True Conservatism

David Trammel's picture

The American Conservative reposted a very good article from 2013 by Andrew J Bacevich on what Greer and I think true conservatism holds as values.

A Recipe for Counterculture Conservatism

I liked what the author thought counter culture conservatism should work for, though I wonder what the author would have to say about the election and the administration of a President Trump.

Sounds like a good plan to me.

Alacrates's picture

Great article. I definitely agree that a reformulated conservatism could be a great influence on the political scene today. I like the ingredients he adds to his 'stew': a respect for tradition and for the established practices that work well enough, a distrust of utopian ideals and for the total goodness of un-corrupted human nature, fiscal responsibility, environmental protection, opposition to militarism (which ties in nicely with fiscal responsibility!), putting value on family life.

I don't know a lot about the alt-right, but I'm thinking it was a disaster that the one movement to reconsider conservatism got so tied up in issues of race & ethnic purity. As far as I know, they did have some decent criticisms of the Republican establishment and some recognition as to how the standard left & right narratives were failing to deal with the reality of so many working class Americans, but they also chose to focus on issues that set themselves beyond the pale for the majority of people, for whatever reason.

I don't really have a political association myself, but when I was in university, I was as left as I could be, quite interested in socialism and anarchism, and the work of Noam Chomsky in particular. I was actually learning about the idea of peak oil that was a revelation to me: I think I had always thought about politics and economics as essentially about how to divide up the goods and the power within the industrial economy. The thought that the industrial economy might collapse definitely made me considering caring about many of the things I hadn't thought much of before: the state of our agricultural system, our manufacturing system, our infrastructure, etc.

I remember reading a line from Peter Maurin, the founder of the Catholic Worker Maurin, something along the lines that capitalism and communism being twin siblings born of industrialism, and that struck a chord with me, that the argument between those systems was on how to organize the distribution of the products of an industrial economy, but neither was really a critique of industrialism itself. Peter Maurin definitely looked back to older traditions for a economic model. Learning about peak oil brought me to JMG's writings, and his "moderate Burkean conservatism" interested me as well.

In Canada (where I live) there was leadership race for the Progressive Conservative Party, and one of the candidates, David Orchard, really caught my interest, though up to that point the thought of supporting the Conservative party would've been an anathema. He was an organic farmer from Saskatchewan, he was really invested in Canadian tradition, he supported environmental protections, opposed free trade and the Iraq War, and was not against some level of social spending. He was monarchist, he looked with respect to traditions in the Canadian government, in particular the 1950s administration of John Diefenbaker (which kind of blew my mind that someone could hold such a 'square' political figure like Diefenbaker in such high regard!) Orchard did not succeed in his campaign - he made a deal to trade his support for another candidate if that candidate would promise not to merge the Progressive Conservative Party with the more right wing Reform Party, but the deal was broken some months later, and the merger created the current Conservative Party in Canada.

Anyways, sorry to digress, I would love to see a conservative political movement that focused on the issues of what Greer calls the "wage class", instead of catering to the needs of the professional "salary class" and the "investment class" that dominate so much of the political scene today. I think a conservative movement that took climate change seriously, that opposed militarism, curtailed the financial sector with good legislation and regulation, and also took an interest in re-establishing a strong economy in terms of agriculture and manufacturing would be a powerful force (but also be quite a threat to a lot of people with a lot of money!!)

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

Thanks for the article, I read it and found myself agreeing with many of the points -though it's obvious the dude is a minister or something because of his emphasis on "Original Sin" --I'm more in the "Original Blessing" camp myself -or maybe in the middle? But yes human nature does need to be checked -just not sure about the underlying religious tone this guy implies about humanities "fallen" state.

Alacrates, I like what you had to say about the Catholic Worker -and Capitalism & Communism being twin siblings of Industrialism. I'd recently been reading on Distributism -and the anarchist branch of it promulgated by Dorothy Day. What I like about distributism, from what I've learned so far, is how it is a kind of tertiary alternative between capitalism and communism -and I like tertiary thinking ;) Also, its emphasis on reintroducing the guild system, which I am huge fan of. I think guilds can play a major role in our future. The wiki on distributism has this to say about the guild system "The kind of economic order envisaged by the early distributist thinkers would involve the return to some sort of guild system. The present existence of labor unions does not constitute a realization of this facet of distributist economic order, as labour unions are organized along class lines to promote class interests and frequently class struggle, whereas guilds are mixed class syndicates composed of both employers and employees cooperating for mutual benefit, thereby promoting class collaboration."

Where distributism is in line with the counterculture conservatism is on the family as the basic unit. (Distributism did come out of Catholicism -I was raised Christian by-the-way in an outlier church/cult, went to Catholic school, and by the time I was teenager had begun practicing the Thelemic magic of Aleister Crowley --my tastes in magic have changed and I consider myself "eclectic" in terms of religion, deities, etc... but that's a subject for another post.) This kind of conservatism & distributism perhaps could help see a return to the extended family -another beneficial social unit in terms of collapse. Again to quote the wiki: "Distributism sees the family of two parents and their child or children as the central and primary social unit of human ordering and the principal unit of a functioning distributist society and civilization. This unit is also the basis of a multi-generational extended family, which is embedded in socially as well as genetically inter-related communities, nations, etc., and ultimately in the whole human family past, present and future. The economic system of a society should therefore be focused primarily on the flourishing of the family unit, but not in isolation: at the appropriate level of family context, as is intended in the principle of subsidiarity. Distributism reflects this doctrine most evidently by promoting the family, rather than the individual, as the basic type of owner; that is, distributism seeks to ensure that most families, rather than most individuals, will be owners of productive property. The family is, then, vitally important to the very core of distributist thought."

I always considered myself an Anarchist --and in some respects this take on conservatism would jibe with a certain Freeholder/Permaculturist anarchism that would itself be conservative. I too am/was a fan of Chomsky -especially his works on interpreting the media ("Manufacturing Consent", etc.) . As liberalism has continued to fail, my own views have changed. I always liked what JMG said about "conservatives don't conserve and liberals don't liberate" or something along those lines.

Recently the distributist model has been the most inspiring to me -along with certain aspects of classic anarchist philosophy: Peter Kropotkin's Mutual Aid (he liked guilds too), Alexander Berkman's ABC's of Anarchism etc. All this kind of anarchism seems to need an update too & I'm wondering how distributism / anarchism might be retooled in response to the crisis of our time.

So many of the points in Bacevich's article -except maybe for the family focus stuff-- also would find strong allies with what remains of the left. I'm still sorting it out & still have a difficult labeling myself politically.

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Alacrates's picture

(As usual, many interesting lines of thought to address here!)

Distributism doesn't ring a lot of bells for me at the moment, I'll have to look into it, there are some faint echoes from long ago. It has been awhile since I took an interest in political ideologies, it's definitely bringing up memories of the libraries at the university I went to.

I really liked reading the books of Dorothy Day. There was a Catholic college at the university I attended, which had a lot of her books. I really liked her memoirs, as well as her biography of Peter Maurin, the originator of the Catholic Worker movement. I should try to find a copy of that book, I really loved it. As I remember it, Maurin was someone who grew up in French farming culture, and was really devoted to Catholicism as well as social justice, and was pretty much homeless for a lot of years, setting up soup kitchens, preaching his message on the streets. (If anyone is interested, he composed his preaching into "Easy Essays", lectures in something like poetry-form, that he could recite from memory on street corners: )

Interesting to hear of your religious background. I grew up Catholic, and really took to it in my teen years, until I felt I had to give it up due to it's insistence on certain doctrines of belief. I was agnostic for some years after that, until I got involved in a local Buddhist group for a few years. Teachers in that group recommended we look into the "Western Mystery Tradition" (which kind of got me into the writings of Paul Foster Case and others for awhile) until I found JMG and his books on esotericism, which led to looking into Dion Fortune, Israel Regardie, Mark Stavish, Ivo Domingo, and others.

I like the focus on the family unit mentioned in this overview of Distributism. I see a lot of commentators on youtube in recent years emphasizing the importance of the family unit (I guess as opposed to individualism and a focus on developing a career.) One thing that I think they miss though is that family life is only going to be a good fit for a certain part of the population (which I think is often the most productive part of society.) But I think that many traditional societies had roles for people who did not fit well into family life, from various monastic orders, east & west, to crazy uncles & aunts living unique lifestyles up in the hills & in the forest.

I really think that when a society has a range of viable possibilities for various kinds of people that it does well, and also that it relieves competition on the people who really do want to be in that strata of society: if you want to work and raise a family, you can do that. If you want to devote yourself to prayer and live with minimal material goods, there are monastic orders for that. If you want to devote yourself to various scholarly disciplines, there are places at the university for that. And so on...

I definitely remember the copy of Kropotkin's Mutual Aid my library had, that is a great book. Not sure if I ever read the ABC of Anarchism.

The series of posts that JMG did on political economy a year or two back, that seemed quite interested in the possibilities of syndicalism & cooperative worker ownership got me interested in thinking about the subject again. The idea of guilds definitely interests me as well.

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

Yes... there should be other options for crazy aunts & uncles, eccentrics, hermits. Have you seen this call for papers on JMG's dreamwidth site? I've been interested to in Monasticism as well, though I do have a family. (I guess that would make me 'Third Order') I'd consider writing something for it -- but the things I have in mind would be more explorations of what monasticism could offer a society in decline, rather than a reflections on a personal call to a monastic lifestyle -which I haven't had per se. More, I've reflected on how a person can incorporate elements of that into their life. --So, I have to think on it some more to see if I have anything I could write per the guidelines.

I think Guilds could also be a place for those who don't want a family, but would still be in community, and aren't religious but are craftsman of various kinds. Also interested in the various stripes of mysticism preserved in the monasteries. So many interests, so little time!

David Trammel's picture

I have moved the Fiber Shed part of this thread, to its own thread in "Your Money and Your Craft" Circle.

The information is great but a bit off topic for this thread.