By the telling of the intellectual classes, conservatism is the ideology of the elite, aligned with those who seek to preserve the wealth, status, and power of the upper classes against the egalitarian longings of the people.
Conservatism, it is alleged, was born in reaction against the efforts of ordinary people to gain some degree of political influence, economic justice, and social dignity against the brutal and inhumane oppression of the aristocratic classes. ... Per [Corey] Robin, conservatism is the default ideology of those who seek to conserve the status and privileges of the elite. ...
If Robin’s definition is correct, then today’s “conservatives” are that ruling class we typically call “progressive.”
It is instructive to consider what group in today’s America is driven “by animus against the agency of the subordinate classes.” Those most invested in maintaining the current form of class division—notably through control of elite colleges and universities which relentlessly sift and distill today’s economic winners from losers, along with support from almost all the main cultural institutions such as media, foundations, NGOs, government bureaucracy, public service unions, and corporate board rooms—are wholly controlled by “progressive” elites, people who have little hesitation condemning the backwardness and deplorableness of the lower classes. For a generation, it is progressives who have relentlessly turned to unelected judges and bureaucrats—often with the assistance of corporations—to overturn duly-enacted democratic legislation. Today’s liberal elites studiously avoid considerations of class, having replaced their historic claims to defend the underclass with obsessions over identity politics that, properly implemented through “diversity” initiatives at every university and workplace, are thinly veiled efforts to keep in place the educational and “meritocratic” structures that maintain the privilege of those same elites.
He concludes by sketching out the hopeful signs that conservatives--in this Trump era--are finally finding their true voice and freeing themselves from counterproductive ideological alliances:
The Left came into being by claiming the political support of the people against the old aristocracy, but conservatism came into being almost simultaneously, recognizing that this revolutionary class was actually more hostile to the basic commitments and inclinations of the working class. The Left rose to power by loudly opposing the existing aristocracy while actually undermining the conditions supportive of the working class, all the while installing their own leadership as the new elite that shrouded its status by trumpeting its commitments to equality ...
Today’s most vibrant and intellectually exciting critiques of capitalism, monopolies, globalism, cosmopolitanism, the financialization of the economy, and structural class inequality are not found on the Left (given their effectual commitment to all of the above), but among a new generation of conservatives who not only reject progressivism, but have split with individualistic libertarians and war-mongering “neo-conservatives.” Revealingly, those former “conservative” coalition partners have now found a political home with the progressives. ￼
The allegiance of the working classes is increasingly aligned with conservative parties around the world, fully recognizing the deep hostility of both “progressives” and “neoliberal conservatives” to their way of life. The abandonment of working classes from progressive parties is the deepest underlying source of their panic over populism—the mask has been lifted. The loss of residual working class support reveals the emperor has been wearing the finest clothes, bought with assets strip-mined from ordinary people. Conservatism wandered in the wilderness in its alignment with classical liberalism, but as that ideology has been discredited and its influence over conservative parties has diminished, there is—arguably for the first time—a genuine possibility of a conservative moment in America. Conservatism rightly seeks to protect the main aims of a well-lived life for ordinary people—family, home, honest work, production over consumption, decent places, stability, and a nation that protects these goods.
Today, conservatism increasingly enjoys the support of the working classes. The next thing most needful is to replace the current corrupt elite of faux egalitarians with a genuinely conservative leadership who will actively protect, support, and promote the goods of life that should and can be widely enjoyed, regardless of one’s wealth, social status, or ranking of one’s alma mater.
As an undergrad, I had a professor (closeted conservative) who would have agreed. "I don't want to conserve the current system," he told me, saying that our welfare state was almost entirely against our original Constitution.ReplyDelete
He saw conservatism in terms of ideology. But as Montesquieu wrote, a country's government should match its people. Whether we like it or not, our population is very different from that for which our Constition was written.
I see conservatism as a combination of ideas and prudence. In particular, people need to be able to plan for the future, and that requires at least some social stability: the political equivalent of stare decisis. It's better if society doesn't change too much too fast.
And apart from planning for the future, there are more ways for social change to go wrong than for it to go right. When change is needed and possible, we should change things slowly and carefully to avoid making the situation worse.
Conservatism has a few general ideas about how all societies should work, and other ideas about how a society based on British culture, history, and common law should work. Recent immigrants have no stake in preserving the latter, so America should insist that they assimilate at least in their public behavior. That includes showing respect for American ideals, traditions, and symbols. But we don't insist on it. That's one cause of our current predicament.
"I see conservatism as a combination of ideas and prudence. In particular, people need to be able to plan for the future, and that requires at least some social stability: the political equivalent of stare decisis. It's better if society doesn't change too much too fast."Delete
Our fundamental problem is that, for complex philosophical reasons, our country is now divided between people who largely agree with you and others who want to stomp you and your vision of a stable society into the ground. And for some time they've had control over the legal establishment. Not a recipe for peace.
Today's progressives are the new reactionaries desirous of maintaining the status quo. It is reaction against the efforts of ordinary people to assert political/electoral influence, economic fairness, and human dignity due to oppression by the oligarchic establishment/globalists.ReplyDelete
The oligarchs want to maintain a zero-risk society where the gains are privatized and the losses/costs socialized. Special interests so captured create a powerful electoral constituency where there is no competitive market pricing (incl free or third-party payor), e.g. Hollywood media/entertainment/Silicon Valley IT, heath care, universities, public schools, govt employment, govt contractor/defense-related industries, regulated banking, lawyers. Add govt dependency due to social benefits payments, and the new reactionaries would elect King George III to maintain the status quo.
Vote for the party that provides the bread and circuses, with legalized drugs to self-medicate into a mental oblivion so the people won't notice they're being raped.
Right now, many are complaining that $600/week (bread/circus) will be "taken away" at the end of the month--as if it is theirs by right or entitlement--and constitutes a loss.
Conservatism is about preserving the timelessness and permanence of truths in life--those truths that have withstood the test of time. What's unusual about this moment is that progressives or the woke-left are effectively destroying the culture while simultaneously protecting the robber barons of this era. The only things they want to conserve is the destruction of the culture and Western Civilization already underway.
"What's unusual about this moment is that progressives or the woke-left are effectively destroying the culture while simultaneously protecting the robber barons of this era. The only things they want to conserve is the destruction of the culture and Western Civilization already underway."Delete
Well said. And they're doing this with no serious thought, no reality based thought, for what will come after.