Claude Polin

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The Quintessential Democratic Politician

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What follows is an attempt to portray not the typical statesman, as he repeatedly appeared in the course of Western history up to yesterday, but the average professional politician of our times, the man (or woman) whose chosen trade is

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Trump Election: Democracy Versus Populism

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There are at least three striking facts in Mr. Trump’s election.

First there is the geographic distribution of voters: Roughly speaking the East and West coasts voted against Mr. Trump. Then there is the charge leveled at him: He’s a

On Terrorism in the West Today
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On Terrorism in the West Today

Every time a bomb explodes in the West it is a boon for journalists.  They photograph weeping people, tell us how implacable the government will be, and, without breaking stride, warn us that more is likely to come.  But so

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An Essay on the State of France

What follows is not an anthropometric description of France, but neither does it reflect the fancy of the author: It is what one can see of France from a certain distance, which blurs the finer details but allows the main

The Agony of Nations in the West
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The Agony of Nations in the West

European history since the fall of the Roman Empire may be regarded as the slow forging, as if by a hidden hand as well as by human passions, of these particular forms of human collectivities called nations.  After several failed

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Will the Middle Class Survive?

Ever since human societies became a clear and definite field of inquiry, which for Westerners means ever since Greek antiquity, current wisdom holds that the best of imperfect, nonutopian—i.e., viable—human societies have always been those in which predominated

1865: The True American Revolution
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1865: The True American Revolution

The standard opinion has it that, ever since they set foot on the new continent, the English settlers felt they were one people, Englishmen united by their common language, common origins, common enemies, so that it was only natural that

Insecure Liberalism
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Insecure Liberalism

As I was reading my monthly Bible—guess what that is—I came across an enthusiastic review of a book, written by a French political philosopher, Pierre Manent, entitled Metamorphoses of the City.  I rushed to buy a copy.

The book

Is Immigration Our Fate?
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Is Immigration Our Fate?

Political correctness has it that immigration is a perennial phenomenon in Western countries.  This is preposterous.  Immigration as we know it today is an extremely recent phenomenon.

The United States has always been a nation of immigrants, they say.  This

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The Quintessential Democratic Politician

What follows is an attempt to portray not the typical statesman, as he repeatedly appeared in the course of Western history up to yesterday, but the average professional politician of our times, the man (or woman) whose chosen trade is

World War I and the Modern West
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World War I and the Modern West

History may be a series of more or less contingent events, whose only connection to the preceding or following ones is that men react to what others do.  Such events are basically disjointed because each one depends on the more

Playing at God
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Playing at God

Is the development of the modern sciences and related technologies a good or a bad thing?  The question is by no means a recent one.  Not only was it raised at the inception of such development by its very promoters,

Suicide of the West (Revisited)
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Suicide of the West (Revisited)

Fifty years ago James Burnham warned Westerners: Trying to come to terms with communism instead of resolutely fighting it amounts to committing suicide.  Whether the communist ideology is dead or still alive under a new guise remains, in spite of

You Shall Be as Gods
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You Shall Be as Gods

“It’s awesome”: A young relative of mine loves the word and uses it profusely.  Since she applies it to a restaurant or a vacuum cleaner she finds extraordinary, I doubt she realizes its real meaning.  This is a typical instance

Moderate Islam?
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Moderate Islam?

“Teachers who teach Western education?  We will kill them!  We will kill them in front of their students and tell the students to henceforth [sic] study the Koran,” declared Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Nigerian Islamist group Boko

Paganism, Christianity, and the Roots of the West
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Paganism, Christianity, and the Roots of the West

I remember being taught as a student of the considerable, if not unbridgeable, gap between the polytheistic pagans and the monotheistic Christians who, though they may have borrowed from their predecessors, eventually delivered a civilization completely of their own. 

The Press: Hidden Persuasion or Sign of the Times?
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The Press: Hidden Persuasion or Sign of the Times?

Modern Western societies are commonly called industrial or democratic societies.  They might just as well be named mass-communication societies, for the average citizen is supposed to be informed about what goes on in and around the city whose welfare and

Democracy: The Tower of Babel
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Democracy: The Tower of Babel

Democracy was born as a protest against what was felt to be an oppression of man by man, a rebellion against some men having the nerve to behave as if they had a natural right to command their fellow men—whether

Classical Liberalism and Christianity
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Classical Liberalism and Christianity

If asked to choose one word to define the basic creed and catchword of Western modernity, I would not hesitate: That word would be freedom, provided one understands that, for a modern, there can be no freedom where there

Why Democracy Doesn’t Work
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Why Democracy Doesn’t Work

Critical stands against democracy, when not simply ignored or mechanically rejected as mere fascist outbursts, are usually met with a supposedly wise objection: You may be right, except that you’re targeting an imperfect form of democracy.  Thus, Tocqueville never addressed

The Inner Logic of Civil Rights
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The Inner Logic of Civil Rights

In 1861 U.S. President Abraham Lincoln  launched a war of conquest against the South, and legend claims it was all for the abolition of slavery, officially declared by the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.  Yet exactly 101 years after the Emancipation

Christian Democracy? No Such Thing
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Christian Democracy? No Such Thing

Everyone hails democracy as the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but very few realize—or dare realize—that democracy actually represents one of the most perfect forms of tyranny, because it is one the average citizen

Are We Still Entitled to Some Privacy?
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Are We Still Entitled to Some Privacy?

More often than not, current events offer an opportunity for meditation.  This is the case today: The friends of a politician turned international financier, now to be tried for rape, have rallied round him, claiming his privacy has been invaded. 

The Death Wish of the West
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The Death Wish of the West

Speculation about the possible decline of the West has been going on for the better part of a century, if it may be considered as originating in Spengler’s or Valery’s famous reflections.  Obviously, the fratricidal nature of World War I

In Defense of Private Property
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In Defense of Private Property

For centuries, the propensity to personal ownership has been considered one of the most elementary and natural features of human nature.  Criticism of private property is nothing recent, either, but has turned out to be extremely commonplace in modern times:

The Necessity of Christianity
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The Necessity of Christianity

To prove the necessity of Christianity in a few paragraphs would be an entirely foolish—if not preposterous—undertaking, were it not that volumes are not necessary to present a simple idea.  By “simple” I mean able to be stated with brevity

Authentic Communities
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Authentic Communities

Deep in the heart of man there is a need imprinted by nature that may very well be his basic difference from all other animals: Being a thinking one—i.e., an animal capable of self-awareness—man needs to be something

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The Demise of Human Understanding

Who in modern Western society has not heard of that category of citizens honorably known as intellectuals?  They profess to be the thinking part of the nation, the people whose special calling is to ponder public or private matters.  Not

The Enigmatic Professor Strauss, Part II
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The Enigmatic Professor Strauss, Part II

Where are today’s Platos and Aristotles?

On this question, for once, Strauss announces that he “won’t beat around the bush in any respect”—and, actually, he doesn’t.  As he states flatly: “Since a very, very early time, the main theme of

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The Enigmatic Professor Strauss, Part II

One can safely claim that Leo Strauss was an enigmatic man, since he prided himself on being enigmatic.  He raised the art of double-talk to the dignity of a requisite for any serious philosophizing: For him, it took stupidity or

The Idea of Socialism
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The Idea of Socialism

The received wisdom today seems to be that, with the downfall of Soviet communism, socialism has lost its pungency.  Not only has Marxism proper reputedly crumbled, together with the Berlin Wall, but the somewhat watered-down type of socialism that survives

Ariadne’s Ball
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Ariadne’s Ball

There are innumerable topics of historical study, but an historian has, I believe, to choose among three styles of history.

The first, seemingly the most popular among academics these days, concentrates on facts (i.e., physical evidence).  The

Democracy: The Enlightened Way
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Democracy: The Enlightened Way

Before American readers embark on this inquiry into the particular democracy that was born in France with the French Revolution, I should warn them that they had better be prepared to enter a world of ideas so removed from reality

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A Fight for French Sovereignty

After years of running smoothly along its predetermined path, the drive toward a United States of Europe seems to have lost wind, especially in France, the place it more or less originated.  It looks as if another trend is gathering

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Riots in the Suburbs

By now, most have heard—sometimes with sorrow, sometimes with delight—of the latest fashion in the working-class suburbs of France: setting fire to cars at night.  There is a lot more to this than a nocturnal rite for rival juvenile gangs. 

Conservatism as Medicine
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Conservatism as Medicine

What are the basic tenets of modernity? What is the mind and temper of modern man? I would feel rather foolish to try to reply in a few paragraphs if I did not think that the spirit of modernity boils

Tocqueville’s America and America Today
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Tocqueville’s America and America Today

At the time of Alexis de Tocqueville’s writing, the French Revolution still loomed over minds and, with it, memories of a bloodbath and of a new kind of tyranny.  The American Revolution seemed to offer grounds for rosier hopes about

America in Europe, Europe in America
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America in Europe, Europe in America

What the Europeans call America—that is, Canada and the United States—was fostered by what we usually refer to as Europe.  If men and women had not left the Old World, there would not be any New World as

The French Revolution in Three Acts
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The French Revolution in Three Acts

Taken as a whole, the French Revolution, like any other historical event, may be understood in many ways.  Excluding material or circumstantial causes, I see it as a sort of drama, each act of which is performed by characters—sometimes the