A remark I found odd from Harold Berman’s “Law and Revolution”:
“[…] in the fifth [through] eight centuries […] tens of thousands of monks […] settled in the wilderness, first as hermits and then in monastic communities, and who attracted manyothers to join them in tilling the soil. Thus Christian monasticism was one of the factors contributing to the emergence of the European peasantry. Spreading across Europe from Ireland and Wales, the monastic movement fought the superstitions of nature that dominated Germanic religions, and it opposed to the pagan calendar, based on nature and the four seasons, a Christian calendar based on biblical events and the lives of the saints”
There are some claims about the importance of monastic communities in “How the Irish Saved Civilization”, but that was about preserving ancient texts & learning in an era when hardly anyone was literate (although Greg Clark claims that was also the case for patricians in the Roman empire). But I was under the impression that there have been peasants for about as long as there have been states. There were peasants in ancient Rome and I’m pretty sure most Europeans before the fifth century were peasants as well. I don’t think they all got along through hunting and gathering. I know that he merely says “a factor” but isn’t it one of the rules of causality that a cause cannot come after its effect? I also find it ironic that he favorably contrasts the Christian calender with the pagan when the latter seems much more appropriate for agriculture.
A few pages later he supports the argument that Christianity is to blame for liberalism. “[…] Germanic law, with its overwhelming biases of sex, class, race, and age, was affected by the Christian doctrine of the fundamental equality of all persons before God: woman and man, slave and free, poor and rich, child and adult. These beliefs had an ameliorating effect on the position of women and slaves and on the protection of the poor and helpless.” I’m sure some enterprising white nationalist can discover a converso responsible for it.
It’s an interesting book so far, but a bit intimidating in its size and detail. I can’t just skip the endnotes either, since they aren’t mere citations to works listed in the bibliography (as was the case for Wilson & Herrnstein) but extensive discussions of issues mentioned in the text. For example, the first note for chapter two begins at the bottom of page 574 and ends a third of the way down page 578. Try cramming that into an asterisked margin! This means I have to keep flipping back and forth between the main text and notes. The book is something like a better version of David Gress’ “From Plato to NATO” (though I admit to not finishing the last chapter of that). Gress is annoyingly caught up in the “culture wars” of the early/mid 90s and repeatedly inserting that into his historical narrative detracts from it. That’s not the case for Berman, though he writes that he intuitively feels that he is living through a crisis in the “West” or the law that signifies an end of an era (just as the Papal revolution did). Looking back to 1983 (when “Law and Revolution” was published), I think he was wrong. Jacques Barzun’s “From Dawn to Decadence” more plausibly argues for something like that, but he was discussing culture rather than legal foundations. I suppose neoliberalism and the collapse of the Soviet Union color my perceptions more and make the Russian revolution seem less relevant today.