This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Democracy as the most primitive form of government

“[T]he rise of monarchy appears to be an essential condition of the emergence of mankind from savagery. No human being is so hide-bound by custom and tradition as your democratic savage; in no state of society consequently is progress so slow and difficult. The old notion that the savage is the freest of mankind is the reverse of the truth. He is a slave, not indeed to a visible master, but to the past, to the spirits of his dead forefathers, who haunt his steps from birth to death, and rule him with a rod of iron. What they did is the pattern of right, the unwritten law to which he yields a blind unquestioning obedience. The least possible scope is thus afforded to superior talent to change old customs for the better. The ablest man is dragged down by the weakest and dullest, who necessarily sets the standard, since he cannot rise, while the other can fall. The surface of such a society presents a uniform dead level, so far as it is humanly possible to reduce the natural inequalities, the immeasurable real differences of inborn capacity and temper, to a false superficial appearance of equality.”

~ James George Frazer[1]

We view our own period as the apex of an ever-improving social awareness, democratic regimes being the most ‘civilized’ form of government yet devised. But this view is not adequate or historically accurate. Quite the opposite:

“Democracy or the democratic state is the natural state for a primitive society where the diversity of conditions is not very distinct; or maybe in an arbitrary state of cells where social conditions are considered having no report to political functions…We therefore find democracy sometimes at the origins of a society or in their decline but rarely at the height of their historic development.” [2]

According to Benjamin Disraeli it is not democracy but monarchy which “requires a high degree of civilization.” He added: “It needs the support of the free laws and manners, and of a widely diffused…An educated nation recoils from the imperfect vicariate of what is called a representative government.”[3]

Democracy requires almost no cultural foundation to be established. Even children naturally adopt democratic methods in their play when there are more than two of them in the group. It is not an advanced form of reasoning to follow the will of the group and to occasionally surrender one’s own desires to the desires of the mob. Many animal species do just this, allowing themselves to be guided instinctually, falling in line with the surrounding members of the group, de-individuating and melting into one body.

Of course, this point of view also implies something else: that the so-called ‘evolution of society’ in the direction of democracy is actually a ‘devolution’—a regression back to a less sophisticated state. We find this view affirmed in traditional writings, such as those of the Christian Father Hippolytus of Rome in the 3rd century. In his commentaries on the book of Daniel he set himself to analyzing the symbolism of the composite statue in its historical significance. He said that last and most decadent stage in history, the fourth kingdom, which was represented by the “toes mingled with iron and clay”, was to be understood as referring to democracies, the weakest and most inferior of all the political structures.[4]

[1] James George Frazer, The Golden Bough, Vol. 3.

[2] Le Marquis de la Tour-du-Pin la Charce, Aphorismes de politique sociale, cited and translated by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s The Menace of the Herd.

[3] Coningsby, Book V, Ch. 8.

[4] On Daniel, Second and Third Fragments. Available online at New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0502.htm.

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