Thursday, February 20, 2014

Elegiac-critical conservativism

It's an uncomfortable truth that Tradition sometimes has alternative, sometimes more effective ammunition against society than Radical alternatives.

Consider the interests and powers inevitably aligned behind the status quo. Regard
also the emotional appeal of what is and what was – of things endangered by the exorable trudge of progress – and what may have been - the half re-constructed, half imagined past of Downton Abbeyland.

You can come across this kind of discourse on both sides of the political spectrum, especially now the democratic Left have something to be nostalgic about, but its exponents can often be found among a certain kind of more or less thoughtful, civic-minded, small-c conservativism.

What I want to suggest, however, is that this discourse's prevailing relation to society is elegiac-critical. Elegiac, for they mourn the past, engage in nostalgic reconstruction, or at least find no faith in the modern.

Critical, because at their satirical best, the middle-class small c-conservative is clear-sighted enough to expose the foundations of present folly, even if he or she sees no ultimate solution. Even at their most apolitical, each look back in languour or existential crisis allows the reading that 'things were once better.' 

And that gives us space to have a conversation.To understand what they value. And to discuss how to preserve what they value in a better now.

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