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Older writings

My work has become more visible since I published my first book and then started writing for Catholic publications with a larger readership than the weblogs, quarterlies, and niche European publications that had been my major outlets up till then. I don’t think the concerns and substance have changed much but the presentation probably has. So (if anyone’s interested) here’s a presentation of some of the older work that used to be on the front page of my website.

What is the current situation, and how did we end up here?


Liberalism and the Managerial State

Compulsory Equality

Equality, defined and enforced comprehensively, has become fundamental to politics and accepted public morality. Taken to the current extremes it crowds out other concerns and becomes a destructive force. The writings above touch on why that has happened; these go into some of the implications.

  • Anti-Inclusiveness FAQ. So what’s wrong with a comprehensive anti-discrimination regime? Answer—by destroying legitimate particularity and networks of local informal connections it destroys culture and therefore the possibility of a tolerable way of life.
  • Inclusiveness: A Book to Be. A series of pieces on what inclusiveness is, why it’s a problem, and what to do about it.
  • “Freedom, Discrimination and Culture”. More on the problems with Civil Rights.
  • “Vindicating Stereotypes and Discrimination”. An essay on the function of stereotyping that concludes that it is always and necessarily with us, that the current campaign opposes only certain forms of stereotyping, basically those that relate to institutions other than market and bureaucracy, and that we’d be better off dealing with the issues more rationally in the light of what sort of social relations best suit human life.
  • “Anti-racism”. An analysis of antiracism as an ideology, its nature and social, cultural and philosophical origins.
  • Antifeminist Page. Short essay and links.
  • “The Pope’s Left-turn on Immigration”. Did John Paul’s comments on the subject really make sense?

What are the possible sources of renewed order?

What does the future hold?

Medieval Iceland and ancient China, discussed in essays above, suggest ideal forms of social order based on principles that have often appealed to traditionalist and libertarian conservatives: for Iceland, individual freedom and law; for China, reverence for the past and poeticization of the given; for both, individual integrity.

Events depend of course on realities as well as ideals. An extremely important reality today is the technological abolition of distance, which presents the problem of multiculturalism—the institutionalization of moral incoherence. Here are speculations on how the pieces might fit together:

  • “Ibn Khaldun and Our Age”, an essay on the 14th century Tunisian. A great political thinker, and the theoretician of radically multicultural posthistorical society. If all else dissipates you still have the changing relative cohesiveness of human groups as a political determinate. Maybe he has something to say to us.
  • “The Amish, David Koresh, and a Newer World Order”. How multi will multiculturalism get? Will it just be stylistic variations on pop culture providing a facade for technological hedonism or does human life demand something deeper? How can MTV and the internet be combined with the transcendent and human integrity? If it can’t, will public life collapse and everything become altogether inward turning? All very speculative, but one must start somewhere.
  • For a system of international law consistent with particularism and tradition, see my pages on Human Rights.

The neo-Levantine vision of the future set forth in the first two essays just mentioned suggests another principle that has often appealed to conservatives: particularism, especially in the form of ethnic and religious connections. That may be what buries liberalism, along with the corruption and incompetence that are the natural result of the lack of moral coherence to which it leads.

A neo-Levantine society would not be perfect. If the world turns in that direction it’s not clear to what extent it will be possible to moderate particularisms and combine them with the broad humane culture of Confucius or the respect for the individual of the Icelandic sagas. In other words, it is not clear how civilized the society will be that succeeds the liberal order.

The Catholic Option

A restoration of Christendom seems the best way to square the circle, but many consider that a pipe dream. As always, we must do what we can and hope for the best.

  • Liberalism, Tradition and the Church deals with the essential flaws of liberalism, the need for an authoritative tradition, and the corresponding necessity of something very like the Catholic Church for social cohesion and even human knowledge in the current situation. Apart from my book, it’s my most comprehensive treatment of the issues.
  • Awakening from Reason’s Sleep, is a talk on the same topic that begins to develop some of the specifics of a Catholic reconstruction. I’ve also published an expanded version of the same talk.
  • You can read interviews with me with Catholic publications that touch on the topics I cover in my book and on this website here and here.

Other writings