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Why I Became a Conservative – Scruton

19 Jan

From the British Political Philosopher Roger Scruton:

I as brought up at a time when half the English people voted Conservative at national elections and almost all English intellectuals regarded the term “conservative” as a term of abuse. To be a conservative, I was told, was to be on the side of age against youth, the past against the future, authority against innovation, the “structures” against spontaneity and life. It was enough to understand this, to recognize that one had no choice, as a free-thinking intellectual, save to reject conservatism. The choice remaining was between reform and revolution. Do we improve society bit by bit, or do we rub it out and start again? On the whole my contemporaries favored the second option, and it was when witnessing what this meant, in May 1968 in Paris, that I discovered my vocation.

In the narrow street below my window the students were shouting and smashing. The plate-glass windows of the shops appeared to step back, shudder for a second, and then give up the ghost, as the reflections suddenly left them and they slid in jagged fragments to the ground. Cars rose into the air and landed on their sides, their juices flowing from unseen wounds. The air was filled with triumphant shouts, as one by one lamp-posts and bollards were uprooted and piled on the tarmac, to form a barricade against the next van-load of policemen.

The van—known then as a panier de salade on account of the wire mesh that covered its windows—came cautiously round the corner from the Rue Descartes, jerked to a halt, and disgorged a score of frightened policemen. They were greeted by flying cobble-stones and several of them fell. One rolled over on the ground clutching his face, from which the blood streamed through tightly clenched fingers. There was an exultant shout, the injured policeman was helped into the van, and the students ran off down a side-street, sneering at the cochons and throwing Parthian cobbles as they went.

That evening a friend came round: she had been all day on the barricades with a troupe of theater people, under the captainship of Armand Gatti. She was very excited by the events, which Gatti, a follower of Antonin Artaud, had taught her to regard as the high point of situationist theater—the artistic transfiguration of an absurdity which is the day-to-day meaning of bourgeois life. Great victories had been scored: policemen injured, cars set alight, slogans chanted, graffiti daubed. The bourgeoisie were on the run and soon the Old Fascist and his régime would be begging for mercy.

Read the rest here from the New Criterion

Two Americas

20 Oct

Gertrude Himmelfarb in her book One Nation, Two Cultures (2010) argued that America is comprised of two distinct cultures.  A traditionalist one (conservative, Puritan heritage) and a dissident one (counterculture of the 1960s).  She wrote:

As a minority, the traditionalist culture labors under the disadvantage of being perennially on the defensive.  Its elite — gospel preachers, radio talk show hosts, some prominent columnists, and organizational leaders–cannot begin to match, in  numbers or influence, those who occupy the commanding heights of the dominant culture; professors presiding over the multitude of young people who attend their lectures, read their books, and have to pass their exams; journalists who determine what information, and what ‘spins’ on that information, come to the public; television and movie producers who provide the images and values that shape the popular culture; cultural entrepreneurs who are ingenious in creating and marketing ever more sensational and provocative products.  An occasional boycott by religious conservatives can hardly counteract the cumulative, pervasive effect of the dominant culture.

A Taxonomy of Conservatism

2 Sep

From Peter Lawler:

Americans today are understandably confused about what it means to be a conservative. The Republican nominee, for example, doesn’t seem to be one. And the conservative movement seems to be as fractured as our republic. After this election cycle, conservatives are going to have rethink who they are and what they’re supposed to do.

Who will be there to lead the rethinking and realigning? Here’s a list of nine conservative factions or modes of thought around today. Consider this your beginner’s guide to understanding the rivals on the right and the issues that animate them. It goes without saying that this list isn’t complete, and you might identify with more than one group. That issue of identity has become bigger than ever over the past year. The advantage of living through startling and unprecedented events is that we conservatives have no choice but to reflect deeply once again about who we are.

1. Growth Conservatives

They are associated with the Wall Street Journal and the so-called big donors. They think the main reform America needs today is to cut taxes and trim regulations that constrain “job creators.” On one hand, they think that America is on “the road to serfdom.” On the other hand, they often think this is a privileged moment in which conservative reform—such as the passing of right-to-work laws—is most likely to succeed.

2. Reform Conservatives

These conservatives think that growth is indispensable and that it’s unreasonable to believe America could return to a time when global economic dominance and lack of birth dearth made possible unions, a mixture of high taxes and unrivaled productivity, and a secure system of entitlements. So they’re for prudent entitlement reform. They’re also for a tax policy that treats Americans not only as free individuals but also as, for example, struggling parents who deserve tax credits. In our pessimistic time, reform conservatives are also characterized by a confidence that nobody should ever bet against America, that we’re up to the challenges we face. Their intellectual leader is the think-tanker Yuval Levin, and they have the ears of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senator Marco Rubio.

– See more at: https://home.isi.org/confused-students-guide-conservatism#.V7heLTic2Fx.twitter

Is America drifting away from its Virginian – New England founding?

29 Aug

From Peter Lawler:

There were the original settlements — one in Virginia and one in New England. And ever since that time, you’ve had two conflicting impulses in American political life. The Virginians are all about liberty, as in Mr. Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. And the New Englanders — the Puritans or the Pilgrims — are all about participatory civic equality through the interdependence of the spirit of religion and the spirit of liberty. America works best when the Americans harmonize by curbing the excesses of both Virginia and New England. That’s what the compromise that was the completed Declaration of Independence, as opposed to Jefferson’s rough draft Yo, did. You see that in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which dedicated our country to the proposition that all men are created equal. And you see that in the rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr. at his best. The Puritans, in general, tend to be too moralistically intrusive, to turn every sin into a crime. They’re an important source of our history of taking sexual morality very seriously, and for believing that American liberty depends on Americans sharing a common religious morality. They’re also the source of some of our most ridiculous and meddlesome legislation, such as prohibition (and, in some indirect way, Mayor Bloomberg’s legal assault on our liberty to drink giant sodas in movie theaters). On the other hand, the individualism of American liberty sometimes morphs in the direction of cold indifference to the struggles of our fellow citizens. Mr. Jefferson spoke nobly against the injustice of slavery as a violation of our rights as free men and women. But he wasn’t ever moved to do much about it. And today members of our “cognitive elite” are amazingly out of touch with those not of their kind, living in a complacent bubble. Puritans, you might say, care too much about what other people are doing, and they say “there ought to be a law” way too to often. But they’re free from the corresponding excess in the other direction: the cruelty of indifference.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/439404/teaching-american-government-tocqueville-virginia-puritan-new-england-liberty-equality

To Christianity from China: conform or else. To Christianity from American government: conform or else?

3 Aug

Broadly speaking, in China there are two versions of Christianity. There is the one that is officially tolerated, accepted, celebrated, subordinated to, and accommodated by the State in public life. Then there is the one that is officially not tolerated, prohibited, discriminated against, and shunned by the State. Why the unequal treatment? In the former version, the State has determined that it poses no threat to national ideological and cultural orthodoxy and State power. It’s a version of Christianity that will comply with the reigning political elites and their ideological creed, even affirm them. As such, it is rewarded for good behavior with public accommodation. But the latter version, the underground version, has done what all authentic Christian communities have always done on their better days: bend the knee only to the Kingship of Jesus Christ and His Word. They fear God rather than men. It isn’t surprising that such a dichotomy in the 21st century, where a religion is accommodated only in so far as it conforms to a State sponsored creed, exists in communist China, where religious liberty and separation of church/state have never been a fundamental right/principle of the political system. We expect the State to maintain a “conform or else” attitude towards religious communities there. But in America?

Evidence?  Where to begin.  How about California Senate Bill 1146:

http://www.albertmohler.com/2016/08/03/briefing-08-03-16/

 

Do Christian colleges have a right to be Christian colleges?

5 May

From Adam Macleod:

Gordon College is still under attack for being an intentionally Christian college. For nearly two years, cultural elites in Massachusetts, led by The Boston Globe, have been waging a sustained campaign of accusation and coercion in an effort to force the college to abandon the self-consciously Christian identity expressed in its life and conduct statement.

The attack appeared existential at one time, when the New England Association of Schools and Colleges announced that it would review Gordon’s accreditation. Yet to its lasting credit, the college has remained steadfast in its witness. After a well-organized and vocal objection by the college’s supportersand other friends of conscience, the NEASC quietly backed down.

Still the attacks continue. Most recently, a former Gordon philosophy professor, Lauren Barthold, has filed suit against Gordon alleging unlawful discrimination. Her complaint is signed by lawyers of the American Civil Liberties Union. The college denies her allegations, explaining that she was disciplined by her colleagues on the faculty not on a legally prohibited basis but because she wrote in a newspaper calling for outsiders to impose economic sanctions on the college. She encouraged others to pressure the college to abandon its Christian moral ideals.

The ACLU’s complaint does not contradict that account. And if recent history is any indication, the full facts will vindicate Gordon College once they surface. None of the accusations leveled against Gordon over the last two years has turned out to be true, except the charge that members of the Gordon College community choose to live biblically. Gordon has not discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation. Indeed, Professor Barthold acknowledges the “many . . . LGBTQ-identified students who have found deep friendships, intellectual growth and spiritual support [at Gordon].”

So, this case is not about Gordon discriminating. This case is about Gordon’s right to be excellent in ways that other Massachusetts colleges and universities are not. The issue is whether Massachusetts courts will preserve the liberty of Gordon’s faculty, staff, and students to maintain an educational community that is unique in its moral commitments. On this point Gordon College can claim an unlikely ally. If the judges of Massachusetts read the writings of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then they will learn that Gordon College has the right to be differently excellent.

The Constitutional Right to Exclude

In its 2010 decision in the case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the Supreme Court of the United States declared and upheld the right of a state university to discriminate against unwanted student groups by excluding them from campus life. The unwanted student groups in Martinez were (who else?) religious groups that require members to live according to moral truths.

Read the rest

WSJ: Campus Unicorns: Conservative Professors

29 Apr

From Shields and Dunn at the WSJ:

Everyone knows that academia is predominantly liberal: Only 6.6% of professors in the social sciences are Republicans, according to a 2007 study. But what is life like for the pioneering conservatives who slip through the ivory tower’s gates? We decided to find out by interviewing 153 of them.

Many conservative professors said they felt socially isolated. A political scientist told us that he became a local pariah for defending the Iraq war in his New England college town, which he called “Cuba with bad weather.” One sociologist stated the problem well: “To say a strong conservative political opinion with conviction in an academic gathering is analogous to uttering an obscenity.” A prominent social scientist at a major research university spoke of the strain of concealing his political views from his colleagues—of “lying to people all the time.”

Some even said that bias had complicated their career advancement. A historian of Latin America told us that he suffered professionally after writing a dissertation on “middle-class white guys” when it was fashionable to focus on the “agency of subaltern peoples.” Though he doesn’t think the work branded him as a conservative, it certainly didn’t excite the intellectual interest of his peers.

A similarly retrograde literature professor sought advice from a colleague after struggling to land a tenure-track job. He was told that he had “a nice resume for 1940.” As Neil Gross has shown, liberal professors often believe that conservatives are closed-minded. If you got to choose your colleagues, would you hire someone you thought fit that description?

Yet the professors we spoke to were surprisingly sympathetic toward their liberal colleagues. “The majority always thinks it’s treating the minority well,” said the tormented social scientist mentioned above. “That’s a basic psychological trick we all play on ourselves.” Reflecting on bias in the peer-review process, a sociologist told us: “I don’t think there is conscious bad faith going on. I think when people read things they wish to politically sympathize with, it adds brightness points.”

Some professors suggested that there are compensating benefits to being out of place. For one, it’s easier to make innovative contributions. “I really do feel sorry for your absolutely conventional liberal scholar,” a political scientist told us. He imagined that it must be difficult to discover something new from “within the framework of their thinking.” Another made the point by posing a rhetorical question: “I mean, how many ways can you talk about inequality?” Other conservatives appreciated being held to a higher standard. “You can’t be lazy. You can’t—you’re not going to be cut any slack,” a philosopher said. “I think that’s a real advantage insofar as it makes the work better.”

That underlines an important point: Political bias expresses an intellectual orientation—one that inclines us to find some questions more important and some explanations more plausible. Because of this, none of us can rely on our fellow partisans to identify flaws in our thinking. Building an academic community with varied biases, then, is essential to the very health of the social sciences. Political uniformity makes it difficult to converge on the best approximation of the truth.

It’s true that in some happy cases social science is self-correcting. But it can take a very long time. Sociologists spent decades playing down the importance of two-parent households before finally admitting that family structure matters. As a conservative in the field told us: “Basically, sociology had to be dragged kicking and screaming until it recognized that broken families aren’t a good thing. It’s like, if you have to spend decades and millions of dollars in [National Science Foundation] grants to convince astronomers that the sun rises in the east.”

Read the Rest

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