Monday, December 31, 2007

Wanted: A Conservatism Sans...

The Summer 2007 issue of Modern Age (archive here) includes an interesting symposium on "Why I Am a Conservative." While some of the essays are given to ideological whining, some are very engaging, throughtful pieces (see especially the essays by Christopher Olaf Blum and Jeffrey Hart). Anyone who is working with some caricatured notion that "conservative" simply means "pro-Bush" or "Religious Right" or "neo-con" should pull their head out of the equally-ideological liberal sands it's stuck in and dip into this symposium, starting with Blum and Hart.

I continue to find myself deeply sympathetic to a conservatism that owes more to Edmund Burke than Ronald Reagan. And so reading a symposium like this continues to be a tantalizing exercise in exasperation. My margins are regularly marked, "Yes! Amen!" and then, "What?! Why?" Why does conservatism seem to come with so much extraneous (even, I would contend, inherently contradictory) baggage? Am I the only one who dreams of a conservatism without nationalism, without militarism, and without capitalism? Can't we imagine a conservatism without Americanism (just how could a revolutionary project be "conservative," again?)? A conservatism without a Constantinian Christendom?