Yesterday I came across a review of a book that critiques--at least partially--the ideology that lies behind most of what's wrong in American life. You'll quickly recognize that the ideology as described is the same ideology that is described by political philosophers like Patrick Deneen. This is the ideology that grew out of the late medieval nominalism that maintained that there is no such thing as common natures, such as human nature--instead, only atomistic individuals exist. This has in the ensuing centuries become the default ideology of the modern world, and underlies the politics and policies of both Right and Left--whether most persons living under the sway of the this ideology recognize it or not.
This fact explains the phenomenon that we call the "Uniparty" and the result that the difference between liberal and "conservative" administrations is largely a matter of how quickly we descend the slippery slope. The solution, of course, is to escape from that slippery slope by adopting a true philosophy and rejecting this anti-human ideology. The difficulty in this is that, in the course of centuries, it has become almost impossible for us in the West to think outside the box of this ideology. Even the institutions, such as the Church, that should be most strongly resisting it have largely succumbed--gradually but, at this point, virtually completely.
The book in question is by Scott Yenor, a professor of political science at Boise State University. Yennor's focus is on the harm this ideology has done and continues to do to the family as the key societal institution. His contention is that this harm is in no way coincidental. For our purposes, the difference between Right and Left in this regard is largely in the intent. "Conservatives" adopt the harmful policies mostly without the intent to harm the family as such--they do it because they cannot conceive of a different way of understanding human reality and so are putty in the hands of ideologues. Their goal is simply to continue "moderately", gradually. Not so with the Left.
A review of “The Recovery of Family Life: Exposing the Limits of Modern Ideologies,” by Scott Yenor (Baylor University Press, 368 pages, $49.95)
Scott Yenor recognizes the family is disintegrating and that this is the result of an intentional project of the radical Left. How does one reach a modus vivendi with such people?
by Kevin Portteus
Yenor describes our current cultural situation as a “rolling revolution”: a continuous, and continuously-evolving, attempt to remake American society. ... The ultimate goal is perfect “autonomy”—the ability of the atomistic individual to define his own existence, to “live his own truth” free from any external constraints, but particularly those of patriarchal, repressive American culture, Western civilization, and Christian morality.
Here we see expressed the truly revolutionary agenda behind Anthony Kennedy's famous "sweet mystery of life" opinion (cf. The Wages Of Libertarianism: Huge Government). According to the doctrinaire Libertarian Kennedy:
“At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
This is a nearly perfect expression--allowing for its New Agey feel--of the nominalism that lies behind the Classical Liberal view of human nature that is the basis for both Right and Left. In such a view there can be no privileged, let alone secure, position for the family as a societal institution.
Yenor recognizes the family is disintegrating and that this is the result of a conscious and intentional project of the radical Left, ... He wants to understand that project, its consequences, and what we can do to salvage meaningful family life and its inestimable blessings of community, trust, mental and emotional health, and living for more than oneself and one’s own pleasures.
The strongest part of the book is Yenor’s description and critique of three theoretically distinct, yet practically inseparable doctrines of our modern politics and culture, which have combined to facilitate the rolling revolution.
First, feminism, particularly the second-wave variety, seeks the creation of a “50-50” world where sex distinctions are meaningless. It treats any differences between men and women as the products of sexism and discrimination and seeks to annihilate them.
Of course, many women will protest that this is not their view of 'feminism' at all--they just want 'fair' treatment. The problem is that, in a society in which 'rights' inhere in atomistic individuals rather than expressing a harmonious human nature which is inherently social, the demand for 'fairness' and 'rights' place you squarely on the slippery slope. Understood as the demands of atomistic individuals, 'rights' become the battlefield in which individuals seek power at the expense of others. There's no avoiding this outcome once you reject the philosophy of human nature in favor of a 'social contract.'
Second, contemporary liberalism seeks to strip all the values out of the law, to create a morally neutral system that allows people genuine freedom to choose. The ideal is the “pure relationship,” based on continuous consent, where people invent their own happiness and then pursue it, forming and dissolving relationships as they see fit.
Finally, the doctrine of sexual liberation maintains that all the moral evils of our culture are the product of sexual repression. By legalizing and normalizing all practices, subject only to the restrictions of consent and the safety of the parties involved, the pathologies that result from our sexually repressive society will disappear.
As Yenor will argue, these 'doctrines' of liberation are exactly that: doctrines that are held with an unholy, demonic fervor. The adherents of this doctrine of liberation will inevitably seek to impose it on others even as they maintain that they are acting in the name of moral neutrality--they will define the limits of the mandatory tolerance that they will impose.
Each one of these ideologies, Yenor proceeds to show, is fatally flawed. Radical feminism founders on the shoals of human nature. Try though we might try to eradicate them, the differences between men and women are at some level indestructible. ...
The problem for contemporary liberalism is that all laws and legal systems embody moral judgments. It is impossible to create a “value-free” legal system, and the value judgments embedded in liberal legal reforms cannot help but influence the culture. Like feminism, sexual liberation is blocked by the durability of human nature. We have not yet been able to eradicate the natural sense that sex is something different, something special.
Unfortunately, Yenor fails to fully appreciate the radicalism behind this--there is no possibility of pluralism in a Liberal society which is a battleground in which atomistic individuals seek to extend the power and reach of their 'rights'. Society is then simply a field on which the battle of all against all is fought out to its zero sum conclusion--as we see ever more clearly. Thus, sadly, we read:
[Yennor] seeks a modus vivendi with the Left, under which all can agree to live in a pluralistic society.
There can and never will be such a modus vivendi. The history of the West is of the progressive descent of the slippery slope leading to ideological intolerance. The illusion of past tolerance is simply the result of a progress that began gradually. But the working out of the ideological consequences is everywhere inexorable. Those in the grips of ideology, since they have blinded themselves to the reality of human nature, must seek to expand the influence of their ideology.
These conclusions, not surprisingly coming from a political philosopher like Yenor, closely follow the analysis in Eric Voegelin's The New Science of Politics, especially the chapter "Gnostic Revolution--The Puritan Case." That Voegelin selects as his example of Gnostic revolutionaries the Puritans rather than modern Leftists is his way of drawing attention to the shared basic ideology of Left and Right in the modern West.
These revolutionaries are completely uninterested in negotiation or compromise. They are certain they are “on the right side of history,” completely convinced of their own rectitude, and they recognize no morality except what serves their revolutionary goals.
How does one reach a modus vivendi with such people? How can one compromise with people who believe themselves morally justified in destroying everyone and everything that does not share their ideology? ...
by Michael Barone
Law professors are surprisingly open to speech suppression, as Thomas Edsall reported in his New York Times blog. Yale’s Robert Post lamented that “the formation of public opinion is out of control”; California, Irvine’s Rick Hasen lamented “a market failure when it comes to reliable information voters need”; Columbia’s Tim Wu suggested “the weaponization of speech” makes the First Amendment jurisprudence “increasingly obsolete.”
There are many lessons to be drawn from the 2020 election. The transformation of the United States of America from a republic into an oligarchy is a large and portentous lesson.
The ostensible reason for turning the capital of the United States into an armed camp is to protect the mostly virtual inauguration of China’s Big Guy, Joe Biden, against the onslaught of all those “right-wing extremists,” “white supremacists,” etc. that the magical magus Donald Trump is mobilizing through secret “dog whistles” and other shamanistic practices.
Among the many sobering realities that the 2020 election brought home is this: in our particular form of oligarchy, the people do have a voice, but it is a voice that is everywhere pressured, cajoled, shaped, and bullied. They have a choice, but only among a roster of approved candidates.
The central fact to appreciate about Donald Trump is that he was elected without the permission, and over the incredulous objections, of the woke oligarchy that governs us.
... Trump seems never to have discerned what a viper’s nest our politics has become for anyone who is not a paid-up member of The Club.
Maybe Donald Trump knows now. I have no insight into that question. I am pretty confident, though, that the more than 74 million people who voted for him have a deep understanding of that reality. It’s another reason that The Club should be wary of celebrating their victory too expansively.