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« A Quick Question (that would likely require a long answer) | Main | Roots »

March 29, 2009

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Have you read Russell Kirk or Edmund Burke? The "redefinition" of conservatism was its original non-definition. At its heart is that it is indefinable and adapting. Purging Bush is not the problem, but evolving beyond decades of ideology. You are right, contemporary conservatism is nothing but ideology, as abhorrent as its liberal counterpart.

Conservatism as a "negation of ideology" is not a new concept, though it was lost with the past century's politics. "Conservatism" is a dead word. It was originally much closer to the adaptation and the interplay of opposites (in Burke's own words, actually). For the record, I support incidentally political anti-ideology.

The best criticism you offer is the use of "God" which is a placeholder for western minds. New vocabulary upsets people, so "Dao" is never used. God is only in the picture incidentally, though I'm glad someone finally noticed this. I was beginning to think no one saw what I was doing.

At heart, conservatism is not political or moral ideology, but an adapting, evolving flow. I would go as far as to say that it is amoral. But I would have to say that amorality is also the source of morality.

"I wonder what country he's been living in for the last eight years. Perhaps this is what conservatives have to do now, to purge Bush from their midst: argue that it's no longer about ideology when, for two painful presidential terms it was about nothing but ideology."

I know for a fact that Stewart Lundy and the folks at "Front Porch Republic" would agree with you 100% about the "two painful presidential terms [that were] about nothing but ideology."

F.P.R. tells us that it was created to help restore "concepts such as human scale, the distribution of power, and our responsibility to the future" to "the public conversation." It stands athwart "the political and economic centralization and atomization that have accompanied the century-long unholy marriage between consumer capitalism and the modern bureaucratic state" and against a "flattened culture and increasingly meaningless freedoms." Its contributors are "convinced that scale, place, self-government, sustainability, limits, and variety are key terms with which any fruitful debate about our corporate future must contend."

That seems pretty Taoist to me, and not very conservative in the Bushevik sense of the word. But it doesn't fit into the "two ideological veal crates" (to use Bill Kauffman's term) that the contemporary American political lexicon offers, and is thus not easily understood.

I think a little "rectification of names" is required here. The words "conservative" and "liberal" have lost any meaning they ever had. Stewart Lundy et. al. are what are called "paleoconservatives," as opposed to Bush and his "neoconservatives" (a battle goes all the back to the 1930s*). The paleos were among Bush's fiercest critics long before the War in Iraq even started. As Kirkians, they have no "paleoconservative ideology" to adhere to, but they tend to be non-interventionists (both in economy and foreign policy, unlike both neoliberals and neoconservatives) and radical decentralists.

*The story is documented by Justin Raimondo, the openly gay editor of Antiwar.com who gave Pat Buchanan's nomination speech in '92 (when the candidate was running against Gulf War), in a 1993 book entitled "Reclaiming the American Right."

I agree with Western Confucian, it depends on how you understand "conservative". You seem to be using the word in an extremely narrow, American context. In this context, I agree, Daoism has nothing to do with Neoconservatism. But Bush style neocons are hardly representative of all schools of political and cultural conservatism.

Probably the most conservative aspect of Daoism I can think of is the narrative of gradual moral decline, which can be found in both the Dao De Jing and the Zhuangzi. Both texts speak of the "true men of old" and contrast them with the current situation today, where "the Way has been lost".

This strikes me as having a lot of resonance with conservatives, who by definition are concerned with "conserving" traditional values and ways of being. Liberals generally speaking have the opposite narrative, a narrative of progress.

Russell Kirk, whom Mr. Lundy quotes, said shortly before his death in 1994 that George H. W. Bush deserved to be hanged on the White House lawn for war crimes. What would he have thought, one wonders, of the son, whose crimes dwarf those of his father by many, many degrees?

I'm not sure whether Kirk's suggestion is Taoist, but it certainly is Confucian, and more specifically Mencian, suggesting as it does that the Emperor lost the Mandate of Heaven.

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