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Solzhenitsyn: Freedom’s habits and hindrances (video)

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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn spent his life suffering the inhumanity of Communism, then revealing it to the world, then exhorting the West to revive the values that made it the world’s greatest bulwark of freedom. His work proved so invaluable that William F. Buckley Jr. once called the Russian dissident “the outstanding figure of the [twentieth] century.”

David P. Deavel, Ph.D., offers a retrospective view of Solzhenitsyn’s life, and a reminder of his message to the world, in a new essay posted at the Acton Institute’s Religion & Liberty Transatlantic website.

Deavel recounts the positive habits that Solzhenitsyn said contribute to liberty and the hidden enemies he identified that erode it. As socialism enjoys a resurgence in the West, one of these hindrances seems particularly worth revisiting:

The second enemy of liberty is a misunderstanding of equality, which is to be applauded when it means equal dignity as persons and equal treatment under the law but, when applied to economic and societal outcomes, saps the dynamic of action and responsibility that comprise our liberty. “Liberty, by its very nature, undermines social equality, and equality suppresses liberty – for how else could it be attained?” Solzhenitsyn observed. Asked by British journalist Bernard Levin whether it is true that free people could desire to be slaves, he replied, “Yes, today’s Western Europe is full of such people.” Today’s America is similarly stocked.

Deavel, the editor of Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture and a visiting professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, adapted this article from one of the three lectures he delivered last month at Acton University.

You can read Deavel’s full article here.

As an added benefit, Deavel discussed Solzhenitsyn’s life and philosophy – and its lessons for the contemporary West – with regular Acton Religion & Liberty contributor Mihail Neamtu. Their wide-ranging discussion gives fuller biographical information, a more thorough overview of Deavel’s lecture at Acton University, and even touches on Solzhentisyn’s views of contemporary Ukraine and Russia in the early years of Vladimir Putin. (There is a short technical hiccup, which you can avoid by beginning the video one minute into the recording.) You may watch the full video below:

(Photo credit: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn boards a train in Vladivostok in 1994. I, Evstafiev. This photo has been cropped. CC BY-SA 3.0.)

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Rev. Ben Johnson Rev. Ben Johnson is Senior Editor at the Acton Institute.

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