Thursday, August 25, 2016

Canons of Conservatism

1. Belief that a divine intent rules society as well as conscience, forging an eternal chain of right and duty which links great and obscure, living and dead.  Political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems.  A narrow rationality, what Coleridge calls the Understanding, cannot of itself satisfy human needs....Politics is the art of apprehending and applying the Justice which is above nature.
2. Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of traditional life, as distinguished from the narrowing uniformity and equalitarianism and utilitarian aims of most radical systems....
3. Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes.  The only true equality is moral equality; all other attempts at levelling lead to despair, if enforced by positive legislation.  Society longs for leadership, and if a people destroy natural distinctions among men, presently Buonaparte fills the vacuum.
4. Persuasion that property and freedom are inseparably connected, and that economic levelling is not economic progress.  Separate property from private possession, and liberty is erased.  
5. Faith in prescription and distrust of "sophisters and calculators."  Man must put control upon his will and appetite, for conservatives know man to be governed more by emotion than by reason.  Tradition and sound prejudice provide checks upon man's anarchic impulse.
6. Recognition that change and reform are not identical, and that innovation is a devouring conflagration more often than it is a torch of progress.  Society must alter, for slow change is the means of its conservation, like the human body's perpetual renewal....
     ~Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind (BN Publishing, 2008: 7-8)


  1. "civilized society requires orders and classes."
    What do "orders and classes" refer to? Aristocrats, clergy, independent press, university professors?

    "only true equality is moral equality"
    And not legal equality?

  2. The surrounding context doesn't make it clear what "orders and classes" are referring to. I suppose it would depend on the society. A free market wherein some either have more wealth/power or more excellent skills/qualities will be such that there are classes. Take Nozick's Wilt Chamberlain example: Free transactions upset patterns. This was true even in the Soviet Union where black markets thrived and there were classes within the ruled class as well as the ruling class.

    Sure, there can also be legal equality at least within restricted domains. Humans might all have a legal right to life but not mosquitoes; people 18+ a right to vote; etc.