He wrote ‘those who control a people’s opinions control its actions.’ Such control is established by treating citizens, from infancy, as children of the State, trained to ‘consider themselves only in their relationship to the Body of the State’. ‘For being nothing except by it, they will be nothing except for it. It will have all they have and will be all they are.’ Again, this anticipates Mussolini’s central Fascist doctrine: ‘Everything within the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.’ The educational process was thus the key to the success of the cultural engineering needed to make the State acceptable and successful; the axis of Rousseau’s ideals was the citizen as child and the State as parent, and he insisted the government should have complete charge of the upbringing of all children. Hence – and this is the true revolution Rousseau’s ideas brought about – he moved the political process to the very centre of human existence by making the legislator, who is also a pedagogue, into the new Messiah, capable of solving all human problems by creating New Men. ‘Everything,’ he wrote ‘is at root dependent on politics.’ Virtue is the product of good government. Vices belong less to man, than to man badly governed.’ The political process, and the new kind of state it brings into being, are the universal remedies for the ills of mankind. Politics will do all. Rousseau thus prepared the blueprint for the principal delusions and follies of the twentieth century. (Paul Johnson, Intellectuals, pp. 23-24).
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Rousseau: The State as Messiah
One of the most important things that distinguishes conservatives from liberals is that the latter tend to believe more government is the answer to everything. Rousseau was one of the first (at least in modern times) to champion this delusional notion.