The Cunning of Freedom, Saving the Self in an Age of False Idols
by Ryszard Legutko
Reviewed by Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
One of the greatest tragedies following the implosion of Communism was the failure to “not primarily opening up a free space but reconstructing ‘the old order,’ bringing back what was real, good, proper” (p. 52). Thus, anti-Communism should have been largely, if not entirely, reactionary. Instead, for the lack of conservative elites in places like Poland, liberalism filled the void.
Ryszard Legutko seems to have a ready alternative for the liberal totalitarian affliction of our times. It is res publica, a commonwealth with a mixed constitution. Sadly, he does not devote much of The Cunning of Freedom: Saving the Self in an Age of False Idols (New York and London: Encounter Books, 2021) to its advocacy. Instead, he brilliantly sets out to dissect freedom and distill an antidote to liberalism for us. Unlike Roy Dreher’s attempts to recreate the sui generis Polish dissident paradigm of the 1970s and, perhaps, 1980s, in contemporary America, Ryszard Legutko’s proposition is not ahistorical; it is universal.