Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Whither modern conservatism?

By Aussiegirl

This article might as well be entitled, "Ten Reasons Why I am a Conservative". Fantastic exigesis of fundamental conservative philosophy and belief interpreted for a new age. Don't miss this. The author includes some principles that should be conservative but aren't as yet, including beauty and conservation -- he has a point -- an appreciation of beauty, nature, and the environment is a naturally conservative value, which is sadly not currently appreciated enough and has been ceded to liberals. Here's just a sample of this thought provoking essay. It reminds me of the beautiful phrase from Proverbs 29:18a: "Where there is no vision, the people perish."

OpinionJournal - American Conservatism

In "The Conservative Mind" (1953), a founding document of the American conservative movement, Russell Kirk assembled an array of major thinkers beginning with Edmund Burke and made a major statement. He proved that conservative thought in America existed, and even that such thought was highly intelligent--a demonstration very much needed at the time.

Today we are in a very different and more complicated situation. Nevertheless, a synthesis is possible, based on what American conservatism has achieved and left unachieved since Kirk's volume. Any political position is only as important as the thought by which it is derived; the political philosopher presiding will be Burke, but a Burke interpreted for a new constitutional republic and for modern life. Here, then, is my assessment of the ideas held in balance in the American Conservative Mind today.

Hard utopianism. During the 20th century, socialism and communism tried to effect versions of their Perfect Man in the Perfect Society. But as Pascal had written, "Man is neither angel nor brute, and the misfortune is that he who would act the angel acts the brute." In abstract theory was born the Gulag. One of conservatism's most noble enterprises from its beginning was its informed anti-communism.

Soft utopianism. Both hard and soft utopianism ignore flawed human nature. Soft utopianism believes in benevolent illusions, most abstractly stated in the proposition that all goals are reconcilable, as in such dreams as the Family of Man, World Peace, multiculturalism, pacifism and Wilsonian global democracy. To all of these the Conservative Mind objects. Men do not all desire the same things: Domination is a powerful desire. The phrase about the lion lying down with the lamb is commonly quoted; but Isaiah knew his vision of peace would take divine intervention, not at all to be counted on. Without such intervention, the lion dines well.

The nation. Soft utopianism speaks of the "nation-state" as if it were a passing nuisance. But the Conservative Mind knows that there must be much that is valid in the idea of the nation, because nations are rooted in history. Arising out of tribes, ancient cosmological empires, theocracies, city-states, imperial systems and feudal organization, we now have the nation. Imperfect as the nation may be, it alone--as far as we know--can protect many of the basic elements of civilized existence.


At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Pindar said...

Thanks, Aussiegirl, for finding this great article that enumerates all the ideas that make conservatism such a superior philosophy. I was particularly interested in learning about the various kinds of utopianism, how important the nation-state is...but what really struck me was his emphasizing the important of beauty as a conservative value, an "unbought grace of life" [what a beautiful phrase] and his idea that religion needs to be "in its magisterial form": Religion not based on a structure of thought always exhibits wild inspired swings and fades in a generation or two. How true, how insightful!


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