Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Burkean Tutors

I mentioned that I found Mark Lilla's review of Corey Robin's book on conservatism double plus ungood; today Robin sort of responds but mostly fleshes out his own take on conservativism's many sins. I think, however, that his reading of a reprehensible Buckley, I assume, editorial misses an important point. Robin quotes this passage
The central question that emerges [from the civil rights movement] is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes—the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.
And parses it as being apocalyptic.  However, like Burke before him, I would argue, that the "for the time being" means until such time as the "White community" can teach Blacks to be White culturally and politically. Given that Buckley et alia had no interest in improving the lot of Blacks meant, of course, that for the time being meant forever. This is the essence of Burke's notion of gradual improvement under the leadership of current elites. What Burke wanted was to avoid the Kantian escape from the tutelage of elites. This conservative desire to control social, cultural, political, and economic developments is precisely what makes conservatives reactionary; they have to react to all changes not of their choosing because control of alterations of social, political, cultural, or economic relations defines conservatism.

Apocalyptic imagery isn't conservative, in this sense, but rather it is the hallmark of a religious loon frustrated by centuries of failed reformations of men, women, and institutions. And I mean loon in the kindest possible way. Apocalypticism results from thinking that this time it's going to be different; this time the elites won't slay all the rebels or renege on their deals. 

I doubt that the various 10th and 11th century heretics were apocalyptically inclined but I do know that at some point the reform-minded radicals lost all hope of obtaining justice in this fallen world ater it became clear that the real winner of the Peace of God Movement, the foundation of universities, and the recurring trappings of civilization didn't lead to increased joy and etc for the many but rather for the increased power of the men with sticks and that the king would hunt down and murder the various peasants he had lately promised to protect, defend, and lives improve.

Another very effective dismissal of Lilla's review.

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