Monday, October 23, 2023

Victor Hugo’s fallacious argument on ideas whose time has come

"No army can stop an idea whose time has come." 

This saying, often attributed to Victor Hugo, smacks of the "hindsight is 20/20" fallacy. It is deterministic and wrong. You can look back and see which ideas have been victorious and make the claim that the time for these ideas had come. 

But this is an absurd way of analyzing history. It will not lead to an understanding of the factors that led to the victory of any idea. 

A powerful army can crush any idea. A well-armed, well-trained and powerful army, led by a ruthless and visionary political leadership, is the ultimate force in history. History is made by armies, not by ideas. 

The Middle Eastern religious and political ideas won (from 8th to 16th centuries) because the Middle Eastern empires had powerful armies. Imperialism won (from 16th to 19th centuries) for the same reason—the European empires had powerful armies. 

Marxism won in the 20th century because leaders like Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao and Castro were leading powerful political movements and armies.

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