Being an individual is not the same as having a unique identity that sets one apart from the community or the whole of society. Ants are individuals within the entirety of their nest, and yet they do not appear to hold any sort of personal identity. Human beings, on the other hand, stand out among eusocial animals because they are atoms in their respective societies and, at the same time, struggle to establish unique identifiers of their own. Individuals with a personal identity are individuals plus ultra, so to speak.
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Seen through this lens, Strauss offers a valuable sketch from a chapter that was practically omitted from European history. Because according to him, what the Allies tried to impose on Germany after it’s historic defeat in the 1rst World War, is what they were trying to impose on the whole world all along: a global state of enforced peace and commercial prosperity, where national differences would be resolved by supra-national entities similar to the British Commonwealth. At the same time, the values of individual citizens would be re-modelled through education to reflect those liberal principles on which this state rested. Only a generation ago, general von Moltke could quickly proclaim that “eternal peace is a dream, and not even a beautiful one.” Still, following Germany’s defeat, the international stage was set for the realization of that dream.
This broadcast is the second part of the initial show two weeks ago and begins where that left off. It’s an analysis of the political ideas of Solzhenitsyn from the point of view of three works, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1963), The Cancer Ward and The First Circle, both published in English in 1968.
The American academic world has been hostile to Solzhenitsyn for his anti-communism and Russian nationalism. Most reviews of his political works have been hostile or seek to make a “liberal” out of him, a common tactic. His social and political theory revolves around the dialectic between freedom and the state. The state here isn’t just any coercive power, but a state that derives from the Enlightenment, the mind of science and the belief that man can dominate nature for “his” benefit.