A new book systematically defends the American Founding against those who believe it was destined to end in nihilism.
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Bradley C. S. Watson’s new book Progressivism: The Strange History of a Radical Idea points scholars in new and productive directions regarding the political thought of the Progressive Era. Watson writes with vigor and verve, making the book of great appeal to anyone trying to take the true measure of the legacy of Progressive political thought in American history.
While the post-liberal right often asks good questions, many of its answers are flawed, grounded on mistaken premises, and deeply misleading.
For decades, both First Things and National Review have struggled to make as much peace as possible between two uncongenial streams of conservative thinking and praxis. That their editors have now planted their feet decisively in one of those streams marks an important moment in the history of American conservatism.
Conservative critics of “liberalism” are right to identify major flaws in liberal theory. But a deeper appreciation of those flaws should prevent us from blaming the American political tradition for them. Liberal theory is so erroneous that neither the Founders nor any other Americans could ever really put it into practice.
The constitutional framers knew that not everyone would always agree on how other people exercised their fundamental rights, such as property and religious liberty, which was precisely why those rights were enshrined in the Constitution. However, modern progressives have sought to undermine that constitutional consensus.
David French, Sohrab Ahmari, and others who are debating the future of conservatism are right to think that the challenges facing our nation are grave. Still, we need not feel forced into cheering for one side or the other, into viewing this as a matter of “teams.” We conservatives need to keep the main focus on ideas, not personalities, and engage each other both robustly and charitably. We need to think prudently about practical steps we should take—here and now, given all the givens—that will promote the common good.
The rise in numbers of people with no religious affiliation reflects the emergence of a new faith rather than a loss of faith altogether. As America’s religious norm changes from Christianity to therapeutic deism and spiritualized progressivism, we will find more people challenging longstanding protections of human dignity and religious liberty.
Hannah Arendt has been unjustly transformed into a political partisan for the liberal causes that are in vogue today. Letting Arendt speak for herself recovers her intellectual independence as someone who defined herself apart from and against the political traditions of her day—including progressive liberalism.
Could a new national conservative coalition enable Burkean conservatives to harness populist energy, using public policy to strengthen the core American institutions of family, religion, and country? Or will it inevitably degenerate into dehumanizing racism and xenophobia?
The Handmaid’s Tale is at best a thought-provoking literary work, and at worst a straw-man argument against traditionalism and conservative values. Atwood fails to deliver an intelligent critique of conservative Christian values, and her book does not reach the caliber of Orwell’s tales.
What started as a rebellion against bourgeois conformity and oppressive technocracy ultimately ushered an age of triumphant individualism and economic globalization. The rediscovery of Marxism by the young rebels of the sixties started a long-term transformation of the left from advocate of the working class to political home of the professional elites. How did that happen?
If the status quo is the end game for conservatives, then there can never be hope for a long-term political victory, only momentary setbacks to the progressive agenda. The victories of social progressivism have less to do with the ideology of the founding than the moral failure of men and women in every generation to stop evil from progressing.
We simply cannot ignore theology when looking at social problems. For Christians, the notion of sinful structures is based on the difficult but ultimately liberating admission that the existing social positions we occupy are often not in conformity with the order of God.
Given our splintered, irresolute wills, Alan Jacobs’s concept of thinking that “we can do better,” even if “we ought to,” is not enough. It’s going to take more than hope and a checklist.
American Muslims must seek to preserve the American constitutional settlement against encroachments by totalitarian secularism because doing so means preserving what remains of a civilizational order that proceeds from belief in God.
For ten years, Public Discourse has drawn on the insights of academics and scholars, political and legal advocates, and men and women of letters to offer the reading public thought-provoking reflections on the timeliest issues and the most timeless dilemmas of our public life.
The progressive left is working to overcome what it perceives as the out-of-date premises of the Judeo-Christian ethic previously reflected in scouting.
If we want a different politics, ultimately we must offer a different moral imagination for ourselves, our children, and theirs.
It’s time for Christians to partner with conservative Muslims and others who share traditional views on key social issues. And American Muslims should leave behind their lockstep alliance with the social justice left.
With the recent decision to drop “Boy” from their fabled name, the Boy Scouts undermine the very foundation for their existence and exacerbate our society’s confusion about sexual difference and gender distinction.
If social conservatives don’t radically alter what we are doing—if we don’t buck the current conventional wisdom and do something different—we will lose.
Should we determine whether a person is fit to be a judge based on his or her religious beliefs or opinions on contemporary policy debates? Or should the Senate approve judges based on their reputation for fairness, their ability to follow and apply law, and their record of judicial wisdom?
All governments must collect taxes, punish criminals, enforce building codes, and license certain professions. The real debate is over how the administrative state acts and under what powers. What would a constitutional administrative state look like today?
If we believe that all human beings deserve respect, we ought to act like it. That means we should use our rational faculties to understand and answer bad arguments, not ridicule those who make them.