5 Ground-Breaking Books Written Between 1918 And 1945

Old books range from mildly interesting to immensely inspiring. A book written decades ago—or even more—by someone with an actual concern shows how people then perceived or thought things. It shows what issues were deemed worthy of concern, how this man and/or his time pondered at them, and what he wanted the reader to think about, be the latter a contemporary or not.

People from the Belle Époque (1870-1914) wrote beautifully, but were somehow too romantic, overly obsessed with aesthetics, and excessively implicated in intra-Western rows. They knew how to do prose and feats of erudition but showed reluctant to raise issues too deeply, perhaps because they put a lot of trust in progress as a kind of automatic process. Well, much before Adorno’s overrated “negative dialectics”, in 1919 everyone knew that dialectical processes do not always lead to a positive result.

The most interesting antique books one can find, assuming one’s interest into politics and what’s behind, were published after 1918 but before the Left took over the academia and cultural life.

These books, written after the butchery of the trenches, showed no more naive optimism or easy trust in progress—the Belle Époque equivalent of liberal feel-goodism. Said trust had died under shrapnel and bombs, alike with millions of young people, in one of the most bloody and absurd wars modern history saw. When the Versailles treaty was signed, an existential angst had started to impregnate the atmosphere. Thinkers pondered harder, deeper questions: they bravely put forward issues such as the identity of Western civilization, the nature of progress, the destiny of white people and demographics, the legitimate place of free markets, the equilibrium between social classes, and many other ones.

These questions are still ours.

1. T. Lothrop Stoddard, Revolt Against Civilization (1922)

Lothrop Stoddard, Revolt Against Civilization

Having been made “controversial” before the end of his life by the rise of the Big Left, Lothrop Stoddard is likely one of the most underrated American intellectuals of that period. Written at the midst of Bolshevist unrest, his Revolt Against Civilization argues that the development of civilization forces men into more complex lives, as they have to rely more on technology, obey to more complex laws and find their place in a wider world. Incidentally, this argument has been vindicated by Herrnstein and Murray’s The Bell Curve (1996).

Civilization, Stoddard notes, should require more intelligent and more virtuous men in order to keep evolving. The problem is that modern West has been undergoing the very opposite process. The Great War mainly killed the best and bravest, who died without offspring, whereas the craven and average were encouraged to produce more children as to get relieved from the front lines. Besides, a complex civilization would show unable to integrate or make a constructive use of “inferiors”—broadly, the impulsive, crime-prone, antisocial, low-IQ individuals—who in turn would rather make it crumble than let it evolve without them.

Ultimately, in order to save civilization and ensure its future progress, society should accept to weed the “under-man” out by not letting him procreate too much, whereas the best should be encouraged to have many babies, thus improving the human stock at each generation.

2. René Guénon, The Crisis Of The Modern World (1927)

René Guénon, The Crisis Of The Modern World

Guénon could agree with Stoddard on how human material had been dragged down in quality by a blindly industrial civilization. He hailed how, at least, the dogma of an indefinite “progress” fell, which opened hopes that the Zeitgeist would change for the better. Beyond this partial agreement Guénon’s perspective was quite different: he believed in the traditional (Hindu, Viking, Ancient Greek…) theory of the “four ages” according to which history follows a process of general decline.

Modern times were defined by the oblivion or negation of the sacred and the triumph of hubris. One could already see this in Renaissance humanism, which planted the seeds of a bloated baroque self-celebration and of the Protestant pretense to reading the Bible without genuine qualification:

Men were indeed concerned to reduce everything to purely human proportions, to eliminate every principle of a higher order, and, one might say, symbolically to turn away from the heavens under pretext of conquering the earth. (chap.1)

According to Guénon, the Vishnu-Purana—a sacred book of Hinduism containing prophecies related to a distant future—, the Apocalypse of John and other traditional sources had predicted the anomaly we are living through:

According to all the indications furnished by the traditional doctrines, we have in fact entered upon the last phase of the Kali-Yuga, the darkest period of this ‘dark age’, the state of dissolution from which it is impossible to emerge otherwise than by a cataclysm, since it is not a mere readjustment that is necessary at such a stage, but a complete renovation. Disorder and confusion prevail in every domain and have been carried to a point far surpassing all that has been known previously… Have we not arrived at that terrible age, announced in the Sacred Books of India, ‘when the castes shall be mingled, when even the family shall no longer exist’? (chap.1)

Just like Stoddard, Guénon advocated for the recreation of a potent and responsible elite. But unlike him, Guénon saw further than IQ and readiness to work: his idea of the new elite implied that they should be initiated, with an intuition of the divine and sacred, thus making them far more than big-brained managers.

3. Julius Evola, Revolt Against The Modern World (1934)

Julius Evola, Revolt Against The Modern World

Guénon’s unflinching critique of modern society—before Marxists appropriated the term “critique”, just as they appropriated many concepts they didn’t come up with—had a discrete but powerful effect. One of its main readers was Julius Evola, an Italian of noble lineage who showed an interest in magic and an impressively extended knowledge of history.

His Revolt Against The Modern World, that would eventually be considered his magnum opus, was a far-reaching study of a rarely matched quality. There Evola gave a broad view of what the “world of Tradition” is: a world where spirituality was a concrete reality lived every day, where religious rites were lively and genuinely connected their participants to the divine, where everyone would understand their right place and so on.

Then, after having drawn his landmarks from a variety of antique and medieval sources, Evola showed how the “world of Tradition” fell from its relative grace through, mostly, various wars, oblivion, and takeovers by inferior or degenerated castes. His explanations reconstitute the historical process of degeneracy from pre-Socratic Antiquity to twentieth century Bolshevism.

The scope and depth of this book are beyond any short description. Although everything Evola says isn’t beyond controversy—for example, he constantly tries to reverse the first and second castes’ respective roles—, the richness, coherence and clarity of his view make this book a must-read.

4. Alexis Carrel, Man, The Unknown (1935)

Alexis Carrel, Man, The Unknown

A doctor and surgeon, Alexis Carrel received a Nobel Prize in 1912 after making several breakthroughs in organ transplantation. His background seemingly didn’t predispose him to intellectual dissent. Nonetheless, in 1903, he witnessed a miracle on a train to the city of Lourdes and was upright enough to tell the story, which compromised but didn’t stop his career.

His 1935 book Man, The Unknown was such a best-seller one can still find good-standing original editions at a fair price. It is mainly a mixture between detailed accounts of anatomy and medicine in general on the one hand and more philosophical reflections on modern civilization and humanity on the other. Both elements are way beyond overrated contemporary essays, in scope, deepness, and detail.

Just like the aforementioned books, Carrel sensed that modern civilization had been marked by an insidious degeneracy:

Man cannot follow any more modern civilization on the path it entered in. There he degenerates. Fascinated by the beauty of matter sciences, he fails to understand that his body and consciousness obey to laws that are darker, but also more inflexible, than those of the sidereal world. (Foreword)

The modern world developed through a blind dynamic of headlong rush. Innovators have been running behind material power and economic growth, but then, the world of yesterday—a world humanity was more adapted to—has been forgotten amidst the crowds and smoke of factories. Science itself underwent a process of excessive specialization: knowledge has been splintered between ivory tower specialists, and, more importantly, scientists care more about the abstractions of their own theories than about facts understood through the lenses of these theories.

Carrel’s book attempts to give a small remedy by pondering about various related themes, such as the works of cells, organs, as well as heredity, environment or modernity, to give a well-rounded idea of man. That is, a synthetic idea instead of an uprooted, overly analytical, theory-originating abstraction.

Beyond the descriptions and issues presented, Man The Unknown gives hints and loose propositions of reform: Carrel suggests that urbanized people move back to the land, that children get more education outdoor, and, more controversially, that society stops paying a hefty price for criminals through an inefficient prison system.

5. James Burnham, The Managerial Revolution (1941)

James Burnham, The Managerial Revolution

Often referred to as a conservative because of his later book Suicide of the West (1964), Burnham is a kind of mixed bag. When he was young, he mingled with Trotskyites, got expelled from the Socialist Party, and broke up with Trotsky to turn into a CIA adviser against Soviet Union. His book The Managerial Revolution aims at describing the transition from modern capitalism, not to communism, but to a managerial State where technocratic directors supervise mostly everything. The book inspired diverse figures, from George Orwell to Sam Francis.

Burnham’s leftist—not to say Marxist—bias outcrops there on various occasions. He says, for example, that all ideologies stem from particular interests, an idea which shows a kind of jaded cynicism at the same time than a Leftist “philosophy of suspicion”; he also divides modern society in two classes, the “bourgeois” owners and the “proletarian” workers—a rather simplistic and obviously Marxist view where the middle class, as well as most individuals’ situations, are completely brushed off.

In spite of these bias, Burnham’s main thesis is of important interest and explains what has been eventually called crony capitalism. High-ranking State officers and wealthy businessmen, i.e. parts of the State and of the so-called civil society, mingle into a new class of managers. They can work in the private sector, be civil servants, or more often both through revolving doors. Whether they exert their power through law or money, they are a new class, Burnham says, and use their intelligence to justify their burdening paternalism: think about Cass Sunstein’s Nudge for a typical example.


Whatever their career paths and personal interests, all thinkers mentioned above—apart, perhaps, from the cynical Burnham—had an acute intuition of the degeneracy of modern society. They sensed the necessity to orient society anew, without falling into primitivism or destroying hierarchies. Each of them insisted on a particular aspect of modern degeneration, be it biology, the blind and unbearable effects of technology. Stoddard, in particular, was keen to defend civilization and its numberless inventions no matter the imperfections—even if he almost agreed with the antimodern Guénon on the need to reforge a true elite.

Most, if not all, of these existential questions have been put aside and their thinkers blamed thanks to Big Leftism. Today, we are struggling with these questions again, as we sense the necessity to break up with the era of globalists and consequently put an alternative forward. Reading even just one of these books helps to ponder them seriously anew.

Read Next: A Gentleman’s Pleasure: Collecting Pieces of History

45 thoughts on “5 Ground-Breaking Books Written Between 1918 And 1945”

  1. That I have never heard of these books says a great deal. I’ll have to pick those up.
    In a different vein, in 1938 Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Dr. Weston Price was published. The dentist started from a simple question: do we have to have bad teeth like I’m seeing in my daily practice? From there, he went and studied indigenous cultures whose teeth were perfect, and as a result he discovered a great deal about nutrition.
    The man discovered “Activator X”, which we now call Vitamin K2, and he named it such because its presence seems to make vitamins D and A useful. That’s the most immediate practical result of his research, but he also noted that the human dental palates (size of the part of the jaw where teeth live) develop poorly in the presence of malnutrition, and this appears to start to matter at the time of conception (i.e. if your parents are malnourished when sperm meets egg, you’ll have a harder time of it).
    Amazing work. Dense, but absolutely groundbreaking.

    1. Shhhhh! That shit is expensive enough as it is!
      Just kidding. But it’s a fun exercise do go on nutritiondata.self.com and play “spot the missing item on the vitamin list”

    2. I was going to suggest the same book. I also find all the study he did on retards very interesting, reversing it with proper nutrition if I recall correctly. Mongoloids? What do we call them now?

      1. Hitler certainly did struggle the last days of WW2 with the Soviets marching up and down Berlin.

    3. You never heard about them because Guenon and Evola’s are stupid books on superstitions that were never considered serious by anyone.

  2. Glad to see the managerial revolution on this list. Always a bit suspicous of ex-Trotskyists (in Burnham’s case Trotsky was his actual friend and intellectual sparring partner it seems) not least because it’s an evolution shared by many neo-cons, but I think the managerial revolution – at least as much as I have read – is kind of important: it’s one of the books that helps explain how very often it doesn’t really matter what specific ideology the state subscribes to since in all cases where you have a state, or for that matter an international order, it is necessary to have an elite technocratic class to administer it. This fits in quite neatly with Anthony Sutton’s observations (albeit from a conspiratorial, if evidence based conspiratorial view) that both capitalism and communism (as well as fascism and potentially any ideology) may share the same commitment to any kind of large scale, collectivist state – all that really matters in the end is that the elites end up running it – and ultimately it may not matter that much to the elites in questions whether the elites running the state or global order or whatever are capitalist or commie or whatever so long as it is they remain the elites.
    That necessarily Burnham’s point – he isn’t a conspiracy theorist as far as I understand – rather his point seems to be that there will always be an elite class whoever the elite happen to be – however the inevitability of such a class does help to explain the ideological inconsistencies amongst elites – if power is ultimately all that matters then staying on top of things will trump ideology. Talking of Trump that is also what you see with the transition to the new regime in the US – a complete and scurrilous fecklessness with regard to leaving the sinking ‘progressive’ democratic ship and jumping to the new populist republican one (I’m think of all those Goldman Sachs employees in particular).
    The final point that I seem to recall from Burnham is that while statism, collectivism may predict and necessitate elite rule, this trend towards elite rule is – as the article alludes to – also a trend towards elite technological rule. As the world becomes more global, connected and technologically complex elitism is no longer just about ruling families, castes etc it is also about those who will rise to the top on account of more meritocratic technocratic pressures. The elite will necessarily be a technological and professional elite as well. In part this accounts for the anxiety the elites are experiencing with respect to the populist turn in international politics this last year or so: our elites genuinely believe they are also experts; the people best qualified and credentialed to run society and the international order.
    On the other hand they fuck up so often and so completely the claims of the last paragraph could be bollocks

    1. “As the world becomes more global, connected…”
      Nice use of the passive voice there. Globalism is inevitable, goyim; just an act of God. It’s not a result of any particular human actors– it just happens, honest. Nothing we can do about it.

  3. Awesome erudite article. Thank you for putting the time in to write this. Read one book on this list and understand more than 96% of the Joes, Sallys and Sasqueneeshas you meet on the street. Evola still looks like if you disagreed with him he would lean across the table and take a bite out of your face.
    I especially liked this quote. I’ve been thinking this for years: “Carrel suggests that urbanized people move back to the land…” The earliest cities were smallish affairs, more for convenience than permanence, located ideally along trade routes near arable soil. We were never meant to live at population densities of 30,000 people a square mile. I often wonder how many mental problems of the “modern” world, including atomization of society and the death of the family, are derived from the artificially cramped and dependent conditions of urban life. All it takes is a minor natural disaster to throw an urban conglomerate into disarray; this kind of vulnerability is not sustainable.

    1. It is not erudite. Guenon and Evola’s are books on superstitions and never were taken seriously at their time.

      1. I was trying to give people the benefit of the doubt, though I secretly agree with you.

  4. I’d add:
    – The Revolt of the Masses, José Ortega y Gasset, 1930
    – The Crisis of Our Age, Pitirim Sorokin, 1941
    – The Road to Serfdom, Friedrich Hayek, 1944

  5. Anyone who has heard of George Orwell’s 1984 should also read Aldous huxley’s brave new world …. Whilst Orwell’s vision came true for Communist Russia and China… Huxley’s vision has largely come true for the western world , easy acess to instant gratification / drugs , the abolition of marriage and childbirth etc.

    1. Yep that pretty much correct!
      The Orwell vs. the Huxley approach of building a totalitarian world.

    2. Huxley’s vision is much softer: if you don’t like the society you get sent to an island with other like-minded folks.
      So far as I see in all the classic dystopia literature only Orwell has the balls to give a tragic end.

      1. true, what seems to happen nowadays is you get labelled an “extremist” and get harrased/arrested by the government and blacklisted for jobs.

      2. Actually they only got to leave the society because they figured out what was going on. So they were cultivated as leaders of the illusion placed upon the masses.

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  6. Every time I see recommended reading on ROK, it’s always something serious, politics,philosophy,economics etc.
    We all need to lighten up and read something funny. My suggestion for an old book that will make you laugh out loud (provided you can find a copy) is No Time For Sergeants by Mac Hyman.

    1. “it’s always something serious, politics,philosophy,economics etc. We all need to lighten up and read something funny.”
      Why not kill two birds with one stone?
      I collect anti-suffragist memes, posters, and literature: it’s everything you describe.

  7. It is amazing how STUPID Traditionalism and Perennial Philosophy is spreading among silly people in conservative circles these days. A philosophy that had zero effect in their time but is cherished by fools today.
    Guenon and Evola (and Schuon and Gurdjieff) were witches. They rejected modernity in order to go back to an era where witchcraft and the occult ruled the world, in the “tradition” of fairy tale Shambalah and Atlântida.
    Think about it: do you want to be governed by an elite of witches? The idea is stupid. It is anti Christian and anti masculine.
    Maybe it is spreading because most of the bankers and billionaires today are occultist Luciferians and want to validate their power over us.
    This whole article was a piece of propaganda to promote this doctrine.

    1. Evola was anti-Masculine? I’m sure as hell I wouldn’t go strolling about for a walk during an air raid…and what is Christianity if it isn’t pacifistic- turning the other cheek- loving your neighbour worthless shit.

    2. The only time Evola ever talked about witchcraft was in reference to African/Caribbean folk belief which he essentially considered ecstatic and inferior to traditional Indo-Aryan religions such as Hinduism, Norse and Ancient Greek belief systems etc…

  8. The Great War only killed around 11.5% of the British soldiers sent to the front lines. And those that died were selected by random troop rotation. Any author who claims it killed the best and the bravest knows little about WW1.
    I didn’t bother to read any further as the first book selected was clearly jingoistic nonsense..

    1. Not to mention, bravery had nothing to do with intelligence. I think the more intelligent men if anything would have avoided doing fighting because they would have had an easier time recognizing WWI was, with the exception of Serbia, not actually a war for your country.

  9. “the “bourgeois” owners and the “proletarian” workers—a rather simplistic and obviously Marxist view where the middle class, as well as most individuals’ situations, are completely brushed off.” That isn’t true at all. Marxist recognize the middle class as the Petite bourgeoisie.

      1. Well yes they generally do, but what Americans consider to be “middle class” isn’t middle class at all, by any economic definition, its lower/working class/proletariat.

  10. NICE… Another great article/advice worth paying attention to since I usually read one in every 20, maybe? Will try to find this books ASAP.

  11. The argument to weed out the “under-man” is scary. Under a this guise you can justify genocide, removal of human rights etc. It is a slippery slope. Perhaps it is better, yet harder, to help each man achieve their God given right to get educated, build his moral character, and lift him up. At a core everyman starts out the same and is entitled to the same prosperity as anyone else in the world.

  12. Any list of this nature which does not include at least one work of Albert Jay Nock is fatally flawed. Start with “Our Enemy, The State” and carry on from there.

  13. Nice job. Just a couple of points:
    Burnham’s work in “The Managerial Revolution” is also useful in demonstrating some of the inevitable problems that accompanying the increase in what the MPC goys would call SCALE.
    “Lothrop Stoddard is likely one of the most underrated American intellectuals of that period.” Ezra Pound is likely another.

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