Repost-The Conservatarian Curve-Some Reasons To Remain Skeptical Of ‘Culture’ And Cultural Criticism Of A Certain Kind

Roger Sandall’s book: ‘The Culture Cult: Designer Tribalism And Other Essays‘ here.

A follow-up essay here springing from a discussion: ‘The Culture Cult revisited’


But in the year 2000, with Fascism and Communism both discredited, why, I wondered, were so many turning back toward Rousseau? What was the attraction of romantic primitivism? How had ethnic culture become a beau ideal? Cities certainly have their problems, but why did New Yorkers see tribal societies as exemplary and tribespeople as paragons of social virtue?’

If you do manage to develop a bedrock of secular humanism in civil society (subject to that society’s particular traditions and history), won’t that society still have need of its own myths?

Even though Fascism and Communism have been discredited in theory and in practice, adherents remain (look no further than most American academies).

Sandall notes the Popperian elements discussed as from ‘The Open Society And Its Enemies‘, which as a theory, stretches deep into human nature and the West’s Greek traditions.

Is Popper’s ‘critical rationalism’ some of what we’re seeing from the intellectual dark-webbers, or at least many bright people pushing against the fascistic elements found within many far-Left movements, just those movements endorse and feed a far-right, identitarian and ideological response?:

‘…the people and institutions of the open society that Popper envisioned would be imbued with the same critical spirit that marks natural science, an attitude which Popper called critical rationalism. This openness to analysis and questioning was expected to foster social and political progress as well as to provide a political context that would allow the sciences to flourish.’

Sandall again on Popper:

‘His 1945 The Open Society and Its Enemies started out from the contrast between closed autarkic Sparta and free-trading protean Athens, and used it to illuminate the conflict between Fascism and Communism on the one hand, and Western democracy on the other.’


‘Is an ‘open society’ also supposed to be an ‘open polity’ with open borders? Médecins sans Frontières is all very well: but states cannot be run on such lines. Popper’s is a theory of society, not a theory of the state—and it seems to me that his book offers no clear account of the wider political preconditions that enable ‘open societies’ to both flourish and defend themselves.’

So, how did Sandall see the idea of ‘culture’ having its orgins?:

‘But at a higher philosophical level, and starting out in England, it owed more to the energetic publicising of Herder’s ideas by the Oxford celebrity Sir Isaiah Berlin — ideas of irresistible appeal to the post-Marxist and post-religious liberal mind.’

Open borders and open societies? A desire a ‘culture’ has to forge and solidify its own identity?

Kelley Ross (open border libertarian last I checked) responds to a correspondent on value-pluralism, while discussing John Gray as well:

‘Now, I do not regard Berlin’s value pluralism as objectionable or even as wrong, except to the extend that it is irrelevant to the MORAL issue and so proves nothing for or against liberalism. Liberalism will indeed recommend itself if one wishes to have a regime that will respect, within limits, a value pluralism.

J.S. Mill, etc., continue to be better philosophers than Berlin or Gray because they understand that there must be an absolute moral claim in the end to fundamental rights and negative liberty, however it is thought, or not thought, to be justified. Surrendering the rational case does not even mean accepting the overall “value pluralism” thesis, since Hume himself did not do so. ‘

Back to Sandall:

‘Then something happened: the English word “culture” in the sense employed by Matthew Arnold in his 1869 Culture and Anarchy got both anthropologized and Germanised — and anthropological culture was the opposite of all that. It meant little more in fact than a social system.’

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

A rather tangled web indeed…

Further entanglements on this site, possibly related:

Tom Wolfe on Max Weber on one conspicuous use of art in the ‘modern’ world:

aesthetics is going to replace ethics, art is going to replace religion, as the means through which educated people express their spiritual worthiness…

From Edward Feser: ‘Jackson on Popper on materialism

‘Popper’s World 3 is in some respects reminiscent of Plato’s realm of the Forms, but differs in that Popper takes World 3 to be something man-made. As I noted in the earlier post just linked to, this makes his positon at least somewhat comparable the Aristotelian realist (as opposed to Platonic realist) view that universals are abstracted by the mind from the concrete objects that instantiate them rather than pre-existing such abstraction.’

Quite a comment thread over there…


…and if there could be such a thing as socialism combined with individual liberty, I would be a socialist still. For nothing could be better than living a modest, simple, and free life in an egalitarian society. It took some time before I recognized this as no more than a beautiful dream; that freedom is more important that equality; that the attempt to realize equality endangers freedom; and that, if freedom is lost, there will not even be equality among the unfree.”

Related On This Site:Encyclopedia Of Philosophy Entry On Eliminative Materialism…

Bryan Magee Via Youtube: ‘Miles Burnyeat On Plato’Repost: From the Cambridge Companion To Plato-T.H. Irwin’s “Plato: The intellectual Background’

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

How might this relate to the Heglian/post-Marxist project via ‘The End Of History’: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Fred Siegel On The German Influence And Kelley Ross On Some Of Roger Scruton’s Thinking

Seeds Of Collectivism & State Of Fear-Some Links

Stephen Hicks, Michael O’Fallon and James Lindsay have a discussion.

Mentioned: Hegel, Marx, the Existentialists, Rousseau, and trying to mold mankind within social constructionist philosophies:

Worth revisiting: Michael Crichton examines a lot of common knowledge surrounding environmental claims. A lot of these claims don’t add up.

A kind of Romantic Primitivism prevails (we must return to Nature and worship Her. We must return Man to a primitive state in order to mold Mankind with the right knowledge).

Also, I did a mock-up ad:

Roger Sandall-R.I.P.

My belated condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Roger Sandall, who passed away on August 11th, 2012.  He was an Australian thinker and critic of cultural relativism, romantic-primitivism and the Noble Savage.  He was a keen observer of the ways in which certain strains of Western thought interact with the non-Western, and often, tribal worlds.

While not as strong as in Australia, we’ve seen the rise of multicultural apologetics in the U.S. regarding the native population: “Well, we robbed this land from the Indians, anyways.”  Sandall highlights the problems and hubris of such sentiment, and what can become the “Disneyfication” of the natives and the historical record.

His home page where his essays can be found.

Here’s “The Rise Of The Anthropologue


Related On This Site: Romantic primitivism: Roger Sandall: Marveling At The Aborigines, But Not Really Helping?Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’…Roger Sandall: ‘Plato Vs. Grand Theft Auto…

From JSTOR: Excerpt From “Rousseau, Kant, And History” By George Armstrong Kelly

Page here. (full viewing available if you are a member of a participating library or publisher)

As recommended by a reader (a bit more on Kelly here):

“…Kant was well aware that Rousseau’s major message centered upon the contradiction between nature and civilization, civilization and morality.”

It’s been suggested to me that you can’t have Kant without Rousseau, and that Kant often leads to a sort of liberal political philosophy (and I feel a little too far into German and French idealistic territory here).  I tend to favor Hobbes’s vision.  Can you be a Burkean with a Kantian influence?  Are there other counterweights against such idealism for American Conservative political traditions?

Related On This Site:  Some Quotations From Leo Strauss On Edmund Burke In ‘Natural Right And History’

How does anarchy fit in?:  Two Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’anarcho-libertarian socialist Chomsky is not necessarily indebted to Kant: The Politics Of Noam Chomsky-The Dangers Of Kantian Transcendental Idealism?

Other libertarian influences:

A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”…Link To An Ayn Rand Paper: The Objectivist Attack On Kant

How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?  From Fora Via YouTube: ‘Thomas Sowell and a Conflict of Visions’

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From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?

Full post here.

Our author challenges a Stephen Spruiell piece from The National Review in which Spruiell claims that health care is not a right because it isn’t one of the “negative” rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In other words, neither I nor the government nor anybody else owes you the “right” to health care, because it’s not really a “right” in the first place.  

Our author claims that if health care doesn’t meet this “negative right” standard, maybe individual property ownership doesn’t either:

“The establishment by governments and quasi-governments of a regime of individual ownership has costs and benefits.  On the one hand, it creates the incentive to make the land more productive.  On the other hand, it creates an elite class of property owners and deprives others of opportunity to use resources that are naturally held in common”   

He quotes much Thomas Paine to arrive at his position, summarizing Paine thus:

Individual property rights are here recognized as “of a distinct species” from the “common right of all” to benefit from natural resources.  Paine is commenting directly on the Lockean standard and fairly clearly rejects it.”

That’s John Locke.  (See Also:  Jean-Jacques Rousseau “man is born free and everywhere he is in chains…”)  After Paine, our author offers that property ownership “rights” perhaps don’t meet the natural right standard either.   He finishes with:

“I am with Paine that government is not only justified but obligated to provide compensation.  Taxation supported public services like health, education, welfare, and infrastructure fulfill this obligation.”

This is a not entirely unreasonable argument (a decent one in light of Milton Friedman in his later years) and I think the main goal here is to challenge Spruiell’s in the box, partisan thinking.

Yet, as for me, I’m still with Locke.  My right to property goes deeper than any social contract (Paine’s thinking too).  I already trust my government to conditionally maintain such a contract, so why grant it the license mentioned above?  

I’m already paying taxes for health, education, welfare and infrastructure anyways.  

Addition:  A Susan Pashkoff, who seems to know a lot about Locke, responds in the comments.  Well worth a read.

Locke by stnastopoulos

by stnastopoulos

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