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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Christian Socialist and Red Tory, Hanging Around the Front Porch Republic

It's odd--or perhaps, given the dynamics of the blogosphere, it actually isn't, but it nonetheless seems a little odd to me. Anyway, from what I can tell most of the occasional readers of this blog are somewhat liberal in their politics, if not outright on the "left," however defined. I probably had far more viewers and commenters who agreed with me and supported Obama for president, than those who agreed with me that his support for abortion rights was a good reason to not support him. My long meandering posts on various cultural and moral conservative issues lay mostly unread, I suspect, while my equally long posts (do I write any other kind?) on progressive reforms and crises, both economic and political, seem to get passed around a lot. So I'm part of the liberal blogsophere, right? I suppose...except that I actually read and link to far more blogs and internet sources that on on the "right"--again, however defined--than those on the liberal side of things. I don't consider myself to be foremost a conservative, but I'm clearly a kind of conservative, or else I wouldn't find their arguments and ideas so fascinating, provocative, and important. I guess what it comes down to is that my many communitarian, populist, and religious sentiments almost invariably make me sound conservative, even few people would consider my voting choices (Obama? John Kerry? Ralph Nader?!?) to fit under that label. And pretentious academic intellectual that I am, I'm constantly trying to make sense of that difference between appearance and intention: trying, in short, that one can be, as the quote from Norman Mailer on the sidebar says, a Burkean by way of Marx, or that conservative sentiments need a little--or more than a little!--leftism to make them a reality, or at least give them a shot of holding onto reality in our modern liberal capitalist world.

All this is by way of saying that I took a ridiculous amount of glee from finding myself on the fairly selective blogroll of an excellent new conservative web publication, Front Porch Republic. The main minds behind this new effort to articulate and explore a "dissident" conservatism are some of the most challenging prolific voices around: Daniel Larison, Rod Dreher, and Allan Carlson (whose book on "Third Ways" was a hit when I last used it in my Christianity and Social Justice class). As contributing editors there is simply a ton a good folks involved: Patrick Deneen, Caleb Stegall, Mark Mitchell. And the blogroll puts me alongside anarchists and localists and anarchists of very degrees. From the first set of postings, it looks to be a fine and important clearing house--and discussion space--for ideas and agendas. I'm looking forward to reading what shows up there with great anticipation, and arguing with it as it does.

Will I convince anyone there of my point of view? Perhaps, but perhaps not: the last time John Schwenkler (who is also on the blogroll!) and I went back and forth over this whole idea of whether or not Red Tories and Christian socialists and left conservatives generally (all eight of us!) could ever be part of an coalition of thinkers on the right side of the blogosphere, we found ourselves hung up on a fundamental disagreement over liberty. Basically, the localist dissidents picking fights with Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the Republican establishment are still, truly, liberal: they see something essentially valuable in the basically libertarian conception of liberty (subject to the classical, Aristotelian and/or Christian notion of the individual as conditioned by their place within a larger body of meaning and membership). Whereas I think Hegel and Marx got more right than Locke; I think liberty in an individualistic sense is vitally important in an instrumental and prudential sense, but I'm not sure that it offers us much as an essential guide to morality and philosophy in the modern world. That's right, I'm a modern, and I think modernity has added something to our ability to think about justice and equality and community which most of the ancients simply lacked. So rather than turning away from it all, I want to find and defend social policies and arrangements which acknowledge the need for collective (hopefully democratic, and occasionally compulsory) action and institutions to preserve the cultural and economic infrastructure which local communities and traditions and families depend upon. What does that mean, today, in practice? I have my guesses, but of course don't necessarily know. That's why I read these conservatives: so that I can be reminded of what I don't know, and hopefully learn a few things along the way. (This is the same reason why I value my libertarian friends: so they can remind me of when I'm not taking that "instrumental and prudential" advice seriously enough.) But for now, I suspect that while our differences will be deeper than our agreements, even if our mutual sympathies will be broad.

Oh well. Front Porch Republic puts right there at the top of the page "Place. Limits. Liberty." Two out of three definitely ain't a bad start.


Anonymous said...

"I think modernity has added something to our ability to think about justice and equality and community which most of the ancients simply lacked."
Could you perhaps say something more specific about that? (In the interest of furthering the argument and in the spirit of learning about what I may not know.)

Mark Shiffman
Front Porch Republic

Unknown said...

Which eight left-conservatives?