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The truth is sufficiently obvious by now that perhaps we will not stand accused of mere jingoism when we say that most of the ideas necessary to the End of History were encapsulated in less than a paragraph some two hundred and thirty years ago:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Indeed, that's such idea-rich terrain that we're unlikely to be able to address them all, but let's pluck out just a few of the key ones:
(1) Human dignity comes from our Creation by God.

(2) As a result of that Creation, all Men begin life as moral equals.

(3) God grants us Rights that precede any human institutions and can not be justly compromised by any such.

(4) Governments are, in fact, created by Men in order to safeguard human dignity and vindicate those Rights.

(5) Legitimate government, then, can be said to serve God's ends and to require the consent of the governed. Any government that does not do both is by its very nature illegitimate.

So pervasive are these ideas that, for instance, I just happened to be reading a book, The Case for Goliath, by a rather non-partisan/non-ideological foreign policy wonk, Michael Mandelbaum, wherein he states as a fact:
Government is not the essence of social life. In human affairs it is secondary, emerging from, and playing a supporting role for, what is primary: the social relations and the norms they embody that make up society.
Thereby he dismisses, quite correctly, all of the competing ideologies of government to our own ideal of liberal/parliamentary/republican democracy.

The recent competitors--well worth dismissing--have been Nazism, communism/socialism, and Islamicism. But the original competitors were autocracies, which not only viewed government as primary but located that government in the person of one ruler. The longest lived of these despotisms, at least in the West, was the tsardom of Russia and it is this tragic phenomenon that Mr. Pipes explores here.

The peculiar form that Russian Conservatism took, and which Mr Pipes charts here, was apologism for the idea of the person of the tsar as the sole legitimate repository of all social and political power, a kind of hyper-absolute monarchy. As Mr, Pipes quotes Rotislav Fadeev (writing in the 1870s):
Russia represents the only example in history of a state the entire population of which, without exception, all estates taken together, do not acknowledge any independent social force apart from the sovereign authority...
For all the chatter about the importance of separation of church and state in America, the more important separations are first between God and the state, then society and the state, and then of government itself from the state. Where in Russia the tsar was the state, in the American system the governors (already an innovation) are to be replaced from time to time without much impact to the state itself being imagined. Anglo-American conservatism is, thus, dramatically different from Russian, and is best thought of as conservative liberalism:
Conservatism began to crystallize as a coherent ideology in conjunction with liberal trends. It was not opposed to democracy or to change as such, and should not be confused with simple reactionary positions. What it did was to insist that all change should be channelled and managed in such a way that the organic growth of established institutions of state and society--monarchy, Church, the social hierarchy, property, and the family--should not be threatened. [...] Like the liberals, the conservatives valued the individual, opposed the omnipotent state, and looked for a reduction of central executive powers. Through this, they often turned out to be the most effective of would-be reformers, toning down proposals coming from more radical points on the spectrum, and acting as the go-between with the ruling court. The ultimate distinction between liberal conservatives and moderate liberals was a fine one. In many democracies, the large area of agreement between them came to define the "middle ground" of political life.
    -Europe: A History (Norman Davies)
As one reads Mr. Pipes's account of the spectacular failure of Russia, in general, and Russian conservatives, in particular, to develop such a multiplicity of institutions and a coherent popular philosophy of why they are important, the history takes on the character of a tragedy. As it ends, with the assassination of Peter Arkadevich Stolypin, "Imperial Russia's last great statesman" and the one man Aleksandr Solzhenitsyin has argued could have saved Russia from what was to come, Mr. Pipes writes:
Stolypin was a sophisticated conservative liberal, the last of the breed. His failure to implement any part of his program, except the agrarian reform which he rammed through under emergency laws, and the enmity which confronted him from all sides, the imperial court included, demonstrates that Russia could not take the middle road: its alternatives lay between the extremes of black and red.
We, who know all too well the mass murder and mayhem that was to result from Russian/Bolshevik extremism, can't help but feel pity at this conclusion.

Making this history all the sadder is that post-Communist Russia seems to be lurching again towards the totalitarian extreme under Vladimir Putin. Reading Mr. Pipes we can see that this represents a centuries old continuity and should not surprise us, but he hasn't really explained why Russia should be so unique in its resistance to the middle road nor how it might work its way towards that road as we go forward. That makes the Russian future too look bleak.


Grade: (B+)


Richard Pipes Links:

    -BOOK SITE: Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger (Yale University Press)
    -BOOKNOTES: Richard Pipes, Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger (C-SPAN, 12/07/03)
    -Richard Pipes (Benador Associates)
    -ESSAY: Where Sovietologists Went Wrong (RICHARD PIPES, History News Network)
-ESSAY: Private Property, Freedom, and the Rule of Law: Juxtapose the history of England with that of Russia. What emerges? The importance of private property. (Richard Pipes, Spring 2001, Hoover Digest)
    -ESSAY: The Last Empire: Historians may argue over why the Soviet Union collapsed so quickly, but, according to Richard Pipes, the real question is how it survived so long (Richard Pipes, 2001, Hoover Digest)
    -ESSAY: Life, Liberty, Property (Richard Pipes, March 1999, Commentary)
    -ESSAY: Let Russia Fend for Itself (Richard Pipes, August 29, 1998, The New York Times)
    -ESSAY: Is Russia Still an Enemy? (Richard Pipes, September/ October 1997, Foreign Affairs)
    -ESSAY: Can the Soviet Union Reform? (Richard Pipes, Fall 1984, Foreign Affairs)
    -REVIEW: of KHRUSHCHEV: The Man and His Era By William Taubman (Richard Pipes, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Alone Together by Aleksandr Solhenitsyn (Richard Pipes, New Republic)
    -REVIEW: of Stalinism As a Way of Life: A Narrative in Documents by Lewis Siegelbaum and Andrei Sokolov (Richard Pipes, New Republic)
    -REVIEW: of ECHOES OF A NATIVE LAND: Two Centuries of a Russian Village By Serge Schmemann (Richard Pipes, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of RUSSIA: People and Empire, 1552-1917 By Geoffrey Hosking (Richard Pipes, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of TROTSKY The Eternal Revolutionary. By Dmitri Volkogonov. Edited and translated by Harold Shukman (Richard Pipes, NY Times Book Review)
    -PBS: Think Tank: Richard Pipes
    -INTERVIEW: Frontpage Interview: Richard Pipes: Dr. Pipes talks to Frontpage Interview about Iraq, the War on Terror. . and his own role in bringing down the Soviet regime. (Jamie Glazov, 1/19/04, FrontPage)
    -PROFILE: The hard-liner: Harvard historian Richard Pipes shaped the Reagan administration's aggressive approach to the Soviet Union. His support for confrontation over containment prefigured the Bush foreign policy of today. (Sam Tanenhaus, 11/2/2003, Boston Globe)
    -PROFILE: A Hardliner's Life (Kenneth Silber, 11/20/2003, Tech Central Station)
    -LETTER: The New York Times, Richard Pipes and historical truth (An open letter to the New York Times from delegates attending the Socialist Scholars Conference)
    -ARCHIVES: Richard Pipes (New Republic)
    -Author PageÊ-ÊRICHARD PIPES (Foreign Affairs)
    -ARCHIVES" "richard pipes" (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES" "richard pipes" (Mag Portal)
    -ARCHIVES" "richard pipes" (NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of
-REVIEW: of Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger by Richard Pipes (Mark Falcoff,
    -REVIEW: of Vixi (
    -REVIEW: of Vixi (
    -REVIEW: of Vixi (
    -REVIEW: of U.S.-Soviet Relations in the Era of Detente by Richard Pipes (John C. Campbell, Foreign Affairs)
   -REVIEW: of Survival Is Not Enough: Soviet Realities and America's Future by Richard Pipes (John C. Campbell, Foreign Affairs)
    -REVIEW: of The Russian Revolution by Richard Pipes (John C. Campbell, Foreign Affairs)
    -REVIEW: of Communism: The Vanished Specter by Richard Pipes (Francis Fukuyama, Foreign Affairs)
    -REVIEW: of Russia under the Bolshevik Regime by Richard Pipes (Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs)
    -REVIEW: of THE UNKNOWN LENIN: From the Secret Archive Edited by Richard Pipes (Richard Bernstein, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of THE UNKNOWN LENIN: From the Secret Archive Edited by Richard Pipes (Orlando Figes, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Property and Freedom By Richard Pipes (Charles R. Morris, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Degaev Affair: Terror and Treason in Tsarist Russia. By Richard Pipes (J. Bottum, First Things)

    -The -Ism That Failed: Neoconservatism relies on a history in which it alone won the Cold War. But that's not what happened. As neocons lead us deeper into holy war, it's time for a history lesson. (John Patrick Diggins, 12.1.03, The American Prospect)

Book-related and General Links:

    -BOOK SITE: Russian Conservatism and Its Critics: A Study in Political Culture by Richard Pipes (Yale University Press)
    -ESSAY: Flight From Freedom: What Russians Think and Want (Richard Pipes, May/June 2004, Foreign Affairs)
-ESSAY: Can the Soviet Union Reform? (Richard Pipes, Fall 1984, Foreign Affairs)