Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What I Did Last Summer

I have been negligent in completing the homework assignment that Glen Dean gave me (and several others) a couple of weeks back -- "What I Did Last Summer," er, what is my definition of conservatism. Fortunately, the good people at ISI Books helped out by sending me The Essential Russell Kirk. That book begins with the Kirk's essay, "What Is Conservatism?"
. . . Strictly speaking, conservatism is not a political system, and certainly not an ideology . . . conservatism offers no universal pattern of politics for adoption everywhere. On the contrary, conservatives reason that social institutions always must differ considerably from nation to nation, since any land's politics must be the product of that country's dominant religion, ancient customs, and historic experience . . . conservatives generally believe that there exists a transcendent moral order, to which we ought to try to conform the ways of society. . . conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence. Burke agrees with Plato that in the statesman, prudence is chief among virtues . . . conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectibility . . . we are not made for perfect things . . . By proper attention to prudent reform, we may preserve and improve this tolerable order . . .


UPDATE: Here is Scott Richert's review of the Kirk book from the March issue of Chronicles.

3 comments:

Glen said...

Thanks for responding Clark. I especially wanted to read the opinion of guys like you and AC. Very interesting. If I were to paraphrase, would it be correct to say that conservatism is to maintain the status quo as far as tradition and culture are concerned?

Clark said...

I'm not sure there is much left to conserve. To borrow again from Kirk:
"If a conservative order is indeed to return, we ought to know the tradition which is attached to it, so we may rebuild society; if it is not to be restored, still we ought to understand conservative ideas so that we may rake from the ashes what scorched fragments of civilization escape the conflagration of unchecked will and appetite."
That's about where we are now.

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