Ross Douthat At First Principles: ‘The Quest for Community in the Age of Obama: Nisbet’s Prescience’

Full piece here.

Nisbet’s book here.

Of the American conservative postwar period:

‘From émigré philosophers like Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin to native-born figures like Richard Weaver, the central thinkers of the emerging American Right labored to explain how “progress” and “enlightenment” had produced the gas chamber and the gulag. In the process, they often ended up reinterpreting the whole sweep of Western intellectual history, emphasizing unusual inflection points (Machiavelli, William of Ockham) and fingering unusual suspects (gnosticism, nominalism) along the way’

and:

‘All of these efforts looked backward and forward at once, explaining the Western past to illuminate the dilemmas of the future. But few of them did so more persuasively than Robert Nisbet’s The Quest for Community. No prophet or futurist could have anticipated all the twists and turns that American political life has taken since 1953, when the forty-year-old Nisbet published his “Study in the Ethics and Order of Freedom.” But his Eisenhower-era analysis of the modern political predicament looks as prescient as it’s possible for any individual writer to be.’

Douthat, upon Nisbet’s thinking, suggests carving out a space for conservatism against the excessive egalitarian and excessive individualist strains of American thought which have led to an unhealthy individualist/Statist trend, as each reinforces the other:

‘But the nature of the project must be understood correctly, Nisbet’s work suggests. It is not simply the defense of the individual against the power of the state, since to promote unfettered individualism is to risk destroying the very institutions that provide an effective brake on statism. (In that sense, Whittaker Chambers had it right when he scented the whiff of Hitlerism around the works of Ayn Rand.) It must be the defense of the individual and his group—his family, his church, his neighborhood, his civic organization, and his trade union. If The Quest for Community teaches any lesson, it is this: You cannot oppose the inexorable growth of state power by championing individualism alone. You can only oppose it by championing community.’

This would be a good way for conservatism to distance itself from libertarianism as well, charting a course back to roots and away from the libertarian definition of liberty.  Libertarians are battling against some of those liberal, Statist and sometimes totalitarian impulses.  Worth a read.

Addition: I should add that I think this is what many conservatives will do should they win back the Presidency, or likely before, during the race.

Related On This Site: A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

Ross Douthat At The NY Times: “A Right-Wing Monster”Pinker vs. Humanism…Douthat’s The Grand New Party

Straussians likely see a long fall away from virtue, from Natural right, from the reason/revelation distinction into the flawed logic of moral relativism and the triumph of a post-Enlightenment pursuit of truth under reason alone (addition: and the 1st and 2nd crises of modernity); the successes and dangers of historicism:  From Volokh: Harvey Mansfield Reviews ‘The Executive Unbound’From The Weekly Standard: Harvey Mansfield Reviews Paul Rahe’s “Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift”Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo Strauss

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”… From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.New liberty away from Hobbes?: From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’…Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

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Paul Rahe At Ricochet: ‘What Is Wrong With The Individual Mandate?’

Full piece here.

Rahe responds to a commenter thus:

‘There is a simple answer to the question posed by ParisParamus. Government exists first and foremost for the sake of our protection. Without it, our lives and our property would not effectively be our own. Government exists also to promote our well-being. For its support, however, taxation is necessary, and we have tacitly agreed that, to be legitimate, these taxes must be passed by our elected representatives. By our own consent, we give up a certain proportion of our earnings for these purposes.

The money left in our possession, however, is our own — to do with as we please. It is in this that our liberty largely lies. Romneycare and Obamacare, with the individual mandate, changes radically our relationship vis-a-vis the government.’

Rahe sees Romneycare as an intolerable compromise away from first principles (however pragmatic it may have been for Romney as governor of Massachussetts…as well as for the Republican party to oust Obama).

He concludes:

‘I doubt that anything will be done by this managerial progressive to roll back the administrative entitlements state. If I am right in my fears in this regard, the Tea Party impulse will dissipate; the Republican party will split; the Democrats will return in 2016; and 2012 will be seen in retrospect as just another bump in the long, gentle road leading us to soft despotism.’

Comments are worth a read.

Also On This Site:  Straussians likely see a long fall away from virtue, from Natural right, from the reason/revelation distinction into the flawed logic of moral relativism and the triumph of a post-Enlightenment pursuit of truth under reason alone (addition: and the 1st and 2nd crises of modernity); the successes and dangers of historicism:  From Volokh: Harvey Mansfield Reviews ‘The Executive Unbound’From The Weekly Standard: Harvey Mansfield Reviews Paul Rahe’s “Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift”Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo Strauss

Peter Singer discusses Hegel and MarxFrom Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’

From The New England Journal Of Medicine Via CATO: ‘The Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate’

From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?… From The New Yorker: Atul Gawande On Health Care-”The Cost Conundrum”Sally Pipes At Forbes: ‘A Plan That Leads Health Care To Nowhere’Peter Suderman At The WSJ: ‘Obamacare And The Medicaid Mess’

From First Principles: Locke, Our Great Founders, and American Political Life

Full article here.

Maybe there’s something in the air, but there seems to be a trend toward re-considering religion’s role in society in many political/philosophical quarters lately.

Perhaps it’s due to:  Islamic extremism?  An excessive secularism? A push back against a long period of excessive individualism? Some other forces at work? 

Here’s a post on a Martha Nussbaum essay I put up a few months back:  Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder

From the article, here’s a quote which has the author, Peter Lawler, discussing two recent books on John Locke:

“Brownson and Murray agree that our framers understood themselves primarily as Lockeans but also that their work was less guided by the individualist’s thought than they believed. Brownson pays them the compliment of having been theoretically radical as thinkers but prudently conservative as statesmen. Murray sees them as sort of Thomistic Lockeans; their understanding of Locke’s modern thought was more compromised by traditional debts than they knew. They built so well because they averted their eyes from the voluntaristic and nihilistic depths of modern thought. Their providential—or we might just say lucky—theoretical confusion or in-betweenness, their lack of theoretical greatness, is the cause of our nation’s practical greatness.

The argument here states that because the founders didn’t fully understand (or follow) Locke’s radical individualism to its logical conclusions, they went deeper than they knew.

There’s a standard dig at the French (French perfectionism and theoretical excesses are the enemy of our good) there at the end as well.

Actually,  this just seems like our democracy functioning as it does:  the right is re-grouping and figuring out how to include religion out of political necessity:

“Our healing American task may be to show that Thomism is the true realism, that it reconciles reason and revelation through a realistic account of the whole human being.”

See Also On This Site:  Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam may be resisting such a trend: From Bloggingheads: Jon Chait Not Convinced By ‘The Grand New Party’

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