Monday, July 08, 2019

Fatal flaws

Perilous as this course turns out oftentimes to be, in our present political landscape I seek to chart a middle course between the two extremes of right and left.
I say perilous because neither side welcomes subtlety these days. Still, I assume the stability of the balanced political arrangement that emerged in anglophone realms in the eighteenth century, an arrangement that committed us to an alternation of liberal and conservative regimes. First one, then the other. In this dynamic binarism there is, or should be, the group that is in power and, facing it, the loyal opposition.
At all events, first I focus on a major dilemma that continues to confront conservatives. A good many years ago Irving Kristol - I think it was he - acknowledged that modern conservatism faces a daunting prospect. On the one hand, it cherishes and seeks to preserve religion and traditional institutions - indeed the whole cake of custom. This was the message of Edmund Burke.
Yet on the other hand, the conservative surge fosters perpetual acquisitiveness, an all-encompassing greed for those who can indulge it.  This juggernaut is relentlessly undermining our Burkean heritage.
I do not see how this conundrum can be escaped.
What then is the corresponding flaw besetting movements on the left? It lies, I believe, in the various versions of the teleological doctrine of progress - such as the "arc of history bending ultimately to justice." This ongoing process guarantees, it seems, the inevitable erasure of the conservative faction.
In this connection one should read Isaiah Berlin's refutation of historical inevitability,


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