With the increased debate and attention given to the role of populism in politics and society, and the rise of more authoritarian governments, as well as new arguments for reviving socialism, the traditional manner of thinking about politics has come under criticism. East Georgia State College professor Dr. H. Lee Cheek, Jr. edited a classic study on these topics in 2007 entitled The Limits of Pure Democracy by the great English scholar of politics and religion, W. H. Mallock. The book has been recently republished by Taylor and Francis Books, a leading international publisher. While originally published by Transactions Books at Rutgers University, the new edition contains a revised introduction and additional materials, and is now available as an ebook and in the Kindle format.
According to Dr. Cheek, “The 1910s was a decade in which theories of socialism, pacifism, and collectivism flowered. Publicists and playwrights from Sidney Webb to George Bernard Shaw expressed not just belief in ‘utopianism’ but a vigorous assault on the existing political and economic order. Less well known is how a group of Tory thinkers laid the foundations of a conservative counter-attack expressed with equal literary and intellectual brilliance. Foremost among them was W. H. Mallock. In The Limits of Pure Democracy he argued that the pseudo-populist leaders of the political party system promise everything but deliver only the end of parties as such.”
For Mallock, what starts with populism ends in dictatorship. The Russian Revolution was simply the historical outcome of utopian socialist visions that were more dedicated to destroying the present system of things than bringing about a revitalized future. Mallock’s book explains how the modern free market succeeds through competition in increasing output, broadening occupational opportunities, and multiplying the numbers of skilled professionals. In contrast, welfare schemes serve to deepen poverty by spreading wealth so evenly that incentives to work decline and personal savings are eliminated.
These arguments have become commonplace again today. But at the time they served as an incendiary reminder that class warfare works in both directions. Mallock was a remarkably talented writer who made the case against exaggerated expectations, a nascent welfare system, and mass political parties led by oligarchs. But he also offered a case for increasing a regard for work, advancing the cause of education as a method of entering the modern world, and for retaining a sense of religious codes that define the West.
W. H. Mallock was the author of many books, including Religion as a Credible Doctrine, The Reconstruction of Belief, The Individualist, The Heart of Life, and A Human Document.
Because of the continued interest in Dr. Cheek’s edited volume, the Georgia Political Science Association will conduct a panel on the work and the book’s implications for politics in the “Age of Trump” at its annual meeting in November. The volume is also part of a long-term scholarly project by Dr. Cheek and Dr. Harry Vogel to critique utopian movements in society and politics around the world.