The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism – Peter F. Drucker

CHAPTER FOUR
THE FAILURE OF CHURCHES

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The conspicuous and remarkable failure of the churches to provide the basis for a new society is obviously not due to the “godless spirit” of our age which is so often deplored from the pulpits. On the contrary, an age in which an elite can turn to the churches must have a very strong urge toward religion. In spite of this need and search, Christianity and the churches have been unable to provide a religious social solution. All they can do today is to give the individual a private haven and refuge in an individual religion. They cannot give a new society and a new community. Personal religious experience may be invaluable to the individual; it may restore his peace, may give him a personal God and a rational understanding of his own function and nature. But it cannot re-create society and cannot make social and community life sensible. Even the most devout Catholic is today in the religious position of an extreme Protestant like Kierkegaard, for whom God was a purely personal, untranslatable, and uncommunicable experience which only emphasized his own isolation and loneliness, and the utter irrationality of society.
Perhaps the clearest and most pathetic example of the social failure of Christianity is that of the brave and valiant leader of the German Confessional Movement, Pastor Niemoeller. None shows better that the quest for a new basis of society is the motive for turning toward Christianity. Niemoeller, who had been a submarine commander during the war, had come out of it as crushed and uprooted as many other men of his age. He searched for a new society first among the socialist and communist workers in the coal mines and then, after dis- illusionment, among the first radical Nazi groups. Finally he turned toward religion. He found in religion an individual peace and an individual haven, an individual mission and an individual faith. But he did not find in it a lesson for society. He opposes Nazism from the basis of his individual conscience; but, though he wants to, he cannot find any constructive opposition to it on social grounds. He realizes that political and social totalitarianism implies destruction of the freedom of religion as well.
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CHAPTER FIVE
THE TOTALITARIAN MIRACLE
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To answer the question as to what caused democracy to collapse in Italy and Germany we must find which social and political traits common to these two countries are not shared by the rest of Europe. There is one, and only one, such common social characteristic. It can be described in various ways. One might say that in these two countries the bourgeois order was introduced from above and not through revolution from below. Or one might say that while Italy and Germany had democratic institutions and a numerically strong bourgeoisie and proletariat, these classes never obtained control of the substance of government; the “political professor” in Germany and the “political lawyer” in Italy remained socially powerless, even when they were admitted to a seat in the cabinet. Or, finally, Italy, Germany, and the western parts of the old Austro-Hungarian monarchy might be regarded as having formed the eastern fringe of European democracy-a sort of military frontier where democracy’s tenure was never quite secure. All these formulations mean one thing: the great experience of the nineteenth century in Italy and Germany which attracted the emotional and sentimental attachment of the masses was not the victory of the bourgeois order but national unification. The revolutionary movements were national primarily and democratic secondarily. The wars were fought and the sacrifices of blood were made for national unity. The bourgeois order was primarily accepted as a means toward national unification. The tenets and slogans of the bourgeois order had no sentimental appeal; their strength lay in their social promise and substance. They had, therefore, no independent emotional and sentimental existence in the allegiance of the masses. As soon as it was realized that the substance had become invalid, they ceased to exist altogether. In England, France, Holland, and in the Scandinavian countries, on the other hand, the experience and tradition living in the minds of the people is that of the struggle for democracy. National unity had been achieved much earlier, and the democratic creed appeared, therefore, as an emotional value in its own right. Belgium is the only western European country where the attainment of national unity and independence occupies first place in national tradition and sentiment as the great achievement of the nineteenth century. And Belgium produced in the Rexist party the first serious fascist movement in the West.
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The development in Germany closely parallels that in Italy. The tenets of democracy were also used in the first place as means toward a national end-from 1806 onward when the ministers of an absolute king of Prussia introduced sweeping democratic reforms in order to release the national energies which defeated Napoleon, up to Bismarck’s compromise with the liberals in order to force another Prussian king to become the first emperor of the newly united Germany. In Germany bourgeois society was even stronger numerically than in Italy, and even more important economically; yet it was even more impotent politically, and its professions even less esteemed socially. German idealist philosophy, acclaimed as the perfection of thought of the liberal and bourgeois era, was even more remote from reality. The socialist opposition was equally dogmatic and unreal. The emotional and sentimental appeal of the slogans and institutions of democracy would therefore have been equally weak except for the strengthening through the war. This enabled Germany to maintain her democratic institutions through the inflation of 1922-3, which showed up in an unforgettable manner the complete irrationality and the demonic character of industrial society. The fight for international equality revealed that the lesson to he drawn from the war should have been not that democracy is superior hut that it is a deception. Then the democratic system, which had no independent hold upon popular imagination, collapsed and the disintegration of the substance of the democratic order spread rapidly to the tenets, symbols, and institutions without encountering any resistance in the emotional or sentimental tradition of the routine mind.
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The analysis of the Italian and German situation shows conclusively that the causes which led to the collapse of democracy are not confined to these two countries. What is peculiar to them is the absence of the appeal which the tenets, institutions, and slogans of the democratic creed exercise upon the emotions and sentiments of the routine mind in western Europe.
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The fact that her democracies depend entirely upon tradition shows that western Europe would be faced with the same actual problems as Germany and Italy, should her resistance collapse. The forms in which the countries of the West could then try to overcome their problems would, of course, be fashioned to a considerable extent by local conditions. Theoretically it might be quite different from the Italian and German attempts at a solution. But the problems would be fundamentally the same; and that alone makes it likely that the attempts to solve them-whatever the differences in detail-would be fundamentally not very different.
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