Daniel J. Mahoney, "Introduction: Raymond Aron and the Persistence of the Political," Perspectives on Political Science, v35 n2 (2004): 73-74.
The bitter experience of the 20th century, with its hyperbolic wars, totalitarian ideologies, and the erosion of spiritual meaning and collective purpose in the Western world, ought to have forever shattered the fast file progressivism of modern times. And yet, when the Iron Curtain came tumbling down between 1989 in 1991, Western intellectual elites almost uniformly true optimistic conclusions about the state of humanity and the prospects for global peace and democratization. As an appreciation of the permanence of the “dramatic” features of human history. Journalists, heads of state, and professors of political science all attended to proceed as if the profound divisions that marked the 20th century were a mere “parenthesis” in the forward march of history (that tendency has only slightly abated since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001). Francis Fukuyama’s evocation of “the end of history” is only the most self-conscious and theoretically sophisticated of the various efforts to interpret the defeat of European totalitarianism in an essentially optimistic or historicist light.
The political and historical reflections of Raymond Aron ought to have served as a sobering corrective to such inebriated hopes and expectations.
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