Dogma and Dictatorship: The Political Thought of Juan Donoso Cortes

Dissertation, Boston College (1998)
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In recent years there has been increased interest in the theories of the German political philosopher Carl Schmitt. Schmitt was a Roman Catholic who was committed to a particular worldview that was authoritarian, antiliberal, anticommunist, and reactionary conservative. He was a typical representative of what can be called the "third generation" of reaction against liberalism and socialism. This reaction traces itself back to Joseph de Maistre. De Maistre and Louis de Bonald represent the "first generation" of reaction. That first generation rose in reaction against the Enlightenment and its progeny, the French Revolution. ;In 1848 another revolution occurred in Europe which gave rise to the "second generation" of reaction. That reaction was mainly represented by the Spaniard Juan Donoso Cortes . Donoso reacted against the European revolution of 1848 in the same way that de Maistre and de Bonald reacted against the French Revolution. ;This places Donoso in an ideological trajectory that began with the conservative counter-revolutionary reaction against the French Revolution and liberalism in the late eighteenth century and culminated in the rise of fascism in reaction against communism and liberalism in the early twentieth century. His theory of dictatorship was the first step in the development of an ideology of reaction and counter-revolution that was not wedded to the idea of a restoration of the monarchical ancien regime. ;Donoso has been seen by some as a representative par excellence of Catholicism. From his "Catholic" perspective, Donoso sees the world and human beings as corrupt and evil "in essence" and therefore in need of repressive mechanisms of control and imposed dogmatic explanations of "reality." The need he sees for dogma implicitly reveals the notion that the cosmos is unintelligible to human reason and therefore needs to be understood by means of imposed explanations promulgated by authorities held to be infallible. Such a stance implies that the cosmos is meaningless to human beings, or that their reason is so helpless that it cannot connect with any intelligibility in the cosmos and discern meaning through the exercise of critical thought. Only through the dictatorial imposition of dogmatic explanations can it make any sense, according to Donoso. The cosmos has meaning only through the dogmas concocted and imposed by someone wielding infallible authority



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