Several major themes run through Dawson's work, including the interdependence of history and sociology; the need to go beyond nationalist history toward a history of the entire process of cultural development; the need to study not abstract Man but particular men in their local relations, including their relations with the land; a trenchant critique of urban industrialism, rootless cosmopolitanism, and bourgeois culture; and a firm conviction of the radically destructive character of cultural imperialism. But perhaps the most unique aspect of Dawson's historiography was its unequivocal insistence on the determinative importance of religion in shaping and sustaining civilizations.
Religion, Dawson firmly believed, is the great creative force in any culture, and the loss of a society's historic religion therefore portends a process of social dissolution. For this reason Dawson concluded that Western society must find a way to revitalize its spiritual life if it is to avoid irreversible decay. Progress, the real religion of modernity, is insufficient to sustain cultural health. And an ahistorical, secularized Christianity is an oxymoron, a pseudo-religion only nominally related to the historical religion of the West.
Dawson held that the hope of the present age lay in the reconciliation of the religious tradition of Christianity with the intellectual tradition of humanism and the new knowledge about man and nature provided by modern science. Dynamics of World History shows that though such a task may be difficult, it is not impossible.
What They're Saying...
"Dynamics of World History is a beautifully thought out selection from over four decades. . . . The title neatly captures another dimension of the author's thinking. For Dawson, the cultural and particularly the religious element was the most dynamic part of human history."
— Weekly Standard
"For breadth of knowledge and lucidity of style [Dawson] has few rivals."
— New York Times Book Review
"This book, arguably the finest and most definitive summary of his thought, is recommended without the slightest reservation to historians, philosophers, artists, theologians, and lovers of letters."