Two Kinds of Conservatism

Ignoring for now the variety of ideologies, policies and crank ideas that make up the so-called conservative movement (Paleoconservatives. Reactionaries, Libertarians, Movement Conservatives, Old Guard, etc.), the formulation by Amos Williamson (I may be wrong about that name but I can check it out later and attribute it properly) posits two kinds of conservatism THAT DOMINATES THE AMERICAN LANDSCAPE CURRENTLY.

One is the old-fashioned Burkean stuff (don’t be fooled by how jauntily I throw that name out; I know his thinking primarily from Corey Robin’s book, “The Reactionaries”) riding with David Hume which is leery of tinkering with change because there may be embedded in things the way they are that we cannot see and whose destruction may lead to unforeseen shifts. Therefore the emphasis on maintaining order at all costs and on suspicion of those demanding change NOW!

The other is labeled positivist. Looking up this word, I find that it does fit the writer’s description of the ideology. The contents are these: what you see is what you get. The way are is the way we should be. But it is asserted that the way we are is positively the right way to be and the only way as Americans. Therefore (and I will quote the writer here), “Anglophone legal and literary culture; decisively valuing both freedom and excellence over equality; and a robust set of nonstate institutions enforcing Christian behavioral norms.”

Nowadays, these two views have split where once they just jostled each other but coexisted. The split is along this question (again, quoting the writer):

Suppose the left won a clean-sweep  irrevocable culture war victory. Would you still love your country?

The first type answers yes, the second no.

Over time, the various levels of conservatism based largely on education level and realm of activity merged into the higher tier and the lower tier I’ve written about elsewhere (Who Are These People?; A Danger To Their Way of Life; I’ve Got My Answer) . The shift there is between having a sense the left is biased and feeling the left acts out of malice. IOW, we liberals hate America.


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