“Conservatism Is True.” Ctd

Jun 17 2011 @ 3:34pm

PM Carpenter sees little difference between his conservative progressivism and what he calls my progressive conservatism. And it is true, I think, that the current British Tory party might better fit into today’s Democrats than today’s Republicans. But although I acknowledge that for an entire generation or two, “conservatism” has come to mean ideological, fundamentalist, cultural panic and hallucinogenic economics, I don’t want to concede the tradition of Burke, Babbitt, Hayek and Oakeshott to the left. Money quote from Carpenter in a post addressed to me:

I’m reluctant to get into the historical “origins” game, since once begun, one soon discovers there is no chronological end; that is, there is no indisputable, pin-pointable 240x240_bioimg_rHofstadter beginning point for virtually any contemporary phenomenon. That said, I would nevertheless suggest that though chronically unwell, authentic “conservatism” is alive, as your essay yesterday, and on frequent occasions before, showed.

Yet rather than labeling today’s immensely corrupted version of conservatism as “unconservative,” might I suggest you adopt historian Richard Hofstadter’s 1960s’ critical characterization of “pseudoconservatism” (regarding the ideological, radical right of that era). You are correct in seeing what flourishes now as un-conservative, but because its unscrupulous “conservative” practitioners insist on advertising their advocacy of it with a prodigiously pseudointellectual flamboyance, then let us, in turn, properly label their version for what it is: pseudoconservative.

Hofstadter’s essay is, indeed, staggering in its accuracy about today’s pseudo-right and its manifold pathologies. David Greenberg has a great review of his influences here.