Summary: The Russian Nobel Laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the author of such classic works as One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Gulag Archipelago, is arguably the world’s most famous anti-communist. His writings and witness played an absolutely crucial role in delegitimizing communist ideology and in condemning it to the ash heap of history. But his positive alternative to “ideology” is not well understood. He has been crudely mischaracterized as a mystic, a nationalist, and an anti-democrat by critics who do not bother to seriously read or study his writings. But Solzhenitsyn remains a penetrating analyst of modern society and an acute student of the human soul. He still has much to teach us even after the collapse of communism. Professor Mahoney will explore Solzhenitsyn’s ongoing efforts to combine ancient spiritual wisdom with modern political freedom. He will also highlight Solzhenitsyn’s vigorous “Tocquevillean” defense of local self-government and his criticism of the “oligarchic” corruption of democracy in post-communist Russia.
Daniel J. Mahoney teaches political science at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass. He is the author of The Liberal Political Science of Raymond Aron (1992), De Gaulle: Statesmanship, Grandeur, and Modern Democracy (1996), and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Ascent from Ideology (2001). He has also edited and introduced writings by Raymond Aron, Pierre Manent, Aurel Kolnai, and Bertrand de Jouvenel. His essays and reviews have appeared in a wide range of journals including The Wall Street Journal, First Things, The National Interest, The Public Interest, The New Criterion, Perspectives on Political Science, and National Review. In 1999 he was awarded the Prix Aron.