Monthly Archives: September 2018

NL XLI: What Barbarism Is

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Civilization being agreement, barbarism has no chance in the long run (41. 67):

41. 76. For barbarism implies not only a quarrel between any barbarist and any civilized man; it also implies a quarrel between anyone barbarist and any other; and that any state of harmony between them is merely this quarrel suspended.

The barbarist is somebody “who imitates the conditions of an uncivilized world” (41. 53); but an actual attempt to bring about those conditions will need cooperation, and this will be a step towards civility. Here perhaps we should distinguish cooperation from the kind of coerced organization seen in a fascist state. Specific examples will be considered in the later chapters of Part IV of the New Leviathan. We are now considering “What Barbarism Is,” in general terms.

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NL XL: Peace and Plenty

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With “Peace and Plenty,” we reach the end of the account of civilization in Collingwood’s New Leviathan. What remains is the account of barbarism. Strictly speaking, we little need it. Civilization quâ ideal of civility is the positive end of civilization quâ process, and as was pointed out on Chapter XXXII, “Society and Nature in the Classical Politics,” the positive end is the primary thing to know in conducting a process (32. 35–6).

“May Day, 1929,” V. V. Kuptsov

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NL XXXIX: Law and Order

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In the New Leviathan, three chapters ago, the essence of civilization was found in not using force against one another. Two chapters ago, civilization was found to be achieved, or at least perpetuated, through education by amateurs, especially within families.

Samuel F. B. Morse (American, 1791-1872), The House of Representatives, 1822, probably reworked 1823, oil on canvas, Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase, Gallery Fund), National Gallery of Art

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NL XXXVIII: Civilization and Wealth

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To be richer than another person is to have economic power over that person (38. 61). The rich can force the poor to sell their labor for a lower price (38. 64) than if the poor were free (38. 65) of the emotional strain of poverty (38. 66).

Rembrandt, Esau Selling His Birthright, c. 1640–1, British Museum

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NL XXXVII: Civilization As Education

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Knowing, from the previous chapter, what civilization is, we ask: How do we bring it about? Collingwood’s answer is to homeschool our children.

This is the New Leviathan’s first detailed piece of positive advice, and it may sound crazy. Rather than list reasons why, I want to see what sense can be made of the ideas.

Civility is respect (37. 15). To respect another person is to recognize their freedom (37. 14). To do this, one needs self-respect (37. 13).

Instead of respect, we may approach another person with servility, namely “the demeanour of a man lacking self-respect towards one whom he fears” (37. 17). The will to barbarism is just the will to servility (37. 19).

Mary Cassatt (American, 1844-1926), The Boating Party, 1893/1894, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art

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NL XXXVI: The Essence of Civilization

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After thirty-five earlier chapters, we reach the point of the New Leviathan. The essence of civilization is being civil to one another (36. 5).

Henri Rousseau (French, 1844 – 1910), The Equatorial Jungle, 1909, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art

That may sound trivial or tautologous. It’s not. We are talking about being civil, in the ancient sense discussed in the previous chapter:

35. 41. Behaving ‘civilly’ to a man means respecting his feelings: abstaining from shocking him, annoying him, frightening him, or (briefly) arousing in him any passion or desire which might diminish his self-respect (13. 31); that is, threaten his consciousness of freedom by making him feel that his power of choice is in danger of breaking down and the passion or desire likely to take charge (13. 67).

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NL XXXV: What Civilization Means Specifically

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Civilization is a process, from barbarity towards the ideal of civility (35. 1). The ideal itself, and any particular stage along the way, are also called civilization (35. 11). This is our understanding from the previous chapter.

Civilization happens to a community. Any member can refer to the community in the first person plural: it is a “we” (35. 24). There is the corresponding possibility of a “not-we” (35. 25), in the sense discussed in Chapter VIII, “Hunger and Love” (8. 16). The “not-we” can be relative (35. 28) or absolute (35. 27), according as, to its own members, it is a “we” or not. To us, a relative “not-we” can be a “you” (35. 28). I shall suggest that the “not-we” is always at least a “they,” although Collingwood uses this only for the relative “not-we” (35. 28).

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NL XXXIV: What Civilization Means Generically

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Having studied, in the New Leviathan,

  • the individual human being in Part I, and
  • communities of human beings in Part II,

we turn now to Part III, on the subject of civilization (34. 1). This is something that happens to a community (34. 4). It is a “process of approximation to an ideal state” (34. 5). That is the gist of Chapter XXXIV, “What ‘Civilization’ Means: Generically.”


We have returned to Istanbul. Below are sunset photos from our last night on the Aegean coast

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NL XXXIII: Decline of the Classical Politics

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Lacking the experience of social and political life mentioned at the end of the previous chapter, Germans could not understand the classical politics. German communities were non-social (33. 32). What experience those communities did have of freedom was despised (33. 5). When Marx converted Hegel’s dialectical idealism into the equally nonsensical dialectical materialism (33. 91), he sought only to teach what materialism entailed: that there was no such thing as freedom of will (33. 97).

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NL XXXII: Society and Nature in the Classical Politics

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In the last chapter, we described classical politics by analogy with classical physics. Now we turn entirely to politics. The nature of “Society and Nature in the Classical Politics,” Chapter XXXII of the New Leviathan, is not the nature studied by physics; it is the nature of the “state of nature” (32. 32), which is our theoretical political origin.

The “problem of the classical politics” (32. 1) is “to give an account of the social element” of political life (32. 19). The non-social element of political life is nature (32. 19).

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