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Although I sometimes disagree with Weaver and Guardini about the weight given this factor or that, the books I’ve been discussing are outstanding works and should be read.

Like other people, right-wingers put too much effort into trying to find particular causes for general conditions like multiculturalism or PC. It’s all a plot by Marxist college professors, or an outgrowth of the Vietnam War and Civil Rights movement, or whatever, Such explanations do add something—during the McCarthy period there really were commies under every bed—but they don’t explain why things keep going the same direction everywhere, and above all they don’t explain what we should do that will turn the situation around.

On that issue, general relationships are more important. Weaver and Guardini leave out the conspiracies, gossip and inside info, and talk about fundamentals. They are more concerned with strategy than tactics. The result is that 60 years later their books are still up-to-date. The fact the specifics and often the language they use are different from ours only makes them more useful in gaining perspective on what is fundamental to our situation—which, on the whole, is the same as theirs.

Guardini, for example, emphasizes that the totally abstract and utilitarian world that modern science and technology are creating for us leads to the evaporation of man, nature and culture. Man becomes non-human (today we say “post-human”), nature becomes denatured, a collection of resources rather than a standard, and high culture loses the authority it once had—think of “cultural studies” or what passes for literary study today. The point in effect that the social world can no longer sustain humanity to any degree whatever, so we are are left with a choice between annihilation of the human and an absolute turning toward what transcends the social. I believe the situation is not quite as stark as he presents it, human nature still exists and it’s both human and natural, but it’s plenty stark, and it’s important to keep his analysis in mind as a sort of background to more particular considerations. In particular, it is enough to refute the sort of skeptical conservatism that treats whatever seems established as authoritative, and so comes to view (for example) “inclusiveness” and “gay marriage” as done deals that must be incorporated into the body of conservative beliefs if conservatism is to be true to its skeptical and cautious nature and retain any connection to social reality.

Weaver for his part devotes a chapter, “The Great Stereopticon,” to the media as an instrument of propaganda designed to shore up social unity and indeed define or create what counts socially as real. Most of what he says applies even more forcefully to the present situation than to his own. Nonetheless, his analysis shows its depth by its ability to raise as well as settle issues. For example, he says the strength of radio is its ability to select and stereotype what is presented to us as important and real, and that, of course, is all the more true of network TV. Is it true, though, of the Internet? The Internet has its own problems, and perhaps its most important effect will be further promotion of the fragmentation and universal interchangeability that makes life today what it is. Nonetheless, it creates a new situation that offers its own possibilities, and the advantage of fundamental analysis like Weaver’s is that it helps us see what that situation is and what is important about it.

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