- Paperback: 244 pages
- Publisher: Xlibris Corporation (June 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1413407021
- ISBN-13: 978-1413407020
- Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,595,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Perfection of the West
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Top Customer Reviews
This a dreary outlook, of course. In a way, Mr. Reilly argues that the the West must put its affairs in order as it prepares to die, that America must complete its task before it becomes a dessicated husk as Western Europe has. Our reward will not be a utopia; it will be that the world shall be turned into an orderly, prosperous, but spiritually frozen and rather hopeless place, like that slightly imaginary Sweden writ worldwide - and avoid getting turned into a living hell.
This all sounds rather crank-y, but Mr. Reilly is no ideologue. He holds forth his ideas with humor, clarity, perspective, intelligence, and, especially, good sense. He does not argue for the imposition of brutal military despotism with Uncle Sam's face, but that America ought to use it's energy and power to restructure the institutions of world government to render them effective and eliminate their characters as the impotent playthings of the transnational elite. He does not argue for total war against all enemies of modernity, but simply that America ought to help fill in the vacuums and drain the cesspools in which they thrive. He believes the one thing needful is that America keep civilization on track and on the upward road, and things will come out well in the end.
The book is not a sustained argument, but a collection of essays written over several years, some connected only in a vague thematic fashion. Mr. Reilly has plotted a few points, and expects you to connect them. (To be honest, it would greatly enlarge one's experience of this book to gain a cursory knowledge of Oswald Spengler's theory.) One does not need to agree with Mr. Reilly (as, in no small part, I do not) in order to profit from these pieces; anyone who concerns himself with the current international turmoil will benefit from being exposed to such a well-considered, but unusual, viewpoint as this.
The Hellenistic age did not arrive at the Roman Empire because it was the preferable outcome; the formation of the Roman Empire was an act of desperation, to stave off chaos, collapse, and barbarian invasion. On this point, Mr. Reilly departs from the Hellenistic analogy; he hopes for the West to arrive at a better outcome than Greco-Roman civilization did. He believes that if America acts wisely and early, it can avoid being forced, as Rome was, to make its decisions at the end of its tether. Mr. Reilly wants history's end to be a happy one.
Unfortunately, Mr. Reilly reveals himself to be little more than your typical liberal academic throughout the course of most of his work. There's nothing wrong with trying to be objective and dispassionate, of course, but it leaves the whole enterprise with a sterile patina on top of it. One has to wonder about the mental pathology of someone who has immersed themselves in esoteric literature as their life's work, but at the same time doesn't really seem to _believe_ any of it. This lack of passion characterizes most of academia, which can "objectively analyze" information but in the end can only produce spiritually desolate works.
The premise behind the book? Well, Spengler was basically right - America is currently making the inevitable transition from an idealistic Republic to that of an empire. The handwriting is on the wall. However, at the core "American values" - "democracy" (used in quotes since anyone familiar with the founding of the American Republic will know that democracy was anything but an intention of the Founding Fathers), "equality", "respect for diversity", etc. are fundamentally good and perhaps the best-case scenario at this point is for these values to spread everywhere, resulting in a sort of glorious Complete Annihilation of People Who Won't Conform. Yet again, an impossible Star Trek One World State is the ideal.
In this book, Reilly epitomizes much of the impotence that paralyzes contemporary academia. He can't stomach the American military adventurism that characterizes the descent into Spengler's imperial phase, yet at the same time he believes that America should try to foster all of the typical liberal causes around the world on its way out: "equality", "democracy", and the like. Now, no one says that they oppose democracy in polite company, but does anyone really believe that "American democracy" is little more than a codeword for installing regimes friendly to American business? And does anyone really believe that places like Haiti, sub-saharan Africa, and most of Latin America have the sort of background to be anything close to democratic?
Of course, this view is hopelessly naive - it would be like the Roman Empire realizing that it is sliding into decadence, so perhaps it should just do its best to spread Latin to all of the barbarian tribes to the north of it while it still can. (Smoke another, John.) To anyone familiar with the Orwellian neoconservative lexicon, this will sound a little too familiar - after all, if the "end" is something as noble as equality or democracy, well, then... what are a few thousand lives compared to the possibility of a world with mandatory Diversity Days at every workplace?
Reilly can't stomach the fact that other cultures don't have the same Enlightenment notions that Westerners do, but he can't just come out and say that perhaps this is due to some sort of inherent "limitation" - either cultural, spiritual, or genetic - on their part. He doesn't realize that in the eyes of much of the world, America represents the worst aspects of decadence and spiritual death. It's this sort of cocktail-party liberalism which characterizes the mindsets of most of the inhabitants of the Boulders and Ann Arbors of the world: respect "diversity", but only so long as it's nonthreatening. The moment it gets too scary (which would mean it is genuinely diverse) "we" need to go in and tell "those people" how to behave properly. This peculiar mindset is unfortunately pervasive among so many left-leaning academics - they want to come off as 'rebels', but their inherent low self-esteem (a cause and/or symptom of which is writing books that inspire no one) really reveals them to be hyper-conformists. A true respect of "diversity" would entail not going around and mucking with cultures that have values that Westerners find distasteful and engaging in imperialist adventures under the pretense of establishing "democracy" in places where it's obviously not going to work.
In close, this is really not a bad book. It's just nonessential except perhaps to those liberal apologists who would like to revise Spengler's theories to fit in with their globalist aspirations. Those who find themselves in general agreement with Spengler are likely going to be annoyed by this book. In close, the last thing America needs to do is try to foster more "democracy" and "equality" around the world, which really translates into little more than bombings, coup d'etats, and starvation in the form of embargoes.