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Lee Harris is among the cream of the crop of essayists who has emerged in the wake of 9-11. Writing mainly in Policy Review and Tech Central Station, he has produced a steady stream of thought-provoking pieces that summon us to face precisely what the Islamicist challenge to the West means and what we must do to prevail in this conflict. One of them, Our World Historical Gamble may well be the best single essay that anyone has written on the current crisis. A distinguishing feature of his work is the forthrightness with which he warns that the dangers we face are not just external--not simply a matter of Islamicists who want to destroy us--but internal as well--a function of the kind of multicultural political correctness that would vitiate our defenses from within. In Civilization and its Enemies, Mr. Harris draws together several of those essays and expands upon them considerably to give us a book that succeeds to some considerable extent in its surpassing ambition to remind us of how civilization originated, how it is maintained, and why it may perish.

Mr. Harris begins with a simple statement of purpose: "The subject of this book is forgetfulness." By forgetfulness he means, in the first instance, that we have forgotten just how unlikely it is that modern civilization arose at all, that we broke out of what Walter Bagehot called the cake of custom:

Man, being the strongest of all animals, differs from the rest; he was obliged to be his own domesticator; he had to tame himself. And the way in which it happened was, that the most obedient, the tamest tribes are, at the first stage in the real struggle of life, the strongest and the conquerors. All are very wild then; the animal vigour, the savage virtue of the race has died out in none, and all have enough of it. But what makes one tribe--one incipient tribe, one bit of a tribe--to differ from another is their relative faculty of coherence. The slightest symptom of legal development, the least indication of a military bond, is then enough to turn the scale. The compact tribes win, and the compact tribes are the tamest. Civilisation begins, because the beginning of civilisation is a military advantage. Probably if we had historic records of the ante- historic ages--if some superhuman power had set down the thoughts and actions of men ages before they could set them down for themselves--we should know that this first step in civilisation was the hardest step. But when we come to history as it is, we are more struck with the difficulty of the next step. All the absolutely incoherent men--all the `Cyclopes`--have been cleared away long before there was an authentic account of them. And the least coherent only remain in the `protected` parts of the world, as we may call them. Ordinary civilisation begins near the Mediterranean Sea; the best, doubtless, of the ante-historic civilisations were not far off. From this centre the conquering SWARM--for such it is-- has grown and grown; has widened its subject territories steadily, though not equably, age by age. But geography long defied it. An Atlantic Ocean, a Pacific Ocean, an Australian Ocean, an unapproachable interior Africa, an inaccessible and undesirable hill India, were beyond its range. In such remote places there was no real competition, and on them inferior, half-combined men continued to exist. But in the regions of rivalry--the regions where the better man pressed upon the worse man--such half-made associations could not last. They died out and history did not begin till after they were gone. The great difficulty which history records is not that of the first step, but that of the second step. What is most evident is not the difficulty of getting a fixed law, but getting out of a fixed law; not of cementing (as upon a former occasion I phrased it) a cake of custom, but of breaking the cake of custom; not of making the first preservative habit, but of breaking through it, and reaching something better.

This is the precise case with the whole family of arrested civilisations. A large part, a very large part, of the world seems to be ready to advance to something good--to have prepared all the means to advance to something good,--and then to have stopped, and not advanced. India, Japan, China, almost every sort of Oriental civilisation, though differing in nearly all other things, are in this alike. They look as if they had paused when there was no reason for pausing--when a mere observer from without would say they were likely not to pause.
The one section of the book that I'd dispute rather strongly is that in which Mr. Harris discusses how the cake got broken, which he traces to the rise of a culture of boy-gangs in Sparta (see discussion here). But attempts to determine how things like the social contract arose are always dicey and he reaches firmer ground when he gets to the key role that Christianity, especially Protestantism, played in creating liberal democracy. This section too is somewhat underwritten and probably underestimates the importance of religion, but the innovation he identifies here, that of the ethical community, is certainly vital. What such a community produces is a relative uniformity of behavior and "rational freedom--the freedom that arises out of self-mastery." This notion of "rational freedom"--an obvious misnomer since it quite specifically requires faith, not reason--he borrows from Hegel:
By rational freedom Hegel meant nothing remotely metaphysical. Free here simply refers back to the kind of practical and everyday autonomy that was so highly valued by both Jefferson and Rousseau--the ability of the average man to take care of his own needs, to exercise mature self-control over his impulses, to look after both himself and his family, and to stay out of other people's hair.

This kind of freedom is clearly different from the freedom of following one's own bliss that is represented by the principle of liberal autonomy, for it is a freedom that can only be actualized in precisely the kind of community that is created through the constructive illusion of conscience. That is to say, it can only occur in a society where all the members trust each other to exhibit mastery, not over others, or over the fear of death, but mastery over something even harder to achieve--one's own impulses and fantasies and wayward desires...
Setting aside the question of whether this is necessarily a construct and an illusion, we can see why it would be so problematic in the long run, both at home and abroad. Domestically, the problem is that over time we have forgotten that this kind of true social freedom requires us to exercise an extraordinary level of personal restraint. Soon enough we are all clamoring for all of the license with none of the control and trust must become impossible. So do those modern champions of human liberation end up destroying the foundations of freedom, having entirely forgotten what freedom was based on in the first place. Meanwhile, as members of this kind of liberal civilization we tend to forget that those who are external to our society, who do not accept our notions of self-mastery, may be--and when they are must be treated as--our enemies.

In this discussion of the book we've reversed the order in which Mr. Harris presents his arguments, but in doing so we've arrived back at the ground he's covered in past essays. In particular, in Al Qaeda's Fantasy Ideology, he explained the odd nature of the Islamicist enemy. What makes them and their vile deeds so inexplicable to us is that fall completely outside the ethical community and refuse to be bound at all by the self-restraint that our civilization has accustomed us to. They are instead in the grip of a fantasy, one in which we are just props that they utilize as they pursue what is almost an aesthetic form of violence: "9/11 was not an act of Clausewitzian terror--that is to say , terror used as a strategic weapon for the sake of its psychologically debilitating effect on the American people. It was a symbolic drama, a great ritual demonstrating the power of Allah, a pageant designed to convey a message not to the American people but to the Arab world." If this is truly the case--and if you read the essay you'll be convinced he's right--then we are facing a threat unlike any we've faced before, an enemy whose goals barely even involve us. It is, as Mr. Harris argues in the aforementioned Our World Historical Gamble, we are arrived at what he calls, again borrowing from Hegel, a "world-historical" moment. It is a situation "of historical impasse or deadlock for the human race" as he says in the book. Or, as he puts it in the essay, in speaking of our decision to respond to 9-11 by, in part, embarking on the risky course of deposing Saddam Hussein:
Such world-historical events, according to Hegel, are inherently sui generis - they break the mold and shatter tradition.

"The war with Iraq will constitute one of those momentous turning points of history."But this is precisely the problem with trying to grasp such events - they are utterly without precedent, and this means that it is impossible to evaluate them prior to their actual accomplishment in historical actuality. Or, more precisely, it is impossible to evaluate them adequately, because the proper concepts for even describing the new situation have yet to be constructed. Such world-historical innovations transcend the conceptual categories of the old world, call into existence an entirely novel set of categories.

To see the truth of this remark, one need only reflect back to any previous world-historical transformation. How could one hope to explain nineteenth century nationalism to Voltaire? Or the French Revolution to St. Thomas Aquinas? You could try explaining by analogy, but any analogy would be apt to mislead as much, if not more, than to illuminate. But this is no less true in dealing with the world-historical changes that have not yet given birth to the new order of possibilities.

It is this fact that explains why all world-historical undertakings are inherently and irreducibly fraught with risk and uncertainty. Each one of them, by its very nature, is a crossing of the Rubicon, from which there is no turning back, but only a going forward - and a going forward into the unknown.

But it would be a terrible mistake to conclude that such gambles are reckless ventures. In fact, the whole point of a world-historical gamble is that it offers the only possible escape from the kind of historical impasse or deadlock in which the human race presently finds itself. It emerges out of a situation where mankind cannot simply stay put, where the counsels of caution and conservatism are no longer of any value, and where to do nothing at all is in fact to take an even greater risk than that contemplated by the world-historical gamble.

It is because this historical deadlock must be broken that the unavoidable conflict arises between the old order caught up in its impasse and the new order erupting through it. And, as Hegel observes, "It is precisely at this point that we encounter those great collisions between established and acknowledged duties, laws, and right, on the one hand, and new possibilities which conflict with the existing system and violate it or even destroy its very foundations and continued existence, on the other"." This fact explains why the old concepts and categories are of so little use in guiding us to an understanding of such transformative events, because the essence of the world-historical is the disclosure of new and hitherto unsuspected historical possibilities - it is their absolute novelty, their quality as epiphanies, that accounts for their inevitable collision with, and transcendence of, the old categories of understanding.

Today we are in the midst of this collision. It is the central fact of our historical epoch. It is this we must grasp. Unless we are prepared to look seriously at the true stakes involved in the Bush administration's coming world-historical gamble, we will grossly distort the significance of what is occurring by trying to make it fit into our own pre-fabricated and often grotesquely obsolete set of concepts. We will be like children trying to understand the world of adults with our own childish ideas, and we will miss the point of everything we see. This means that we must take a hard look at even our most basic vocabulary - and think twice before we rush to apply words like "empire" or "national self-interest" or "multi-lateralism" or "sovereignty" to a world in which they are no longer relevant. The only rule of thumb that can be unfailingly applied to world-historical transformations is this: None of our currently existing ideas and principles, concepts and categories, will fit the new historical state of affairs that will emerge out of the crisis. We can only be certain of our uncertainty.
But, if these are necessarily uncertain times, Mr. Harris does have a prescription for how to meet the uncertainty, and it involves one of the most interesting concepts in the book: neo-sovereignty.

The traditional Westphalian system of sovereignty promised states a kind of inviolability from their neighbors so long as there was a recognizable regime in control within its borders. But such a system required us to countenance totalitarian, even genocidal, regimes, so long as they limited their evil-doing to their own citizens. In essence, this kind of sovereignty said that a government could do any damage it wished to its nation and its people, so long as they left the rest of us alone. Mr. Harris proposes instead--and we put into effect in Iraq and Afghanistan--a different vision. As he describes it, the "core idea of neo-sovereignty" is that:
[A]mericans have created and mastered a social technique that can solve many of the outstanding human and humanitarian problems facing the world today. We have produced a system of socialization as well as a system of organization that has been able to help us eliminate many of the deep-seated conflicts that haunt and divide the rest of mankind--conflicts of race and of religion, of sect and ethnicity. We have figured out a way of living together, and others can learn it from us, if they are willing.
Several years ago, Walter McDougall suggested that America's posture towards the world divides along a faultline. On one side we wish to maintain our isolation from the rest of the world, holding ourselves out as an example, a Promised Land, but avoiding potentially contaminating contact with others. On the other side we've a tendency to sally forth as a Crusader State, more than willing to intervene in the affairs of others and convert them to our ways. His advocacy of neo-sovereignty--which would allow us to ignore the "rights" of regimes which lack liberal democratic legitimacy--plunks Mr. Harris down squarely on the side of the crusaders. It's no surprise, though he doesn't ruminate on it, that the leader of that crusade is the evangelical President, George W. Bush

The gamble undertaken by the United States and its allies in response to 9-11 is so radical, transcends old categories so completely, that many seem to be having trouble processing its meaning. The obsession with finding WMD in Iraq reflects a people locked in the old system of sovereignty, where the war can only be justified if Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to our safety. The President, however, based the war on a far different standard, a universal standard under which Iraq does not represent a unique case but one of a fair number of like cases that it is our unique responsibility to deal with:
The advance of freedom is the calling of our time; it is the calling of our country. From the Fourteen Points to the Four Freedoms, to the Speech at Westminster, America has put our power at the service of principle. We believe that liberty is the design of nature; we believe that liberty is the direction of history. We believe that human fulfillment and excellence come in the responsible exercise of liberty. And we believe that freedom -- the freedom we prize -- is not for us alone, it is the right and the capacity of all mankind.
If 9-11 represented the enactment of a fantasy ideology, one in which America and Americans are merely props and the real target is the hearts and minds of Muslims, the war on terror, as waged by this administration, is the forcible imposition of a real ideology, liberal democracy, in which al Qaeda and its ilk are merely props, and the point is to transform the Muslim world in our image. This certainly is a world-historical gamble, but from Morocco to Libya to Syria to Iraq to Afghanistan it seems to be paying big dividends as a wave of liberalization sweeps the region.

This process is what Mr. Harris calls the next stage of history:
The civilization that the United States is now called upon to defend is not America's or even the West's; it is the civilization created by all men and women, everywhere on the planet, who have worked to make the actual community around them less addicted to violence, more open, more tolerant, more trusting. Civilization, in this sense, is Chinese, American, African, European, and Muslim. Those who are working for this purpose are all on the same side, and we all have a common enemy. It is an enemy whose origin goes back to the dawn of history, and indeed, the enemy that began the whole bloody and relentless cycle of violence and war, the eternal gang of ruthless men.

Someone must be prepared to fight them whenever they threaten to enter history and threaten thereby to change even the very possibilities in terms of which we are, forever after, doomed to imagine the future.

Those who wish to help the Third World must see that the source of its poverty lies not in the capitalist system but in the rule of the gang that has blighted it for millennia. where the family rules, the team cannot prosper, and if the team cannot prosper, then neither can the society. It is not capitalism that creates democratic liberalism but the peculiar team sense of community that arose out of Protestant Europe, one combining team and conscience to produce individuals capable of making their own way in the world while being ever mindful of the needs of others
As the refusal of the U.N. and even many of America's democratic allies to sanction or participate in our Middle East efforts, as well as the opposition of many within our own country amply demonstrates, these are lessons that have largely been forgotten, if ever they were widely understood. Mr. Harris's excellent book is a salutary and timely reminder of how we got to this point in history and a roadmap of how to get to the next point successfully.


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A-)

  

Websites:

See also:

Geopolitics
Lee Harris Links:

    -BOOK SITE: Civilization and Its Enemies: The Next Stage of History (Written Voices)
    -EXCERPT: from Chapter One: The Riddle of the Enemy
    -ESSAY: Our World Historical Gamble: The collapse of the liberal order and the end of classical sovereignty. (Lee Harris, 03/11/03, Tech Central Station)
    -ESSAY: Al Qaeda's Fantasy Ideology (Lee Harris, August 2002, Policy Review)
    -ESSAY: The Politics of the Gang (Lee Harris,Ê03/02/2004, Tech Central Station)
    -ESSAY: The Cosmopolitan Illusion (Lee Harris, April 2003, Policy Review)
    -ESSAY: Honor and Shame: Who Needs Them?: Understanding the necessary conditions of a good society (Lee Harris, 12/31/03, Tech Central Station)
    -ESSAY: Thank God He's Alive (Lee Harris, 12/14/03, Tech Central Station)
    -ESSAY: Profiles and Courage (Lee Harris, 10/01/03, Tech Central Station)
    -ESSAY: The Clausewitz Curse: Given our uncertainty, what alternative does this, or any, administration have? (Lee Harris, 7/31/03, Tech Central Station)
    -ESSAY: Gangland Slaying: Replacing the right of national self-determination with a more fundamental right. (Lee Harris, 7/25/03, Tech Central Station)
    -ESSAY: Confronting the Myth: The United States is now faced with one of the great challenges that we have ever undertaken. (Lee Harris, 4/14/03, Tech Central Station)
    -ESSAY: Just Ask Mohammed: Healing the great rift between the Islamic world and the West. (Lee Harris, 4/08/03, Tech Central Station)
    -ESSAY: Madder Than MAD: A solution that seems insane, but ends by looking obvious. (Lee Harris, 3/19/03, Tech Central Station)
    -ESSAY: Sundown's Question: The logic of 'Us versus Them' offends our moral sensibility, but this does not change certain facts. (Lee Harris, 3/17/03, Tech Central Station)
    -ESSAY: The Genie's Curse: From Portugal to Arabia, the terrible dilemma of the multi-culturalist. (Lee Harris, 2/14/03, Tech Central Station)
    -ESSAY: Failure and Fantasy: Our penchant for self-criticism explains why we have trouble understanding the Arab world. (Lee Harris, 2/11/03, Tech Central Station)
    -ESSAY: Taking the Terror Cult Seriously: 'We will win because you fear death more than we do.' (Lee Harris, 2/07/03, Tech Central Station)
    -ESSAY: Mr. Bush's War: For historical parallels, look to World War I, not WW II. (Lee Harris, 2/05/03, Tech Central Station)
    -ESSAY: ¾ Reason and the Omen: Residues of this haunted world even among the most enlightened of us. (Lee Harris, 2/03/03, Tech Central Station)
    -ESSAY: The Intellectual Origins Of America-Bashing (Lee Harris, December 2002, Policy Review)
    -INTERVIEW: Our new epoch in history: Lee Harris (Bill Stiegerwald, 2/21/04, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
    -ARCHIVES: Lee Harris (Policy Review)
    -ARCHIVES: Lee Harris (Tech Central Station)
    -ARCHIVES: "Lee Harris" (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW: of Civilization and its Enemies (David Warren, Ottawa Citizen)
    -REVIEW: of Civilization and its Enemies (Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal)
    -REVIEW: of Civilization and its Enemies (Steven Martinovich, Enter Stage Right)
    -REVIEW: of Civilization and its Enemies (Ann Marlowe, Salon)
    -REVIEW: of Civilization and its Enemies (Robert Sibley, Ottawa Citizen)
    -REVIEW: of Civilization and its Enemies (Mark Cunningham, NY Post)
    -REVIEW: of Civilization and its Enemies (Robert Spencer, Human Events)
    -REVIEW: of Civilization and its Enemies (W.J. Rayment, Conservative Monitor)
    http://www.claremont.org/writings/041014cella.html-REVIEW: of Civilization and its Enemies (Paul J. Cella III, Claremont Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Civilization and its Enemies (Buzzle)

Book-related and General Links:

See also our reviews of: Francis Fukuyama's End of History and Samuel Huntington's clash of civilizations.

WALTER BAGEHOT:
Physics and Politics: or Thoughts on the Application of the Principles of "Natural Selection" and "Inheritance" to Political Society (1863) (Walter Bagehot, 1826-77)
CHAPTER V. - THE AGE OF DISCUSSION.

The greatest living contrast is between the old Eastern and customary civilisations and the new Western and changeable civilisations. A year or two ago an inquiry was made of our most intelligent officers in the East, not as to whether the English Government were really doing good in the East, but as to whether the natives of India themselves thought we were doing good; to which, in a majority of cases, the officers who wore the best authority, answered thus: 'No doubt you are giving the Indians many great benefits: you give them continued peace, free trade, the right to live as they like, subject to the laws; in these points and others they are far better off than, they ever were; but still they cannot make you out. What puzzles them is your constant disposition to change, or as you call it, improvement. Their own life in every detail being regulated by ancient usage, they cannot comprehend a policy which is always bringing something new; they do not a bit believe that the desire to make them comfortable and happy is the root of it; they believe, on the contrary, that you are aiming at something which they do not understand--that you mean to "take away their religion;" in a word, that the end and object of all these continual changes is to make Indians not what they are and what they like to be, but something new and different from what they are, and what they would not like to be.' In the East, in a word, we are attempting to put new wine into old bottles-to pour what we can of a civilisation whose spirit is progress into the form of a civilisation whose spirit is fixity, and whether we shall succeed or not is perhaps the most interesting question in an age abounding almost beyond example in questions of political interest.

Historical inquiries show that the feeling of the Hindoos is the old feeling, and that the feeling of the Englishman is a modern feeling. ' Old law rests,' as Sir Henry Maine puts it, 'not on contract but on status.' The life of ancient civilisation, so far as legal records go, runs back to a time when every important particular of life was settled by a usage which was social, political, and religious, as we should now say, all in one--which those who obeyed it could not have been able to analyse, for those distinctions had no place in their mind and language, but which they felt to be a usage of imperishable import, and above all things to be kept unchanged. In former papers I have shown, or at least tried to show, why these customary civilisations were the only ones which suited an early society; why, so to say, they alone could have been first; in what manner they had in their very structure a decisive advantage over all competitors. But now comes the farther question: If fixity is an invariable ingredient in early civilisations, how then did any civilisation become unfixed? No doubt most civilisations stuck where they first were; no doubt we see now why stagnation is the rule of the world, and why progress is the very rare exception; but we do not learn what it is which has caused progress in these few cases, or the absence of what it is which has denied it in all others.

To this question history gives a very clear and very remarkable answer. It is that the change from the age of status to the age of choice was first made in states where the government was to a great and a growing extent a government by discussion, and where the subjects of that discussion were in some degree abstract, or, as we should say, matters of principle. It was in the small republics of Greece and Italy that the chain of custom was first broken. 'Liberty said, Let there be light, and, like a sunrise on the sea, Athens arose,' says Shelley, and his historical philosophy is in this case far more correct than is usual with him. A free state--a state with liberty--means a state, call it republic or call it monarchy, in which the sovereign power is divided between many persons, and in which there is a discussion among those persons. Of these the Greek republics were the first in history, if not in time, and Athens was the greatest of those republics.

After the event it is easy to see why the teaching of history should be this and nothing else. It is easy to see why the common discussion of common actions or common interests should become the root of change and progress. In early society, originality in life was forbidden and repressed by the fixed rule of life. It may not have been quite so much so in Ancient Greece as in some other parts of the world. But it was very much so even there. As a recent writer has well said, 'Law then presented itself to men's minds as something venerable and unchangeable, as old as the city; it had been delivered by the founder himself, when he laid the walls of the city, and kindled its sacred fire.' An ordinary man who wished to strike out a new path, to begin a new and important practice by himself, would have been peremptorily required to abandon his novelties on pain of death; he was deviating, he would be told, from the ordinances imposed by the gods on his nation, and he must not do so to please himself. On the contrary, others were deeply interested in his actions. If he disobeyed, the gods might inflict grievous harm on all the people as well as him. Each partner in the most ancient kind of partnerships was supposed to have the power of attracting the wrath of the divinities on the entire firm, upon the other partners quite as much as upon himself. The quaking bystanders in a superstitious age would soon have slain an isolated bold man in the beginning of his innovations, What Macaulay so relied on as the incessant source of progress--the desire of man to better his condition--was not then permitted to work; man was required to live as his ancestors had lived.

Still further away from those times were the 'free thought' and the 'advancing sciences' of which we now hear so much. The first and most natural subject upon which human thought concerns itself is religion; the first wish of the half-emancipated thinker is to use his reason on the great problems of human destiny--to find out whence he came and whither he goes, to form for himself the most reasonable idea of God which he can form. But, as Mr. Grote happily said--'This is usually what ancient times would not let a man do. His GENS or his fratria required him to believe as they believed.' Toleration is of all ideas the most modern, because the notion that the bad religion of A cannot impair, here or hereafter, the welfare of B, is, strange to say, a modern idea. And the help of 'science,' at that stage of thought, is still more nugatory. Physical science, as we conceive it--that is, the systematic investigation of external nature in detail--did not then exist. A few isolated observations on surface things--a half-correct calendar, secrets mainly of priestly invention, and in priestly custody--were all that was then imagined; the idea of using a settled study of nature as a basis for the discovery of new instruments and new things, did not then exist. It is indeed a modern idea, and is peculiar to a few European countries even yet. In the most intellectual city of the ancient world, in its most intellectual age, Socrates, its most intellectual inhabitant, discouraged the study of physics because they engendered uncertainty, and did not augment human happiness. The kind of knowledge which is most connected with human progress now was that least connected with it then.

But a government by discussion, if it can be borne, at once breaks down the yoke of fixed custom. The idea of the two is inconsistent. As far as it goes, the mere putting up of a subject to discussion, with the object of being guided by that discussion, is a clear admission that that subject is in no degree settled by established rule, and that men are free to choose in it. It is an admission too that there is no sacred authority--no one transcendent and divinely appointed man whom in that matter the community is bound to obey. And if a single subject or group of subjects be once admitted to discussion, ere long the habit of discussion comes to be established, the sacred charm of use and wont to be dissolved. 'Democracy,' it has been said in modern times, 'is like the grave; it takes, but it does not give.' The same is true of 'discussion.' Once effectually submit a subject to that ordeal, and you can never withdraw it again; you can never again clothe it with mystery, or fence it by consecration; it remains for ever open to free choice, and exposed to profane deliberation.

The only subjects which can be first submitted, or which till a very late age of civilisation can be submitted to discussion in the community, are the questions involving the visible and pressing interests of the community; they are political questions of high and urgent import. If a nation has in any considerable degree gained the habit, and exhibited the capacity, to discuss these questions with freedom, and to decide them with discretion, to argue much on politics and not to argue ruinously, an enormous advance in other kinds of civilisation may confidently be predicted for it. And the reason is a plain deduction from the principles which we have found to guide early civilisation. The first pre-historic men were passionate savages, with the greatest difficulty coerced into order and compressed into a state. For ages were spent in beginning that order and founding that state; the only sufficient and effectual agent in so doing was consecrated custom; but then that custom gathered over everything, arrested all onward progress, and stayed the originality of mankind. If, therefore, a nation is able to gain the benefit of custom without the evil--if after ages of waiting it can have order and choice together--at once the fatal clog is removed, and the ordinary springs of progress, as in a modern community we conceive them, begin their elastic action.
The problem being--as Europe amply demonstrates and as we're in danger of following--that the tendency is to completely discard custom and order, leaving only choice, and the spring expands until the community is no longer bound by common interests.

If discussion is corrosive of custom and all topics are subject to discussion in a free society than how do you maintain at least the degree of custom that order requires?

MORE:
    -INTRODUCTION: to Physics and Politics by Walter Bagehot (Roger Kimball)
    -BIO: Bagehot , Walter (Britannica Concise)
    -BIO: Walter Bagehot (Ronald Hilton, WAIS Forum on Wais News)
    -CARICATURE: Walter Bagehot by David Levine (NY Review of Books) -Walter Bagehot Online
    -Walter Bagehot, 1826-1877 (New School)
    -The San Antonio College LitWeb Walter Bagehot Page
    -Bagehot, W (1826.2.3-77.3.24) (Akamac)
    -ETEXTS: Walter Bagehot (February 3, 1826 – March 24, 1877)
    -ETEXTS: Walter Bagehot (Blue Pete)
    -ETEXTS: Project Gutenberg Titles by Walter Bagehot
    -ESSAY: John Milton (1859) (Walter Bagehot)
    -ETEXT: Physics and Politics (Walter Bagehot )
    -ETEXT: Lombard Street: A Description of the Money Market Walter Bagehot (1826-1877) (Library of Economics and Liberty)
    -REVIEW: of Principles of Political Economy, with some of their applications to Social Philosophy. By J. S. Mill (Walter Bagehot, 1848, The Prospective Review)
    -ARCHIVES: "walter bagehot" (Look Smart)

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