The Monism of Perfection

I first encountered Kenneth Minogue as a sophomore at Columbia, when his name appeared on a reading list for a course in modern political philosophy.  The professor, it goes without saying, was a radical who had his own reasons for disliking liberalism, but I do not recall his criticisms, if any, of Minogue and his book.  At any rate, he failed to sour the intellectually delectable experience of my encounter with the author of The Liberal Mind.  One sentence in particular has never left me.  Speaking of the efforts of traditional societies to avoid the liberal infection, Minogue says, “[O]nce liberalism gains a hold, a sort of traditional innocence is lost.”  Similarly, once exposed to the acute and original mind of Kenneth Minogue, I felt my own political innocence gone for good.

The Servile Mind, whose title deliberately invokes Hilaire Belloc’s The Servile State, builds especially upon a previous work by Professor Minogue—Alien Powers: The Pure Theory of Ideology, published a quarter-century ago.  In claiming that democracy erodes the moral life, Minogue does not mean democracy understood as political process or arrangement.  “[T]here is no such thing,” he argues, “as ‘democracy’ absolutely considered, because the meaning of the term changes significantly with each passing generation.”  Today, democracy is a moral-social-political...

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