Man and His Circumstances: Ortega as Educator
by Robbie McClintock
Chapter IX — On the Crisis of Europe
PART TWO — Europe: The Second Voyage
It is patently evident that during the last ten years Spain has relapsed into a perfect mental inertia; everywhere indolence and stupidity have triumphed. But this time I know that the defect, however undeniable, did not proceed from our own character. This time its cause was in Europe. Someday we shall understand how the great gust of discouragement that blew across the continent grounded Spain at the very moment that the nation launched itself on its first spiritual flight after centuries of slumber. Now the problem goes beyond our frontiers, and it is necessary to transfer our efforts there.... Hence, I begin a new task, To sea once again, tiny ship! I begin what Plato called "The Second Voyage!"
"Prólogo a una edición de sus Obras,"
Obras VI, pp. 353–54.
"Prólogo para franceses,'' 1937, Obras IV, p. 118.
As the people of the West encounter the terrible public conflicts of the present, one of the great misfortunes is that they find themselves equipped with an archaic and dull set of notions about society, collectivity, the individual, usages, law, justice, revolution, and the like. Much of the present confusion arises from the incongruence between the perfection of our ideas about physical phenomena and the scandalous lag of the "moral sciences." The statesman, the professor, the illustrious physicist, and the novelist are accustomed to entertaining concepts about moral matters worthy of a suburban barber. Is it not, then, perfectly natural that the suburban barber sets the tone of the time?
IX — On the Crisis of Europe
As technological artifacts ostentatiously obtrude upon our lives, we are becoming aware that esoteric scientific reasoning has vast consequences for human life. Those of us who cannot appreciate relativity physics for its pure rational beauty still hold its creators in awe for having made both the martial and the peaceful uses of atomic energy possible; here everyone sees clearly that abstract speculation affects the human world. Although most are willing to grant that natural science is a productive mode of thought, a form of power, many doubt that speculation about man has more than therapeutic significance. In past times, thinkers needed to deal with this doubt less frequently; they perceived that the creation of divergent doctrines deeply influenced religious and political life. Recently, however, men have narrowed their view of how knowledge should be put in action. The technical applications of natural science usually follow a pattern in which knowledge guides the human manipulation of things; by habit, we are coming to expect all knowledge of practical value to be applied in this way. But it is at best difficult and at worst dangerous to follow this pattern of application in intensely human matters; thus many distrust social science because it encourages the few to manipulate the many as if they were soulless substances.
There is an immense literature on the human sciences, much of which is egregiously unfamiliar to American scholars. As the exposition unfolds, many works will be cited in more particular contexts. Here mention should be made of the best introduction to the subject so far written in America, The Decline of the German Mandarins: The German Academic Community, 1890–1933, by Fritz K. Ringer. Unfortunately, this work does not give a sympathetic treatment to the human sciences; it subjects them instead to a reductive sociological explanation. Nevertheless, until a writer comes forward who is willing to take the subject seriously, contending rigorously with the substance as well as the social source of the human sciences, Ringer's book will stand as the most useful introduction to the literature.
A thorough study of the different modes of applying knowledge to life would help define the mission of various disciplines. For a study of this question with the human sciences, a provocative source is Briefwechsel zwischen Wilhelm Dilthey und Graf Paul Yorck von Wartenburg. A lack of subtlety on this matter has impeded the ability of some contemporary philosophers to maintain confidence in the "relevance" of their enterprise. Thus, a good antidote to efforts to make philosophy a propaedeutic to science is Der pädagogische Beruf der Philosophie by Günther Böhme, a book which is excellent background reading for understanding the centrality of education to Ortega's reflective effort.
Throughout his life, but especially during the second voyage, Ortega contributed to an alternative, the Geisteswissenschaften, which we shall translate as "the human sciences." The human sciences were a system of disciplined theory that was not intended to produce technical applications; instead these theories were to lead to personal, volitional incarnations. Founded not on the assumption of nature's continuity, but on that of man's moral autonomy, the human sciences did not deal with inert objects, but with independent, self-directing persons. Consequently, the practical value of the human sciences was not found in the techniques they provided for manipulating the world, but in the principles they yielded by which the free person could more effectively control his own will and character. Ortega's second voyage was a sustained search for such principles; he sought means for strengthening the capacity of each of us to pursue a healthy self-education in an affluent environment.
Although Ortega's reflections were to be applied as they entered into the self-education of diverse persons, his ideas were not of purely personal interest. Civic pedagogy was based upon the premise that the education of the individual was the foundation of the community. Ortega carried this premise over into his second voyage. An essential point, with reference to which he analyzed the problem of leadership in twentieth-century Europe, was the cycle of influences between each person and his social circumstances.
Emile Durkheim, "Society and Individual Consciousness," Joseph Swan, trans., in Theories of Society: Foundations of Modern Sociological Theory, Parsons, Shils, Nagel, and Pitts, eds., Vol II, p. 720.
Society is a concept that has been dangerously hypostatized in modern thought. Too often, men talk not only as if society were a thing-in-itself, but further as if they had ways to acquire exact knowledge of this objective entity. Men easily confuse theory with things; having an idea of society, they assume, after Anselm, that this society of which they have an idea must exist in the absolute. Thus sociology has become a hothouse for dogmatic metaphysics. Professed empiricists are loath to take their empiricism seriously; they do not realize that evidence derived from social phenomena is no more sufficient to establish the existence of a society or social structure than is evidence of design in nature sufficient to prove the existence of a divine, designing being. Modern theologians actually respect the limits of knowledge far more than their sociological brethren; since Kant, few theologians would risk voicing dogmatics as naive as those of the venerable Durkheim, who held that "it is unquestionable that a society has all that is necessary to arouse the sensation of the divine in minds, merely by the power that it has over them. ... "And he continued: since society "has a nature which is peculiar to itself and different from our individual nature, it pursues ends which are likewise special to it; but as it cannot attain them except through our intermediary, it imperiously demands our aid . ... " We can know nothing of a nature peculiar to itself and different from our own; hence, we should rigorously avoid hypostatizing our ideas into such transcendent beings.
Properly, society is an abstraction. As with the forest, which we never see for the trees, we never perceive society, for our empirical experience comprises only a complicated mixture of different individual experiences. Confronted by the complexity of their interpersonal experience, men use various hypothetical constructs— society, organization, institution, and so on—to group and to explain to themselves the character of the intricate influences that different persons have upon one another. An abstraction proves valuable to men when it helps them experience and act on a welter of particulars with effect, not when it corresponds to the actualities to which it purportedly applies, for an abstraction cannot take existential predicates and remain an abstraction. The influences of man upon man, not the ideas used to make the influences amenable to rational consideration, are the actual realities of social life. Social theorists should attend to these phenomena, the actual influence of particular men upon particular men, if they are not to plunge us into a world of fantastic entities, of ideas that have been laden with a heavy burden of existential predicates.
For an example of this mistake see William Kornhauser, The Politics of Mass Society, especially pp. 2–38.
Ortega frequently decried the dangers of hypostatizing social theory. A common view of life, he thought, endangered the West; namely, the sense that the state, industry, civilization, could all take care of themselves no matter how much unconcern for them was manifested by individuals. This view developed because men hypostatized abstractions such as the state, industry, and civilization: in doing so, men freed themselves from responsibility for caring in their personal lives for the experiences to which these abstractions properly apply. Thus the heedless have it: the state exists; it is much greater than I am; let it take care of itself. In Man and People, Ortega directly criticized the hypostatizing of social theory; to avoid doing so, he suggested, men should not study society or the social structure; they should look for that aspect of their personal lives that could properly be called social. For him, social theory should clarify the quality of relations between men rather than characterize aggregates of men; hence, he was not interested in some mysterious thing called "mass society." One errs fundamentally by reading into Ortega an "aristocratic theory of mass society" that can then be empirically tested by statistical surveys. Ortega studied men, not societies; he inquired into the public significance of personal character, and as he inquired, it was not the statistical uniformities among men, but their intrinsic qualities that interested him.
Ortega made this point explicit in La rebelión de las masas, 1930, Obras IV, pp. 146–8.
In a work essential to Ortega's second voyage, The Revolt of the Masses, the phrases "masses" and "minorities" rarely denoted groups whose members shared extrinsic uniformities. Usually Ortega spoke of mass-man and noble man; and even when he used the collective names, the phrases defined the condition of various persons' characters. "The minorities" denoted the sum of the individuals who have something special and extraordinary in their personal character; these men set themselves apart from others, making a minority of themselves, by struggling to realize their special genius. Unlike the "minority groups" of contemporary sociology, with which diverse persons are linked by incidental similarities of color, creed, or national origin, the attributes that signified to Ortega that men were of the minorities were the diverse, unique excellences that these persons individually possessed. Consequently, one could not statistically study such elites because the characteristic that made a man of the minorities was precisely that which made him distinct from the others, including the others of the minorities. The masses, Ortega insisted, were not "the common people," "the working people," or "the lower classes." Ortega's choice of words here has unfortunate conflicts with common usage in which the masses is a synonym for the proletariat; but on this matter les jeux sont fait: we must recognize Ortega's usage and do our best not to confuse it with other modes of speaking. Ortega generally spoke of mass-man and meant by the term a character type, not a social class. Social status was irrelevant; as the sum of mass-men, the masses included for Ortega all men whose personal character was inert, all who placed no demands upon themselves, all who made no effort to excel, to become special by fulfilling their highest potentialities. If one must, however, make an invidious class distinction, Ortega suggested that the upper classes, in the socio-economic sense, had in them the higher proportion of mass-men, a condition that was to be expected since members of the upper classes most fully enjoyed modern abundance, with all the debilitating effects affluence had on character.
Ibid., p. 150.
Social phenomena happened as minorities in one way or another imparted their special characteristics to the masses. When Ortega asserted that society, to the degree that it denoted real influences of man upon man, was necessarily aristocratic, he meant that social influence was necessarily the influence of one man of some particular excellence upon many others who had not yet developed that quality: regardless of what ideology prevailed, there was nothing for social theory to describe but such influences. "It is notorious that I hold a radically aristocratic interpretation of history. It is radical because I have never said that society ought to be aristocratic, but much more than that. I have said, and I continue to believe it each day with more energetic conviction, that human society is aristocratic always, like it or not, by its very essence, up to the point that it is society insofar as it is aristocratic...." Society denotes the influence of man upon man; and this influence is, by the nature of influence, a relation between superior and inferior.
España invertebrada, 1921, Obras III, p. 103.
The Spanish is "ejemplaridad y docilidad." I have translated docilidad as "aptness" because the latter lacks the connotations of passivity that "docility" has in English, and the meaning of "aptness," "quick to learn," is very dose to Ortega's usage of docilidad. The Spanish meaning has remained dose to its etymological meaning of "teachable, willing to be taught" (from the Latin, docilis). This sense has been lost in current English usage of "docility." "Exemplarity" has different connotations in English than in Spanish. American scepticism about the "good example" is quintessentially reflected in Sinclair Lewis' Babbitt. Harry S. Broudy and John R. Palmer have stressed the idea of exemplarity in their book Exemplars of Teaching Method, but their use of exemplar is not the same as Ortega's, for Broudy and Palmer find a quality, teaching method, to be given and they seek exemplars of it, whereas Ortega finds the exemplar given, a person cf great spiritual force, and others seek the qualities the exemplar manifests. Those interested in the idea cf exemplarity should consult Kant's Critique of Judgment, #17–22, in addition to the novels by Cervantes and Unamuno mentioned in the text. In later paragraphs, I have used "connoisseurs" to translate "dociles" since the English neologism "dociles" sounds badly, as does "apts." Since translating the passage, I have encountered Michael Polanyi's remarks on "connoisseurship" in his Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, pp. 54–8. The coincidence of usage is fortunate, and a comprehension of either Polanyi or Ortega adds to an understanding of the other.
Ibid., P· 104.
"Exemplarity and Aptness," a chapter strangely omitted from the American version of Invertebrate Spain, best presents Ortega's conception of influence. In it, Ortega sought "to acquire a clear intuition of the reciprocal action between the masses and select minorities,n for in his judgment, that action was "the basic fact of all society and the cause of evolution towards the good and towards the bad." Exemplarity and aptness denoted Ortega's intuition of the reciprocal action that gave rise to civic pedagogy. This action was the creative source of all social influence: "the exemplarity of the few articulates itself in the aptness of many others. The result is that the example increases and the inferior perfect themselves in the image of the better."
The inferior were to perfect themselves; Ortega's minorities were not a paternal elite that would indenture the masses to its view of virtue. Ortega had no such rigid theory; a literal version of Plato's guardians would ultimately depend on the very hypostatizations Ortega sought to avoid. Exemplarity and aptness pertained to the human phenomena, to the way that each of us is freely inspired to new pursuits by the example of our peers. The influence Ortega studied did not produce a sterile conformism; it conduced to the personal differentiation of each for the others.
Camus, "Summer in Algiers," in The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, Justin O'Brien, trans., p. 108.
An example may clarify Ortega's theory. In Albert Camus' description of the dance hall at Padovani Beach, we encounter a beautiful presentation of the way the minorities help the masses individualize themselves and define their character, and we further see Ortega's conception of minorities and masses manifested in a most egalitarian setting. Summer in Algiers brought the young to the beaches where they would celebrate the cooling dusk in dance. Perhaps each of us can remember analogous occasions. Out of the mass of waltzing workers, Camus recalled a magnificent, statuesque girl who would dance silhouetted against sky and sea from late afternoon through evening. Her tight blue dress would darken in the back with perspiration; after she whirled by, she would linger behind in a mixed scent of flesh and flowers; and as the failing light obscured all the others, her swelling breast would still be seen, set off by a garland of white jasmine. For Camus, as for the other, ordinary participants, the community of dancers was defined by the impressions that such extraordinary persons made upon him. And for Ortega, the task of social theory was to explain how these exemplary persons influenced the others, to discover how participation in a community defined by the excellences of the few affected the character of the many. Again, Camus exemplified the issue, for of the scene just described, he observed that "I owe to such evenings the idea I have of innocence." Camus aptly appreciated the exemplary dancer and thus formed an important conception of character.
Cervantes, "Prólogo al lector," Novelas ejemplares, p. 16.
Unamuno, Tres novelas ejemplares y un prólogo, 1920, Obras II, p. 972.
Ortega did not need to give his readers such an example, for Spaniards already had a developed idea of exemplarity: they had long enjoyed the "exemplary novels;" but in English the idea has different connotations. We think of the exemplary citizen as the man who does all and only the proper things, and we suspect that he who always sets a good example will prove, under pressure, to be a facade, a regular Babbitt. The Spanish idea of exemplarity is richer and more humane; the Spanish exemplar is not a conventional creature. Whereas the American bent on being a good example is adept at forcing infinitely various situations to fit one of the few, particular forms that convention has deemed proper, in the exemplary novels the author or hero can find in any situation the right word or deed for the right person at the right time. It is indicative of the difference that English idiom depicts a man "setting a good example," whereas Cervantes assured his readers that they could always "extract" ("sacar") an advantageous example from the often scandalous escapades of his characters. Unamuno made another point about exemplary novels: their exemplarity was aesthetic rather than moral. Thus, "ejemplaridad" pertained not to conventional morality, but to the art of life.
Aptness, the complement of exemplarity, can now be rightly understood. It was not a willingness to do as told. That dullness did not interest Ortega. Instead, aptness was a disposition in life analogous to aesthetic appreciation; as a personal characteristic it was like the mood requisite for making aesthetic judgments, that is, the state of disinterestedness. Aptness allowed men to suspend their immediate concern and to understand sympathetically the art of another's example: this comprehension could lead to their own mastery of that art. The phenomenon of exemplarity and aptness was, consequently, a means of spreading publicly significant personal virtues, but "virtue" in the Italian sense of virtù or the Greek sense of areté. Hence, like Plato, Ortega pondered a politics of the inner man in which art was more important than power.
España invertebrada, 1921, Obras III, pp. 103–4.
Ibid., p. 105.
What part, then, did exemplarity and aptness play in the formation and evolution of human communities? In a group of men someone would use more expressive gestures, speak more significant words, feel more appropriate emotions. If the others had "a normal temperament," they would wish to acquire the capacities of the best man. They would not imitate him; "on the contrary, they would polarize and orient their personality towards his mode of being, and they would try to really reform their essence according to the admired pattern." When made aware of something better, men naturally tried to improve themselves. This assumption made the appearance of an exemplar, a teacher, someone better, the most important contingency determining whether the system would work. The learner could be taken for granted. Thus, Ortega contended that the ability to develop progressively, which distinguished man from the animals, resulted from the capacity "to enthuse oneself with the optimum." Aptness was an element of man's psychological nature; it was "an automatic emotion," "a power of psychic attraction," "a law of spiritual gravitation." In sum, aptness was an aspect of normality whereas exemplarity was a question of genius.
Ibid., p. 106.
This and the two following quotations are from Ibid., pp. 106, 105, 106.
Together, the two were the principle of human co-existence. "We will arrive at a definition of community, in its ultimate sense, as the dynamic spiritual unity formed by an example and its connoisseurs. For a nation to develop fully it had to be rich in exemplary archetypes: intellectuals, artists, soldiers, industrialists, and "even a delightful man of the world." Excessive excellence in one area, to the neglect of others, would imbalance the community and eventually cause its fall. For any particular way of life there was a minimum of competence that the exemplary must attain; otherwise, they would set too low a tone, and consequently, the community would cease to improve itself and fall into decadence. If improvement ceased, dissociation would begin. Thus, exemplarity and aptness was no automatic source of progress. But if there was to be progress or association, it would come from this pedagogical force; for neither the violence of power nor the interests of utility could engender a society where there was no prior association. "Aesthetic, magic, or simply vital exemplarity in a few charms the multitude; all the influence or power of one man over others is ephemeral or secondary unless it is this automatic emotion that the archetype or exemplar raises in his surrounding enthusiasts." In sum, Ortega's search for a clear intuition of the reciprocal action between the masses and the select minorities resulted in his idea of exemplarity and aptness—"this elemental gravitation of the vulgar but healthy spirit towards eminent features."
Two subjects should be distinguished here: the history of Greek political theory and the history of Greek influence on political theory. My remarks on Homer and later Greeks might engender objections if they are taken as part of the former subject; they are unobjectionable, I think, as part of the latter. Homer is usually touched on but lightly in histories of Greek political thought. Compare the treatment he receives in Sir Ernest Barker's great works: in The Political Thought of Plato and Aristotle (1906), Homer is allotted a single sentence, "Homer is a believer in the divine right of monarchy ..."; whereas in Greek Political Theory (1917), the same sentence takes on more cautious form, "Homer is sometimes quoted as a believer in the divine right of monarchy ..." (p. 18), and a few remarks follow suggesting that it might not have been so (p. 47). T. A. Sinclair devotes a brief chapter to Homer in A History of Greek Political Thought, pp. 10–8, but his account is, as it must be, tentative.
Much more leeway for imagination arises when one deals with the Greek influence on political theory. One may look on Jaeger's Paideia as a treatise on the Homeric influence on later Greek political and educational theory. The potential excess of this influence is pointed out profoundly in The Tyranny of Greece over Germany by E. M. Butler. But it is not only "the Germanic mind," if that exists, that can draw fruitfully from the Greek example, as is shown by Herbert J. Muller in Freedom in the Ancient World and Eric A. Havelock in The Liberal Temper in Greek Politics, two worthy books with which I have learned to have basic disagreements.
My conception of Homer has been influenced primarily by Bruno Snell through The Discovery of the Mind: The Greek Origins of European Thought and Cedric H. Whitman through Homer and the Homeric Tradition, as well as secondarily by M. I. Finley, The World of Odysseus, T. B. L. Webster, From Mycenae to Homer, and G. S. Kirk, Homer and the Epic. Rhys Carpenter's brief essay Discontinuity in Greek Civilization is stimulating if read with caution.
At first, it may seem novel to explain a community as a spiritual unity formed by an example and his connoisseurs; but on second thought, it will appear that this theory reaffirms the classic conception of community in the Western tradition. In exemplarity and aptness we meet once again the Homeric conception of areté and honor. We easily overlook how important this archaic conception is to our comprehension of how men influence one another. A symptom of this oversight is the way that many react to Homer's archetypal analysis of this influence. Inured to the nation's service, we are wont to perceive Achilles' refusal to fight, after Agamemnon had dishonored him, to have been an antisocial act taken out of personal pique. Whatever part pique played among the motives, Achilles abstained fully aware, as were Agamemnon and others, that the act had fundamental consequences for the character of social relations among the Greeks. These consequences were essential to the development of community in the West. Achilles' sulking withdrawal tipped the balance away from a system of despotic rule based on rank towards a community of equals based on honor.
Iliad, IX, 315–8, A.T. Murray trans.
In appropriating Achilles' prize, Agamemnon infringed not against the order of rank, but against the order of honor: he refused to give Achilles' prowess due respect. In doing so, Agamemnon acted as a despot, not as the first among equals. In response, a number of the Greeks besides Achilles spoke out, asserting that honor, the legitimate principle of their community, had been abused. But right, without might, rarely carries weight, and when the hapless Thersites spoke up in the assembly of the Achaeans, claiming priority for the principle of honor over that of rank, Odysseus easily put him down in the name of Agamemnon. But the rights of rank could not so easily suppress the claim of the excellent to appropriate recognition, provided that the claim was put by a man of pre-eminent excellence: Achilles slowly drove home the point; he was of sufficient ability to prove that, if anything, the Greek community would be one of honored excellence. Si non, non. In this sense, Achilles waged a revolutionary battle against the residual monarchies of the Mycenaean age; and his success was essential to the development of the Hellenic polis. Achilles spoke as a citizen, an autonomous participant in a community who rebelled at being treated as a subject; thus he later answered Agamemnon's envoy, Odysseus, by reiterating Thersites' thought with greater eloquence and power. "Not me, I ween, shall Atreus' son, Agamemnon, persuade . ... In one honour are held both the coward and the brave; death cometh alike to the idle man and to him that worketh much." If the brave were not to receive due recognition, they might as well pack their ships and sail homeward; this time Odysseus could not mock the speech.
Hippocrates, Airs, Waters, Places, XVI: 21–8, XXIII: 34–9, W. H. 5. Jones, trans.
Achilles won his point. Thereafter each polis developed as a spiritual unity of various examples and their connoisseurs. For the most part, the Greeks understood this feature of their common character quite well, and they soon used it to distinguish themselves and Europeans in general from the pusillanimous subjects of the Asian Asian despots. For instance, the observant Hippocrates based his contrast of Asian and European character on precisely the matter Achilles had insisted on. "Subjects are likely to be forced to undergo military service, fatigue and death, in order to benefit their masters .... All their worthy, brave deeds merely serve to aggrandize and raise up their lords, while the harvest they themselves reap is danger and death. . . . But independent people, taking risks on their own behalf and not on behalf of others, are willing and eager to go into danger, for they themselves enjoy the prize of victory."
Plato, Republic, 5928, Lee, trans.
Over time the particular examples with respect to which the Greeks developed their spiritual unity changed substantially, but the principles of community remained in force. This fact has been well analyzed in Werner Jaeger's Paideia. Through an ongoing critical development a succession of poets and lawgivers continually adapted, as contingencies changed, the repertory of heroic examples to celebrate new forms of worth and to reject outworn images; yet, throughout this history of changing ideals, the polis remained primarily a living community of honored excellence. The degree to which this principle could remain in effect, despite marked changes in the particular excellence that was honored, was nowhere better reflected than in Plato's Republic; for in it, at a time when change seemed about to overwhelm the city, Plato abstracted from the particular excellences the Greeks had hitherto honored; he pointed out the principle of justice, the form of the good, which was infinitely adaptable and which was the exemplary element common to all communities. The idea of the good could be used to correct the confusions that had crept into the poetic images of excellence, and its example could inspire any man.r for "it is laid up as a pattern in heaven, where those who wish can see it and found it in their own hearts."
This theory of exemplarity and aptness is the basis of political and social thought in the West. Beginning with the Crito and the Laws, the authority of law has been held to be dependent on its power to educate. Almost every claim to legitimate authority has been based on the assertion that the established power in question is more exemplary than any other, and almost every claim to just rebellion has been founded on an assertion that the established rulers have ceased to be worthy models for men. Because Western politics has been based on the phenomena of exemplarity and aptness, the polities thus created have developed a remarkable degree of integration and cohesion. No matter how humble, almost all persons have had a productive place in the community. When working well, European polities have been strengthened by a pervasive concord about what is and is not worthy; likewise, the great historic changes have been directed not by policy in the official sense, but by profound changes in people's beliefs about what is excellent and deserving of respect. This fact, which results from the system of exemplarity and aptness, is essential to understanding the genius of public leadership in the West: this leadership has been at its best when its strength was drawn from the commitment of those led. Here was the crucial factor: those led were without commitment; this spelled the twentieth-century crisis of Europe.
Even in times of absolutism, the politics of European communities has had to be an inherently popular politics, for leadership has been the leadership of integrated communities, ones in which all members have an essential constructive function to perform. Hence, no matter how restricted Europe's highest offices have been at times, Europe has not had the disjunction between a succession of ruling dynasties and an eternal, unchanging peasantry, such as the Egyptian fellahin. To rule in Europe, one must influence the whole community: the great crises of the West have arisen when those with nominal power proved unable to exert such influence. In these crises, the concord of commitment disappeared, and would-be leaders became unable to produce their intended effects.
For an appreciation of these powers, see Emerson's "Napoleon" in Representative Men, Works, Vol. 2, pp. 369–393.
Ortega thought that Europe had entered such a crisis. So did many others, for the signs were there for all to see. After World War I, many contended that the Europeans were beginning a new era. A few expected a period of hope; most envisaged a time of trouble; but all sensed that something had changed. To be sure, there had been great upheavals in recent centuries, but these seemed to have been wrought by the human will. The course of events had never been sufficiently predictable to allow public leadership to become a practical science. Nonetheless, a certain grand correlation between intention and achievement had been managed, and leaders had been able to direct the whole through change. Even Napoleon, despite his hubris, accomplished enduring legal and administrative reforms; and his eventual defeat yielded a stable order because both he and his opponents fought for clear goals with controlled means. Napoleon was neither the protege nor the victim of mere directionless events.
But something had changed. Public leaders had become imbecilic. Since Bismarck, the expectations of statesmen have rarely had much to do with their results. Never had such fine intentions yielded such checkered achievements. Despite great apparent strength, twentieth-century Europe was not functioning well. Provisions for popular education led to the stultification of the people by the popular presses and to the manipulation of their freedoms by self-serving leaders. Treaties delineating spheres of influence sped the competition for unclaimed regions. Colonial competition prepared the European peoples for a continental war. The war, which came in spite of all the efforts to avoid it, was to be short and glorious, but it proved to be long and torturous. In the fighting, protective trenches became pits of punishment, and the warriors' ethic succumbed to the expediencies of total war. With the peace, no power had achieved its war aims, and the possibility of a repeat performance was preserved. Further, when Europe's troubles had finally seemed to pass, confident prosperity collapsed in a destructive depression. It ushered in the politics of barbarism that produced the encore—another, total, more terrible war, and atrocious genocide. In short, the leaders of Europe had lost their command of events.
Reacting in dismay, intellectuals found these developments symptomatic possibly of the decline of the West, possibly of the enmity of Continental Europeans, especially Germans, for an open society, a civilized political liberalism, or possibly of an open European crisis, a revolt of the masses. Ortega made essential contributions to this third diagnosis; the character of his diagnosis becomes apparent in contrasting it to the other two.
Spengler, The Decline of the West, C. F. Atkinson, trans., p. 415.
For other such writers see Hans Kohn, The Mind of Germany: The Education of a Nation, pp. 336–343; and Fritz Stern, The Politics of Cultural Despair, passim. The assumption common to arguments of decay, as well as to many about progress, is that society or civilization is an organic creature, something that can grow, develop, become diseased, and die. Recently, the sociologist Robert Nisbet has subjected such assumptions to an extensive critique in Social Change and History. He has chosen a target that needs to be severely criticized, but his criticism is sadly unconvincing. Nisbet shows that theories of organic development in history are based on a metaphor; so far so good. But then, he is not content to show that the metaphor is inappropriate, a cause of more confusion than clarity; he argues that metaphor itself has no place in historical theory. To suppress metaphor, however, simply heightens our vulnerability; the solution is not to avoid all metaphor, but to recognize that all works of intellect can at most be metaphorical: none can give us positive knowledge of the social reality, not even the most dogmatically empirical. If Nisbet had looked further in his research, he might have found Tocqueville using such an argument quite subtly against Gobineau: no historical theory can be established conclusively, and when there is a danger that a doctrine will have destructive consequences, exaggerated claims for its truth should be resisted. See Tocqueville, The European Revolution and Correspondence with Gobineau, especially, pp. 221–3, 226–9, 231–2, 266–8 (a masterpiece of irony), 268–270, 290–5, and 303–310.
A popular analysis of the changes that were transforming Europe was the literature of decay, epitomized by Spengler's Decline of the West. This book was a work of genius and of danger; but with with respect to the problem of European leadership, it gave a mere pseudo-analysis, for in the personal, "Apollonian" sense, Spengler admitted no such thing as leadership. Spengler committed scholarly hubris: the historian was too proud to let mere mortal men make their own histories. Instead, the historian sought to assert his own pre-eminence among men by revealing himself as the human voice of omnipotent historical forces, in Spengler's case the forces of historical morphology. He asserted an unreserved hypostatization: societies were morphological structures that passed through necessary stages of maturation. Europe was at a divide: it had completed the stage of money and was about to embark on its period of Caesarism. "For us, however, whom a Destiny has placed in this culture and at this moment of its development—the moment when money is celebrating its last victories, and the Caesarism that is to succeed approaches with quiet, firm step—our direction, willed and obligatory at once, is set for us within narrow limits, and on any other terms life is not worth the living. We have not the freedom to reach to this or to that, but the freedom to do the necessary or to do nothing. And a task that historic necessity has set will be accomplished with the individual or against him." How comforting!—for those who sought release from the intimate anxieties of conducting their lives in a world of rapid change.
Ortega also spoke of destiny, but it was a personal, provisional destiny, not a necessary one; there was no such thing as an "historic necessity" that possessed the power to impose a destiny on men. Ortega conceived of destiny as that which one ought to do; the person had a creative initiative with respect to it: he invented it by intentionally forming his personal capacities and character. Spengler, in contrast, conceived of destiny as a set of inevitable acts, ones that would necessarily come to pass. According to Ortega, a person could refuse to fulfill his destiny, thus inauthenticating himself. Since each person was free to shirk his mission, leadership was an exceedingly difficult matter, one of inspiring a person to do those particular things that on the one hand would lead the person to fulfill his excellence, but that on the other were things he was by no means compelled to do. In contrast, according to Spengler, a person was forced by historic necessity to will an obligatory destiny; if destiny would rule regardless of any person's will, be he leader, follower, exemplary genius, or apt connoisseur, leadership simply disappeared as a problem. The view conduced to spiritual weakness: because historic necessity ruled the world, those who wanted power had best not lead, but ally themselves with the inevitable.
Spengler's was the most convincing representative of a varied literature advancing this point. With the idea of decline, one proceeded by describing various stages of civilization, by connecting these stages by necessary causal relations, by locating one's contemporary nation or civilization in the causal progression that had been established, and by then proclaiming what the future had in store. Such proclamations did not help leaders learn how to act effectively; the theories purported instead to identify the kind of activities that were destined to prevail no matter how inept the actors were.
Marek, Yestermorrow: Notes on Man's Progress, Ralph Manheim, trans., p. 20.
A few writers have lumped Ortega with Spengler, as Kurt W. Marek did by likening the latter to a leviathan and the former to a porpoise "darting over the surface of the millennia in graceful turns, often tossing up a glittering spray ." But the comparison is not apt. For Ortega, the essential point was not to identify with Spengler a pattern of decline, but to explicate a pattern of crisis.
La rebelión de las masas, 1930, Obras IV, p. 193,
Crisis differs from decline: crisis is a self-contained condition whereas decline requires comparison of one condition to another. Any system that shows the symptoms of severe disequilibrium can be said to be in crisis; but to say that a system is in decline one needs to compare its present state with its condition at two or more previous times and to find a steadily worsening relation between them. A decline portends a fall, whereas a crisis can culminate in ruin or renewal. Decline invites a deterministic explanation, whereas a crisis suggests an open situation, which was brought about, to be sure, by determined causes, but which could be resolved in several different ways, depending on the will and competence of the persons involved. Where more pessimistic writers saw a decline, Ortega, an optimist, saw a crisis. He found the future integrally open: "I am here anxious to note that we have plunged into analyzing a substantively equivocal situation—that of the present. ... And this equivocation is not in our judgment, but in the reality itself. It is not that the situation can appear to us on one side good and on the other bad, but that in itself the present situation is a double potential for triumph or for death."
A second popular analysis of the collapse of leadership in Europe differs considerably from Spengler's; it can be found in the Germanophobe-Anglophile literature produced during and between the two world wars, typified by Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies. According to the authors of these critiques, the crisis of Continental leadership arose because European intellectuals and politicians inveterately failed to appreciate the enduring truths of Anglo-American liberalism. If only the Europeans would follow the North Atlantic peoples and develop an effective democracy based on popular consent, toleration, prudent compromise, and the respect for impersonal law, all might be well. Unfortunately, German authoritarian philosophy had instead intimidated the people and confused their potential leaders. Consequently, the people were never able to assert their will over the state. This failure left the political system vulnerable to domination by whatever extremist group might convince itself and others that it represented the eternal values of the nation. Thus Anglo-American critics blamed European instability on the traditional elites and the heritage of social philosophy: both lacked the cardinal virtue of a capacity for compromise. Continental stability would be attained only when the leaders renounced political metaphysics and let the people really try to direct their affairs in a pragmatic, democratic way.
Sidney Hook, Political Power and Personal Freedom, p. 448
Anglophile writers thus concluded that the hope for Europe's future lay in a democratic pluralism founded on the principles of consent and toleration. Being committed to this particular blueprint for European stability, they took umbrage at analyses of the situation that cast doubt on the capacity of the contemporary populace to conduct their affairs happily by democratic processes. To them, gratuitous questioning of the people's powers seemed to help produce a lack of confidence at crucial moments. They found such doubts, including "the violent garrulities of Ortega y Gasset," to be examples of antidemocratic thought and a threat to the proper reformation of European politics. The problem with the Anglophile position is that it itself becomes a form of political metaphysics and critical escapism; dismissing things as antidemocratic serves only to ingratiate one with the true believers: there is no way to determine whether the doubts of the questioners are really unreal except to deal substantively with the problems raised.
Hegel, Philosophy of Right, Preface, T. M. Knox, trans., p. 10, italics omitted.
Some of the sources of this critique have been discussed in a note to II: k. Many other works might be added to it; for instance, Eric Bentley, A Century of Hero-Worship. The Marxian rejection of English liberalism was fundamental. It may be sampled, for instance, in Marx's "The Future Results of British Rule in India" (1853), Marx-Engels Selected Works, Vol. 1, pp. 352–8. In some ways, however, Marx's most explicit and influential criticism of the English type of liberalism is not in his writings on England, but in his polemics against more reformist tendencies in the Continental workers' movements; see The Communist Manifesto, Ibid., Vol. 1, pp. 21– 65, especially 54–64; and The German Ideology, passim. Nietzsche's rejection was more rhetorical. See, for instance, The Will to Power, Walter Kaufmann, trans., sections 31: "that gruesome ugliness that characterizes all English inventions"; 382: "the shopkeeper's philosophy of Mr. Spencer; complete absence of an ideal, except that of the mediocre man"; 926: "Against John Stuart Mill—I abhor his vulgarity ... "; 944: "happiness as peace of soul, virtue, comfort, Anglo-angelic shopkeeperdom à la Spencer"; etc.
No adequate study of the political implications of contemporary European philosophy has been made. It is also far from clear what significance these have for judging philosophies qua philosophies. Sartre and Merleau-Ponty are usually treated positively for having backed the resistance in World War II, whereas Gentile has been largely dismissed as a Fascist and Heidegger has been severely criticized for originally cooperating with Hitler. On this matter, I have found Merleau-Ponty's Humanisme et terreur: essai sur le probleme communiste, H. Stuart Hughes' The Obstructed Path: French Social Thought, 1930–1960, and Stanley Rosen's Nihilism: A Philosophical Essay to be instructive.
Before turning to these problems, let it be said that there were elements of truth in the Anglophile case. Political philosophy in Germany and France, not to mention Britain with the work of T. H. Green, had certain ambiguities that made it vulnerable to totalitarian abuse. Liberalism has long been frightened by Rousseau's doctrine that men can be forced to be free. Likewise, Hegel's conviction that "what is rational is actual and what is actual is rational" is a very difficult thought that is liable to disastrous misunderstandings; and both the statist epigones of Hegel and the Marxists crudely hypostatized Hegel's subtle conception of the state. These errors, however, were first and thoroughly criticized by another German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer. Nevertheless, despite a strong tradition of humanism, during the past hundred years many European intellectuals scorned the principles of toleration and rejected the system of liberal democracy. From positions as opposed as those of Marx and Nietzsche, both could agree in dismissing English liberalism as a storekeeper's philosophy. In the place of a politics of compromise, the state was threatened with takeover by diverse exponents of puritanically perfect policies. And the sympathy of Gentile and Heidegger for totalitarian fascism and of Sartre and Merleau-Ponty for totalitarian communism suggests to many that Continental philosophy may still have a strong bias toward statist extremism.
Despite these facts, the Germanophobe-Anglophile critique of European politics is deceptive. The substantive difficulties must still be dealt with. On the one hand, the critique exaggerates the competence of the English and American political processes; on the other, it ignores the fundamental historic problems that have bedeviled Western politics throughout the century. All the ills of Europe cannot be blamed on German malevolence and French instability. The English bear a major responsibility for leading and sustaining the imperialistic expansion of the European peoples, with the very dangerous competitions this expansion engendered; after World War I the American people undercut efforts at collective security and opened the way to a future economic collapse by making their government withdraw precipitously from the responsibilities it had assumed in economic and international affairs; British foreign policy was a cowardly failure between the wars; and Anglo-American complicity in creating the Cold War has been much greater than we like to admit. These contributions to the European crisis should not be conveniently ignored. The inter-war paralysis of British power is particularly significant in pricking the pride of the Anglophile, for it demonstrated that British politics, like that of Continental Europe, could be deflected from prudent policies by the power of mass movements, in this case by doctrinaire pacifism. As soon as we recognize that Anglo-American politics has been susceptible to the same instabilities as that of the Continent, we can turn to the real problems, the substantive developments in Western life that leaders, regardless of the form of government, found it difficult to deal with. These problems were the European crisis as it appeared to Ortega, for he believed that because of these difficulties the West had to transcend the outworn quarrel between liberal enthusiasts of democracy and their reactionary opponents.
The literature pertinent to these matters is immense, and I can only indicate those small parts of it that have entered into my reflections on Ortega's conception of the European crisis. In particular, Martin 5. Dworkin's course "Education, Ideology, and Mass Communications" and ensuing conversations have done much to deepen my reading in these areas.
The first aspect of the matter to raise fundamental questions is that the liberal theory of toleration does not adequately anticipate ideological criticism as it has developed in the past two hundred years. For the basic theory, see Locke, "A Letter Concerning Toleration," and John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, especially Chapter 2. The assumption that free discussion can only strengthen truth is in theory unobjectionable; what theories of ideology do is to raise the question whether discussion can in fact be free, and doubts to this effect lead to very serious consequences. For good introductions to the development of the concept of ideology see Henry D. Aiken, "Philosophy and Ideology in the Nineteenth Century," The Age of Ideology, pp. 13–26, and George Lichtheim, The Concept of Ideology and Other Essays, pp. 3–46.
Three of the most significant examples of committed ideological criticism are The German Ideology by Marx and Engels, The Theory of the Leisure Class by Veblen, and The Illusions of Progress by Georges Sorel. These critics used their powers to expose the rationalization of interests by the established groups and to advance the interests of those who were exploited. This tradition of ideological criticism has by no means died out, but it has been complemented by another which aspires to be more disinterested. The best known work of this sort is Karl Mannheim's Ideology and Utopia, in which a program for the sociology of knowledge is set forth. There is much more work along these lines that deserves to be better known. For instance, Theodor Geiger gives a rather different, more open value to ideology in his Ideologie und Wahrheit and other works. For a good introduction to his work see Paolo Farneti, Theodor Geiger e la coscienza della società industriale. Whereas Geiger sees ideological differences indicating real differences that should not be destroyed through reductionism, much of contemporary thought on the subject leads in the opposite direction, indicating a hope that ideology will disappear. This is the theme sounded in the conclusions to The Opium of the Intellectuals by Raymond Aron and The End of Ideology by Daniel Bell. Both writers are learned and humane, yet one should ask whether a purported end of ideology is not itself an ideological rationalization of interests of technicians, bureaucrats, and social scientists: ideological conflicts are the most serious impediments to their rational control of society. But is it perfectly rational? This question is put movingly by Alberto Moravia in Man as an End.
For the purposes of this study, these and other works that might also be mentioned add up to a serious difficulty for liberal political theory. What is the relation between opinion, interest, and truth? How can men who are convinced that discussion between ordinary persons leads to the imposition of falsehood, not the uncovering of truth, be persuaded to defend political freedoms and liberal procedures? For a clear statement of the direction in which such convictions lead see A Critique of Pure Tolerance by Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore, Jr., and Herbert Marcuse.
If the theory of ideology tends to release the opponents of the established system from the restraints of liberalism, the facts of bureaucracy do the same for the members of the established system. The classic presentations of liberal theory on this matter are the discussion of faction and its dangers in The Federalist Papers and the analysis of the unchecked power of the majority in chapters 15 and 16 of Tocqueville's Democracy in America. Government should be conducted by responsible individuals if the rights of minorities are to be defended. Tocqueville argued that one of the few factors mitigating the natural power of the majority was the lack of a centralized administrative apparatus in the United States; that check has disappeared.
By the development of bureaucracy, I mean something more inclusive than a particular form of administrative organization: in that sense bureaucracy has always existed. What is important is the application in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries of highly formalized, rational group organization to major military, economic, and political institutions. A number of general histories are useful in following the development of these organizations and attempts at alternatives to them. In Western Civilization Since the Renaissance: Peace, War, Industry, and the Arts, John U. Nef puts some of the central questions concerning the relation of war, industry, and impersonal organization, raising the suspicion that the so-called civilian benefits from military development may not be worth the cost. Friedrich Meinecke's Machiavellism: The Doctrine of Raison D'Etat and Its Place in Modern History, Douglas Scott, trans., is an excellent study laying bare the arguments by which the responsible public servant converts himself into an irresponsible servant of the state. In a less profound work, European History, 1789–1914: Men, Machines, and Freedom, John McManners charts the economic and political developments behind the growth of national administrative systems and in pp. 403–6 he indicates some of the dilemmas that arose with the modem state, namely, that it brings mixed blessings. Guido de Ruggiero in The History of European Liberalism, R. G. Collingwood, trans., traces the development of the liberal view of the state and shows how it culminates in parallel conflicts between individualism and bureaucracy as well as between Liberalism and Socialism.
One of the central matters that should be considered in reflecting on the impact of bureaucracy upon our political forms is the character of war and the military. An excellent introduction to this subject is Makers of Modern Strategy: Military Thought from Machiavelli to Hitler, edited by Edward Mead Earle. A great work for clarifying the impact of war on twentieth-century life is Quincy Wright's A Study of War, and a more popular work covering some of the same ground is Raymond Aron's The Century of Total War. The background informing a reading of these works should be an involvement as a citizen in the national debates concerning arms expenditure, disarmament, and foreign commitments. To me, such a combination of concerns quite undercuts the whole system of political theory upon which the nation-state is based; we should go back to fundamentals and seriously consider the question whether sane men can responsibly hold mere nations to be sovereign.
The problem of bureaucracy is not confined to war and international politics. Various aspects of the problem are brought out, with varying personal reactions to the phenomena they uncover, by James Burnham's The Managerial Revolution: What is Happening in the World; Joseph A. Schumpeter's Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy; William H. Whyte's The Organization Man; Milovan Djilas' The New Class: An Analysis of the Communist System; Jacques Ellul's The Technological Society; C. Wright Mills' The Power Elite; Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem; and Sebastian de Grazia's Of Time, Work, and Leisure. All these have, in one way or another, influenced my view of the question.
The problems that bureaucracy raises for our inherited political principles are compounded by the closely related problem of mass communications. Liberal political theory has been traditionally cautious about the contagion of opinion. For instance, those who would blame Rousseau for the excesses committed in the French Revolution in the name of the general will overlook the fact that the acts ensued from political deliberations antithetical to those Rousseau commended. Rousseau insisted that each have full information and that each deliberate alone, the authenticity of his opinion protected from contamination by that of others. Whether or not we can preserve the approximate possibility for such deliberations is the great conundrum of mass communications.
One group of studies, which suggests difficulties in preserving autonomous deliberation, is the study of crowds, which actually goes back very far into our tradition as readers of Heraclitus, Thucydides, Plato, and Seneca know. In more recent times, the issue has come back to the fore. Gustave Le Bon's work The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, is often connected to Ortega's Revolt of the Masses although they are about quite different phenomena: the latter concerns a chronic condition of personal character; the former, the characteristics regularly manifested by crowds, groups in which men lose their individuality. Since Le Bon's book, there have been a number of popularizations, connecting the crowd or mob to American culture, especially popular culture; among these are Gerald Stanley Lee's Crowds: A Moving Picture of Democracy (1913); Frank K. Notch's King Mob: A Study of the Present-Day Mind (1930); and Bernard Iddings Bell's Crowd Culture: An Examination of the American Way of Life (1952). On a quite different level of ambition is Crowds and Power by Elias Canetti, Carol Stewart, trans., a far-reaching, profound study of the nature of crowds and their relation to political power throughout world history.
Studies of propaganda and mass communication are legion. Propaganda by Jacques Ellul strikes me as the best introduction to the subject, for Ellul does not shirk the difficult aspects of the matter: he shows that propaganda is an established element of everyone's way of life, that it has definite effects, some good and many bad, and that there is a tremendous, perhaps impossible, problem in reconciling the facts of propaganda with our political heritage and hopes. An earlier work that also excels as an introduction to the matter is Walter Lippmann's Public Opinion, which expresses greater optimism about the ability of reason to control and absorb propaganda than does Ellul's work. Both Lippmann and Ellul raise questions ultimately reflecting doubts whether the recipient of propaganda and mass communications can maintain his autonomous powers of judgment, whether the recipient can keep from being drawn into a crowd. Wilbur Schramm in his important book Responsibility in Mass Communication looks at the matter from the other end, asking whether open, responsible access to the means of communication can be maintained. Although this is itself a crucial question, on which there is a great deal of discussion that may be found by using Schramm's bibliography, the questions raised by Ellul and Lippmann seem to me more fundamental.
Many other works have contributed to my understanding not only of the problems raised by mass communications, but also by bureaucracy and ideological criticism. Among them are The Bias of Communications by Harold A. Innis. Le temps hacerlant by Enrico Castelli; The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt; Man in the Modern Age by Karl Jaspers; The House of Intellect by Jacques Barzun, and many others. In calling attention to these difficulties, one is not foretelling doom or condemning traditional aspirations. One is, however, asking for the reinvigoration of the theoretical imagination. The empirical obsessions of social science seem to me to indicate a deep-seated death wish. The political forces in the midst of which we live have little to do, integrally, organically, with our national institutions; yet our conceptions of what political procedures are proper, which ones will allow the human spirit to flourish humanely, are all keyed to the nation-states. The productive capital of political theory that we have inherited from the Enlightenment is fast wearing out, yet very few people have been trying speculatively to construct replacements. The defense of freedom and reason must find an arena other than national politics, and its- absurd extension in inter-national politics, in which to conduct its campaign. Political and pedagogical theorists have before them the task of setting forth such a supranational community.
During the twentieth century, three political phenomena that were unknown to the creators of Anglo-Saxon liberalism have become fundamental influences in public affairs throughout the West: these are ideology, bureaucracy, and mass communications. These developments do not invalidate the ideals of liberalism; let us remain committed, with Ortega, to these values. But the new situation means that we cannot be complacently content with the established institutions of liberalism. To remain true to the liberal spirit, we should join Ortega in subjecting the familiar forms of democratic practice to a thorough critique, facing the new problems so that we can seek solutions to them.
From Locke through Mill, an essential premise in justifying toleration was that men live by the rule of reason. The practice of ideological criticism has turned many against this premise; instead of reason, many see mere rationalizations that deceptively justify one or another self-serving interest. Beneath every principle men expect to find an unprincipled ulterior motive, and all claims of right are dismissed as the mascara of might. The problem is not that for the first time there are men who live by an irrational ideology, but that the theory of ideology, the theory that the thought of all men is determined by their material interests, has made many men lose confidence in the possibility of a rule by reason. As soon as a significant number of men believe that it is impossible to reason with other men whose interests differ from their own, then force in one or another guise becomes necessary to reconcile their differences. Force is the ultima ratio, and to disbelieve in reason is to commit oneself to the rule of force. The liberal theory of tolerance does not deal adequately with this situation. Mill assumed that free discussion could only strengthen truth, as in theory it does if the discussants are committed to reason; but he did not foresee the practical case in which organized falsehoods are unscrupulously manipulated under conditions of free speech to predominate against the truth. This case is not a hypothesis; it is history. With the doctrine of ideology, discourse has not been used as a means of sifting opinion for truth, but as a way of accusing one's opponents of bad faith. To the ideologist, irrespective of his ideology, only arguments from origins seem to carry weight; every person, every thought, every thing is judged by finding whether it comes from a pure or tainted source; and equally for those of the right, left, and center, this mode of argument ends logically with an attempt to eradicate the tainted origin of offending opinions.
Traditionally, liberalism has held each man responsible for his actions. A familiar example of this conception of responsibility is the care with which the framers of the American Constitution guarded against faction, but the theory was not confined to them: among others, Rousseau asserted it in suggesting that to find the general will each citizen should deliberate alone with full information about the question at hand. A sense of responsibility is a personal quality, and the theory has been that a humane sobriety in political matters will have the best chance to develop when men are acting on their own personal initiative and responsibility. In the last century, however, the growth of bureaucracy has completely undermined this premise, for bureaucracy has developed as the person has been absolved of certain responsibilities and as these have been transferred to fictitious corporate persons. Men become anonymous managers and civil servants; and huge, peculiarly cohesive factions composed of these emasculated men have arisen, even within the American government despite its ingenious checks and balances. To make matters worse, such bureaucracies have been most highly developed in the industrial-military establishments in every Western nation. The men who seem most absolved of having to act independently on their own personal initiative and responsibility are precisely the men who design, build, and implement the agencies of force in modern life. Thus, the citizens of every developed nation-state are under the continual threat of being dominated by radically irresponsible organizations; and it would be foolish to think that any political tradition is magically immune from the dangers that arise when it has in its midst powerful factions made up of men who are each insulated from having to feel personally responsible for the deeds of the group.
"Epílogo para ingleses," 1937, Obras IV, pp. 301–310.
Finally, liberal democrats presupposed that the people would have time to investigate and deliberate over important issues and that popular opinion would reflect the qualities of considered, personal opinions. Instantaneous, mass communications have, however, imposed a completely different pace on public affairs, and they have greatly complicated personal reflection about political problems. These developments have not invalidated the voice of the people, but they raise severe doubts that the voice of the public is in every instance the voice of the people. We recognize that publicity can undercut the possibility of a fair trial before a jury, but we do not carry this recognition over into wider matters. In traditional democratic thought it was assumed that popular opinion would put a check on political leaders. But with the rapid, graphic reporting of world events and with the demand that everyone immediately have an opinion about everything, the manipulation of opinion has come to serve as an ersatz deliberation over public questions, and inflamed popular passions have aggravated, not modulated, political disagreements. As Ortega pointed out, the universal web of news and information was not in harmony with the polycentric politics of Europe; the whole was easily rent as various groups developed deceptive images of their neighbors. All these developments meant that popular deliberations were not occurring as traditional democratic theory postulated that they should.
Phenomena such as ideological reductionism, bureaucracy, and mass communications were the substantive problems that helped produce the European crisis. Significant solutions to these difficulties were needed more than the emulation of political forms that had worked in the past. Thus, although Ortega's conception of the European crisis was not as pessimistic as Spengler's and other theories of decline, Ortega felt that much deeper questions had to be asked of the whole Western system than were asked by those who saw the crisis as a simple failure to emulate the North Atlantic example.
In reflecting on recent history, Ortega hoped to learn why the great advances in human power, wrought by industrialism and democracy, seemed to turn inexorably to negative uses, to militarism and tyranny. To channel man's new power more constructively, he thought, Europeans should reach beyond liberalism, seeking to solve the substantive problems of the twentieth century. In trying to transcend liberalism, Ortega was not being anti-liberal; he was deeply committed to the human values that had been served by liberalism in the nineteenth century. But he believed that in the twentieth century a blind reliance on the machinery of liberalism would destroy those very values. The nation-state, democracy, and industrialism were great achievements of prudent reason and progressive hope; but their potential had been exhausted. If reason and hope were to continue to benefit men, new ideals, novel projects, and untried enterprises would have to be created. The challenge before Europeans was to find a new way to fulfill the values that had given rise to liberalism, the values of reason, human dignity, the rule of law, the pursuit of happiness, liberty.
E1 tema de nuestro tiempo, 1923, Obras III, pp. 152, 1561 etc.
Throughout his second voyage, Ortega sharply attacked the notion that historic development could stop with the nation-state and industrial democracy. This attack was no attempt to go back to an earlier stage of historic development; it was, as he carefully stated in The Theme of Our Time, an effort to open the way for a creative, progressive advance in political theory and practice. As a whole, Ortega's second voyage amounted to a vision of a Western Kinder/and, a vision of a community that would lead beyond the ideals of the nation-state and industrial democracy, but that would do so without giving up the improvements in life that had been achieved in the past pursuit of these ideals. Ortega's analysis of the European crisis, which severely challenges the pieties of Anglo-American liberalism, should be taken as a prelude to an attempt to revitalize the very tradition it criticizes.
For Ortega, the European crisis was more than an act of lèse liberalisme, yet it was certainly not as much as an irredeemable decline of the West. Instead, it was an open crisis in the European community, which, going back to Homer, had been a community to the degree that the many internalized and surpassed the excellences discovered by the few. The crisis was a crisis in the social bonds of the West, in the principles that had historically united Europeans into communities.
Europe had been a complicated web of examples and their connoisseurs; but the system of exemplarity and aptness was not working well in the twentieth century. Men were not apt to the lessons of true excellence, and the European communities, especially the nations, were being wracked by divisive movements. Traditionally, Europeans have lived in integrated communities in which each person has a personal part to which he commits himself. A citizen made his commitment because he was personally moved by a shared ideal, because he was apt to certain heroic examples, examples of service, learning, industry, and general excellence. Here is the substantial significance of the familiar phrase of unity in diversity: rather than unity resulting from some extrinsic similarity such as occupation, nationality, creed, or race, it inheres in the fact that diversity is an intrinsic quality shared by each member of the group. The citizen has been a citizen insofar as he brings something unique and necessary to the common enterprise; a good community should let each man develop in himself these personal excellences, and a good citizen should honor his peers not for conformity but for genius. Unity in diversity is neither a wise saw nor moral instance; it is a difficult conception because it requires men to abstract and to see that when many men are truly diverse, setting themselves apart from one another, they share something important, the quality of being different from their peers.
"Del Imperio Romano," 1940, Obras VI, especially, pp. 59–63.
In a community based on a common appreciation of differences, neither its strengths nor its weaknesses will be readily apparent in its superstructure of formal politics. When spontaneously united, such a people will prove far stronger than one would expect from observing the ability of their titular leaders: thus the Spanish pueblo once drew the shrewd Napoleon into a costly miscalculation. But when unseen discord undermines the community, then even the most brilliant rulers will not prevail. As Ortega showed in his essay on Imperial Rome, the spontaneous integration of a community of free citizens depended on a tacit but deep concord about the principles by which each person will independently evaluate the excellences he encounters. Concord meant agreement about who should rule, about what standards should control the effort to settle differences. To achieve concord, the problem was not to avoid attaching different values to the same thing—such diversities were to be encouraged, for there was no reason why different persons should apply their common principles to their unique circumstances in identical ways; the problem was, however, to avoid applying divergent, discordant modes of valuation to the same thing—such dichotomies were to be discouraged, for contradictory systems of making valuations would set the parts of the whole working in opposition to one another. When concord is lacking, when there is no agreement about how to arbitrate clashing differences, men cease to be able to tolerate the very existence of those differences. Thus, without concord, there is no unity in diversity.
Concord had disappeared in Europe. Men who should have been able to avoid implacable hostilities were no longer able to agree to disagree. Hence, at bottom the European crisis was neither a morphological decline nor a political error; it was the disorientation that arose when men ceased to share a common system of judging value. In Ortega's view, the crisis was serious, for it meant that, as divergent modes of making valuations clashed, ethical nihilism would spread and all would become permitted. But although serious, the crisis did not portend a necessary collapse, for the previous concord had not been the best one possible; if a new one could be developed, stronger communal bonds might be forged between Europeans. Time would tell. Whether the future would lead to descent or to ascent was an open question, the answer to which depended on the Europeans' ability to redevelop a common measure of value.
Camus, "The Wager of Our Generation," in Resistance, Rebellion, and Death, Justin O'Brien, trans., p. 243.
In short, Ortega was among those who thought the European crisis was a problem of valuation. Consequently, we should locate Ortega's work, especially that of his second voyage, in the succession of thinkers who sought a revaluation of values in Europe. Appropriately, Camus observed that Ortega was "perhaps the greatest of European writers, after Nietzsche;" and the link between these two, really between all three—Nietzsche, Ortega, and Camus—was their search for a basis of judgment that Europeans could again hold in common. Without such a basis, Europe would be rent asunder. For Ortega, the European crisis arose because men had ceased to share, not a common set of values, but a common mode of making valuations; and the way to turn this crisis towards a hopeful climax was to see to the reform of the practical reason by which men lived. This reform was the ultimate destination of Ortega's second voyage.
The best choose one thing in place of all else, "everlasting" glory among mortals; but the majority are glutted like cattle.