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Totalitarianism and Liberty

The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies
By Ryszard Legutko
Reviewed by Marek Jan Chodakiewicz

Ryszard Legutko is Poland’s leading libertarian and conservative intellectual and a student of philosophy. His The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies, (transl. Teresa Adelson (New York and London: Encounter Books, 2016) describes the degeneration of liberalism into totalitarianism.

An existential crisis looms large over Western Civilization. Like most conservatives, Legutko blames ideology for the current state of affairs. According to The Demon in Democracy, “Ideology is a mental structure that allows a combination of conflicting traits – an extreme distrust of ideas and a blind dogmatism” (p. 116).  In particular, the author focuses on the uncanny similarities between communism and liberalism. “The overwhelming presence of ideology in liberal-democratic and communist societies can be easily explained. The main cause is equality, in which both regimes gave a status of the highest value and made a regulating principle. Both systems enforced the liquidation – through revolutionary means in communism, evolutionary in liberal democracy – of social hierarchies, customs, traditions, and practices that had existed prior to the emergence of the new political systems” (p. 132).

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