The Roots of Self-Doubt (and Self-Loathing) in the West

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Jonathan W. Pidluzny

Abstract: Democratic self-doubt is manifest in many ways, some of them a threat to the perpetuation of the very political orders responsible for the exceptional appeal of life in Western societies. This paper begins by defining the phenomenon and proceeds to examine its roots. Five contributing factors are identified, all of them in some way a constituent element of the very way of life, our confidence in which they threaten to erode. The factors discussed are the following: first, the value neutral nature of experimental natural science and its effect on the liberal arts; second, European romanticism and its suffusion through the entire cultural life of the West; third, a mania for equality which, although a fundamental principle of healthy republicanism, can (when pushed to the extreme) erode citizens’ pride in their own regime; fourth, materialism and material abundance, which distract citizens from the innately human longings and cut them off from participation in public life; fifth, egalitarianism desiccates the liberal arts—one of the greatest legacies of the West—and enervates the democrat’s capacity to be moved by them. The paper ends by considering a more insidious form of self-hatred that emerged from the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche and Karl Marx.

Keywords: Western Civilization, Crisis of the West, Democratic Self Doubt, Alexis de Tocqueville, Egalitarianism

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe100193

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