The Devil We Know

If Ryszard Legutko is correct, there is increasingly little difference between the devil we know and the devil we don’t.  He makes a compelling case for this claim.  The totalitarian temptation, regardless of differences in time, place, and ideology, is ever present.  The fact is especially troubling as modern man is aided by unprecedented technological means.  Legutko, a professor of philosophy at Jagiellonian University in Kraków and member of the European Parliament, once lived under the boot of communism.  As a member of Poland’s Solidarity trade union in the early 1980’s, he was astonished at the ease with which former communists became “eloquent accoucheurs of the new system.”  Not content merely to acknowledge the phenomenon, Legutko investigated it.  This book—a work of political philosophy that reads like a page-turning thriller—is the result.

Legutko arranges his material thematically—history, utopia, politics, ideology, and religion—as he traces democracy from its ancient roots through various of its manifestations to the modern age, highlighting the triumphant (and myopic) claim proffered by its uncritical devotees that democratic government is the culmination of man’s political aspirations and the exclusive organizing principle for Progress.  He traces liberalism from the earlier...

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