What is the interplay between liberal democracy and communism?

If this question intrigues you (or repulses you) you might be interested in a new book by philosophy professor Ryszard Legutko entitled The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies. From the description:


Ryszard Legutko lived and suffered under communism for decades — and he fought alongside the Polish anti-communist movement to abolish it. But, having lived for two decades under a liberal democracy, he has discovered that these two political systems have a lot more in common than one might think. They both stem from the same historical roots in early modernity, and accept similar presuppositions about history, society, religion, politics, culture and human nature.

In The Demon in Democracy, Legutko explores the shared objectives between these two political systems, and explains how liberal democracy has over time lurched towards the same goals, albeit without the Soviet style’s brutal measures.

Both systems, says Legutko, reduce human nature to that of the common man who is led to believe himself liberated from the obligations of the past. Both the communist man and the liberal democratic man refuse to admit that there exists anything of value outside the political systems to which they pledged their loyalty. And both systems refuse to undertake any critical examination of their ideological prejudices.

I read part of the book while on a trip and it is a fascinating read that is well worth your time if you want to understand the motivation and psychology of our our current liberal society. Here is an example of the author’s insight:

The warriors of political correctness think of themselves in the category of the struggle between David and Goliath. Noting can be further from the truth. They belong to the mainstream, having all instruments of power at their disposal. On their side are the courts, both national and international, the UN and its agencies, the European Union with all its institutions, countless media, universities, and public opinion. The illusion they cherish of being a brave minority heroically facing the whole world, false as it is, gives them nevertheless a strange sense of comfort: they feel absolutely safe, being equipped with the most powerful political tools in today’s world but at the same time priding themselves on their courage and decency, which are more formidable the more awesome the image of the enemy becomes.


These powerful political tools allow them to think it is okay to insult, harass and even physically assault others who do not share their groupthink. They often cross the line without thinking of the repercussions. But just as people have stood up to communism and totalitarian political systems, so must those of us who disagree stand together and say “enough.”


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