Sunday, June 05, 2005

Traditionalist Conservatism

Just finished this interesting article in "The New Pantagruel." It is a little slow starting, but became pretty interesting to me about halfway through. I suspected I might be a neoconservative, but now think I am actually a traditionalist conservative. Some highlights:

  • The conservative spirit, as such, arises only when loss is at hand, or, probably more frequently, when loss has occurred. Consequently, there is always a “reactionary” dimension to such conservatism; the conservative typically arrives “too late” for mere conservation.
    So drenched in the progressive spirit is American political discourse (how could it be otherwise in the novus ordo seclorum?) that the backward glance is usually rejected out of hand, and with the most facile of arguments.
  • While in possession, we take our good for granted and, so, often fail to recognize it. But in the face of loss, the human good is vividly revealed to us. We lament the loss of goods, not the loss of evils, which is why lament illuminates. Is it not striking that whereas antebellum Southern writers championed both the economic and moral superiority of the “peculiar institution,” post-bellum Southern conservatives typically did not lament the loss of slavery, but rather lamented the loss of gentility, gallantry, domesticity, and the virtues of yeoman agriculturalists? While it may be true that nostalgia views the past through “rose-colored glasses,” such a criticism misses the point. To see the good while blinkered against evils is, nevertheless, to see the good. This is a source of knowledge, as well as a moral source.
  • Whereas the Enlightenment “builds down” from politics to morals, the conservative “builds up” from morals to politics. Perhaps it would be fair to say that the liberal tradition even today has not yet generated a credible account of moral life. Perhaps it would be similarly fair to say that the conservative tradition has not yet generated a credible account of political life.

Check it out.

1 comment:

  1. It actually took me two tries to get through that article (the first, failed attempt about two weeks ago, the second this past week) and I ended up deciding I fell within the 'Traditional Conservative' camp as well.

    Particularly challenging (but hopeful, perhaps) was the observation of the traditional conservative not yet generating a credible account of political life. Perhaps my frequent disgust at politics indicates my position within the 'credible moral account of life' camp, without having yet bridged the gap between the moral and political accounts of life. A gauntlet has been thrown down for both the conservative and liberal; perhaps this challenge is the first of many in attempt to further develop a Christian worldview that can be brought to the marketplace of political life.