Discovering Eric Voegelin

I think I had heard of Eric Voegelin, now I want to read more about and by him.  Here’s the Wickipedia article on Voegelin.   An impressive number of important thinkers came to the US from Austria, fleeing from the Nazis (another would be Peter Drucker, the late guru of humanistic business management).

Voegelin’s first book (1928) was Ueber die Form des Amerikanischen Geistes– he was a young man of 27 at the time– and  here is a comment of his “On the American Inclination to Avoid Conflict”:

The feature that gives its color to the American phase of the English Revolution, as well as to the later independent American development up to the beginning of the twentieth century, is the fundamental possibility of evasion.

If friction or conflict arises within a social group in Europe, it has to be settled by compromise or fight. In America it could be settled by moving to another place. In its good as well as in its less good consequences, this opportunity has profoundly determined the American national character. Among the good consequences we may count the atmosphere of freedom and independence, of self-expression, self-assertion, and dignity of man on a broad democratic basis;  among the more questionable consequences we have to count the evasion of issues and the lack of tragic sentiment that can arise only from collective experiences of insurmountable resistance and the necessity of submission.  We may take it as a symptom of the situation that American literature has not yet produced a tragedy of high rank nor a work of profound humor.

That seems very true.  How often when we don’t like changes in our neighborhood– traffic, crime, ethnic changes– do we simply pick up and move?   As they say Daniel Boone would do when he started to see the smoke from his neighbors’ chimneys.

That was one of the  “Pungent Observations of Eric Voegelin”– lots more on this website.  Read them, it’s almost an education in itself.


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