Neo-Alembicsnby Lee CongdonnThe Other God That Smiled:nHans Freyer andnthe DeradicaHzation ofnGerman Conservatismnby Jerry Z. MullernPrinceton: Princeton University Press;n$49.95 (cloth), $14.95 (paper)nIn a spate of recent books, neoconservativesnhave rehearsed the drama ofntheir radicalization and subsequent deradicalization.nTypically the curtain risesnon their active participation in, or engagednsympathy for, leftist movementsnof the 1960’s, and falls after they havenregained their equilibrium and embracednliberal democracy. One thinks,nfor example, of former Ramparts editorsnPeter Collier and David Horowitz,nwith whom the author of this exhaustivelynresearched volume clearly identifies.nIndeed, so fixated is he on thenAmerican neoconservative experiencenthat he has read it back into the historynof 20th-century German conservatism.nThe totalitarian temptation, he insists,nhas been a phenomenon of the politicalnright as well as of the left. Communism,nthe paradigmatic left-wing tyranny,nwas not the only “god that failed,”nas Arthur Koestler and others famouslyntitled it. “Fascism,” and especially NationalnSocialism, was the “other godnthat failed.”nThe pattern of disillusionment thatnMuller claims to discern in Germany isnan all too familiar one. German “radicalnconservatives,” most of whom cutntheir political teeth in the Jugendbewegungn(youth movement), subjectednliberal democracy to corrosive criticism.nSo alienated were they fromnWeimar society that, wittingly or unwittingly,nthey gave aid and comfort tonNational Socialism. In due course,nhowever, they saw the error of theirnways and began to distance themselvesnfrom the Fiihrer and his party. Thoughnnever able to muster any genuine erithusiasmnfor liberal democracy, theyncame by war’s end to accept it as thenbest of the viable alternatives. Theyntransformed themselves, in short, fromn”radical” into “liberal” or “neo” conservatives.nTo their amazement, theynsoon found themselves in the samencamp with liberals such as RalfnDahrendorf and Kurt Sontheimer,nwho, traumatized by the German NewnLeft, made f/zemselves over into conservativenliberals. All honorable roads,nMuller suggests, lead to neoconservatism.nIt all seems plausible enough becausenthere is some truth in it. SomenGerman conservatives did view Hitlernas a vulgar but useful ally, and onlynlater recognized the enormity of theirnmisjudgment. But the parallel withncommunism and 1960’s radicalism isnnot as exact as Muller wants us tonbelieve. There is, to begin with, thenmatter of Hans Freyer, the sociologistnwhose career Muller chooses to examinenbecause he was “representative” ofnradical conservatives in the same waynthat Georg Lukacs typified radical leftists.nYet Lukacs was a CommunistnParty loyalist and Leninist until the daynhe died, while Freyer never joined thenNazi Party, was not an anti-Semite,nand, on Muller’s own showing, alwaysnmaintained a distance from thenBewegung. Indeed, our author has tongo to extraordinary lengths in an unsuccessfulnattempt to explain whynFreyer never mentioned Hitler or NationalnSocialism in Revolution vonnrechts, purportedly his most blameworthynpublication.nThe worst that one can say ofnFreyer, I believe, is that he adopted anwait-and-see attitude toward the Nazinregime during the first year of itsnexistence. True, he praised Hitler publiclynin 1933, but only in a speechnapplauding the decision to withdrawnfrom the League of Nations as “thenfirst and perhaps decisive step toward antrue liquidation of the Versailles system.”nEven with the advantage ofnhindsight, this is not very incriminating.nIn fact, if one looks closely atnMuller’s honest account of Freyer’snconduct during the period 1933 ton1935, one is unlikely to judge himnharshly. To be sure, he was wrong tonhave placed any confidence in Hitlernand the Nazis, but like HermannnRauschning, author of the anti-Hitlernclassic The Revolution of Nihilism, henquickly lost it.nMuller fairly describes Freyer’s anti-nNazi, if Aesopian, writings of the laten1930’s and early 1940’s, but he paintsnhis years as a visiting professor innBudapest (1938-44) in darker huesnthan they warrant. There is no compel­nnnling evidence to suggest that the mannactively served the regime in Horthy’snHungary. Instead, he seems to havenviewed the assignment as an opportunitynto escape the suff^ocating, andnthreatening, political atmosphere in hisnnative land. At this point, then, onenbegins to suspect that, for Muller,nFreye’s real sin, and that of greater andnmore compromised thinkers such asnCari Schmitt and Martin Heidegger,nwas their rejection of liberal democracy,nwhich neoconservatives advance asnyet another stand-in deity. In religiousnaccents, for example, they proclaim thenmessage of “global democracy,” muchnas Christians call for the evangelizationnof the world. “The ideology ofnDemocratism,” Russell Kirk has observed,n”is a pseudo-religion, immanentizingnthe symbols of transcendence.”nThose who doubt this shouldnnote that Norman Podhoretz, Commentary’sneditor and a leading neoconservativenspokesman, has referrednto himself as “a virtual idolator ofndemocracy.”nThere can be no doubt that thenGerman conservatives took a jaundicednview of democracy, but then so havenmost great thinkers, from Plato tonTocqueville to Solzhenitsyn. And livingnin Weimar Germany Freyer observednmany of the pathologies tonwhich Americans now seem resigned. Indoubt that he would be surprised thatnwe live in a land laid waste by drugs,nsavage crime, uncontrolled appetitesn(“human rights”), and a dehumanizingnwelfare state, the ideal of which,nGeorge F. Kennan fears, “is not thatnmore people should live really well, butnthat no one should.”nBut whether one allies oneself withnconservatives (Muller’s “radical conservatives”)nor neoconservatives will,nfinally, depend upon the attitude onenadopts toward the Enlightenment. Accordingnto Muller, “Freyer continuednto adhere to the historicist critique ofnthe Enlightenment that lay behind thenworks of his radical conservativenphase.” For neoconservatives such ancritique must be fatal, for they despisenthe Counter-Enlightenment and thenhistorical thinking that questions thenuniversality of reason’s dictates andninsists upon the relativity of politicalnand social arrangements. Totalitarianismnof the right and left, they believe, isnrooted in romanticism, while democra-nJANUARY 1990/41n