Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred by John Lukacs
Profoundly illuminating and deeply infuriating at the same time, John Lukacs's latest book will alternately attract and repel thoughtful conservative readers. Taking Tocqueville and Churchill as his guides, Lukacs brings a humane European conservative sensibility to bear on the tragedy of the 20th century and on our present discontents.
Lukacs's book recovers fundamental distinctions between conservatism and populism, patriotism and nationalism, and fascism and every genuine form of conservatism. But the book is marred by his tendency to confuse pronouncements with reasoned argument. He refuses even to consider the possibility that the liberal nation-state is the only available political vehicle for patriotism in the contemporary world. His ever more insistent anti-anti-Communism knows no bounds (he perversely confuses Stalin, the partisan of nihilistic Soviet modernity, with Russian nationalism tout court). And he implausibly insists that George W. Bush went to war in Iraq "for the main purpose of being popular." The book thus reveals the two faces of John Lukacs: the wise moralist and historian, and the cantankerous polemicist who rejects nearly everything about contemporary American conservatism.
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This article appeared in the Winter 2005-2006 issue of the Claremont Review of Books