Why was western civilization in dire decline? Hilaire Belloc asked this question and gave his analysis in his book The Crisis of Civilization (1937). He sheets most of the blame to those great historical explosions, the Reformation and the rise of modern capitalism. They together had undermined the moral fabric of Christendom and led to widespread poverty, dependence and wage-slavery, which in turn led to resistance movements such as communism. He urged a return to medieval ideals of community and Christian love.
Click above for Paul’s essay on Belloc.
The ideas of the Catholic thinker Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) may seem dated today, but he does have some relevant points to make. One of the main spiritual evils of capitalism, he argued, was “the increasing contrast between luxury and superfluity on the part of those in economic power, and the indigence or mere subsistence of those economically dependent upon them… Another spiritual evil not to be neglected is the impersonal character running through the whole: the divorce of human personality from production, the lack of a human bond between those who labour and those who profit by their labour; the anonymity of the great corporations under which the wage-earner works, or the remoteness of the individual who commands from those who are commanded”.
Among the material evils of the system are “the inevitable recurring destitution for many and the permanent peril of destitution even for those who are not for the moment suffering it… there is the standardization of life, the increasing lack of choice and diversity in articles produced, the mechanical spirit unnaturally imposed upon the non-mechanical, organic nature of man, and so on” [from Belloc’s The Crisis of Civilization, 1937].
What has changed?
In his 1934 book Broadcast Minds Ronald Knox took on prominent public intellectuals Julian Huxley, Bertrand Russell and others, using his cutting wit and sarcasm to destroy their arguments against Christianity. I have added a section on Broadcast Minds to my essay on Knox (click above). Welcome comments.
I have added a section on Ronald Knox’s life, from son of evangelical bishop to leading Catholic apologist and public intellectual, to my essay on Knox (click below) in my website dpcrook.wordpress.com.
Ronald Knox (1888-1957) was well known as a public intellectual of his time, a prolific writer, speaker and outspoken critic of the growing secularisation of the western world. Son of the evangelical Bishop of Manchester, Ronald was a brilliant classical scholar at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford. Sadly, he lost most of his close friends in the Great War of 1914-18. An Anglican priest, he converted to Catholicism in 1917, and despite finding the English Catholic world unfamiliar and challenging, he made his way up the hierarchy, translating the New Testament and becoming a monsignor.
In this essay I look at two of his books: Caliban in Grub Street (1930) and Enthusiasm (1950), the last being his “Big Book”, a lifelong study of Christian heresies. Click on Knox above.
Paul’s latest book is out, entitled Intellectuals and the Decline of Religion, featuring essays on such people as G. K. Chesterton, Arnold Toynbee, Malcolm Muggeridge, R. H. Tawney, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis and Joseph Needham. It is available from Boolarong Press, Brisbane.