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The Servile Mind: how democracy erodes the moral life

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Kenneth Minogue
Encounter Books (August 2010)

One of the grim comedies of the twentieth century was the fate of miserable victims of communist regimes who climbed walls, swam rivers, dodged bullets, and found other desperate ways to achieve liberty in the West at the same time as intellectuals in the West sentimentally proclaimed that these very regimes were the wave of the future. A similar tragicomedy is being played out in our century: as the victims of despotism and backwardness from third world nations pour into Western states, the same ivory tower intellectuals assert that Western life is a nightmare of inequality and oppression.

In The Servile Mind: how democracy erodes the moral life, Kenneth Minogue explores the intelligentsia’s love affair with social perfection and reveals how that idealistic dream is destroying exactly what has made the inventive Western world irresistible to the peoples of foreign lands. The Servile Mind looks at how Western morality has evolved into mere “politico-moral” posturing about admired ethical causes - from solving world poverty and creating peace to curing climate change. Today, merely making the correct noises and parading one’s essential decency by having the correct opinions has become a substitute for individual moral actions.

Instead, Minogue posits, we ask that our government carry the burden of solving our social - and especially moral - problems for us. The sad and frightening irony is that as we allow the state to determine our moral order and inner convictions, the more we need to be told how to behave and what to think.

  • Kenneth Minogue is Emeritus Professor of Political Science at LSE.

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Reviews

I have been sharpening my wits on Kenneth Minogue’s prose for over half a century, and this latest book is as intellectually stimulating as his classic assault on liberalism all those years ago. For anyone who believes, as I do, that the contemporary political culture is profoundly sick, this is an original diagnosis of where it has gone wrong, and how it can be put to rights. What is more, in spite of the seriousness of the subject, the writing is as clear as a bell. Don’t miss it.”
Sir Peregrine Worsthorne

This is a work of meticulous logic and vast erudition. It provides an invaluable resource for anyone who has wondered why European elites embarked upon their disastrous cultural revolution in pursuit of an abstract internationalist idealism, destroying in the process their intellectual and cultural heritage.
David Martin Jones, Associate Professor, Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

Can democracy survive in a nation of slaves? Aristotle thought not. But what if the slaves don’t recognize their servile condition? Kenneth Minogue explores the many ways in which the citizens of the modern West have thoughtlessly exchanged independence of mind and body for government promises of security and harmony. The result is a topsy-turvy democracy where the rulers hold the people to account for their incorrect behavior and attitudes. Will the rulers one day throw the rascally people out? This is an insightful and unsettling book–and it would also be a frightening one if it were not so consistently entertaining.
John O’Sullivan, Radio Free Europe

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The Servile Mind