The Political Vision of J.R.R. Tolkien | CWR Staff | Catholic World Report
The author of The Hobbit, says Dr. Jay W. Richards, "didn’t like concentrated political power, even when it could seem to be justified for noble purposes."
Dr. Jay W. Richards is co-author, with Dr. Jonathan Witt, of the new book, The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom That Tolkien Got, and the West Forgot, published recently by Ignatius Press.Richards is Assistant Research Professor in the School of Business and Economics at The Catholic University of America, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, and Executive Editor of The Stream. He is author and co-author of several books, including the New York Times bestsellers Infiltrated and Indivisible, as well as Money, Greed, and God, The Privileged Planet and The Untamed God.
The Hobbit Party is a detailed study of the political principles and philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien, focusing on how the famed author's beliefs about liberty and limited government shaped his work and grew directly from his theological vision of man and creation. “Richards and Witt have opened up an often ignored aspect of Tolkien's work,” states Dr. Thomas Howard, “namely the sense in which his myth bespeaks a political and economic order that stands in stark, even violent, contrast to the presiding power structures that dominate this unhappy globe. It should be made required reading in all courses in political philosophy.”
Richards recently answered several questions by CWR editor Carl E. Olson about The Hobbit Party, Tolkien, Western civilization, political philosophy, and Catholic social teadching.
CWR: Why have Tolkien's insights into political philosophy and related matters gone mostly unnoticed or ignored?
Richards: I wouldn’t say they’ve been ignored. There have been articles and chapters of books over the years discussing Tolkien’s political views. Unfortunately, he’s sometimes been called into the service of ideas (from environmentalism to Marxism) that he would have abhorred. This is possible because Tolkien is a rich and subtle thinker who can easily be misunderstood. Every interpreter is tempted to remake Tolkien in his or her own image. Our goal in The Hobbit Party is to provide a sustained treatment of Tolkien’s political and economic ideas on their own terms, and to correct some of the false readings of them. Tolkien insisted that his books were not allegorical, but he did allow that they had applicability to such questions.
CWR: There are many readers who refuse to acknowledge or pay attention to Tolkien's Catholic understanding of, well, everything. Why is that? How best to change the minds of such readers?