The contemporary relevance of Tolstoy's late political thought
2010-10-11T11:56:16Z (GMT) by
In the last thirty years of his life, Leo Tolstoy wrote countless books, essays and pamphlets expounding his radical religious and political views. In these, Tolstoy expresses his deep discontent with the state, with the church, with the economy and with revolutionaries, and he formulated a strategy for change based on his understanding of Christianity. This paper argues that many of his criticisms hold as true today as they did when he penned them a century ago, and that therefore Tolstoy’s political thought has not lost any of its relevance in the twenty-first century. The state – whether autocratic or democratic – continues to use violence or the threat of it to impose its will upon those who dissent from its agenda. The church continues to pay little attention to what Tolstoy sees as the clear and truly revolutionary implications of Jesus’ teaching and example. A deeply unjust economic system continues to thrive on what Tolstoy saw as the unacceptable premise of private property. And many of those who suffer in this global environment understandably and yet, for Tolstoy, mistakenly continue to be attracted by violent means in an effort to improve matters. The time might have come for humanity to consider Tolstoy’s alternative for society. His late political thought certainly provides an interesting angle with which to reflect on the world order, its discontent, and the dilemmas faced by those who are intent on changing it.