Christopher Dawson and Political Religion


World politics shifted dramatically around the time of the Great War. A. J. P. Taylor opened his book English History: 1914–1945 with these words: “Until August 1914 a sensible, lawabiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman.” English people did not need passports to travel abroad; they paid modest taxes. The state largely left the adult citizen alone. During and soon after the Great War, this minimal relationship between citizens and their states changed. Government took on a larger scope of activity in Britain, creating new departments of shipping, labor, food, national service, and food production. Some people understood that this was a direct result of the war. Drafts forced citizens to serve the state; new regulations appeared for food, the press, and beer; and even the clocks changed with the first implementation of Daylight Savings Time. 
After the Great War, the politicization of life increased rapidly. In America and Britain the welfare state grew out of the New Deal (1933–1936) and the Beveridge Report (1942). On the Eurasian continent the changes were more dramatic. The collapse of the German, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian empires after the Great War left a power vacuum in which totalitarian political movements were born. Dictatorship arose in Turkey, and communism spread to China in 1921 and took over that country in 1949. All of these movements embraced social planning and an expanded role for the state.

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