Patrick Deneen had an eloquent piece up this week at Front Porch Republic, a speech given at a student retreat held by the Tocqueville Forum. This speech is emblematic of many popular conservative (and I mean literal conservative) ideas, with implications that go wider than mere politics.
Deneen’s speech is a “defence of culture.” Following one Romano Guardini, Deneen understands culture in a specific sense that ties it essentially to nature, history and society. Culture thus defined is a tradition of interacting with nature and other humans, suspicious of change, deferring to the past and ready to pass it on to future generations. When defined this way, Deneen says, the enemy of culture is liberalism, the contemporary politics of individual choice and freedom at a great remove from nature, history and society. (In this sense, most of the libertarian American Tea Partiers are consummate liberals; liberalism is generally the ideology of both the modern left and the modern right.) Liberalism, Deneen says, endorses an “anti-culture,” or at least monoculture, in which the priority of individual over collective goods is everywhere enshrined. The particular kind of collective goods Deneen has in mind, I think, have above all to do with raising a family – for example, the ability to raise one’s children in an environment that is not thoroughly sexualized by scantily-clad magazine covers, Lady Gaga, Internet pornography and Bratz dolls. (The example is mine, but it’s true to Deneen’s position as I understand it.) Perhaps the most telling line in the piece, and the one that inspired me to write this entry, is this quote from Bertrand de Jouvenel: the political philosophers of liberalism are “childless men who have forgotten their childhood.” Continue reading