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t s eliot on liberalism

After finishing The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis, by Alan Jacobs, I was interested to read more from T. S. Eliot, one of the figures discussed in this excellent book.     

I have begun Eliot's Christianity and Culture (1948).  In the first essay, "The Idea of a Christian Society", Eliot addresses the nature and consequences of Liberalism in both political and religious forms.  Here are few highlights...              

"By destroying traditional social habits of the people, by dissolving their natural collective consciousness into individual constituents, by licensing the opinions of the most foolish, by substituting instruction for education, by encouraging cleverness rather than wisdom, the upstart rather than the qualified, by fostering a notion of getting on to which the alternative is a hopeless apathy, Liberalism can prepare the way for that which is its own negation: the artificial, mechanized or brutalized control which is a desperate remedy for its chaos. ...
                
"In religion, Liberalism may be characterized as a progressive discarding of elements in historical Christianity which appear superfluous or obsolete, confounded with practices and abuses which are legitimate objects of attack. But as its movement is controlled rather by its origin than by any goal, it loses force after a series of rejections, and with nothing to destroy is left with nothing to uphold and with nowhere to go. ...
                
"In the sense in which Liberalism is contrasted with Conservatism, both can be equally repellent: if the former can mean chaos, the latter can mean petrifaction. We are always faced both with the question “what must be destroyed?” and with the question “what must be preserved?” and neither Liberalism nor Conservatism, which are not philosophies and may be merely habits, is enough to guide us. ...

"The more highly industrialized the country, the more easily a materialistic philosophy will flourish in it, and the more deadly that philosophy will be. ...

"It is not merely the problem of a minority in a society of individuals holding an alien belief. It is the problem constituted by our implication in a network of institutions from which we cannot dissociate ourselves: institutions the operation of which appears no longer neutral, but non-Christian. And as for the Christian who is not conscious of his dilemma—and he is in the majority—he is becoming more and more de-Christianized by all sorts of unconscious pressure: paganism holds all the most valuable advertising space. ...
                
[Liberalism ends with...] "a state of affairs in which we shall have regimentation and conformity, without respect for the needs of the individual soul; the puritanism of a hygienic morality in the interest of efficiency; uniformity of opinion through propaganda, and art only encouraged when it flatters the official doctrines of the time."

~ T. S. Eliot, Christianity and Culture (1948)






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