The Ominous Parallels

Ominous Parallels coverAlmost everyone acknowledges that Nazism was one of the greatest horrors of the 20th century, yet few understand its deepest cause. How did a supposedly civilized country— the “land of poets and philosophers”—degenerate into a murderous, totalitarian dictatorship? What made the Nazi campaign of murder possible? Can we be sure it won’t happen here in America?

Leonard Peikoff answers these questions in The Ominous Parallels, a study of the alarming similarities between America today and Germany just prior to and during the Nazi era. In essence, Dr. Peikoff’s answer is that the ultimate cause of Nazism was philosophy. Nazism, he argues, was made possible by a long line of German philosophers who advocated unreason and self-sacrifice.

In her introduction, Ayn Rand praises the book as offering “a truly revolutionary idea in the field of the philosophy of history.” What is that idea? It is the idea that philosophy is the motor of history—the fundamental cause of history’s major trends and the power that “determines the destiny of nations.” Because it addresses the most fundamental questions of man’s existence, philosophy sets the terms for all other fields of knowledge and for all human action. The Ominous Parallels shows in detail the role that the false ideas of Germany’s most respected philosophers played in shaping every element of pre-Nazi culture and in preparing that culture to embrace Nazism’s murderous ideology. In doing so, Peikoff shows the connection between seemingly dry, abstract philosophical theory and the blood-soaked practice of the Holocaust.

Disturbingly, Dr. Peikoff finds that the same fundamental ideas that drove Germany to Hitler are dominant in American universities today. The book’s thesis is that all the philosophic principles that led to the rise of Nazism in Germany have their parallels in contemporary America. As a result, the nation is moving towards the establishment of a Nazi-style dictatorship. As Dr. Peikoff writes near the end of the book:

“No one can predict the form or timing of the catastrophe that will befall this country if our direction is not changed. No one can know what concatenation of crises, in what progression of steps and across what interval of years, would finally break the nation’s spirit and system of government. No one can know whether such a breakdown would lead to an American dictatorship directly—or indirectly, after a civil war and/or a foreign war and/or a protracted Dark Ages of primitive roving gangs.

“What one can know is only this much: the end result of the country’s present course is some kind of dictatorship; and the cultural-political signs for many years now have been pointing increasingly to one kind in particular. The signs have been pointing to an American form of Nazism.”

Dr. Peikoff concludes the book with a brief and inspiring discussion of the positive ideas needed to change America’s direction.

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(Softcover; 352 pages)

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