The Treasury ofnVirtuenby Clyde WilsonnThe New Jacobinism: CannDemocracy Survive?nby Claes G. RynnWashington, D.C.: NationalnHumanities Institute; 102 pp., $8.95nCniinontrary to widespread belief,nevidence is accumulating thatnWestern democracy is in continuousnand serious decline,” writes Claes Rynnin the opening of this eloquent, concise,nand hard-hitting manifesto that goesnimmediately to the heart of our times.n”Many commentators proclaim democracy’sntriumph over evil political forcesnin the worid and hold up today’s Westernnsociety as a model for all humanity.nThey do so in the face of glaringnsymptoms of social decay,” he continues,nand adds, a little later: “Althoughnthe difficulties of Western democracynare manifold and have no single source,nthe most important can be seen asndirectly or indirectly induced by a deficiencynat the ethical center.”nThough written against a backgroundnof rich scholarship, The NewnJacobins is not an academic book. Nornis it one of those volumes of semifashionablen”conservative” journalismnthat appear from time to time and arenhyped for their marginal empirical criticismsnof the reigning establishment.nRather, Professor Ryn’s work resemblesnone of those great political pamphletsnthat have appeared occasionallynat points of crisis in Western history tonmobilize the decent and thinking into anrecognition of peril. So apposite to ournpresent situation is the book that I amntempted to turn this notice into a stringnof striking quotations, but let two ornthree sufiBce:nNationalism, by contrast [tonpatriotism], is an eruption ofnoverweening ambition, anthrowing off of individualnand national self-control.n32/CHRONICLESnREVIEWSnNationalism is self-absorbed andnconceited, oblivious of thenweaknesses of the country itnchampions. It is provincialismnwithout the leaven ofncosmopolitan breadth, discretion, ^nand critical detachment. Itnrecognizes no authority highernthan its own national passion.nIt imagines itself as having anmonopoly on right or as havingna mission superseding moralnnorms. . . .nOf those in the West todaynwho are passionate advocatesnof capitalism and want itnintroduced all over the worid,nmany are former Marxists. Thenshift from being a Marxist tonbecoming a missionary forncapitalism may be far less drasticnthan commonly assumed. . . .nThe Jacobin spirit can alignnitself with that set ofnpotentialities in capitalism thatnare most destructive of the waysnof traditional society. … Ancertain kind of advocacy ofncapitalism turns out to havenrnuch in common with thenJacobin passion for annegalitarian, homogeneousnsociety. . . .nIt is indicative of the influencenof the Jacobin spiritnin the Western worid that anfondness for abstract generalnschemes and Utopian visionsnshould today have attractionneven for people said to ben”conservative” or “on thenright.” This development says angreat deal about the scope andndepth of the Western flight fromnreality.nConstitutional democracy and Jacobinndemocracy are two different things.nConstitutional democracy consists of anhealthy social order with dispersed power.nLike a healthy individual, constitutionalndemocracy lives by prudence andnmoderation and with a set of ethicalnrules (a constitution in the case of anstate) that govern the pursuit of prudentnnnends by ethical and restrained means.nJacobin democracy is egalitarian andnplebiscitary, but also, of course, centralizednand elitist, and aggressive both atnhome and abroad. It is the burden ofnProfessor Ryn’s alarum that we are fastninclining into an advanced state of thatnlatter condition — that loud hosannas tonthe beauty and success of democracynportend not its triumph but its end. Andnthat our real problem is ethical, notnpolitical or utilitarian — the substitutionnof self-congratulatory abstract politicalngoals for a decent and ordered life andnstate. He is, of course, right, and nowherenhas the argument been betternstated in short compass.nRyn makes his case admirably, especiallynin those passages in which henshows the neoconservatism to be ansymptom of the problem and not ancure; as well as in the chapter, worth anbook, that shows us that today’s trumpetersnof capitalism are talking aboutnsomething that is as different from ournforefathers’ love of private property andnfreedom of trade as their “democracy”nis from the constitutional order of ournFramers. It would be well if this workncould be widely dispersed, and I wish Incould be as optimistic as Professor Rynnthat a reaffirmation of traditional principlesnwill serve. But I am not, for severalnreasons.nIt may be that the social fabric nonlonger exists in which good principlesncan find root. We need to be able tonproduce young men who want to ridenhard, shoot straight, speak the truth, andnrevere their ancestors, and not to imitatenMichael Jackson, lust after the fast buck,nand crow over the skill of lobbing highnexplosives accurately onto alien womennand children from a safe distance. Wendo, indeed, still turn out such youngnmen, but given the existing regime,ntheir virtues are quickly perverted to badnends or degraded into cynicism.nIt is healthy and wholesome to appealnto tradition and to try to enshrine it innour education. But, as Allen Tate pointednout long ago in his criticism of IrvingnBabbitt, we are already at so great a levelnof disconnection from tradition as anliving reality as to render our achieve-n