Why conservatives need Edmund Burke 

Edmund_Burke_by_James_NorthcoteIn another in our series of my-former-students-who-are-making-me-proud-by-their-writing, Gracy Olmstead explains why today’s conservatives need to pay attention to Sir Edmund Burke, the father of conservatism.

Burke, in criticizing the French Revolution, showed why social reform must “conserve” what is good in the society.  Rather than raze the society to the ground and start over from ground zero.   Interestingly, Burke supported the American Revolution, which–compared to what the Jacobins did–was actually conservative in its respect for God, insistence on English common law, and retention of traditional morality.

Some of today’s conservative activists are more like right wing Jacobins, opposing everything that represents the “establishment,” than Burkean conservatives, who, by definition, want to “conserve” something.

But my application isn’t to today’s political controversies.  I have been studying the Reformation lately.  The Lutherans really were advocating, in C. P. Krauth’s terms, a “conservative Reformation.”  The medieval church was in bad need of reform, but the Lutherans “conserved” what was good in it:  sacramental spirituality; the liturgy; the creeds; church art; the Christian intellectual tradition.  Later Protestants rejected everything that could remotely be considered “Catholic,” trying instead, in a succession of ways, to start the church all over from scratch.

Thus, in Burkean terms,  we had both a conservative Reformation and a Jacobin Reformation. [Read more…]

And now the conservative Generation Z

9091132233_9f8928fbbd_zForget Millennials.  A new generation is coming of age:  Generation-Z.

It’s being heralded as the most conservative generation since 1945.

One reason, according to Charlie Peters, a member of that generation in Great Britain, is their love of freedom.  Not long ago, that impulse led young people to embrace the causes of the Left.  But now the Left is associated with suppressing freedom.

Now that Generation-Zs are entering the university, they are chafing against the Leftist establishment’s rejection of free speech.  These young people, Peters observes, grew up on the internet and social media where people can hold any position and say whatever they want.  So when they come to the university with its speech codes and taboo ideas, they don’t like it.  So they are becoming conservatives. [Read more…]

The “current year” argument

new-year-clip-artSome people invoke the current year as a sufficient argument.  As in, “I can’t believe that it’s 2017 and we are still debating abortion.”  Or, “It’s 2017!  How can you believe the Bible?”

Nicholas Pell points out that merely giving the date does not prove anything.  It does express the progressive worldview, that things are getting better and better, so that an idea from the present is assumed to be better than an idea from the past.

Pell observes that many people are conservatives, who tend to believe that the past in some ways at least is better than the present.

The blithe way progressives use the current year argument demonstrates that they assume everyone shares their worldview, that they are unaware of conservatives and are unfamiliar with their ideas. [Read more…]

Marshall McLuhan, conservative Catholic

5571845609_c077117223_oMarshall McLuhan, who basically invented the study of media, became an icon of the 1960’s with his praise of the new information technology and his predictions of the new tribalism that it would make possible.  McLuhan arguably predicted the effects of the internet before the internet was invented.

And yet, as Jefferson Pooley reminds us, McLuhan got his start as a conservative cultural critic who, influenced by G. K. Chesterton, became a traditionalist Catholic who opposed the reforms of Vatican II.

I would argue that his criticism of the printing press and the thought-forms it made possible is connected to his opposition to the Reformation, which he called “the greatest cultural disaster in the history of civilization.”  And that his “global village” that he thought the new electronic media would usher in represents his yearning for Medieval Catholicism, with its visual images and its corporate unity.

Read Pooley’s piece on McLuhan, started after the jump. [Read more…]

The triumphs of nationalism

photo-1454991170847-afc8d5b828dd_optThe victory of Donald Trump–along with other political insurgencies in England, France, Italy, and other countries–was a triumph of nationalism.  It was not a triumph of conservatism, though conservatism went along for the ride and is generally hospitable to nationalism.  But the new political force is, above all, a rejection of globalism in favor of local cultures and a revival of the nation-state.  So says Mark L. Movesian in a stimulating essay, quoted and linked after the jump.

He says that nationalism can be either beneficial or malign.  Which do you think it will be this time, both in the United States and in the other countries where nationalism is coming back with a vengeance?

[Read more…]

Liberalism of the left & liberalism of the right

The well-regarded ethicist Stanley Hauerwas reviews a new book by John Milibank, of “radical orthodoxy” fame.  Entitled The Politics of Virtue, Milibank argues that both today’s liberals and conservatives are essentially liberals.  Both sides are fixated on “freedom,” whether sexual freedom or economic freedom, to the exclusion of other things needed for a good society (such as virtue).  Milibanks goes on to argue for a “post-liberalism.”

Read Hauerwas’s discussion and interaction with the ideas after the jump. [Read more…]