Botos Máté: Conservative Critics of Political Utopia

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Conservative Critics of Political Utopia


From the earliest times of Christianity, political theorists were faced with the classical temptation of the utopia. Meanwhile, thorough the centuries, they refused the vision of perfect societies because of a realistic understanding of human nature. There has been a general belief that despite the eternal quest for the City of God, man simply cannot declare that he is about to establish a divine society without fear, injustice, exploitation, abuse, usurpation, and so forth. Catholic Doctrine has always rejected those ideas as heresies, whether voiced by the Cathars, the Lollards, the Waldensians, the Hussites, or others. It has always been something less to do with dogmatic heresy than with human nature and, consequently, human society.

But after the spread of Protestantism, the political theories on the perfect society did not appear as heresies anymore but as philosophical concepts. The philosophical writings of this kind are considered as the forerunners of the modern utopias – sometimes dystopias – and from the Enlightenment on, those constructions could even see their implementation. The Age of Revolutions, from the end of the 18th century, invented terror, modern democracy, egalitarianism, and many other novelties. The whole 19th century was a battlefield of ideologies, among them the surviving theory of totalitarianism – Marxist communism being a representative – and the beginning of the 20th century the totalitarian states could even subsist. Utopias became horrific political realities. The demise of the Nazi and Fascist states in 1945 and the Communist empire in 1992, however, did not result in the disqualification of political utopias, but rather in their second flourishment. Conservatives, as they did in the late 18th century, are constantly formulating the refutation of political utopias, mostly for the same reasons as the Catholic Church has done: because of their irreconcilability with traditional definitions of man in Christian anthropology. The present volume is dedicated to those political thinkers of the last two centuries who refused the legitimacy of political utopias.

Last, but not least, I would express my gratitude to professors João Carlos Espada and János Jany who have made possible the two workshop and also initiated the edition of the present volume. I am also thankful to each and every of the authors for their contributions, and also hope that their work was nothing but the first step in the co-operation of both catholic universities, the Portuguese and the Hungarian one.


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