The Persian Letters(1720), written by Charles Montesquieu, was a precursor to some of his greater contributions to the 18th century enlightenment and society. He’s better known as a political theorist famous for the separation of powers in a republic; most notably the separation between executive, legislative, and judicial powers. His book Of the Spirit of Laws (1748) was his masterpiece and was more influential than any other book on the founding fathers who wrote the constitution of the United States of America. The Persian Letters is a good start-off book for anyone interested in reading Montesquieu as it is a much more laid back and easy read than his other works. The book makes observations of politics, fashion, and religion in 18th century Europe; often times with a healthy dose of satire. Freedom of religion is another concept Montesquieu influenced us with and is perhaps just as important as any other freedom a person can have. This book demonstrates very well Montesquieu’s disdain for religious intolerance and religious persecution. Many of my favorite quotes from the book that will be shared in this post series have to do with Montequieu’s view and insight on religion.
I’ve spent a good part of my life talking about how great it is to live in America and how Communism is bad. I studied sociology and knew that there were different political systems and different economic systems, but I never really ventured to study them in depth. I never contemplated a bigger meaning of it all or how it all fits together. One day, while talking smack about Communism and the Communist Manifesto I was asked “have you ever even read it?” Ah, such a simple question. It was hard to make an argument about something I hadn’t even read. The answer was obviously no; I had not read the Communist Manifesto. Now that I have read it, I’d like to give my take on it.
There is a fundamental flaw in the Communist Manifesto in that it is not a stand alone idea. It is not an idea conjured from a blank sheet of paper. It is born as an “Anti-Capitalist” philosophy. In order to succeed, a philosophy should fundamentally parallel a natural process in some manner and be able to stand alone. This is no different than the evolutionary principles of natural selection in the wild: those which are not best adapted to succeed eventually die off. A sociopolitical philosophy based entirely on unnatural principles while intoxicated with a hatred of Capitalism is one that is destined for failure. It’s not entirely difficult, however, to see the seductiveness of a “new” concept when the discord of the “old” concepts are described so accurately and succinctly. But, the Communist Manifesto does not do much more than describe the struggles of previous ruling class / working class dichotomies. I find weakness in this document in its utopian sales pitch even as I cannot find much argument in the cycle of proletarian uprisings and revolutions that are evidenced within it. My belief is that the struggles and revolutions of all the societies that have gone before us are perhaps better viewed as part of our natural evolution as human beings. An analogy comes to mind to describe what I think I would say to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels if they were alive today: don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.