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Political theory

Do big tents go anywhere?

Evan McLaren notes that I mostly deal with grand issues and tend toward a “big tent” approach, at least among right-wingers, and wonders whether that makes sense.


Juan Donoso Cortes translation

A friend has forwarded to me his translation of Letter to Cardinal Fornari On the Errors of Our Time by Juan Donoso Cortes and given permission to make it available on the web. At the time the letter was written Cardinal Fornari was in charge of a commission studying modern errors for Pope Pius IX and Donoso was Spain’s ambassador to France.


Reaching the zenith

Zenit, the international Catholic news agency, just published an interview with me about the topics I cover in my book.


Remembrance of Third Ways past

I just finished reading Allan Carlson’s Third Ways: How Bulgarian Greens, Swedish Housewives, and Beer-Swilling Englishmen Created Family-Centered Economies - And Why They Disappeared. It’s a really excellent collection of short case studies of 20th century attempts to create, recreate or maintain local, familial, distributist or agrarian economic forms in the face of commies, fascists, and cigar-chomping businessmen.


Religion, secularity, totalities, totalitarians, etc.

I’ve added arguments and responses made in a discussion of the issue elsewhere to my recent entry on faith and reason. For convenience’s sake I’ve added them in the form of comments.


The ship of state is never in neutral for long

According to George Weigel, the big issue in the fuss over the Society of Saint Pius X (the traditionalist group whose bishops just got de-excommunicated) is religious freedom: whether “coercive state power ought … be put behind the truth-claims of the Catholic Church or any other religious body.”


What conservatism?

We live in a liberal age. A conservative, then, is someone who resists liberalism. He wants to reverse it or at least resist its advance.

There are a variety of reasons for resisting liberalism, and they lead to different kinds of conservatism. Some are more liberal or radical than conservative, and each can be at odds with any or all of the others. Short of an extreme situation like an invasion from Mars there’s not much they would all agree on.

Anyway, here are some of the possibilities:

  1. The Simply Conservative Conservative:

Is "the secular" so clear?

The contributors to the weblog Secular Right: Reality & Reason have put together a sort of credo, What is the Secular Right? Here it is:


America, America: Part IV

I should probably comment on the point of my last post.

A basic problem for a Catholic or any serious person in America is that he lives in a country people treat as a sort of religion. The reason for treating it that way is the need for social cohesion in an ethnically and religiously diverse society in which individual freedom and pluralism are promoted as the highest social goods. If you downplay normal social connections in that way you’ll need some sort of superprinciple to make up for them.


American propositions

I was looking at We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition (1960) by John Courtney Murray. For those who don’t know much about him, Murray was a Catholic priest and theologian who


More on identity and liberal technocracy

A Swedish correspondent wrote to ask why ideas of historical and cultural community never seem to go anywhere today. My response continues some of the thoughts touched on in the recent discussion of social conservatism:

The basic problem I think is that such ideas depend on notions of what one is, and the modern and liberal understanding of man and the world makes notions of identity seem irrational and therefore threatening.


Is Social Conservatism Necessary?

Takimag has published a piece I wrote on social conservatism. Unfortunately, they no longer allow comments, which was always half the fun of publishing there.


Telling the world

I’ve been doing some radio interviews to promote my book, maybe a couple dozen in total. Here are some I have links to:


The twilight of reason

Here’s the text of a talk I gave at the first annual conference of The H. L. Mencken Club. (Actually, I only had time to present the first 3/5 or so of the talk. The remainder was mostly a rehash of previous talks, though, so maybe it’s just as well.)


More awakening

I expanded the lecture I gave last summer at Gardone into a series of three essays that can be found in the October, November, and December issues of The Angelus. You can also read a Google docs version of the series as a single document.


What is to be done?

Here’s the text of remarks regarding “The Future of Conservatism” I made on a panel at an ISI conference at Yale.


Tyranny of liberalism FAQ

People have been asking me questions about my book, and I’m going to be giving some talks and radio interviews over the next month or two, so I thought I’d start putting together a Q&A on issues likely to be raised. Comments, criticisms, complaints and additions are welcome. The Q&A is likely to keep growing, maybe until it’s as long as the book itself.


  1. What do you mean, “tyranny of liberalism”?

Nisbet and the tyranny of liberation

I just finished reading Robert Nisbet’s The Quest for Community: A Study in the Ethics of Order and Freedom. I had never read it before, I suppose because the name made it sound a bit platitudinous.


Essentialism and nominalism as applied to Islam

There’s a tendency today to criticize “essentialism,” the idea that something like Islam has an enduring character such that (for example) you aren’t going to see a moderate liberal Islam become the predominant form of the religion.

I’m inclined toward a moderate essentialism. It seems to me that at bottom the opposing nominalist view is the view that social managers can turn people and their beliefs into anything they want, so I don’t like nominalism (in addition to believing that it’s in fact false).


Liberal identity theorems

The modern technological outlook can’t deal with issues of identity, because it abolishes essences—understandings of what things “really are”—in favor of measurable properties that fit the thing for particular chosen ends. That’s why it’s thought ignorant, irrational and abusive to treat someone differently because he’s a man or a gypsy, but not because he has a particular educational certification or bureaucratic position.



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