An American Theocracy? Peikoff's prediction in The DIM Hypothesis

edpowell's picture
Submitted by edpowell on Sat, 2017-04-22 21:30

When I read Dr. Leonard Peikoff's book "The DIM Hypothesis", I thought is was a very valuable take on the influence of a civilization's primary epistemological methods on the resulting culture and cultural rise and fall. Yet when Peikoff predicted an American theocracy I thought his prediction was not only incorrect but wildly inconsistent with his entire thesis. I put together my thoughts on his analysis and why an American theocracy is not in the cards, together with some ideas on how someone usually so perspicacious could get something like this so wildly wrong, in this essay, which I posted today in public for the first time.

A DIM Claim

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Ed -- I've only read a sizable minority of Peikoff's (seemingly very dull!) book. But possibly I'm going to have another crack at it fairly soon.

But I read your analysis above of The DIM Hypothesis, and I have all kinds of reasons for supposing that your views here are mostly correct. It's interesting that you note of some especially-wrong-seeming conclusion by Peikoff that: "This is not proper scholarship." I believe it!

But a thought occurs to me: If Peikoff isn't a scholar, then What is he? Certainly not an original or creative thinker who extends and advances the theories of Objectivism. And he's not a good leader either. Nor an effective popularizer. And, in my view, very far from being a good person. So, ultimately, this tedious book of his -- written at the end of his life -- is quite sad. Peikoff seems to be a pathetic figure.

As for a religious dictatorship taking over America, not only is religion in steep decline in Europe and America, but the New Atheists of Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, etc. -- starting in 2004 -- have written book-length and devastating accounts of religion, which will only grow more potent with time. So Peikoff's claim about a theistic takeover in the U.S. seems especially foolish.

Today's Right and Left both subscribe to fascism and socialism. This is the political danger. However played-out and absurd nowadays, they seem to have a decent possibility of defeating today's rising Tea Party and libertarianism.

Good analysis and book review, Ed!

Christian theocrats everywhere but what of race?

Doug Bandler The Second's picture

I haven't yet read Ed's essay but to me Peikoff, and the Objectivist movement at large, focuses on something like Christianity while ignoring the far greater and more important phenomenon of race. What Peikoff misses is that America is becoming a minority white nation. Does he not see the *massive* consequence of that? I guess not.

Ominous Parallels was one of the most boring books ever written. I still debate with myself whether it has any value. All Peikoff does is say this Enlightenment philosopher said this so America and this German philosopher said that therefore Hitler and the Nazis, etc, etc, etc. Greg Nyquist (Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature) has an excellent blog post on the Ominous Parallels and how it was influenced by Rand's view that history is moved primarily by philosophical premises which does not hold up. Its a view that Nyquist says was big in Conservative circles that Rand inhabited when she was younger.

Honestly, reading Kevin MacDonald or David Duke (believe it or not) or Paul Gottfried is far more informative on Hitler and the situation with organized Jewery during the first half of the 20th century. Reading Peikoff you would never know that the Jews were the majority of the Communist elites that killed more Gentiles than Hitler killed Jews.

I will say it again. Objectivism has no developed school of history (whereas the Marxists did and many Marxists were often excellent historians; ie Will Durant). When Objectivists deal with history its a good bet they are wrong. I see no one in Objectivist circles that I would trust on any historical subject. The exact opposite of the Austrians who are often affiliated with some of the best historians on any subject.

Nyquist piece:



Extensive research in pyschology, sociology, and history all demonstrated that social change was not determined by abstract philosophy. The belief in the simple causation between philosophical doctrine on the on hand and social crisis on the other belongs to a less sophisticated intellectual milieu.

That's a good point.

DIM - Obscure?

Neil Parille's picture

It got a lot of attention in the Objectivist world.



Tore's picture

good work. i am glad you did it, even though you didn't have to do it. after all, this is an obscure and unpopular book that went nowhere. 

Peikoff on Religion

Neil Parille's picture

He [Peikoff] has basically admitted he was wrong about this prediction on his podcast [America headed for a religious tyranny], though he has not elaborated.

Do you know which?

Peikoff and the orthos really have a thing when it comes to religion and the religious right (not that they seem to know much about either).  25 years after The Ominous Parallels was published Peikoff said if he were writing it again he would add more about religion.

I've enjoyed and benefited from Peikoff's books and lectures, but I have to say The Ominous Parallels was by far the worst thing he ever wrote.  Take the citations to what we now know are the spurious Rauschning Hitler quotes.

Religion Versus America

Neil Parille's picture

In 1986, when writing “Religion vs. America,” it was reasonable for Dr. Peikoff to write (paraphrasing Marx), “A specter is haunting America, the specter of religion,” because it seemed that the Christian right was powerful and gaining strength. But that specter has long since dissolved into nothingness, and it’s time Objectivists face this fact. The Christian Right has lost, and is continuing to lose more and faster, as the legalization of gay marriage demonstrates.

Maybe this is hindsight, but I think by 1986 (or even when Reagan's first term was winding to an end in 84) one could have surmised that the Christian right was actually on the decline.

And now the predictions of theocracy from just a few years ago by Objectivists (such as Diana Hsieh) that soon women would in the US be wearing veils (this was in the context of Christianity and not Islam) are almost risible.  Christians are now fighing for the right not to bake a cake for a wedding they don't like.

Secular America

Neil Parille's picture

Hi Ed,

Great essay.

The Objectivist world seems obsessed by the idea of America becoming a theocracy. Brook said prior to the election that a Trump could win in a few years but he would likely be religious.

Don't these people know that religion is on the decline in America? The percentage who say they have no religion is quite high. And immigration is changing this as well. There are polls that 25% of Hispanics in the US say they have no religion.*'**

"[Rowan] Williams himself, one of those bishops humorously characterized in popular media[3] by their lack of belief in God, is a perfect spokesman for the Christian clerisy desperate to find a new God."

When I first read this I thought you were implying that Williams was an atheist. I haven't read anything by him but get the impression he was moderately orthodox.
*Satanism among Hispanics seems to be on the rise, if MS-13 is any example.

**On the secularization of America, see this article from 20 years ago:

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