Nov 092009

The Objectivism Seminar is working through Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s all-too-topical book, The Ominous Parallels. In it, he explores what gave rise to to the fascist, totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany — and analyzes whether and how a fascist, totalitarian regime could emerge here in America.

Our focus this week was Chapter 8, “The Emotionalist Republic” — a reference to how there was one fundamental principle “everywhere in the ascendancy — among artists and educators, radicals and traditionalists, young and old alike”: the wholesale rejection of rationality for emotionalism. Topics we discussed included:
  • Why Peikoff characterized art as “the barometer that lays bare a period’s view of reality, of life, of man.”
  • The rise of the Expressionism movement in art with its open break with the intellect, with material reality, with all ‘middle class’ values such as work and personal success, industrial civilization, money, business, section standards, law and order, etc. The spread of these values into everything from cartoons in the newspapers, architecture, films, poetry, music.
  • The Conservative reaction to this, which they regarded as a product of “reason”: turning to their traditional values of intuition and feeling with artists who portrayed an irrational, heroic, mystic world “beset by treachery, overwhelmed by violence, drowned in blood, and culminating in … an orgy of self-willed annihilation”.
  • How the “same epistemological cause leads ultimately to the same social effect (whatever the form). The left culturati called their political ideal “socialism.” the right culturati called theirs “Prussianism.” But, as Spengler pointed out in an influential work entitled Prussianism and Socialism, there is no essential difference between these two concepts. Under both approaches, he noted, “Power belongs to the whole. The individual serves it. The whole is sovereign… Everyone is given his place. There are commands and obedience.”
  • The spread of these values via the efforts of both the left and the right into the youth movements and the educational institutions.
  • The effects of such emotionalism in economics: the failure in hyperinflation they would suffer as their mixed, Bismarckian-style economy drove individuals to join into pressure-group warfare.
  • How this all combines into a miserable, volatile circumstance ripe for someone to deliver change and hope…
If this sounds interesting, you can listen in on the podcast — just download the session’s MP3 directly, or listen to it with the little player on the right, or subscribe to the podcast series over on the Seminar’s TalkShoe page. And if you have something to ask or add, please do pick up the book and join the discussion! We meet at 8:00pm Mountain on Mondays, for about an hour.
Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha