Tragedy and Hope by Carroll Quigley narrates and analyzes world history from the late 1800’s to 1964. Throughout Quigley’s narration he mentions details of individual people who welded enormous power and influence over events; it would be naive to suggest that they were “all powerful” – some of the time they successfully shaped history while at other times they failed. It is simply the nature of the hierarchical system of organization of society which encourages and allows such influence.

I would agree with G. Edward Griffin that conspiracy is an important force in the formation of history and is critical to understanding why events progress in various ways. However, we must be careful with attributing full power of determination to such forces. We should qualify with Bismarck’s comment that: “The statesman’s task is to hear God’s footsteps marching through history, and to try and catch on to His coattails as He marches past.”

It is humorous that most people on the far right recommend Quigley when he mentions several times in the book that he despises them and their motives. For instance on page 1244:

The second most numerous group in the United States is the petty bourgeoisie, including millions of persons who regard themselves as middle class and are under all the middle-class anxieties and pressures, but often earn less money than unionized laborers. As a results of these things, they are often very insecure, envious, filled with hatreds, and are generally the chief recruits for any Radical Right, Fascist, or hate campaigns against any group that is different or which refuses to conform to middle-class values. … They form the major portion of the Republican Party’s supporters in the towns of America, as they did for the Nazis in Germany…

This attitude is reflected in various forms throughout the book. On the other hand, Quigley greatly supports conservatism of an interesting type; on page 1232 he says:

… we might say that the whole recent controversy between conservatism and liberalism is utterly wrongheaded and ignorant. Since the true role of conservatism must be to conserve the tradition of our society, and since that tradition is a liberal tradition, the two should be closely allied in their aim at common goals.

He reflects on the underlying power relationships and how they function when he continues: “So long as liberals and conservatives have as their primary goals to defend interests and to belabor each other for partisan reasons, they cannot do this.” The traditions of society cannot be conserved because the power held by special interests opposes unification.

Far right people are the first to tell you about grand conspiracies like the Trilateral Commission or the Round Table groups as mentioned by Quigley. In fact, it was from a clip of Alex Jones that I learned about Quigley’s book. In my own experience both the far right and far left maintain ridiculous and unrealistic outlooks and understandings of power.

The Western Tradition, which Quigley mentions extensively, exists in his mind, if not in the real world, as a basis for all the progress and success of the people who self-identify as “Western.” He states on page 1229 that Western Traditions consist of six core fundamental ideologies:

  1. There is a truth, a reality.
  2. No person, group, or organization has the whole picture of the truth.
  3. Every person of goodwill has some aspect of the truth, some vision of it from the angle of his own experience.
  4. Through discussion, the aspects of the truth held by many can be pooled and arranged to form a consensus closer to the truth than any of the sources that contributed to it.
  5. This consensus is a temporary approximation of the truth, which is no sooner made than new experiences and additional information make it possible for it to be reformulated in a closer approximation of the truth by continued discussion.
  6. Thus Western man’s picture of the truth advances, by successive approximations, closer and closer to the whole truth without ever reaching it.

However, Quigley is no idealist, and his thoughts help to provide a realistic understanding of the nature of power in the hierarchies which control and function on various levels in nation-states. And he does this through a narration and analysis of “history in our time.”