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Eric Voegelin

(1901—1985)


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(1901–85)

Prolific and abstruse conservative political theorist; factors which have won him a committed following in the United States. He was born in Germany, and as a lecturer at the University of Vienna from 1929 attacked National Socialism through books including Race and State (1933) and Political Religion (1938). The rise of Nazism forced Voegelin to emigrate to the United States, where he worked on The New Science of Politics (1952). This work attacked the positivist approach to politics, arguing that it was methodologically flawed and based on a false belief in perfectibility. He developed a concept of ‘gnosticism’ (having, as with much of his terminology, a particular Voegelinian interpretation) which arose from a displacement from social reality and gave rise to a disruptive belief in the power of knowledge to transform reality. In five volumes of Order and History (published between 1958 and 1987) Voegelin sought to discover what lay beneath the gnostic turbulence, advocating a philosophy of human consciousness which would reveal the truth. The revulsion shown towards modernity and his theological style have seen him categorized as a conservative thinker, although he himself disputed this.

Subjects: Politics — Philosophy.


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