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Wascally encyclopaedist Waskey boosts summer reading with gift books

These are some of the titles sent to me by Jack Waskey, a former instructor at Dalton State who has taught government 50 years and writes for encyclopedias. I’ve just finished Anarchism by Woodcock and am going through Grimes’ American Political Thought. (Photo David Tulis)
Encyclopaedist Jack Waskey visits a set of works in the Mideast. (Photo Jack Waskey)

The books have come unexpectedly in the mail, sometimes two in a mailer, or two boxes on the same day.

By David Tulis / NoogaRadio 92.7 FM

They are from a benefactor in Dalton, Ga., Jack Waskey, the “wascally encyclopedist” who taught government 50 years to college students and whose conversation is brimming with connections, linkages, causes and insight.

Today on Tulis Report on 92.7 FM we will talk about the Battle of Athens, Tenn., in 1946, and similar revolts.

Dr. Waskey’s barrage of recommended reading has kept me busy this summer, and I am the richer for it. 

I’m in the middle of Kevin Passmore’s 2014 book, Fascism; a Very Short Introduction, one of a series from Oxford that includes progressivism, anti-semitism, and neoliberalism and more than 100 other titles. Passmore says it’s really hard to contain and define fascism, with its acme being Italy under Mussolini. It’s a sweeping short history, with all the big political names.

These lines stand out. 

Certainly, many fin-de-siecle thinkers opposed rationalism and its ramifications: liberalism, socialism, materialism, and individualism. They were pessimists who refused to see history is progress, and instead saw it as a desperate struggle against degeneration. The fascist call for an elite to save the nation from degeneration — the idea of rebirth from the ashes (palingensis) — emanated from this climate. In Germany,  various strands of spiritualist thought, descended from Romanticism, informed the idea of the German ‘volk’ — that is the people defined as an ethical, socially inited, patriarchal, ethnic, and linguistic community.

The most engrossing read has been Anarchism, a history of liberty or and ideas and Movements by George Woodcock, 1970. It explores Proudhon, Stirner and others whose anti-state argument, in many cases, envisions an anarchy with a “transient aberration” of an authoritarian institution. Anarchism is not a term for riot, breach of the peace, disorder or blood-in-the-streets, but for a voluntary society with little, or no, verticality. Some anarchists were assassins, many were labor activists, and all its writers were provocative critics of the state itself. 

Libertarians and socialists have their intellectual roots in anarchism, with one group favoring individualism, the other collectivism. It is of special note — though not developed thoroughly by Woodcock — that anarchism makes promises similar to those made by the gospel, that of a horizontal and voluntary society, and a slow doing-away with hierarchical power and control society of the kind we have today. Anarchism is fed strongly by the claims in the scripture of progress and development. The key names are Godwin, Stirner and Proudhon, writing in the 1700s and 1800s.

It is remarkable to note that anarchism and fascism have their roots in Christianity in certain strains of thought developed during the Reformation, starting with the doctrines of salvation and the individual. The modern state itself, against which anarchist resist, is a form of heresy in Christianity, just as is communism.

Dr. Waskey also recommends Authority by Fabian Wendt, 2018, by Polity Press. The last chapter theorizes about a liberated future in which justice is administered not centrally by a state, but by private market-drivin parties that compete for customers by subscription.

The gift books have included also American histories such as Moralists and Managers; Public Interest Movements in America, 1976, by John Guinther, with an insightful chapter on the reformers versus corrupt local governments. The chapter on reformers touches on Matthew Quay’s Philadelphia, “corrupt and contented” and others whose municipal governments were openly criminal, selling jobs on the police force, running brothels, skimming paving contracts, with fraud and theft hitting 25 percent of spending in some cities. With Quay, the gang centered on the city-owned gas works; he developed four principles to govern corruption under the rubric, “The secret of longevity in corruption lies in the control of greed.”

The magisterial Johnson

Dr. Waskey rightly knows Paul Johnson is today’s magisterial historian, and he included in his magical gift-bearing a copy of A History of the American People, 1999, 1,088pp, a magnificent volume. One of my sons read (at least parts of) this volume as part of his home education, and we have copies of many other Johnson histories. I recommend A History of the Modern World, from 1917 to 1980s, 1983 (with an update), A History of Christianity, A History of the Jews and Dr. Johnson’s amazing history of art (buried on a shelf in the front room, where Jeannette’s library lines the walls). I would suggest reading Johnson’s history of the Jews at the same time as The Thirteenth Tribe by Koestler. I recently read his history of Ireland, and will assert no history is as gnarly and confusing as that of the Irish. 

Dr. Waskey isn’t shy of sending argumentative and polemical books. One is Antifa by Scott Campbell, 2020, the subtitle being Satan’s Communists and Anarchists

In the same direction, but with less fire and smoke rising from the leaves, Dr. Waskey lets on that he is a defender of constitutional government, with solid reviews of constitutional republican thinking. This outlook comes from volumes such as The Founder’s Key; the Divine and Natural Connection Between the Declaration and the Constitution and What We Risk by Losing It, 2013, by Larry P. Arnn, president of Hillsdale College; Forged in Faith; How Faith Shaped the Birth of the Nation 1607-1776, 2010, by Rod Gragg; and If You Can Keep It; the Forgotten Promise of American Liberty, 2016, by Eric Metaxas, author of the noted Bohnhoeffer book. 

As encyclopaedist, Dr. Wasky thinks in terms of overviews. I am highly stimulated by Grimes’ American Political Thought, revised 1983 edition, and George H. Sabine’s A History of Political Theory, 1937, whose treatment of Hobbes is rewarding. Clearly, I just peeked into that one (771pp).

If you’re like me, I am “set” when I have books around me, and I am ready to draw on them, and to sit back and enter into them as God gives time, and leisure. I love books. It’s a weakness. Jack Waskey shares it.

The Tulis Report is 1 p.m. weekdays, live and lococentric.

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