The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
By Jonathan Haidt
(Pantheon Books, 419 pp., $28.95)
Sometime in the early 1970s I had an illuminating conversation with an expert on Soviet affairs. We ended up discussing Solzhenitsyn, and the expert expounded the view that the writer illustrated the emergence of liberal values in opposition to Soviet totalitarianism. I disagreed. Certainly Solzhenitsyn was anti-totalitarian, but that did not make him any sort of liberal. Even on the basis of those of his writings that had been published in the West up to that time, he looked to me more like a latter-day disciple of Dostoyevsky, opposing the Soviet system out of a belief in the uniqueness of Russia and its deep difference from the West. My interlocutor was adamant: Solzhenitsyn had to be understood as part of a developing liberal culture. Had he not asserted freedom of conscience against the state? And was not this freedom a core value of liberalism?It was around that time that I stopped listening to Sovietologists...