R. R. RenoAug 12, 2020
Return of the Strong Gods
Nationalism, Populism and the Future of the West
Gateway Editions 2019
One of America’s leading intellectuals has written the book which analyzes and explains the current discontents and malcontents of the contemporary West.
After the staggering slaughter of back-to-back world wars, Western elites embraced the ideal of the “open society.” The goal being: By liberating ourselves from the old attachments to nation, clan, and religion that had fueled centuries of violence, we in the West could build a prosperous world without borders, freed from dogmas and managed by experts.
But the populism and nationalism that are upending politics in America and Europe are a sign that after three generations, the postwar consensus is breaking down. With compelling insight, Dr. R. R. Reno argues that we are witnessing the return of the “strong gods”—the powerful loyalties that bind men to their homeland and to one another, in his new book: Return of the Strong Gods: Nationalism, Populism and the Future of the West (Gateway Editions, 2019).
Reacting to the unmitigated horror of the first half of the twentieth century, our political, cultural, and financial elites promoted open borders, open markets, and open minds. But this never-ending project of openness has hardened into a set of anti-dogmatic dogmas which destroy the social solidarity rooted in family, faith, and nation. While they worry about the return of fascism, our societies are facing the prospect of dissolving.
But man will not tolerate social dissolution indefinitely. Dr. Reno argues cogently that man longs to be part of a “we”—the fruit of shared loves—which gives his life meaning. The strong gods will return, Dr. Reno warns, in one form or another. Our task is to attend to those that, appealing to our reason as well as our hearts, inspire the best of our traditions. Otherwise, we shall invite the darker gods whose return our open society was intended to forestall.
Dr. R. R. Reno is the editor of the well-known periodical First Things. He has a doctorate in religious ethics from Yale University and taught at Creighton University for twenty years. He has written a good number of well-received books.
Charles Coutinho Ph. D. of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written recently for Chatham House’s International Affairs.