Some Conclusions

If we look back to the first class, where I outlined some of the currents in conservative thinking, and gave a preliminary list of the important topics – the points where the conservative view is, as it were put to the test, either of fact or of thought – we will see, I hope, that we can make a shot at understanding which of those currents are central, and how they might be brought together in a single political philosophy.

First, however, we should note the omissions from my treatment of the salient topics. To some extent this has been the result of interest expressed by our class in specific figures from the conservative Pantheon – notably Hume, Hegel and Oakeshott. This means that we have touched on religion and the welfare state only in passing, and on warfare and foreign policy not at all. However, it seems to me, the by-ways have been fruitful and have helped to put us in a better position to see why the conservative vision is both coherent in itself and worthy of the kind of discussion that it seldom receives in modern courses of political philosophy. I shall outline the position, drawing wherever possible on our discussions, and giving what seem to me to be the principal arguments.

1. The Nature of Political Order.

What does a philosophical theory of political order look like? The simplest answer is that it proposes an ideal type, in Weber’s sense, and shows how instances of that type are to be justified. Such theories are to be evaluated on three levels:

1. Is the ideal type possible, given what we know of human nature and also given the a priori constraints on practical reasoning?

2. Is the ideal type too remote to serve as a model for any actual society?

3. Does the ideal type specify a social arrangement that is in fact fully justified/legitimated by its proposed principles of validation?

We have before us the celebrated work of Rawls, which belongs to a tradition of contractarian thinking, and we can see that it really does attempt to pass the test on all three levels. Briefly we can divide philosophical theories of political order into four kinds:

1. Contractual: in which the terms on which people live together are freely contracted between them.

2. Anarchistic: in which social order is the accidental by-product of neighbourhood, with no structure of its own.

3. Goal-directed: in which society is organized in pursuit of some ultimate goal, as in socialist schemes for egalitarian distribution.

4. Customary: in which social order is the consensual solution to problems of social coordination, without being the object of contract or consent.

In opting for the fourth of those the conservative is animated by real and largely unanswered objections to the other three. The contractual view is rejected first on Humean grounds, that the ideal type is too remote to serve as a model for any actual society (in other words it fails at level 2); also on Hegelian grounds, that it is impossible, since the practical reasoning necessary for a social contract is the product of political order and cannot precede it (in other words it fails at level 1). It also fails on level 3, for the profound and insuperable reason adumbrated by Burke, namely that it could be justified only if absent generations were included in the contract, and this is precisely what the theory prevents. Only the living can be part of the deal, for only they can express their consent to it. But the living have a self-interested motive to dissipate their inheritance and to disenfranchise the dead and the unborn. Of course, they may not wish to do this. But that is only because they have a self-image, and a social identity, shaped by tradition and custom into a posture of respect for absent generations – in other words because they already live under a social order organized in the conservative way. In considering Burke, Hume and Hegel we have visited all those arguments against the contractarian view. They are arguments against the most popular liberal theory of social order. And they are in my view unanswerable.

Anarchism is more congenial to the conservative tradition, for reasons explored by Robert Nozick. But anarchism does not generate an ideal type that is possible given what we know of human nature and practical reasoning. As Hume points out, we emerge from our self-replicating conflicts of interest only by virtue of the artifice of justice, and this already involves a commitment to rule-guided behaviour, to allocations of property rights, and to enduring institutions of adjudication, not to speak of all the customs that enable those institutions to protect themselves from predators. For the same reason the anarchist model fails at level 2 – its ideal type is hopelessly remote from a ‘Great Society’ of the kind envisaged by Adam Smith. To adhere to the anarchist’s ideal in modern conditions would be to threaten all that is established and customary. Only at level 3 does the anarchist vision come into its own – and it is only at this level that Nozick defends it, as an ideal type that is self-justifying. It is self-justifying in that the social order that it recommends is entirely subordinate to individual rights, and merely the minimum necessary to protect those rights from invasion. Amplified by a philosophical justification of individual rights (for instance, the natural rights view of Locke or Kant, or the natural law view of Aquinas or Grotius) this would give an a priori vindication of Nozick’s ‘minimal state’. But – as Hegel would point out – all the institutions and history that are necessary for people to think in terms of rights has been left out of the picture. We work towards making rights a reality through the dialectic of Sittlichkeit, which imposes on us the tripartite order of family, civil society and state.

The goal-directed vision of political order is perhaps the one least congenial to the conservative, for reasons set out below. It fails at the first level in two ways: first the goal is invariably some other conception of political society than the actual one. We are supposed to be working towards the society of the future. But then that only raises the question what that society is working towards? If it is not itself goal-directed then it must owe its justification and its legitimacy to some other source than its goal-directedness. In other words the society of the future will have to be justified on one of the other patterns – say liberal or anarchist. (Indeed, that is what you find in Marx’s culpably sketchy account of ‘full communism’.) Secondly, as Burke points out, the goal, elevated above the procedures whereby people achieve social accomodation, undermines the very process of cooperation whereby it might be achieved. This is as true of the French Revolutionary goals of liberty, equality and fraternity as of the goals of modern socialism.

The goal-directed model fails at the second level too, since it fails to see that instrumental organization is a very special case of social organization, which cannot be duplicated at the political level, and which is in any case dependent on all the non-instrumental associations through which people conduct their everyday lives. This argument is spelled out persuasively in Oakeshott, and is already there, in another form, in Aristotle.

At the third level the question is open as to whether the goal-directed ideal type is justified: it depends on the goal. But here the hard work tends to be avoided. No effort goes in to the characteristic socialist defences of equality, for example, and the philosophy behind the doctrine of natural rights, as the French Revolutionaries put it forward, has never been given demonstrative form. Just look at Aquinas, Summa Theologica, IaIIae, qq90-95, for example, or the arguments for Kant’s Categorical Imperative, as they occur in the Second Critique, or as refined by Christine Korsgaard in Creating the Kingdom of Ends. Maybe a kind of genealogy of the justice idea can be given, that will show its centrality and its objective necessity in human communities – such was attempted by Hume, and such has been persuasively developed, drawing on Hume and Bertrand de Jouvenel, by David Wiggins in his recent book; however, the concept of justice that it delivers is not the ‘end state’ concept of the Rawlsians and the Revolutionaries, but the procedural concept of Burke. The hard work here points in a conservative direction. Hence confident assertion of the goal is backed up, as a rule, only by vague metaphysical arguments. Nor is this surprising. The motivating force of the politics of goals is almost invariably a negative force: derived from hatred of existing things, rather than a clear conception of the alternative. This last observation is very important for conservatives, whose view of revolutionary fervour generally is well captured by Nietzsche’s theory of ressentiment. (The theory was re-shaped for conservative purposes by Max Scheler, in his phenomenological study, Ressentiment.)

This leaves the fourth ideal type as the one most congenial to conservatives, and this is the one I shall now discuss.

Spontaneous Order

We are now in a position to summarize the arguments about the conservative’s favoured ideal type of political order, which is ‘spontaneous order’ in Hayek’s sense of the term. This is an order that is not freely chosen, but which is the by-product of free choices. These free choices are made in the course of a myriad consensual transactions, typified by those which animate a market, or which are routinized in the form of custom, tradition and the common law. This ideal type manifestly passes the test of possibility, and conflicts with nothing that we know about human nature or about the exercise of practical reason – it is a product of practical reason, but does not require us to exercise that reason in unexplored or metaphysical domains. It arises by an ‘invisible hand’ from transactions that are utterly intelligible to anyone.

It passes the second test readily enough, since we can easily identify, in our existing societies, pockets of spontaneous order in the form of families, clubs, churches, markets and traditions. And while these are always under threat from the predations of goal-directed socialism or censorious liberalism, they have a remarkable capacity to survive which testifies to their ability to adjust in the face of external pressure.

Finally the ideal type passes the third test, and in an interesting way which I shall discuss in more detail below. It is justified not as an object of free choice, but as a by-product of free choice. Of course, people are often appalled by the unintended patterns that emerge from pooling their choices, so that this aspect needs to be further elaborated. And that elaboration is what the theory of conservatism is about. There is a Darwinian version of conservatism which says that what matters is not the pattern that emerges from our choices, but the pattern that survives. Spontaneous orders that have emerged and survived, in a public world rife with competitors, enjoy the tacit endorsement of those who produced them.

Whether or not there is any mileage in that argument, the one that we have repeatedly come across, and which goes to the heart of the conservative vision is:

The Epistemological Argument.

This is deployed in several contexts, and not always formulated in the same way. The idea is this: human beings, guided by both self-interest and benevolence, can make rational choices only if they have the information needed to assess the starting point, and to predict the end point, of their free transactions. In all areas which concern negotiated relations with strangers, this information alters in response to others’ unpredictable choices, and therefore cannot be formulated in a project or a plan. Nevertheless it is real information, which is contained in, and recuperable from, the ongoing spontaneous order. The paradigm case of such an order is the market, in which rational conduct requires information about the scarcity of commodities, and the extent of others’ demand for them. If the market is free, that information is distilled in the form of prices: a result argued for on common sense grounds by von Mises, and later proved as a theorem of n-person game theory by von Neumann and Morgenstern. Interference in the market, whether through the control of prices or wages, or through the imposition of a plan, always acts to destroy the information that it needs, by destroying the epistemic content of indices such as prices and wages. Hence the planned economy of the socialists is inherently irrational, since to put it into practice is to destroy the information that it needs for its success.

This argument is now widely accepted, and is one reason for the near universal retreat from the socialist project in the economic sphere. However, it is obvious that it parallels, in the realm of economics, various conservative arguments against what Oakeshott calls ‘rationalism’ in politics. Here are some parallel instances:

1. Hayek’s defence of the common law against ‘legislation’. Hayek’s argument is that law ‘discovered’ in the common-law process develops according to principles that are intuitively accepted by the parties to any dispute – principles of natural justice which are implied in any consensual transaction – and that the common law summarizes an ongoing tradition of solutions based on those principles. The doctrine of precedent enables the judge to bring to bear on the present case the information contained in countless previous solutions. These solutions are summarized in the precedent, much as economic transactions are summarized in prices in a market. The information made available in this way is part of the ongoing wisdom of the law, and is vulnerable to the strategic thoughts of the legislator, for whom law is not discovered but made, and made for a purpose.

2. Burke’s defence of tradition against the plans and schemes of revolutionaries. A tradition is shaped by the free transactions of people across generations, and perpetuates the solutions to conflicts and the shared understandings which have evolved in response to the changing historical circumstances of the society as a whole. It is impossible to devise a plan that summarizes these solutions and understandings, since they are marked by all the contingencies of historical development. Yet they all make their mark on a tradition, and a kind of implicit knowledge of them is imparted to those who participate in the tradition – much as an implicit knowledge of musical syntax is imparted to those who participate in a musical tradition, or much as a language is acquired, by osmosis, and without the benefit of a grammar. According to Burke the knowledge contained in a tradition cannot be contained in a single head – it is the ‘common stock’ of society, and is vulnerable to the plans and schemes of revolutionaries, who think they know more than the tradition contains, but in fact know much less.

3. Oakeshott’s defence of ‘practical knowledge’, as contained in and exercised through ‘civil association’ against the ‘rationalism’ associated (among other things) with ‘enterprise association’ and with the managerial style of politics. Again the thought is that there are forms of knowledge which are imparted by example, which are essential to the successful conduct of social life, but which are only destroyed when re-presented in the form of a ‘rational’ plan.

4. Maistre’s defence of unwritten (‘God-given’) constitutions against the paper constitutions of revolutionaries. Maistre effectively endows the invisible hand with a will and a personality – and they are the will and the personality of God. Stop short of the theological addition, and you have another version of the epistemological argument.

And so on. Now, not every application of this argument is equally plausible, or equally easily to state. But there is something persuasive about it. We know that life in society presents endless problems of coordination, that we stand in need of conventions, rules and customary solutions if we are to negotiate our passage to our goals, and to enjoy the cooperation of our fellow citizens along the way. We know that much of the knowledge that we need for this negotiation is tacit, implicit and socially generated, no more available in the form of a plan than the knowledge how to win at chess, to compose a symphony, or to win the affection of another person. One of the tasks of conservative philosophy – embarked on with only incomplete success by Burke, Hayek, Oakeshott, Polanyi and others – is to give a theory of this kind of knowledge, the knowledge of the phronimos , as Aristotle called him.

One of the objections made to conservatism with great force in our time has been the claim that conservatives emphasize freedom when dealing with the economy, but order and tradition when dealing with questions of culture, family and social reproduction. Yet free markets, it is said, erode traditions, are constantly replacing customary solutions with alternatives, and in general putting the human heart on sale. This difficulty is one that we must meet. But it should be noticed that the conservative argument for markets is not based on the affirmation of free choice for its own sake: it is an epistemological argument; and it is precisely the same argument in another application that is given in defence of tradition, custom and the common law. There is no contradiction here, but a second-order coordination problem – how to reconcile the various first-order applications of the invisible hand, so that the one does not threaten the other.

Family and Civil Society.

The business of reconciling markets and traditions is not, for the conservative, the direct concern of politicians. For the same reasons as are implied in the epistemological argument, politicians are not competent to manage the large scale tensions with which we are familiar. But they are competent to hold in place the long-term solutions which emerge spontaneously in society. As Hegel pointed out, the nature and extent of the state and of our obligation towards it can be understood only if we see the state as arising from, and securing, the distinct spheres of social life. These spheres are two – private and public. The private sphere, that of the family, is the one in which the freely choosing, self-conscious, categorical-imperative-obeying individual is nurtured; but it is not in itself a sphere of freely chosen obligations. It is a sphere of pietas – of the non-contractual ties which endure into later life, and are the inevitable inheritance of any truly autonomous being.

In the conservative view one of the principal philosophical weaknesses of liberalism consists in the failure to understand this point – namely, that the freely choosing autonomous individual is an artefact, that he or she comes into being only by a process that indelibly imprints upon him or her the unchosen obligations of family life and sexual reproduction, that a correct understanding of those obligations shows them to belong to another sphere than that of autonomous choice, and that the attempt to recast them as contractual ties is profoundly destructive, not of society only, but also of the individual. Hegel did not go into this, in quite the way that we might go into it today. But that is the gist of Xanthippe’s argument in Phryne’s Symposium, and our discussion of sexuality was meant as a prelude to the argument developed in my book on Sexual Desire, showing the intrinsic nuptiality of the sexual, and the internal connection between sexual desire and unchosen obligations. Arguing about these obligations we have moved to another level, and one where the real foundations of the conservative attitude lie – the level of destiny, and the unalterable facts of human nature.

It is surely reasonable to follow Hegel, in thinking that the public sphere – the sphere of civil society – is (ideally at least) one of free association, whose presuppositions nevertheless depend upon the unfree association of the family. Only people brought up in a world of attachment and love develop properly as persons, and only persons can engage successfully in those free transactions whereby the networks and institutions of civil society are formed. In fact civil society is dependent at both ends on unchosen obligations – on those of the family, through which its members are recruited, and on those of the state, through which the consensual order is guaranteed.

In the first class I pointed to the tension – indeed, seeming contradiction – in the conservative tradition between the advocates of individual freedom and the anti-individualist arguments of people like Maistre. (Items (i) and (ii) in my list of conservative characteristics.) It seems to me that the contradiction can be resolved, and the tension eased, by recognizing that, while individual freedom is the ideal reward of political life, it is not the condition from which society begins, but the position at which it ends, or ought to end. The autonomous individual is not the abstract causa sui of the social contract, creating social order out of individual choice. He is the product of nurture and affection, of loyal sexual unions and pious commitments, who wins through to his freedom from a condition of dependence, and who is dependent thereafter on the unchosen order of a law-enforcing state. This is what we learn, I think, from Hegel, and Hegel is of great value in showing us why and how real conservatives are also ‘classical’ liberals, for whom the autonomy of the individual is a value in itself, and also the foundation of civil society.

The Hegelian argument – shorn of its untenable metaphysics, and with its metaphors ironed out – tells us that family and civil society are mutually dependent, that both are aufgehoben in the state, and that the state must maintain them if it is to endure. This does not mean that the law should be used to enforce the pieties of family life, or that the state should attempt to create a specific form of civil society. Nevertheless, there are ways in which the state can both promote the family and also undermine it, ways in which it can encourage creative association between citizens and also impede it. A recognition of this truth explains the suspicion of the liberal distinction between private and public (item (xi) in my initial list of conservative characteristics).

Free Association.

Civil society is a sphere of free association. But associations are of many kinds, and not all are congenial to the state, or to the flourishing of civil society. The idea of an ‘autonomous institution’ has in fact been central to conservative thinking since the Enlightenment, and defines an area in which the conflict between conservatives and liberals is now acute. Burke wrote loosely of the ‘little platoons’ through which the habit of association is developed, implying that the sense of the value of human life and our possibilities of happiness are intimately connected with these small associations. (To use the sociological jargon, they are the ‘primary identity-forming’ associations in modern societies.) Burke noticed and deplored the French Revolutionaries’ policy of confiscating autonomous institutions, absorbing them into the state, controlling their membership, their by-laws and their funds. This policy has been followed by socialists and (US-style) liberals in our own day, especially in matters such as education and social work. The idea of private education, like that of volunteer medical and rescue services, is unpalatable to the socialist, since free association in such matters is an avenue to social hierarchy. Yet the conservative argument that these institutions lose their ethos , their effectiveness and their loyalty-creating customs when managed by the state has never been properly answered. Everywhere in the modern world state education is failing to fulfil its purpose – and almost invariably this is because the state acts as though education has a purpose other than itself – for example, the purpose of equalizing the life-chances of the nation’s children.

An institution can be autonomous in several ways: it may be in charge of its own goals; its goals may be internal to itself; it may be in charge of its own funds; it may be responsible for raising those funds; it may be entirely under the control of its members or of some group of officers accountable to the members; and so on. All those aspects of autonomy are important, and have been esteemed at various points in the history of conservatism. All have a place in the theory of civil society. It is this that explains Hegel’s respect for the corporation, and for the concept of corporate personality that we touched on when considering law. And it is in defending that concept, both legally and morally, that the state can play a rôle in upholding civil society and ensuring that free associations can adjust to each other, offer identity to their members, and in general further the growth of human personality in the citizen and public spirit in the state.

This point should be borne in mind when we consider the all important conservative idea, of association for no purpose. This lies at the heart of Oakeshott’s theory of ‘civil association’, which he construes on the model of conversation, and also of the various forms of cultural conservatism which try to find the end of political life in those activities which are also ends in themselves, and for which culture is the general name. (See below.) But this returns us to the conflict with the liberal over freedoms, rights and justice.

Freedoms, Rights and Justice.

Free association, by that argument, is integral to the conservative vision: it is what creates the sphere of civil society independent of the state, and the attempts by the modern state to confiscate that freedom, whether in the educational or the social milieu, are the focus of the sharpest conflicts between liberals and conservatives. But freedom of association is only one of an array of ‘negative liberties’ through which the position known as classical liberalism is defined: liberties such as freedom of conscience, of speech and of assembly which are part of our post-Enlightenment worldview, and which don’t exist in most of the world. Conservatives have a complex attitude to many of these liberties, just as they have a complicated attitude to the Enlightenment generally. Part of them is drawn to agree with Mill in arguing that the state can curtail such liberties only on proof of harm to others. But another part of them is tempted to define ‘harm’ so widely as to make that criterion all but inapplicable. Although free association is integral to the conservative vision of society, conservatives are aware of the ease with which social organisms can be threatened, the fragility of many of our efforts to live the ethical life, and to maintain a consensual order, in the face of crime, corruption and self-centredness. They tend to be less confident in the self-policing potential of modern societies than liberals, and more aware of the corrupting influence of individual freedom. The conflicted response to freedom and its more disreputable products, such as the general materialism and licentiousness of modern societies, is an inevitable consequence of the conservative view that people are incomplete until bound in communities, and that communities both define values and also depend on the collective tribute that is paid to them. All this we see emerging in our discussion of Mill and Stephen.

However, it is not over negative liberty that the conflict with liberalism is currently fought. There are plenty of liberals who agree that, while liberty is not to be traded except for liberty, it is jeopardised by its own by-products, much as people are jeopardised by their organic waste. A society rotten with the free pursuit of appetite is one that is on the verge of fragmentation, and which is therefore inviting the kind of despotic control that invariably flows into the vacuum created by licentiousness. Negative freedom is necessary for individual autonomy: but choices made from mere appetite are not fully autonomous in Kant’s sense; a Kantian liberal (such as Michael Walzer) may therefore accept the fundamental conservative intuition in this matter.

The real dispute comes over the positive freedoms that are so often advanced alongside negative freedoms in the liberal agenda. And freedoms of both kinds are generally put forward as ‘rights’, so leaning on a concept of justice. People are said to have a right to believe what their conscience tells them, to speak their minds, to associate with whom they please and so on. But to that list of freedoms is added the list of claims: the right to health, education, and so on. As I argued, a claim is fundamentally different from a negative freedom, since it places an obligation on others to provide for it. And what if they cannot provide? Follow the argument through and you will end up justifying the constant expansion of the state. And then the epistemological argument weighs in, to say that the state will inevitably destroy the information base that it will need in order to satisfy the claims that are made on it. The state will not know how to allocate resources so as to provide what the citizens need in the way of education, health care and the rest. Maybe there are partial solutions to this problem, in the form of vouchers or whatever. But all such solutions involve a move away from the idea that the state is the primary provider.

The dispute here connects with another concerning justice. If we say that a person has a right to something, be it a freedom or a claim, we are implying that it is a duty of justice to provide that thing. Conservative objections to ‘claim rights’ are ultimately grounded in the idea that justice is a property of human actions (and by extension, human characters), and not of states of affairs, considered independently of the agency that produced them. ‘Pattern theories’ of justice of the kind advanced by Rawls are to be rejected, not merely on the ground (advanced by Nozick) that ‘liberty upsets patterns’, but on the more fundamental ground that justice is a procedural concept, governing the right conduct of our relations with each other. When we understand what this requires we see that justice between persons is as likely to be jeopardised as furthered by the pursuit of ‘social justice’, as defined by the liberal. In the class on justice I pointed to some of the pitfalls here, and to the way in which the liberal approach to justice eventually leaves us without an answer to the fundamental question – the question that bothered Plato and Aristotle, the question ‘why be just?’. The left-liberal desire to tie the concept of justice closely to that of social and material equality, inevitably severs the goal of justice from the motive of the individual citizen. I have a reason to treat you justly, in that respect for rights and deserts is a presupposition of our free relationship: it is already built into my dealings with you. (See again the Hayekian defence of common law.) But why should I be aiming at the kind of social equality that counts as ‘social justice’ in the left-liberal worldview? What motive have I to do this?

The Kingdom of Ends .

This takes us back to the conservative view of association. One persistent theme throughout our discussions has been that of the ‘end in itself’ – the activity that gives meaning to life, because it is intrinsically and not instrumentally meaningful. This is the theme of our discussion of culture, which took off from one of the most important of all post-Enlightenment documents, the Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man by Friedrich v. Schiller. Culture is advanced as the antidote to (alienated) work, to the self-estrangement of man, to all those evils which were to be diagnosed alike by nineteenth-century socialists like Marx and Engels and nineteenth-century conservatives like Arnold, Ruskin and Coleridge. It is the place of rest, where we find meaning in what we do, what we experience, and what we are, for the very reason that we are not subordinating our nature to any external purpose.

To what extent this sphere of culture is available in a world without religion is one of the big questions that conservatives have to answer. But we noted how, while all of them, save Hume, have the greatest respect for religion, none of them, save Maistre, and possibly T.S. Eliot, really believe it in its naïve and unself-conscious form. Burke, Hegel, and Coleridge see religion as fundamental to creating the sphere of intrinsic value, the sense of the sacred, and the place of safety within the community, outside the reach of materialist appetites. But their emphasis on culture comes precisely because they are not confident that religion can still supply the communal rites of passage whereby each new generation is included in the embrace of the last.

This area is deep and difficult. But it is proof of the great relevance of conservatism to the times in which we live that it is prepared to face the question of the ‘end in itself’. Leftist thinkers of the Frankfurt School kind have, since the mendacious book by Adorno and Horkheimer entitled Dialectics of Enlightenment, enjoined us to give up our attachment to ‘instrumental reasoning’, to stop ‘instrumentalising’ the world – and so on. The message is still there in Habermas. But what is not there, it seems to me, is a serious attempt to describe the alternative. Habermas writes of ‘communicative action’, as somehow liberating and consoling to those engaged in it. But it is an action that occurs only between leftist professors, and has nothing in common with the ways in which ordinary people find consolation and peace with their kind. It seems not to include religion or sport, still less hunting, shooting and fishing, or the small platoons of the neighbourhood. It is more an affair of committees with agendas.

In Oakeshott’s contrast between ‘civil association’ and ‘enterprise association’, in Burke’s and Hegel’s attack on the politics of revolution, in Arnold’s and Eliot’s defence of high culture, we find a search for those aspects of our political life which present us with intrinsic value, which overcome our alienation, and which are the conservative answer to the old socialist question – the question of ‘the restoration of man to himself’, to use the idiom that Marx took from Schiller. Culture is esteemed not merely because it engages with leisure on the one hand and religion on the other, but also because it is the source of our intuitions regarding authority. Culture is an ‘authority-giving’ sphere, and we acquire from it the ability to guide, to charm and to attract the affection of our kind. It is the thing that tames and civilizes power, and so makes power trustworthy. It is a fundamental part of the legitimisation of political order, and one that stands above the merely utilitarian considerations which influence socialist theories of the state.

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