Beyond Politics: Christopher Dawson (and Others) on Culture and Politics

In his book Beyond Politics and elsewhere, British historian Christopher Dawson argues that Europe’s problems in the 1930s could not be solved by politics alone, affirming that cultural order is primary and political order secondary. He writes that “it is the life of society and not merely the government of society that needs reordering.” He further notes that religion plays an essential role in the needed cultural reordering, so that we must not allow religion to be driven from the public square. When that happens, religion is disastrously replaced by some ideology serving as a pseudo-religion. Dawson’s ideas are echoed by T. S. Eliot, a contemporary and collaborator. Both emphasize that a healthy culture grows out of an organic tradition, not an ideological plan. These profound truths have been more recently proposed anew by Russell Kirk in America and Roger Scruton in England.

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