Man & State
Please click on titles below to link to published essays
THE STATE AS A WORK OF ART
"[...]It was Socrates who spoke of the concept of a “city-soul.” The natural justice, as he called it, of city life was that men made products for the men who need them, with each individual endowed with some mental talent or physical capacity to equip the community. It is a justice, as one scholar of the philosopher has written, drawn from nature and “applied to the man-made organization of his order and rule.” The City was an expression of civic greatness—and “The State” no more or less than that.
"By the 19th century each of these aristocratic republics and merchant-prince city-leagues—though still so noble in pedigree and ancient spirit—had become lovely post-card imprints of their former selves. The mightiness had sallowed, the luminescence dimmed—a spell still cast, to be sure, but one less hypnotizing of the imagination. It is said that it is a law of decay that all cities and empires “must” suffer. Today’s republics have no republicans—no wise democrats, no noble merchants, no gracious men-of-the-people leading by example. Or too few. Or too marginalized. But this matters little, of course, so long as man studies the inspiring genius of great civilizations past, and that his march continues onward, with ‘Excelsior’ ever in his mind’s eye and his heart’s song."[...]
WHY DEMOCRACY NEEDS ARISTOCRACY
"Seneca, the Roman philosopher, relates the story of the murder of Callisthenes by Alexander the Great, the “everlasting crime” of the Macedonian leader. Seneca wrote:
"For when someone says, ‘Alexander killed many thousands of Persians’ the countering reply to him will be: ‘And Callisthenes too’. Whenever it is said: ‘Alexander killed Darius, who had the greatest kingdom at that time’, the reply will be: ‘And he killed Callisthenes, too.’ Whenever it is said, ‘He conquered everything all the way to the ocean…and extended his empire from a corner of Thrace all the way to the farthest boundaries of the East” it will be said, ‘But he killed Callisthenes’. Although he went beyond the achievements in antiquity of generals and kings, of the things which he did, nothing will be as great as this crime.”
"This anecdote dramatically sums up what was once considered the ideal creation of Western Civilization: the noble individual, celebrated from Roman philosophers to 18th century Englishmen like Gibbon to 19th century Americans like Emerson. From the heights of the Promethean view of man’s potential that made one Callisthenes of more importance than an entire army; to the degenerate view of the human as helplessly weak, whose self-interest is usually malevolent and whose dignity inevitably disgraced, there have been few Western ideas made more subject to unrelenting corrosion in modern times than the notion of 'man'[...]"
THE GENIUS OF BYZANTIUM: REFLECTIONS ON A FORGOTTEN EMPIRE
Everywhere Western man longs for Constantinople and nowhere has he any idea how to find her. To do so is to reclaim, at last, the meaning of an empire that once defined a hierarchy of imagination long ago abandoned by our civilization; of an eleven-century political, religious and cultural struggle that sought to reconcile Christianity and Antiquity, transforming the Western spirit into a brilliant battleground between Latin and Greek, Augustus and Basileus, reason and faith, ancient and modern. Yet to unearth this Byzantium, this “heaven of the human mind”, as Yeats dreamed her, is not to go searching through histories and legends, glorious ruins or immortal poems. It is, instead, to be found retracing the evolution of a new and profound conflict in Western thought that began with the mysterious conversion of the first Constantine and ended, at the gates of the marble and gold City called ‘the world’s desire’ by the sons of that city, with the unconquerable faith of the last Constantine—himself heir to the great Palaiologoi who resurrected the dormant title of Hellene to describe their own noble line of descent...
OF MAJESTY AND ANARCHY
...Thus, by "philosophy of monarchy" we do not here refer to a kind of British or anglo-american version of such--from James I to William of Orange, a passing of belief in Absolute Divine Right to Consent of those Governed. Instead, we mean a Romanized German concept of the Great Prince, one borne so wonderfully in the intense personality of Frederick, the climax of the Hohenstaufen. Rome Immemorial was his bloodline; revolutionary Christian maverick was his self-invention and for this reason Frederick has been called the first modern monarch and the first modern revolutionary in Western history; Nietzsche declared him "the first European".
"Oswald Spengler, in his typically striking way, summed it up thus: "Only the great personality--the It, the race, the cosmic force bound up in personality --has been creative and has effectively modified the type of entire classes and peoples." Kantorowicz, in his beautiful book, writes: "Frederick's greatest power lay in his own personality." He continues: "At the zenith of his glory, this most Roman of all German Emperors possessed not only the armed forces but the personal magic to sway the princes to his will and direct their gaze to the great problems of the Roman world". Though Frederick's program was to renew the Roman Empire--the renovatio imperii Romanorum--this goal of 'Antiquity', writes Kantorowicz, was not the final objective. Rather, it was but the means through which "the German came back to himself, a form of the incarnation of the German spirit made visible."[...]
THE CASE FOR THE CITY-STATE (The Wall Street Journal, 16 July 2012).
My full length interview with Corriere della Sera, Italy's national daily, on this WSJ opinion piece is featured Here
"...While ancient Greece and Renaissance Italy were hardly free of war, violence and corruption, the model they provide for dynamic economic independence cannot be denied. Regional competition, the necessity of private property, entrepreneurial freedom, the leadership of visionaries and conservative economic practices all brought those countries out of their respective dark ages onto the world stage. It is high time these two Mediterranean countries put these aspects of their glorious histories back in business [...]"
THE REVENGE OF OLD EUROPE (The New York Times, 23 November 2004)
"The decrees under which the lands were taken--more than a quarter million hectares, or about 600,000 acres in all--are still invoked by the Czech authorities as justification for the seizure nearly 60 years ago...[...] On the claimants' side is a romantic roster of names: Metternich-Ratibor, Hohenberg, Waldstein, Des Fours Walderode, Kinski, Pezold, Schwarzenberg, Harrach, Salm and Liechtenstein, to name a few. They maintain that confiscation of their lands after 1947 was based on politicized definitions of Czechoslovak versus German "citizenship" as the basis of legal property ownership. Such definitions, the families argue, have been used to justify state discrimination against claims by German-speaking dynasties spread out for centuries across Bohemia, Moravia, Germany and Austria..."