Hilaire Belloc on the Crisis of Civilization

Hilaire Belloc

Why was western civilization in dire decline? Hilaire Belloc asked this question and gave his analysis in his book The Crisis of Civilization (1937). He sheets most of the blame to those great historical explosions, the Reformation and the rise of modern capitalism. They together had undermined the moral fabric of Christendom and led to widespread poverty, dependence and wage-slavery, which in turn led to resistance movements such as communism. He urged a return to medieval ideals of community and Christian love.

Click above for Paul’s essay on Belloc.

The Evils of Capitalism by Hilaire Belloc

The ideas of the Catholic thinker Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) may seem dated today, but he does have some relevant points to make. One of the main spiritual evils of capitalism, he argued, was “the increasing contrast between luxury and superfluity on the part of those in economic power, and the indigence or mere subsistence of those economically dependent upon them… Another spiritual evil not to be neglected is the impersonal character running through the whole: the divorce of human personality from production, the lack of a human bond between those who labour and those who profit by their labour; the anonymity of the great corporations under which the wage-earner works, or the remoteness of the individual who commands from those who are commanded”.

Among the material evils of the system areĀ “the inevitable recurring destitution for many and the permanent peril of destitution even for those who are not for the moment suffering it… there is the standardization of life, the increasing lack of choice and diversity in articles produced, the mechanical spirit unnaturally imposed upon the non-mechanical, organic nature of man, and so on” [from Belloc’s The Crisis of Civilization, 1937].

What has changed?