Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn

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Erik Maria Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (31 July 1909 in Tobelbad (now Haselsdorf-Tobelbad), Austria-Hungary – 26 May 1999, in Lans, Austria) was an Austrian Catholic nobleman and socio-political theorist. Describing himself as an "extreme conservative arch-liberal" or "liberal of the extreme right", Kuehnelt-Leddihn often argued that majority rule in democracies is a threat to individual liberties, and declared himself a monarchist and an enemy of all forms of totalitarianism.[1] Described as "A Walking Book of Knowledge", Kuehnelt-Leddihn had an encyclopedic knowledge of the humanities and was a polyglot, able to speak eight languages and read seventeen others.[2] His early books The Menace of the Herd and Liberty or Equality were influential within the American conservative movement. His best-known writings appeared in National Review, where he was a columnist for 35 years.

Life

At 16, he became the Vienna correspondent of The Spectator. From then on, he wrote for the rest of his life. He studied civil and canon law at the University of Vienna at 18. Then, he went to the University of Budapest, from which he received an M.A. in economics and his doctorate in political science. Moving back to Vienna, he took up studies in theology. In 1935, Kuehnelt-Leddihn travelled to England to become a schoolmaster at Beaumont College, a Jesuit public school. Subsequently, he moved to the United States, where he taught at Georgetown University (1937–1938), Saint Peter's College, New Jersey (head of the History and Sociology Department, 1938–1943), Fordham University (Japanese, 1942–1943), and Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia (1943–1947).

In a 1939 letter to the editor of the New York Times, Kuehnelt-Leddihn critiqued the design of every American coin then in circulation except for the Washington quarter, which he allowed was "so far the most satisfactory coin" and judged the Mercury dime to be "the most deplorable."[3]

In 1933, Kuehnelt-Leddihn published Jesuiten, Spießer und Bolschewiken ("Jesuits, Philistines, and Bolsheviks." As this work criticized all forms of Socialism, to include German National Socialism, it was impossible for him to return to Austria between the annexation of that country by National Socialist Germany on 12 March 1938 and the end of the Second World War.

After the Second World War, he resettled in Lans, where he lived until his death.[4] However, he was an avid traveler: he had visited the Soviet Union in 1930–1931, and he eventually visited to every state in the United States.

Kuehnelt-Leddihn wrote for a variety of publications, including Chronicles, Thought, the Rothbard-Rockwell Report, Catholic World, and the Norwegian business magazine Farmand. He also worked with the Acton Institute, which declared him after his death "a great friend and supporter."[5] He was an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.[6] For much of his life, Kuehnelt was also a painter; he illustrated some of his own books.

According to his friend William F. Buckley, Dr. Kuehnelt-Leddihn was "the world's most fascinating man."[7]

Work

His socio-political writings dealt with the origins and the philosophical and cultural currents that formed National Socialism. He endeavored to explain the intricacies of monarchist concepts and the systems of Europe, cultural movements such as Hussitism and Protestantism, and the disastrous effects of an American policy derived from antimonarchical feelings and ignorance of European culture and history.

Kuehnelt-Leddihn directed some of his most significant critiques towards Wilsonian foreign policy activism. Traces of Wilsonianism could be detected in the foreign policies of Franklin Roosevelt; specifically, the assumption that democracy is the ideal political system in any context. Kuehnelt-Leddihn believed that Americans misunderstood much of Central European culture such as the Austro-Hungarian Empire,[8] which Kuehnelt-Leddihn claimed as one of the contributing factors to the rise of National Socialism. He also highlighted characteristics of the German society and culture (especially the influences of both Protestant and Catholic mentalities) and attempted to explain the sociological undercurrents of National Socialism. Thus, he concludes that sound Catholicism, sound Protestantism, or even, probably, sound popular Sovereignty (German-Austrian unification in 1919) all three would have prevented National Socialism although Kuehnelt-Leddihn rather dislikes the latter two.

Contrary to the prevailing view that the National Socialist German Workers Party was a radical right-wing movement with only superficial and minimal leftist elements, Kuehnelt-Leddihn asserted that National Socialism was a strongly leftist, democratic movement ultimately rooted in the French Revolution that unleashed forces of egalitarianism, conformity, materialism and centralization.[9] He argued that National Socialism, fascism, radical-liberalism, and communism were essentially democratic movements, based upon inciting the masses to revolution and intent upon destroying the old forms of society. Furthermore, Kuehnelt-Leddihn claimed that all democracy is basically totalitarian and that all democracies eventually degenerate into dictatorships. He said that it was not the case for "republics" (the word, for Kuehnelt-Leddihn, has the meaning of what Aristotle calls πολιτεία), such as Switzerland or the United States because of its constitution. However, he considered the United States to have been to a certain extent subject to a silent democratic revolution in the late 1820s.

In Liberty or Equality, his magnum opus, Kuehnelt-Leddihn contrasted monarchy with democracy and presented his arguments for the superiority of monarchy: diversity is upheld better in monarchical countries than in democracies. onarchism is not based on party rule and "fits organically into the ecclesiastic and familistic pattern of Christian society." After insisting that the demand for liberty is about how to govern and by no means by whom to govern a given country, he draws arguments for his view that monarchical government is genuinely more liberal in this sense, but democracy naturally advocates for equality, even by enforcement, and thus becomes antiliberal.[10] As modern life becomes increasingly complicated across many different sociopolitical levels, Kuehnelt-Leddihn submits that the Scita (the political, economic, technological, scientific, military, geographical, psychological knowledge of the masses and of their representatives) nd the Scienda (the knowledge in these matters that is necessary to reach logical-rational-moral conclusions) are separated by an incessantly and cruelly widening gap and that democratic governments are totally inadequate for such undertakings.

In February 1969, Kuehnelt-Leddihn wrote an article arguing against seeking a peace deal to end the Vietnam War.[11] Instead, he argued that the two options proposed, a reunification scheme and the creation of a coalition Vietnamese government, were unacceptable concessions to the North Vietnam.[11] Kuehnelt-Leddihn urged the US to continue the war.[11]

Kuehnelt-Leddihn also denounced the US Bishops' 1982 pastoral The Challenge of Peace. [12]"The Bishops' letter breathes idealism... moral imperialism, the attempt to inject theology into politics, ought to be avoided except in extreme cases, of which abolition and slavery are examples."[12]

See also

Writings

Novels

  • The Gates of Hell: An Historical Novel of the Present Day. London: Sheed & Ward, 1933.
  • Night Over the East. London: Sheed & Ward, 1936.
  • Moscow 1979. London: Sheed & Ward, 1946 (with Christiane von Kuehnelt-Leddihn).
  • Black Banners. Aldington, Kent: Forty-Five Press & Hand and Flower Press, 1952.

Socio-political works

Collaborations

  • "Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn." In: F.J. Sheed (Ed.), Born Catholics. New York: Sheed & Ward, 1954, pp. 220–238.
  • "Pollyanna Catholicism." In: Dan Herr & Clem Lane (Ed.), Realities. Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1958, pp. 1–12.
  • "America Revisited." In: Dan Heer & Joel Wells (Ed.), Through Other Eyes: Some Impressions of American Catholicism by Foreign Visitors from 1777 to the Present. Westminster, Md., Newman Press, 1965, pp. 197–205.
  • "The Age of the Guillotine." In: Stephen Tonsor (Ed.), Reflections on the French Revolution: A Hillsdale Symposium. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 1990.

Selected articles

Notes and references

  1. Campbell, William F. “Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn: A Remembrance,” First Principles, September 2008.
  2. William F. Buckley, Jr. (1985-12-31). "A Walking Book of Knowledge". National Review. p. 104.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Erik v. Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Letter to the Editor, "Our Coins Criticized: Visitor Finds Artistic Faults in All Except the Quarter", The New York Times, Nov. 26, 1939, p. 75.
  4. Rutler, George W. “Erik Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn,” Crisis Magazine, November 19, 2007.
  5. "Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (1909–1999)". Acton Institute. Retrieved 2009-04-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Rockwell, Lew. "Remembering Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn". LewRockwell.com Blog, July 31, 2008.
  7. "Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddih (1909–1999)," Religion & Liberty 9 (5), 1999, p. 3.
  8. Baltzersen, Jorn K. “The Last Knight of the Habsburg Empire,” Lew Rockwell, July 31, 2009.
  9. Congdon, Lee. “Kuehnelt-Leddihn and American Conservatism,” Crisis Magazine, March 26, 2012.
  10. Lukacs, John. “Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn: A Memoir,” The Intercollegiate Review 35 (1), Fall 1999.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Erik Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, "No Quick Peace In Vietnam", National Review, February 11, 1969.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Camilla J. Kari, Public Witness: The Pastoral Letters of the American Catholic Bishops: Liturgical Press, 2004. ISBN 0814658334 (p. 86).
  13. Brownfeld, Allan C. “Leftism, by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn,” The Freeman, July 1974.
  14. Chamberlain, John. “Leftism Revisited,” The Freeman 41 (7), July 1991.

Regarding personal names: Ritter is a title, translated approximately as Sir (denoting a Knight), not a first or middle name. There is no equivalent female form.

Further reading

  • Nash, George H. (2006). The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America since 1945. ISI Books ISBN 9781933859125
  • Frohnen, Bruce; Jeremy Beer & Jeffrey O. Nelson (2006). American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia. ISI Books ISBN 9781932236439
  • Romig, Walter (1945). "Erik M. Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn." In: The Book of Catholic Authors (Third Series). Detroit: Walter Romig & Company, pp. 173–77.

External links