The Postmodern Conservatives

by Yuval Levin

I hope you’ve been following the Postmodern Conservative blog, newly arrived at NRO. I’ve been a huge fan of theirs in their various abodes (most recently First Things, which has a fantastic website that everyone should keep up with) and am very glad to see them now making themselves homeless and at home here, if you know what I mean.

They have already begun to offer a sense of the blend of philosophical depth and Augustinian (or maybe Pascalian) searching that makes them so interesting and important, and allows them to serve as genuinely friendly critics of essentially every one of conservatism’s philosophical schools. Their very great strength, to my mind, is the ability to see both the virtues and the vices of our theories of liberal-democracy and our practice of liberal-democracy, and to welcome it all as a big, messy package deal that will never make sense but is usually worth the cost. They are in this sense friendly critics of American democracy more generally. They don’t deny the worrisome developments that cause some conservatives to despair, but they also don’t take them as causes for despair. They hope instead to use them, in the words of that great postmodern conservative Alexis de Tocqueville, to spark “the salutary fear of the future that makes one watchful and combative, and not the sort of soft and idle terror that wears hearts down and enervates them.”

Maybe because they’re still new to this neighborhood, the postmodern conservatives at NRO have so far, not unlike Barack Obama, shown a habit of reserving their most profound intellectual exertions for reflections on themselves. I’d recommend especially Peter Lawler (here and here), Ralph Hancock (here and here), and Carl Scott (here). But there has also been other wonderful stuff from all of them (and from the ever wise Peter Spiliakos and others) and I’m eager for more to come.

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