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The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.

A Brief Reply to Jeremy Kessler



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I don’t have much of a reply to Jeremy Kessler’s clarifying remarks, partly because I think he is characterizing my views fairly and accurately. As he suggests, my perspective is at its root anti-political, and profoundly skeptical of (political) centralization and (class) solidarity as the instruments or tactics through which we promote human flourishing. This might reflect the fact that I was influenced early on by James Burnham, one of the first editors of National Review, and his distillation of the anarcho-syndicalist Robert Michels’s “Iron Law of Oligarchy.” To put it more directly, Jeremy’s convictions are rooted in the refusal of fate and I’m a believer in Fate with a capital F.

As a high school student, I read a National Interest essay by Thomas A. Howard on Jacob Burckhardt. Though Burckhardt’s work has been superseded by later scholars of the Italian Renaissance, he was a fascinating dude with lots of important things to say. Brown quotes the following by Burckhardt:

The ‘realization of ethical values on earth’ [Hegel] by the state would simply be brought to grief again and again by the spiritual inadequacy of human nature in general, and even of the best of humanity in particular. The forum of morality lies quite outside the state, and we may wonder that it can do as much as uphold conventional justice. The state will be most likely to remain healthy when it is aware of its own nature … as an expedient.

I recommend taking a look at Howard’s essay. 



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