The Utopian Conceit and the War on Freedom

(Academica Press, 2019)

Book Forum
October 16, 2019 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM EDT

Yeager Conference Center, Cato Institute

Featuring the author Juliana Geran Pilon, Senior Fellow, Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization; with comments by Jeremy Rabkin, Professor of Law, George Mason University and Author, Law without Nations?

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, “left” and “right” have been used routinely to describe conflicting political ideologies, notwithstanding their notorious ambiguity and—a fact too often forgotten—a shared utopian root. The dream of a perfect world has inspired each generation; that hope is universal. The vision of a demigod-superman who destroys all evil, thereby inaugurating a utopia of perfection and bliss, is at least as old as the book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible. But behind that apocalyptic vision lies a fatal conceit, to borrow a phrase from Hayek, which the Greeks called hubris. It reemerged in some sects of early Christianity and again in medieval millenarianism, Jacobinism, Marxism, Fascism, antisemitism, modern-day Salafi Islamism, and even “liberal” collectivism. In an age of rampant skepticism, religious and quasi-religious ideologies bent on the vilification and destruction of entire communities confront and undermine a confused, guilt-ridden, materialistic, often nihilistic Western society. In this book, political philosopher Juliana Geran Pilon argues that a strong defense of freedom and pluralism, which form the basis of constitutional democracy, is necessary for survival.