FROM INTEREST TO PITY TO COERCION
Interesting comment by MICHAEL KNOX BERAN, author of the new book Pathology of the Elites, discussed on National Review Online.
“What’s so pathological about elites? Elites become pathological when they mask their will to power with a philosophy of social pity. Lionel Trilling said of a character in Henry James’s novel The Princess Casamassima — an American-born woman who marries into the European nobility and becomes a social reformer — that she “is the very embodiment of the modern will which masks itself in virtue, making itself appear harmless, the will that hates itself and finds its manifestations guilty and is able to exist only if it operates in the name of virtue.”
What Trilling is saying is that the ostensibly beneficent policies of the elite reformer very often conceal an instinct to coerce. “Some paradox of our nature leads us,” Trilling says, “when once we have made our fellow men the objects of our enlightened interest, to go on to make them objects of our pity, then of our wisdom, ultimately of our coercion.”