, unlike the first two. Some time ago, I wrote in more detail about Biščak’s dystopian novel Journey with Orwell on the science fiction web portal. In my personal opinion, it can be shamelessly placed alongside both Orwell’s 1984 and Houellebecq’s Submission. It is a dystopian story of Europe in 2049, which Biščak paints in extremely depressing and gloomy tones, but every now and then they are overshadowed by a slight glance of hope that it is still possible to prevent the nightmares unfolding through the short novel.
These days, Journey with Orwell might be the best reminder of exactly what we are fighting against and what we are trying to prevent. Namely, Biščak clearly presents what awaits us if we give in, give up, surrender, or withdraw.
These three works also form a unique thematic set of human past, present, and future. Hallpike opens our eyes to the delusions created by modern civilised man about his prehistoric past. Burnham warns us against the errors we are witnessing in the present, and Biščak shows us where the delusions of our society will lead us.
Ivan Šokić is a philosophy student, editor-in-chief of the science fiction web portal and a publicist at Nova24TV. He is an expert in international relations.