Postmodern Conservative

More Still on Scruton versus Oikophobia

So the full information on the symposium on the thought of Roger Scruton, the world’s leading conservative thinker, at Rhodes College is now available. Among the speakers will be me, Dan Mahoney, our Jim Ceaser, and Roger Scruton himself. Be walking to hear the talking in Memphis Friday afternoon.  

And here’s more of what I might well say about Roger’s conservative, third-person, anthropological analysis.

Now, Scruton observes, “the oikophobe is, in his own eyes, a defender of enlightenment universalism against local chauvinism.” But it is much clearer what the oikophobe is against than what he or she is for. To rebel against one’s own is a natural part of what we now call the adolescent stage of life, the time when young men, we’re told, enjoyed having Socrates expose the ignorance of their elders or, these days,  enjoy reading Ayn Rand about singularly heroic creators being dragged down by the parasites surrounding them, or attach themselves to abstractly idealistic visions of transformational change they believe will transcend what only appear to be invincible personal limitations.
 
Both our shrinking cadre of socialists and our growing number of Silicon Valley transhumanists and allied libertarians don’t pause to reflect on the effects their disruptive innovations have had and will have on the relational life that makes personal being possible. They’re about the conquest of nature that makes it impossible to be at home with who we are as both animals and persons, and their obsession with the future is at the expense of being in love in the present.
 
So oikophobia, for most sophisticated people, is an adolescent stage to be chastened by the relational responsibilities and loving compensations of becoming a real citizen, church member, friend, spouse, parent, and so forth, but it’s the stage in which “intellectuals tend to become arrested.” In the end, the conservative smiles indulgently at oikophobic kids, who will mostly learn to know better. With the exception of those who have been raised exceptionally well, nobody expects highly self-conscious or really smart modern kids to be conservatives, and their default ideology is libertarian or Marxist.  
 
And it’s even possible to indulge liberal intellectuals with arrested development to a point, although their pathetically truncated or, in some cases, monstrously deformed personal beings can be the source of theories and movements aimed at emptying out the moral contents of the lifeworld on which we all depend. It’s the conservative who’s about arresting what seems to be the endless modern dialectic between oikophobia and xenophobia — between globalism and Fascism — with the mean between those extremes, the nation, which is not to be confused with the tribe or the church or, especially, nationalism. The nation is the only place where the protection of human rights can be effective — both through law and habituation — and it’s the nation where we learn how to treat strangers with the respect we instinctively accord to friends.

Peter Augustine LawlerPeter Augustine Lawler is Dana Professor of Government at Berry College. He is executive editor of the acclaimed scholarly quarterly Perspectives on Political Science and served on President George ...

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