The status of conservative thought I: collapse of the mainstream

Let’s take stock of where we’re at, shall we, my fellow reactionaries?  Needless to say, real conservatism is farther from real power and real popularity than it has ever been.  How conservatism fares as an intellectual movement is an entirely independent question.  From this point of view, the news is mixed and not entirely bad.

As in the past, conservatism today is largely organized around journals, varying in quality from high (First Things) to very low (National Review).  A given conservative writer will often publish in more than one of these journals, but each maintains a distinct outlook, allowing it to become the locus of a distinct intellectual community.  The most significant, and most often commented upon, distinction is between mainstream and alternative factions on the Right.  The former are classical liberals loyal to the Republican Party.  The latter present more radical criticisms of American liberal society.  For most Americans, including most Republicans, the former group is the sole representative of the Right, and they are often not even aware that the latter group exists.

The most striking development of the past few decades is the collapse of intellectual seriousness in the mainstream camp.  They were always contaminated with liberalism, but they weren’t always the embarassments they are today.  There was a time when the Republican Party held serious positions and could defend them intelligently.  There was a time, believe it or not, when National Review and The Weekly Standard published interesting and intelligent articles.  Those days are over.

Good riddance, you might think.  Those people were always our enemies.  Perhaps if they would just get out of the way, America could have a real conservative alternative.  Maybe, but I doubt it.  Most people who become reactionaries don’t make the leap out of liberalism all at once.  Most of us went through a mainstream/Republican phase in which we had become critical of some liberal policies, but we had not yet seriously critiqued liberalism’s basic premises.  Mainstream publications help fortify us in our opposition to parts of liberalism.  As we matured intellectually, we began to see the inadequacy, the ultimate incoherence, of the mainstream position, and we were able to more further Right.  I fear that without the “gateway drug” of mainstream conservatism, very few people would be able to find their way out of liberalism.  The collapse of the mainstream should be a real worry to us.  The fact is that if I were an intelligent young man just beginning to question some aspects of liberalism, the publications and spokesmen on the mainstream would reassure me pretty quickly that conservatism is stupid and not worth considering.

2 Responses

  1. In a way it’s sad that neoconservatives and right-liberals are dwindling in influence and mainstream ”conservatism” is dying. In another way it’s for the better. They won’t contaminate traditional conservatism anymore. The same thing is happening with evangelicals. An evangelical collapse is occuring and after the ashes true traditional Christianity will most likely arise.

  2. ‘Most people who become reactionaries don’t make the leap out of liberalism all at once.’

    For what it’s worth, there are many people out there who reject modernity, and all its works, and all its lies and false promises. Most of them don’t become political, however, because they reject politics and they are not willing to sift through right-wing writing to determine the difference between W. F. Buckley and Joseph Sobran.

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