> The Ominous Parallels

with an Introduction by Ayn Rand   

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"The chapter 'The Nation of the Enlightenment' is the most inspired and inspiring tribute to the Founding Fathers that I have ever read."  

— Ayn Rand



Chapter 1: The Cause of Nazism





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ominous parallels book reviews
What people are saying about The Ominous Parallels

A Great Achievement

The Ominous Parallels offers a truly revolutionary idea in the field of the philosophy of history. The book is clear, tight, disciplined, beautifully structured, and brilliantly reasoned. Its style is clear and hard as crystal — and as sparkling. If you like my works, you will like this book. As to my personal reaction, I can express it best by paraphrasing a line from Atlas Shrugged: "It's so wonderful to see a great, new, crucial achievement which is not mine!"

Ayn Rand
New York, November 1980

Extraordinarily perceptive thesis

Dr. Peikoff has produced an extraordinarily perceptive thesis. His insights into the parallel philosophical tracks of pre-Nazi Germany and contemporary America are frightening. Everyone concerned with the collectivist trend in today's world should read this book.

Alan Greenspan, 
Chairman of the Federal Reserve

A fascinating book that clearly demonstrates the enormous power of ideas — for good or evil.

Martin Anderson, 
Assistant to the President 
Reagan for Policy Development

Nazi Germany: Evil ideas produce evil results

ominous parallels book coverThis book answers the plaguing question: How could it happen? How could ordinary people, seemingly decent Germans, turn into goose-stepping, Sieg-Heil-ing robots, eager to obey any orders, even to administer the "final solution" — the Holocaust? 

This book answers those questions, and makes the rise of the Nazis finally intelligible. The cause, Dr. Peikoff demonstrates, lies in certain philosophic ideas — the anti-reason, anti-self, anti-freedom ideas that were already deeply imbued in German culture long before Hitler's rise. If one were to compile a list of the most fanatically anti-reason philosophers since the Renaissance, almost every top figure — Kant, Hegel, Marx, Schopenhauer, Heidegger — would turn out to be German.

This is not to say that German culture produced evil philosophers. Just the reverse: Germany's evil philosophers produced an evil culture. Men act on their ideas, and ideas originate somewhere. Fundamental ideas, ideas about morality, knowledge, reality, are originated by philosophers. The vast majority of people simply absorb gradually the ideas available to them in their culture. Thus, most people get their life-shaping ideas, indirectly, from the philosophers of their culture (with a time-lag for these ideas to seep down into the educational establishment, the media, the arts, etc.). 

Dr. Peikoff's answer to "How could it have happened?" is: "The land of poets and philosophers was brought down by its poets and philosophers." This book is an impassioned call to jettison the philosophy of obedience, the philosophy of unreason and self-sacrifice, in all its versions lest we follow the German path to destruction. In regard to the U.S., Dr. Peikoff emphasizes the gulf between the pro-reason Aristotelian spirit of the people and the Kantian-Pragmatist philosophy of our intellectuals. This conflict is the source of the frequently noted anti-Americanism of American intellectuals. He points out that anti-Germanism was NOT a feature of the Weimar Republic (the period in which Hitler rose to power). There, the intellectuals and the people were united philosophically, and the intellectuals (e.g., Heidegger) lined up solidly in support of "Fatherland" and "Volk." 

This is a fascinating, gripping book, exhaustively researched, but presented with a masterful prose style, not pedantic "scholarship." It will change forever the way you think about ideas and history.

Harry Binswanger
New York City, March 11, 2000

The Cause of Nazism in essentials

What was the cause of Nazism? What made the land of "poets and philosophers" ripe for a power hungry mediocrity like Adolf Hitler? With the sparkling clarity that characterizes an Ayn Rand novel, Dr. Peikoff examines all the conventional explanations and shows that they are all inadequate. The real cause lies in an intellectual battle: a duel between the this-worldly, egoistic Aristotle and the other-worldly, altruistic Plato.


A formidable contemporary relevance in the history of ideas

It strikes me as an excellent survey of the causes and nature of national socialism and fascism. [Peikoff's] contention that the rise of these movements was not a purely parochial or accidental phenomenon gives [The Ominous Parallels] a formidable contemporary relevance not possessed by all or even the best essays in the history of ideas.

Anthony Flew
Department of Philosophy
University of Reading


A formidable contemporary relevance in the history of ideas

[Peikoff] is the leading exponent of Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, the man who will carry the torch of individualism over collectivism, egoism over altruism, selfishness over sacrifice, laissez-faire capitalism over bastardized mixed economies…[The Ominous Parallels is] a fascinating weave of German history, philosophic determinism, and Objectivist polemic. In it, [Peikoff] traces what he sees as a causal relationship between centuries of certain Western philosophic thought — namely the ideas of Plato, Kant, and Hegel—and the rise of Nazism in the Weimar Germany of the '20s and '30s… Philosophy can determine the course of a nation, Peikoff argues. It is its frame of reference, source of ideas and values, and root of its national character… It was the homogeneity of unchallenged ideas and philosophy — 'the worship of unreason,' vague, altruistic calls to duty, the demand for self-sacrifice and the vaunting of the state above the individual — Peikoff insists, that really led to the rise of Nazism.

Rogers Worthington
Chicago Tribune


Ideas Shape History

A compelling argument for the importance of ideas shaping history.

Ottawa Citizen


Peikoff's view deserves to be confronted by Christian conservatives

Peikoff blames Christianity for paving the way [for Hitler]. Christians will disagree, or at least seek to temper and modify Peikoff's tough verdict, as we do. But we also think that Peikoff's view deserves to be confronted by honest Christian conservatives.

Conservative Book Club


How ideas rule the practical lives of men

It is a wide-scale synthesis of the history of certain philosophical ideas, and their cultural manifestations, in both the Old World and the New. Among the fields traversed are the arts (from music to architecture), science, religion, political and economic history, education, psychology, [and] even cult fads, in both Germany and America. Nobody can come away from this work without a better grasp of how ideas rule the practical lives of men, and without a deep re-examination of his own basic convictions.

The Freeman

A comprehensive theory of history

[Peikoff] approaches his subject with the premise that he must analyze not simply how Hitler came into power in the 1930s, but how totalitarianism prevails in any country, at any time. That is, he is deciphering, not the history of Germany, but history … The primary theme of The Ominous Parallels is the challenging proposition that philosophy matters. It argues that philosophy is the most practical, and most deadly, of weapons for aspiring dictators … To offer a radical, comprehensive theory of history without blurring the theory to cover all the facts or shoehorning the facts to fit the entire theory, is a supreme achievement.

The Intellectual Activist


Copyright © 2010 Leonard Peikoff. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form or manner whatsoever without the express permission of Leonard Peikoff.