If conservatives disdain statism, they should be wary of individualism; conservatism needs reformation

2 Oct

One of the most significant intellectual developments in my life was the discovery that there is an inherent drive towards statism and collectivism embedded in classical liberal individualism, the kind uncritically embraced by today’s “movement” conservatives.  Put simply, an a priori commitment to individualism erodes social authorities, obligations, norms, natural and organic associations and institutions.  That is, the social glue that holds society together and makes our experiment in self-governance possible is undermined by an individual-freedom trumps everything approach to life.  But when the glue dissolves, individuals will look to the state (the only institution left standing) to fill void, bail out their disasters, but never to morally judge individual choices, creating an almost unstoppable march towards greater social disintegration and great empowerment of the state.

From Professor Patrick Deenan (excerpt):

To the extent that modern “conservatism” has embraced the arguments of classical liberalism, the actions and policies of its political actors have never failed to actively undermine those areas of life that “conservatives” claim to seek to defend. Partly this is due to drift; but more worryingly, it is due to the increasingly singular embrace by many contemporary Americans – whether liberal or “conservative” – of a modern definition of liberty that consists in doing as one likes through the conquest of nature, rather than the achievement of self-governance within the limits of our nature and the natural world. Unless we recover a different, older and better definition and language of liberty, our future is more likely than not to be one, not of final liberation of the individual, but our accustomed and deeply pernicious oscillation between the atomization of our Lockean individualism and the cry to be taken care of by the only remaining entity that is left standing in the liberal settlement – namely, the State.

Read the whole short essay here from ABC’s Religion and Ethics page

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