Sunday, August 19, 2018

Conservatism

Another book I need to buy is Roger Scruton's Conservatism: Ideas in Profile. I think conservatism will survive Trumpism since it has survived worse. From a review online:
Sir Roger Scruton’s new book on Conservatism: Ideas in Profile is a 176-page treat for anyone who is interested in ideas. .... Conservatism: Ideas in Profile is a page turner. I hung on every syllable, every word, every oxford comma, and every semicolon (isn’t the semicolon the femme fatal of the punctuation world?).

The blue and white cover of this book is pleasing to the eye, and when I turned to the inside sleeve, Sir Roger is described as ‘the man who, more than any other, has defined what conservatism is’. Indeed, this is quite right since perhaps Edmund Burke. Burke who quite rightly has a prominent place in the book is seen as the founder of modern day conservatism. ....

Sir Roger explores a plethora of conservative thinkers and the thoughts of great people such as Thomas Hobbes, Michael Oakeshott, Benjamin Disraeli, the Earl of Salisbury, Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher among others.

The book is arranged over six delightful chapters starting with 'Pre-History' and concluding with 'Conservatism Now'. Furthermore, there are chapters on 'The Birth of Philosophical Conservatism', 'Cultural Conservatism', the ‘Impact of Socialism' and 'Conservatism in France and Germany'. The chapter on Conservatism in France and Germany (which also includes the Spanish thinker José Ortega y Gasset) is a great strength of this book. The inclusion of great German thinkers such as Kant and Hegel, and the French Joseph de Maistre, is a demonstration of conservatism’s wider and deeper intellectual roots beyond the anglosphere. ....

I would suggest that the most interesting chapter is on cultural conservatism, which focuses on the anxieties over the loss of religious roots in society, the worrisome dehumanising effect of the Industrial Revolution, and the consequential damage that was being inflicted upon the settled way of life. In this chapter, Sir Roger explores the thoughts of Coleridge, John Ruskin, Matthew Arnold, and T.S. Eliot among others. These thinkers shared a revulsion towards the new forms of so-called ‘progressive’ opinion, which they found disconcerting. Scruton also explores the worry expressed by the aforenoted thinkers regarding ‘progressive’ opinions’ propensity to treat questions of morality and law as mathematical puzzles to be solved, which of course they are not.

The book comes to its conclusion, its cessation, its climax, on a chapter called 'Conservatism Now'. In this chapter, Sir Roger suggests that the most recent attempts to define conservatism has been to define it as the champion of Western civilisation against its enemies. These two main enemies are: political correctness and religious extremism, especially the militant Islamism promoted by the Wahhabi–Salafi sects. ....