>Anti-totalitarian liberalism and Gellner’s Viennese whirl

>Read with interest of Ernest Gellner’s “Viennese theory” that the anti-totalitarian liberalism of Popper and Hayek reflects the experience of “the individualistic, atomized, cultivated bourgeoisie of the Habsburg capital had to contend with the influx of swarms of kin-bound collectivistic, rule-ignoring migrants from..the Balkans and Galicia”. People like Popper and Hayek – whom Perry Anderson writes of as a White Emigration, I think in his English Questions – “would seem to be haunted by the contrast between the creativity of an individual bourgeoisie and the cultural sterility of kin-hugging gregarious migrants from some Balkan zadruga, whose clannish and collectivist leanings threaten liberty and progress’ (Plough, Book and Sword, London, Collins Harvill, 1988, 26-30). This is basically familiar populist/liberal cleavage known in much postcommunist politics literature in a new guise, it seems. Shades too of the Victorian liberal reaction to the political rise of the working class and the influx of Irish navvies, except that this political/rule class succeeded in integrating such ‘swarms’ culturally and politically. There was no Habsburg Disraeli and no compelling Austrian political identity akin to Britishness, though as Tom Nairn suggests in recent writing the British state at the turn of the 21st century had a whiff of Habsburg Austria about it.

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