Book club discussion

In a little bit, Corey Robin will be dropping by (in the comments) to discuss his book “The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin”. Hopefully, many of you will have already read the introduction and the first chapter by now.

I found the first chapter, on conservatives and counterrevolutionaries, especially intriguing.

Update. If you don’t have the book yet check out this article for a good start on it. A good excerpt:

In defending hierarchical orders, the conservative invariably launches a counterrevolution, often requiring an overhaul of the very regime he is defending. “If we want things to stay as they are,” in Lampedusa’s classic formulation, “things will have to change.” This program entails far more than clichés about preservation through renovation would suggest: Often it requires the most radical measures on the regime’s behalf.






137 replies
  1. 1

    I agree. It presented me with a whole new take on the subject.

  2. 2

    Interesting first chapter.

    I was intrigued by the comments on an earlier post by you that the reactionaries are Romantics and Romantics want to go back before the Age of Reason.

    I guess they don’t like the idea of a social contract?

  3. 3
    Angry DougJ says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    They like the idea of glorious old time, to which brave men can make the world return if they are virtuous enough to fight the good fight.

  4. 4
    mike bowles says:

    i am loving this book. i have long had a question, “what is the central organizing premise of conservatism”. they never seemed to have a real clear picture of where they wanted the country to head. remember ghw bush’s problem with “the vision thing”?

    This book makes it all clear to me. thank you thank you.

  5. 5

    Conservatism is the theoretical voice of this animus against the agency of the subordinate classes. It provides the most consistent and profound argument as to why the lower orders should not be allowed to exercise their independent will, why they should not be allowed to govern themselves or the polity. Submission is their first duty, agency, the prerogative of the elite.

    From the book. I haven’t found the page numbers yet.

    This statement places in a capsule much of the struggle of left versus right, have versus have not, and 99% versus 1%.

    So we have women subjected to public punishment because they complain of being raped. We have police all over the world being really really angry at demonstrators. We have snotty nosed little twerps who though it was okay for Rahm to be walking wall of rage but god forbid that Michelle ever bitch about anything.

    Yeah. This particular conflict pisses me off.

  6. 6
    Nicole says:

    The line about the conservative claiming to be prudent and moderate, while in fact often being the opposite, struck me in (apologies if this sounds stupid) explaining the very knee-jerk reactivity I’ve encountered in right-wingers on message boards, conversation, etc. Even with conservative friends, there’s such a quick jump to name calling and insults- it just seems to come from the gut with so many of them. And I wonder if the easy-to-anger is part of the appeal, which is funny for a movement that so often gets painted as the “reasonable” one.

  7. 7
    noodler says:

    I have enjoyed this book, esp as i follow the john cole model. appreciate the historical background… I didnt know wht i didnt know…

  8. 8
    Angry DougJ says:

    @noodler:

    That’s my feeling too, I didn’t know the history here at all before.

  9. 9
    astrodem says:

    I quite liked the book as well. It’s the most thoughtful treatment of conservatism I’ve come across since Rick Perlstein’s Before the Storm / Nixonland.

  10. 10
    gaz says:

    @Nicole: I think the thing is, is maybe there’s a bit of inadvertent nostalgia – or an attempt to be even keeled in describing them. I think it’s fair to say that the now-mythical “classic conservative” (WRT to American politics at least) could be considered to be basically reasonable, deferential to law & order, if a bit archaic and maybe stuffy – sometimes even *gasp* sort of shortsighted and jingoistic at times – at least from my soshulism addled POV. However, I can disagree with someone like that, without thinking that they are batshit, Rand Bachman Santorum, Esq crazy.

    That’s not the world I find myself living in today. I haven’t read the book yet – but I’m suspicious of the above, while much of the book seems reasonable, the idea that modern movement conservatism can appear in the same book as the word reasonable is odd.

    These are not reasonable people. But I think that the author may have been attempting to be either overly generous, or they are outdated in their perceptions.

    Edit: Or *I’m* the one going crazy. There’s always that possibility!

  11. 11
    Elizabelle says:

    Thanks for posting the article on Corey Robin’s book. Reading furiously now.

  12. 12
    Nicole says:

    The other nice thing the book does is, by taking a historical long view, and by bringing up French and British conservative thought, helps this present day reader start to understand the universal themes that shape it. Conservatism in France is a very different thing from conservatism in Britain or the USA, but I start to see how each of these nations idea of conservatism evolved.

  13. 13
    Corey Robin says:

    Hi all. Glad you’re enjoying the book. Funny, @astrodem, that you mention Rick’s book on Goldwater. In many ways, that book was a kind of inspiration for mine. Rick was one of the first to see the agonistic, revolutionary, impassioned nature of the conservative movement, when it was just getting going, and he showed how against-the-odds it was. How much it was tilting against reality rather than accommodating it. Then there was this explosion of histories that confirmed what Rick had been saying. Yet in political theory, no one’s taken in those insights. What I was trying to do here was to see whether or not the theory might provide a window on the actual experience of the conservative, to see whether the theory might not help us understand more deeply the milieu Rick and others have described. In other words, to read the theory in light of the history (and the history in light of the theory).

  14. 14
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Linda Featheringill: I feel pretty much the same way. Agency for anyone but them is decidedly not a good thing and must not be permitted. And anyone in the 99% wants to vote for them why?

    @Nicole: You make a good point about the reactivity, especially since the projection is always “those wild and radical liberals.” Reasonable my ass; it’s like they are passion prudes too, if one has strong views on an issue, however well reasoned and logical, they are wild and radical. Yet they like to paint their reactionary nonsense as moderate.

  15. 15
    realbtl says:

    @gaz:

    I didn’t get the sense the author was portraying conservatism as reasonable as much as pointing out how to understand it in reasonable terms rather than as batshit crazy.

  16. 16
    Nicole says:

    @gaz: I felt the book was exploring the whys of what, to a liberal such as myself, can seem like absolutely outrageous behavior, and how, too, it can be couched in reasonable, or even leftist, sounding terms. The upcoming chapter on the use of the word “freedom” to justify economic equality really got to me, because, soshulist that I am, I always wonder why these pundits that talk about freedom from taxation never talk about freedom from starvation, homelessness, or any of those things- in short, freedom from fear. The conservative seems to need to inspire fear to maintain authority, but they can’t say that. So it’s “economic freedom.”

  17. 17
    astrodem says:

    @Corey Robin:
    So I have a bit of a challenge for you, and the reason I’m asking this is because the book reads a bit like an anthology — you’ve got a lot of REALLY powerful ideas in it, but it’s sometimes a challenge to connect them all together. If you could sum up the central thesis of your book in 2-3 sentences, how would you do it. Give us your elevator pitch! ;-)

  18. 18
    noodler says:

    dont think the majority of gop or conservatives could explain their reationale for being so, except for hippie punching. Robin takes it much further

  19. 19
    Mark S. says:

    @astrodem:

    If I may be presumptuous, I guess it would be “Conservatism is the defense of privilege.”

  20. 20
    Maude says:

    @astrodem:
    You sound like a book reviewer at the NYT.
    It isn’t possible to sum up a book with complex ideas in 2 to 3 sentences.

  21. 21
    Corey Robin says:

    @astrodem: Conservatism is a reaction against emancipatory movements of the left. It opposes those movements not primarily because they make people equal in a material sense but because they enable men and women to stand up to their superiors, especially in their superiors in close quarters (the workplace, the family). In opposing those movements and defending the old hierarchies, however, conservatism will transform those hierarchies — often by borrowing (ideas, tactics, rhetoric, etc) from the very movements of the left it opposes. So you have conservatives, from the very beginning, presenting hierarchy as if it were populist or democratic or domination as if it were freedom. Often they’re not being cynical or instrumental about this. They sincerely believe it: and that’s because they’re influenced and shaped, in ways they aren’t always aware of, by the movements they fight against. (Okay, five sentences rather than three, but I tried!)

  22. 22

    @Corey Robin: How much it was tilting against reality rather than accommodating it.

    The biggest quality I notice with today’s conservatives is that the seem to have no reality handling skills. They prefer to ignore it and insist their fantasy is how it “really” is. I think this explains their love of conspiracy theories because there has to be a reason their reality is not reliably manifesting.

  23. 23
    noodler says:

    Corey, thanks for being here tonigt. I found your intro very thought provoking, and your discussion on women and property too. Have you done the same for liberalism?

  24. 24
    Nicole says:

    @noodler: Heh. I’ve thought about Anne Laurie’s comment from quite awhile ago, that most ultra-reactionary conservatism can be traced to childhood trauma. I wonder, instead, if it has more to do with lack of parental love (which can be tied into trauma, of course). I’m not talking about the leaders of conservatism, who, yes, I think are defending privilege, but the rank-and-file, the ones who are not the privileged elite and yet who defend them. There’s such a lack of empathy for their fellow rank-and-file human beings, that I start to wonder if it’s shaped by a lack of nuturing when they themselves were younger. This, is, of course, pretty much total woo on my part, as it’s based on my anecdotal experience with right-wing friends and family members. ;)

    Though I think a lot of it is also racism. I was really affected, as a child, by Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, which I think still had one of the best explanations of racism, essentially poor whites hang onto racism because they have little else to hang onto.

  25. 25
    astrodem says:

    @Maude:
    I agree Maude, but I assure you I am not a book reviewer. I do work in communications, specifically doing work that requires we be very very concise but still convey powerful ideas. The reason I was asking is because I want to encourage friends, relatives, and co-workers to read the book, and I’ve struggled myself to explain it in just a few sentences.

  26. 26
    Corey Robin says:

    @Noodler: I’ve never written a book-length treatment of liberalism, though my first book, Fear: The History of a Political Idea, talks a fair amount about Montesquieu and other canonical figures in the liberal tradition. You might find this piece I did in The Nation about six years ago — on how liberals were dealing with the war on terror — kind of helpful.

  27. 27
    Birthmarker says:

    I’ve read to page 21 according to Kindle. (I guess that equates with the print version?) This book covers themes also covered by John Dean in his trilogy that begins with Worse Than Watergate.

    I am so puzzled by the conservative mindset. I look forward to continuing reading this book and the discussions.

    To me it comes down to, “What is the function of government?” As a liberal, I think that if government doesn’t serve all the governed, that what’s the point? After all, the government is us.

    Corey, please comment on your view of what I consider to be the propaganda machine in the media that the GOP commands.

  28. 28

    I’m still wrestling with the idea that conservatism is based on a feeling of loss.

    The arch conservatives that I’ve known did have losses. But folks on the left have losses, too. Material goods, careers, relationships, and even people who died. In that sense, we’re all losers. We lose things, people, moments, etc.

    What makes the sense of loss on the right special?

  29. 29
    Mark S. says:

    @Corey Robin:

    Thanks for joining us! I was wondering, in your personal experience, do you think most conservatives are religious because they really believe, or do they mostly see religion as a way of keeping the lower orders in tow?

  30. 30
    mistermix says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Corey. I’ve just started the book and it looks like part of your argument that is counter to what establishment “sane” conservatives would have us believe is that “conservative” and “radical” are not opposites, but common bedfellows. Establishment conservatives like Andrew Sullivan seem to want to define radicals like the Tea Partiers out of conservatism in part because of their radicalism, but if I understand what I’ve read so far, conservatism in its truest form is often very radical since it envisions some ideal state of affairs and wants to forcibly revert society to that state. Is that about right, and is there more about radicalism coming in future chapters?

  31. 31
    NeverRepentAmarillo says:

    The premise that the conservative position was reactionary to progressive and revolutionary thought was not that surprising an argument, but I was intrigued by how the tactics and language used to promote the conservative position were laid out to also be reactionary to the other sides arguments, which helps explain to some extent why some of the conservative rhetoric seems to stray so far from what one would imagine as logical conservative principles.

  32. 32
    mike bowles says:

    i love the book corey. it really lines up conservatism for me. i’d thought it was completely formless. they seem not to know what to do when they finally get the power they seek so desparately.

  33. 33
    Corey Robin says:

    @Linda: Great question! I’m not saying conservatism is based on a feeling of loss or that conservatives themselves are the only people who’ve experienced loss. In fact, as you say — and as I say in the book — loss is a universal experience. What’s different about conservatives is that they make loss central to how they talk about politics. And that’s because they are reacting against movements of the left, which really do take things away from people. We on the left forget this, but all the great movements of emancipation that I speak of in the book — abolition, the civil rights movement, feminism, the labor movement, and so on — were not just about making men and women free, but making them from the domination of those who had oppressed or dominated them. When you emancipate someone, you’re also divesting the person above them of real privileges. Now, I think that’s a good thing; the left should do more of it. But we have to recognize that it’s a loss for the other side. Anyway, conservatives have gotten a tremendous amount of mileage out of this. Not only does it help them attract a mass following — conservatives got tremendous traction in the 60s and 70s from white workers who were being threatened by civil rights — but it also gives them a way of talking about themselves that is very attractive. They can present themselves as victims. This goes way back to Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution. And it goes way back b/c it’s so powerful.

  34. 34

    @Nicole: I can’t help but think along the same lines. So many of their reflexive responses sound just like they are echoing poor parentIng.

    But in response to the subject of the romanticized past; all conservative leaders will be wise and good and the conservative prefers rule by the idealized figures rather than, as they see it, a faceless mob.

  35. 35
    realbtl says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    My takeaway on the whole loss thing, which I really liked, is that it is like the old joke about a conservative and the 1/2 glass of water. “That’s MY glass and SOMEONE has been drinking out of it.” Whatever the loss, it was taken from them by someone below their perceived level.

  36. 36
    noodler says:

    Nicole

    Interesting, something more to read and increase my store of knowledge inre: the racism aspect. Liked the parenting comment tho

  37. 37
    Nicole says:

    @WereBear (itouch):

    The biggest quality I notice with today’s conservatives is that the seem to have no reality handling skills. They prefer to ignore it and insist their fantasy is how it “really” is.

    I think this is spot on. Much to my embarrassment, Ayn Rand is one of the few subjects I feel relatively comfortable commenting on, due to having read more of her stuff as a teenager than I should have (even then, I knew it was BS). That said, one of the big mistakes people make in poking fun at Ayn Rand is thinking that she was a supporter of what we think of as “Big Business,” which, to most of us, means crony capitalism. Rand hated crony capitalism as much as she hated religion and socialism. And, in her novels, the crony capitalists met their downfalls, too, because her heros and heroines were all ethical and noble, and, for all of their praising money, doing the work they did because they loved the work for itself (which is a terribly socialist notion, really). Her utopia depended on a world where the best and brightest were also ruled by a very strict code of ethics, which of course, is not the case in the real world. But that didn’t stop her from writing all of her freaking non-fiction essays as though it were actually a reality.

  38. 38
    Birthmarker says:

    @realbtl: Bu@realbtl: But how does one group with water convince the other group without water that they have no right to the water? This is what puzzles me.

  39. 39
    Corey Robin says:

    @mistermix: Yes and yes. You’ve got it about right, and there’s more to come. Check out the chapters on Scalia and also all the chapters in part 2, about conservative attitudes toward violence and war. Very radical.

    @MarkS: I don’t know the answer to your question. I suspect it’s both. On the one hand, sincere; on the other hand, also about domination (though see the last part of my chapter on Ayn Rand: the role of religion is actually quite complicated on the right; many conservatives were/are rabid atheists). Richard Viguerie, the guy who pioneered the use of direct mail on the right and really helped invent the Christian Right as a force in politics, said that the single most important factor driving the Christian Right in the 70s was the end of tax subsidies to segregation academies. These were private schools in the South to which white parents sent their children in the wake of desegregation (they didn’t want their children going to school with black children.) Because they were putatively religious schools, they got a tax break. It was a massive subsidy by the taxpayers for racism and white domination throughout the country. Richard Nixon, of all people, tried to end the subsidy, and this, more than anything (says Viguerie), is what drove Christian evangelicals to get involved in politics. Now I think it was definitely more complicated than that — gender politics played a huge role too — but there’s definitely something to that.

  40. 40
    Lavandula says:

    I appreciate your comments at 31. The book helped me put together some of my thoughts about the people I come from, white southern American Evangelicals. In particular, it helped me see some additional reasons for the incredible sense of victimhood and loss that so many of my relatives feel when they look outside their church and immediate setting. I believe them to be completely sincere in their experience of this loss; in their minds, they should be the arbiters of who goes where on the hierarchy,and they perceive this authority to judge who is truly human and who is not as something that was taken away from them by liberals. I especially like the book’s connection of contemporary conservatives with Burke’s sublime — for the Christians I grew up with, each event is freighted with a sense of portent and each person’s every action either helps or hinders the ongoing war against the larger forces of sin and evil, often as personified by liberals and secularists. I know this particular subculture wasn’t really a focus of the book, but as I said, I found it illuminating.

  41. 41

    @WereBear (itouch):

    the conservative prefers rule by the idealized figures rather than, as they see it, a faceless mob

    Most arch-conservatives that I’ve known have a lot of fear. The “faceless mob” can’t be controlled and is therefore scary. Several decades ago my dad was actually afraid of young men with long hair even they were happily ignoring him. It isn’t a good life, with all that fear.

  42. 42
    astrodem says:

    @Corey Robin:

    but because they enable men and women to stand up to their superiors, especially in their superiors in close quarters (the workplace, the family).

    To me, this was by far your most intriguing and provocative idea. I refer to it as the “private usurpations” thesis. I know from reading other interviews you’ve done that you’re trying not to delve into conservative psychology — you want to keep your focus on conservative ideas and actions. But this seems like an argument for their motivation. The evidence for it may exist in conservative writing and thought, but it clearly answers the WHY question by pointing to an emotion. Do you agree or am I missing something?

  43. 43
    Nicole says:

    @noodler: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is an incredibly moving book. I’ve gone back and reread it as an adult, and I still love the story.

  44. 44
    Corey Robin says:

    @Lavandula: Thanks so much! As I said earlier on (#12), I’m really trying to capture what the experience of conservatism feels like, looks like, to its participants. Especially glad the stuff on Burke and the sublime speaks to your own background milieu.

  45. 45
    General Stuck says:

    After reading several of Corey’s comments, I kick myself for not reading his book. The topic is by far the most fascinating thing to me in our political lives. Or, what makes your average wingnut tick. I’m off to Amazon

  46. 46
    Nicole says:

    Oh, moderators- one of my comments is in moderation (I used the dreaded “s” word). Help, please? Apologies for forgetting about male sexual enhancement drugs that hide within certain economic doctrines.

  47. 47
    realbtl says:

    @Birthmarker:

    Well, this is MY water but you see that one over there, the one that’s a little darker/different that you and me. Well HE wants to come over here and take ALL of the water for himself. I’ll give you a tablespoon of MY water if you’ll help me keep HIM away from OUR water.

    Will that work?

  48. 48

    @Nicole: #23

    I’ve thought about Anne Laurie’s comment from quite awhile ago, that most ultra-reactionary conservatism can be traced to childhood trauma. I wonder, instead, if it has more to do with lack of parental love (which can be tied into trauma, of course).

    This seems to fit some of the right-wingers I’ve known. Don’t know if there’s a cause-and-effect or merely association.

  49. 49
    Corey Robin says:

    @astrodem: Well, we need to be careful. Often, as is the case with conservative women of the right (all the women, for example, Phyllis Schlafly mobilized), conservatism has attracted the very people that the left is seeking to emancipate. So clearly for them, defending their own privileges — at least not in an immediate or obvious sense (it can in fact get very complicated) — is not the motivation. And I also think, even with those who do stand to benefit from conservative victories and rollbacks of the left, that it’s not simply what privilege and power do for them personally that matters, it’s the larger world that it creates that matters to them: it’s a world in which, they believe, the best man or men rules. Now even if they aren’t that man or men, they still are attracted to that world. Think of all the people who aren’t particularly privileged who still vote Republican. Some of them would rather live in a world where they have the chance of being a billionaire — where they can take risks, work hard, and reap huge benefits — than in a world where they’re guaranteed a more humdrum middle class existence (via universal health care, good public schools, decent-paying jobs, retirement, vacation).

  50. 50
    Roger Moore says:

    @a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q):

    And anyone in the 99% wants to vote for them why?

    One of their methods has been to try to redefine distinctions so that the 99% (or some fraction thereof) gets a social benefit from supporting the 1%, even if they don’t get any real power by doing so. That was a huge part of the power of segregation in the old South; it meant the poorest, lowliest white could still see himself as somebody.

  51. 51
    Angry DougJ says:

    @Nicole:

    I can’t find it in the spam filter or moderation queue.

  52. 52
    Corey Robin says:

    @Roger Moore: What you say is exactly what I say in chapter 1 and chapter 4 of my book. I also pursue that theme at length in this blog post I did.

  53. 53
    noodler says:

    is there anything “new” that the conservative will or can offer to the national dialogue? Drug benefit notwithstanding, society marches on…

  54. 54
    noodler says:

    is there anything “new” that the conservative will or can offer to the national dialogue? Drug benefit notwithstanding, society marches on…

  55. 55
    Nicole says:

    Corey, what are your thoughts on geography and conservative thought? A book on comparative politics I’m going through now (I record textbooks on mp3) talks about the role of geography in political thought- that rural areas tend towards conservative thought in many nations.

  56. 56

    This persistent fantasizing explains the conservatives among groups that are vilified by conservatives? By being part of the “in group” they deny their marginilization?

  57. 57
    Lavandula says:

    @astrodem at 39: me too, and I like your term for it — “private usurpations.” It seems to me that conservatives generally, as well as my evangelicals in particular, object less to the extension to the previously excluded of political rights like voting or even civil rights like being able to go to places of public accommodation, but the fact that they as conservatives are forced to recognize as fully human– as their equals–people they believe are not in fact deserving. I see the loss conservatives experience as their own loss of agenda-setting authority, something they value more than a guarantee of a higher or more monetarily secure place in the hierarchy.

  58. 58
    Nicole says:

    @Angry DougJ: It’s now been freed (back around comment 35, I think) . Thanks for looking!

  59. 59
    Corey Robin says:

    @Nicole: I’m leery of those kinds of generalizations. A lot of the right’s great thinkers (and not so great thinkers — Ayn Rand comes to hand) were celebrators of cities, and ultra-right movements like fascism had strong urban dimensions. Conversely, some of the great revolutions of modern history were peasant-based movements.

  60. 60
    Nicole says:

    @Corey Robin:

    Some of them would rather live in a world where they have the chance of being a billionaire—where they can take risks, work hard, and reap huge benefits—than in a world where they’re guaranteed a more humdrum middle class existence (via universal health care, good public schools, decent-paying jobs, retirement, vacation).

    And of course, the fact that the smaller the middle class, the less stable the democracy is a nice fringe benefit for conservatives that aspire to empire, as you described the Kristols later in the book. That was a really interesting chapter.

  61. 61
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    Okay. I will have the book before next week’s session. Fascinating discussion so far and great article.

  62. 62

    @Lavandula: A discussion earlier today mentioned that conservatives tend towards zero sum thinking that ties in with this example.

  63. 63
    Nicole says:

    @Corey Robin: That’s a good point, and I forget that in the early part of the 20th century, the rural West was considerably more progressive than it is today.

  64. 64
    Birthmarker says:

    @realbtl: It’s really that simple isn’t it. Republicans with political power strive to benefit big business. The conservative pundits give a patina of intellectualism to it all.

    I once saw a youtube where David Brooks said that his buddies wear ties for their favorite philosophers. His point was that (to him) Democrats have no underpinning philosophical guideposts. But let’s face it, the average American, Dem or Republican, doesn’t know who Burke is.

  65. 65
    kuvasz says:

    I would recommend a look at:

    Philip Agre’s 2004 essay, What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?

    http://polaris.gseis.ucla.edu/.....atism.html

    “From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the self-regarding thugs of ancient Rome to the glorified warlords of medieval and absolutist Europe, in nearly every urbanized society throughout human history, there have been people who have tried to constitute themselves as an aristocracy. These people and their allies are the conservatives.

    The tactics of conservatism vary widely by place and time. But the most central feature of conservatism is deference: a psychologically internalized attitude on the part of the common people that the aristocracy are better people than they are. Modern-day liberals often theorize that conservatives use “social issues” as a way to mask economic objectives, but this is almost backward: the true goal of conservatism is to establish an aristocracy, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality. Economic inequality and regressive taxation, while certainly welcomed by the aristocracy, are best understood as a means to their actual goal, which is simply to be aristocrats. More generally, it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them. Of course this notion sounds bizarre to modern ears, but it is perfectly overt in the writings of leading conservative theorists such as Burke. Democracy, for them, is not about the mechanisms of voting and office-holding. In fact conservatives hold a wide variety of opinions about such secondary formal matters. For conservatives, rather, democracy is a psychological condition. People who believe that the aristocracy rightfully dominates society because of its intrinsic superiority are conservatives; democrats, by contrast, believe that they are of equal social worth. Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy. This has been true for thousands of years.

  66. 66
    NeverRepentAmarillo says:

    @WereBear (itouch): “This persistent fantasizing explains the conservatives among groups that are vilified by conservatives? By being part of the “in group” they deny their marginilization?”

    There is some validity to the tactic of infiltrating the “enemy”. Maybe it hasn’t worked for the log cabin republicans, but living in the TX panhandle, it isn’t a viable solution to be a liberal democrat if you want any influence in the existing power corridors.

  67. 67
    Roger Moore says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    I’m still wrestling with the idea that conservatism is based on a feeling of loss.

    The key is that it isn’t just a sense of loss; it’s a loss of position or privilege to people who used to be lower on the totem pole. And note that this doesn’t mean the people who feel that way have to have been high on the totem pole to start with. Lots of poor whites really hated desegregation because being higher on the totem pole than blacks was really the only thing they had; take that away from them and they felt like they’re nothing. The same thing with men being privileged above women, Christians above non-believers, straights above gays, etc.

  68. 68
    Corey Robin says:

    Hi all. I’ve got to get going, but I really enjoyed talking to you. I’ve got a blog where I’m always exploring and elaborating a lot of these themes — and in fact in the next month, I’m going to be starting a Hayek Book Club, where we read Friedrich Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty. To get a better sense of what the right’s free-market vision is really all about, and how it fits with some of the issues we’re talking about here. It’d be great if you all stopped by. The blog is coreyrobin.com.

  69. 69
    General Stuck says:

    @Nicole:

    having grown up in a rural environment in the quasi south of Appalachia, this is something I’ve thought about a lot.
    A lot of them do have a pretty good long standing social safety net of family and friends that have co existed often for a long while and they aren’t usually in need as much as those trapped in the cold confines of larger cities. So the social programs democrats foster are things they are not in as much need as others. And therefore easier to spark them with resentment of government giving free shit away with their tax dollars they pay like everyone else.

    I would also say the “law and order” demagoguing by the republicans also makes a synapse connection for people that are, or feel geographically isolated,

  70. 70
    noodler says:

    posting from my tablet since i had a mtg tonite. How long are we here? Enjoinng this convo immensly

  71. 71
    Birthmarker says:

    @kuvasz: Great comment.

  72. 72
    Nicole says:

    @NeverRepentAmarillo:

    but living in the TX panhandle, it isn’t a viable solution to be a liberal democrat if you want any influence in the existing power corridors.

    You make me remember my high school AP History teacher, who told the class that, despite considering himself a liberal, he was a registered Republican, because he felt local elections were more important and the area in which I grew up (Central PA) was/is so conservative that there seldom was/is a viable Democratic candidate. Blew our 17-year-old minds, and I’ve never forgotten it.

  73. 73
    astrodem says:

    @Corey Robin:

    I see your point. So you’re saying it’s the appeal of a world of hierarchies and privilege, superiors and inferiors. As @Roger Moore put it:

    One of their methods has been to try to redefine distinctions so that the 99% (or some fraction thereof) gets a social benefit from supporting the 1%, even if they don’t get any real power by doing so. That was a huge part of the power of segregation in the old South; it meant the poorest, lowliest white could still see himself as somebody.

    Every person gets their own private kingdom.

  74. 74
    Linnaeus says:

    To continue with the “sense of loss” idea, if you read conservative thinkers in the early post-WWII period, once the war is over as a driving force in American society, you’ll see that many of them are quite pessimistic about the future precisely because the old order that they admired had been replaced. Russell Kirk went even further and lamented that since the late 18th-century, conservatives were reduced to fighting political rearguard actions that they were steadily losing even if they had a victory here and there. They saw that New Deal coalition as having continued the rollback of conservatism and conservatives as a political and intellectual movement (if one could say there was even such a movement) were quite divided.

  75. 75

    @General Stuck: Thats a great point about them already having a safety net; what’s more it is one more worthy of trust.

  76. 76
    Nicole says:

    @astrodem:

    I see your point. So you’re saying it’s the appeal of a world of hierarchies and privilege, superiors and inferiors.

    And I think it’s something that still speaks to us, even when we’re not aware of it. I’m currently reading the Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones) series, and, while I’m enjoying it, it does occur to me that so many fantasy series focus on the kings and ladies and knights- hereditary aristocrats.

  77. 77
    Linnaeus says:

    One reason why I think Corey Robin’s thesis really hits the mark – though I haven’t yet read the book – is because 20th century conservatives, at least prior to the 1960s, talked very openly about the need for “proper” ordering of society, i.e., that a healthy and just society had orders and classes and that would mean that some would be elevated over others. They had different visions as to how that would work; someone like Richard Weaver advocated an agrarian vision like the antebellum South (which makes sense given that he was a student of the Southern Agrarians), whereas someone like Russell Kirk had a more organicist view of a conservative society.

  78. 78
    realbtl says:

    Thanks for stopping by Corey. Also thanks to Doug and the commentators. Looking forward to next week.

  79. 79
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Linnaeus: The “sense of loss,” though, often seems to be based on the perceived loss of something that never existed. Rather than deja vu, something like, digging deep into my rusty French, jamais eu.

  80. 80
    Roger Moore says:

    @astrodem:

    Every person gets their own private kingdom.

    I think that’s the idea. If you think about flattening a hierarchy, it brings you closer to the people above and below you. That’s a big deal for people close to the top, since they’re obviously being dragged down by any objective measure. But somebody who’s close to the bottom may still not like it because they lose the few chances they have to lord it over the people even lower on the ladder. And if you flatten the system along only one axis- e.g. by reducing race or gender privilege but not economic status- you may wind up pushing down a lot of people who weren’t very high to start with.

  81. 81
    NeverRepentAmarillo says:

    @Nicole: Really good point. A desire for order and stability and clear rules and paths for success are fairly universally prized – well except maybe for the stray hardcore anarchist.

  82. 82
    Birthmarker says:

    @Linnaeus: This is how it has worked down through the ages, isn’t it. We (the US) are the experiment in doing it differently. There have always been attempts to return to the historical way.

    Corey-thanks for participating tonight. I pulled the twitter quote below from your blog. If I were you I would put it on a button and wear it as a badge of honor…

    “your article is wrong on all accounts your a shill just regurgitating what the lame stream media keep feeding the Americ. public”

  83. 83
    Nicole says:

    Found the quote from Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry:

    “So now, even though seventy years have passed since slavery, most white people still think of us as they did back then-that we’re not as good as they are-and people like Mr. Simms hold on to that belief harder than some other folks because they have little else to hold on to. For him to believe that he is better than we are makes him think that he’s important simply because he’s white.”

    Always will be grateful to my fourth-grade teacher for introducing the class to this book.

  84. 84
    Stillwater says:

    I’m late to this but just wanted to say thanks to DougJ for getting Corey to come by. The subsequent discussions promise to be very interesting.

  85. 85
    muddy says:

    I know quite a few people who don’t follow politics, and call themselves Republican because their family has always been Republican. Now that’s conservative.

  86. 86
    Quincy says:

    Thanks to both Corey and Doug. I didn’t make it in time to ask any questions tonight, but thoroughly enjoyed the book and intend to show up next week.

    I had hoped to ask Corey what he thought of contemporary conservative thought. Scalia struck me as the only influential contemporary conservative whose ideas Corey engaged. The title of the book name drops Sarah Palin but I assumed that was the publisher’s idea as he never writes about her and she certainly hasn’t expressed any thoughts worth analyzing. I read Corey’s article on Occupy Wall Street, and came away with the impression that he believes contemporary intellectual conservatism has gone dormant from lack of liberal movements to counter over the last 30 years. I’m curious as to what everyone else’s thoughts are on this.

  87. 87
    Birthmarker says:

    @Quincy: Throw this comment back up next time, Quincy. Interesting thoughts!

  88. 88
    Angry DougJ says:

    Thanks to everyone for a great discussion.

  89. 89
    newhavenguy says:

    Mr. Robin:

    Waiting for my copy, every review is good. Even (especially?) the NYT’s pan made me want to read this, and the excerpts I’ve read are excellent.

    Credit where its due dept.: The Exiled.
    http://exiledonline.com/consci.....nary-mind/

    Shit, my folks want to read your book after I forced them to read that overwrought, profane review.

    If the reviewer is half-literate, I think I will enjoy your book. B.1971, the America I have lived in has almost always changed for the worse. Nixonland, in a word. You seem to have a finger on one of the big reasons, and more power to you.

    I’m sick of the nostalgia trip, the “oh, the old conservatives like Buckley were of a higher order than the nutty Jim DeMints of today, etc.” (7 word response to that: McCarthy, Bozell, civil rights in the south.) WFB was and is roughly Rick Santorum with bigger words, Greek, Latin, and an IQ North of 85.

    Anyway, thanks for writing the damn thing, glad to have thrown you a few bucks (I hope) for doing so. Would make acid comments in book thread in next few days, but am busy compelling family/everyone who hasn’t to watch The Wire next few nights.

    Cheers, and thanks

  90. 90
    The prophet Nostradumbass says:

    @Angry DougJ: Thanks for doing it, and to Corey Robin. I didn’t have anything specific to say, but found the discussion interesting. The subject matter is pretty new to me.

  91. 91
    General Stuck says:

    @Quincy:

    As we watched the horror show of the tea party unfold, these wingnuts were proud to claim for their own the teachings of Saul Alinsky and other liberal tactics. As far as liberal movement having spawned it, I suppose the election of the first black dem president fit that bill. Modern wingnuttery seems to me to be almost completely now driven by jingoism and Luntz approved double speak. They are flying by the seats of their britches after the first TARP marked the end to a cogent conservative movement, imo, that had existed for at least 3 decades. Now it’s a patchwork quilt of hyper reactionary behavior and an almost manic flitting from one half baked emo op to the next. Like all the hostage taking of the House of Reps this year, finally falling flat as a failed flitter with the payroll tax abortion. They have nothing but Fox News and the rest of the msm trying to keep them appearing halfway sane and animated, lest the drama of the dogfight dries up from one side downed by the mange. It really is a sad state of affairs, and a dangerous one for us all.

  92. 92
    Nicole says:

    Yes, thanks, this was really invigorating. Looking forward to next session!

  93. 93
    Mr Stagger Lee says:

    @realbtl: That is how the late Howard Zinn would describe that situation

  94. 94
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Corey Robin:

    We on the left forget this, but all the great movements of emancipation that I speak of in the book—abolition, the civil rights movement, feminism, the labor movement, and so on—were not just about making men and women free, but making them from the domination of those who had oppressed or dominated them. When you emancipate someone, you’re also divesting the person above them of real privileges. Now, I think that’s a good thing; the left should do more of it. But we have to recognize that it’s a loss for the other side. Anyway, conservatives have gotten a tremendous amount of mileage out of this. Not only does it help them attract a mass following—conservatives got tremendous traction in the 60s and 70s from white workers who were being threatened by civil rights—but it also gives them a way of talking about themselves that is very attractive.

    When I was getting into science-fiction fandom, in the early 1970s, there was a enormous sense of outrage & loss among the “real” (traditional) fans that their place was being “looted”, “destroyed”, and “diminished” by all the jumped-up newbies with their Star Trek and Feminism and New Wave and other stupid pop-cult faddism. What they meant, it eventually became clear, was that they’d defined Real SF Fandom as a safe space where being a nerdy white boy/man was not only the norm, but celebrated — it gave them a place to feel like the Masters of the Universe they “knew” themselves to be.

    Much of today’s “thinking” conservatism — especially among the (g)libertarians — reminds me very, very much of those outraged geeks defending their Fans are Slans! credentials against people like me.

  95. 95
    Mino says:

    @Quincy: …he believes contemporary intellectual conservatism has gone dormant from lack of liberal movements to counter over the last 30 years

    Very good point. What has happened to liberalism in the US? Whatever label you want to put on it, it’s disappeared from the national conversation. Maybe the environmental radical greens come closest. But the current Democratic Party is weak tea.

  96. 96
    Birthmarker says:

    @newhavenguy: Please repost this link to the Exiledonline article next time. I had to smoke a cigarette after I read it.

  97. 97
    Birthmarker says:

    @newhavenguy: The Wire is awesome. The Corner, available on disk from Netflix, is interesting too. You can see David Simon developing the themes he expanded into The Wire. It is only 6 episodes, so it is not such a time suck.

  98. 98
    burritoboy says:

    Ok, I’m going to run a thought experiment that might get at what I think is problematic with the text.

    Burke does not actually make a inherent defense of a monarchical (or aristocratic) state at all. That is, you could envision people who support monarchy simply – they believe that monarchy is the best system simply. For these people, it doesn’t matter what the tradition of a country is – that country should dump their traditions and become a monarchy.

    For example, Venice was always a republic and monarchists would argue that Venice’s traditions were irrelevant, and they should get a king.

    And it was long perfectly viable to argue for monarchy or aristocracy as the best regime simply. It had nothing to do with tradition or conserving anything.

    So why does Burke never use those arguments and instead picks a tradition/organic development yadda yadda angle?

  99. 99
    Mino says:

    @Birthmarker: No kidding.

  100. 100
    noodler says:

    great comments and discussion here tonite. much less snark than I would have expected from this crowd. gotta check out that roll of thunder.

  101. 101
    Birthmarker says:

    @Mino: I’m still trying to decide if it was coercion or seduction.

  102. 102
    Birthmarker says:

    @Mino: I think this speaks to the corrosive power of money on politics. The dems are beholden to the same moneyed interests.

  103. 103
    Punchy says:

    Does this book have Cliff’s Notes? If not, what does Sully think of that omission?

  104. 104
    newhavenguy says:

    @Birthmarker:

    “Time Suck”? Blasphemy! The Corner was good too, Homicide Life on the Street was great. The Wire on the other hand… I Netflixed it, and when it ended I was despondent. That DVD sat on the kitchen table for a month, because what else is worth watching? That series is some of the best literature that I’ve been exposed to. I like The Bard’s tragedies, and Aeschylus too, but Simon and Burns are on another level.

  105. 105
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    @Anne Laurie: Re: fandom. Apparently you came in and trashed the place. And it wasn’t your place. (To coin a phrase)

  106. 106
    Birthmarker says:

    @newhavenguy: I upped my Netflix to 2 discs at a time, then downloaded interim episodes from Amazon to fill in the gaps between discs. So I feel your pain. I plan to watch it again in the near future. It really is a startling achievement. BTW the Snoop character, whose real name is Felicia Person, is profiled in the current issue of Rolling Stone. (Issue 1148)

  107. 107
    Quincy says:

    General Stuck: Great comment. I agree that jingoism and propaganda are all that is left, which was largely my point. I really like the idea that TARP was the end point for the most recent period of conservatism. I think the war on terrorism was probably their last genuine idea (as awful an idea as it was/is). The war and the effects of deregulation are ongoing, but the arguments in favor of both have essentially collapsed into caricature with the rest of the movement. I expect it won’t be until after demographics have rendered the current coalition an ineffective minority that the conservative side reinvents itself and again advances serious (if still odious) arguments in favor of privilege.

  108. 108
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @astrodem:

    Every person gets their own private kingdom.

    Not necessarily private, since the kingdom is shared; after all, if truly private then it isn’t much of a kingdom now, is it? I think what we are dealing with here is more along the lines of, pace Milton, that they would rather rule* in Hell than serve in Heaven. And I think that is a psychological strength of the reactionary approach to politics, becuase it speaks to the basic bloody minded cussedness of people which is widespread enough that I think it is fair to call it part of human nature. The Liberal idea that everybody will agree to coexist on a more equal basis is actually asking quite a lot of people in terms of subduing their more animal instincts and assuming that they too will benefit from the public good.

    *Or if not actually rule, at least be one of the Kapos.

  109. 109
    Birthmarker says:

    @Birthmarker: Pearson,not Person.

    I grew up in Birmingham, AL., and still love the place so much. The theme of struggle in the inner cities tears me up. Our American cities really should be shining on the hill. Some cities do manage to achieve this. (The RS article touches on this, and how Baltimore is just a unique place.)

  110. 110
    Stevelussier says:

    @Nicole thank you for posting that fantastic quote from Phil Agre. This prompted to finally look up why he dropped off the radar.

    I was horrified to discover that he appears to have suffered some kind of a breakdown, “dropped out”, and been actively refusing contact with past acquaintances since sometime around 2008.

    He was believed to be alive, so a group organized in 2009 to find him and try to offer help/make sure he is ok. They announced earlier this year that he *has* been found, & is physically fine, but that as he continues to clearly express the desire to be left alone they are shutting down.

    This saddens me greatly.

    http://sites.google.com/site/philipagre/
    http://omniorthogonal.blogspot.....ation.html

  111. 111
    Birthmarker says:

    @Birthmarker: The RS article also goes into the scene where Michael kills Snoop. And she says immediately beforehand, “How my hair look?”

  112. 112
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    When I was getting into science-fiction fandom, in the early 1970s, there was a enormous sense of outrage & loss among the “real” (traditional) fans that their place was being “looted”, “destroyed”, and “diminished” by all the jumped-up newbies with their Star Trek and Feminism and New Wave and other stupid pop-cult faddism.

    Yes. Very much yes. I hung out with a bunch of guys at school and there was one guy in particular who hated Star Trek. He refused to go with the rest of us (science geek students from NYU) to the Trek conventions. When I dropped chemistry as my major, I became a liberal arts creep in his view. But yes, I remember that tension between the different cohorts in fandom.

  113. 113
    Tyro says:

    ; in their minds, they should be the arbiters of who goes where on the hierarchy,and they perceive this authority to judge who is truly human and who is not as something that was taken away from them by liberals.

    This is a good point. You see it in an anecdote told recently by the conservative Rod Dreher where he mentions how his town is home to a gay drag queen named “Ginger Snap” who everyone in the town accepts and likes. What truly irritates conservatives like Rod and his fellow townsfolk is that things like gay rights mean that gay drag queens are going to have to be accorded equal rights and acceptance/toleration without their approval… the people of St. Francisville are no longer able to get to know the “other” and decide whether he or she deserves to be accepted by the community or alienated– instead, they have to be accorded the same rights as everyone else without their input. And that is a change that bothers them (and Rod).

  114. 114
    newhavenguy says:

    @Birthmarker:

    I think Stephen King said that Snoop was the scariest female villain he ran into anywhere in fiction. I miss her, though, if not as much as Omar. Snoop’s last scene, that stone killer asking about her hair… so many good scenes. Very much looking forward to watching it again, more so in sharing it. If you love them, make ’em watch it. The 61 hours go by way too fast.

  115. 115
    Birthmarker says:

    @newhavenguy: My son made me watch it, so, yeah…

  116. 116
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @burritoboy: I think that’s a good point, and my answer would be that Burke is specifically writing against the French Revolution and the ideas “Jacobin” revolutionary sympathizers would put into practice in Britain if they had their way. So it’s much less a defense of monarchy qua monarchy as a defense of British constitutional monarchy, which itself was supposed to be a protector of individual liberties (post-1688 at least). That is, Reflections on the Revolution in France is of immediate import: they’re wrong to have a revolution in France and it would be even more wrong to have a(nother) revolution in Great Britain, because neither of those monarchies are tyrannies, they’re both humane and traditional, and they work just fine, so stop daring to tinker with them, revolutionaries!

  117. 117
    mclaren says:

    @newhavenguy:

    I think Stephen King said that Snoop was the scariest female villain he ran into anywhere in fiction.

    That’s because Felicia “Snoop” Pearson wasn’t acting. She was arrested by the DEA last year on charges of dealing heroin.

    Meanwhile, the Republicans are now running around like the guys in robes in the original Star Trek series Return of the Archons shouting “Landru! Help us! Landru! Guide us!”

    If we didn’t have a courtier of the oligarchs who wipes his ass with the constitution as president of the united states, this would be enjoyable.

  118. 118
    p says:

    Haven’t read the book yet but am hugely interested in the topic and have appreciated Mr. Robin’s appearances here and elsewhere.

    The Authoritarians is a free online book touching on roughly this same topic but from a more directly psychological angle. If you like the discussion of this thread then the book will be right up your alley.

  119. 119
    AnotherBruce says:

    @Nicole: As someone who hasn’t read Ayn Rand in at least 30 years, this nuanced criticism of Ayn’s work really made me remember the odd idealism of her writings. Well done!

  120. 120
    mclaren says:

    @General Stuck:

    The [Republicans] are flying by the seats of their britches after the first TARP marked the end to a cogent conservative movement, imo, that had existed for at least 3 decades. Now it’s a patchwork quilt of hyper reactionary behavior and an almost manic flitting from one half baked emo op to the next. Like all the hostage taking of the House of Reps this year, finally falling flat as a failed flitter with the payroll tax abortion. They have nothing but Fox News and the rest of the msm trying to keep them appearing halfway sane and animated, lest the drama of the dogfight dries up from one side downed by the mange.

    Horseshit. The usual counterfactual gibberish from General Crackpot Fake Name, and, as usual, 100% provably false.

    The Republicans aren’t flying by the seat of their pants — they have a meticulously worked-out plan…and it’s working beautifully.

    The Republican’s plan is pure Leninism. Crash the system and pick up the pieces when everything comes unglued. They’s succeeded beautifully so far.

    And the proof is that polls show irrefutably that America is becoming increasingly more Republican.

    Delusional wankers like General Crackpot Fake Name boast and strut and sneer at the Repubs, and all the while the Repubs are winning. They’re crushing their opposition. They’ve rolled back most of the New Deal, they’ve forced Obama to back down on essentially every one of his initiatives including his signature “achievement” health care reform (Obama has now abandoned reform in U.S. health care so completely that he has left it up to the states to choose what features of the ACA to implement — meaning he’s given up completely), and Republicans have wrecked the U.S. economy and shut down the government so completely that the United States is now completely ungovernable unless a Republican is in the White House.

    That’s a fantastic achievement. The Republicans in the House have shown truly legenday discipline, voting in a block against every single initiative the Demos have tried to put into action. The Repubs are now so disciplined and so relentless that Obama hasn’t even been able to fill most of his appointments, so entire agencies have effectively been shut down.

    Meanwhile, the rich get exponentially richer and the Bush tax cuts continue indefinitely into the limitless future. And fools like General Crackpot Fake Name snicker and giggle about how pathetic the Republicans are and how they “have nothing left.”

    Buddy, the Republicans own this fucking country and they’ve swept the board, they’ve wiped out all the opposition, they’ve crushed even the few feeble flickers of opposition like the Occupy Movement by moving out military LRADs and conducting nationwide sweeps to clean out the protesters.

    The Republicans control America right now more completely and more thoroughly than Stalin controlled the USSR in 1930. The super-rich have won: everyone else has lost. There’s no future now in America for anyone who isn’t a billionaire, and our militarized police state will only get more savagely oppressive and more brutal for the bottom 99% as time goes on.

    If you own a house, sell it and get the hell out of this shithole of a country. If you rent, abandon your belongings and flee now, before military personnel start setting up roadblocks and conducting spot loyalty checks on the freeway.

  121. 121
    Chris says:

    Playing catch up, hope to actually be online at the time of the next discussion.

    @kuvasz:

    This, a million times.

    Like many people have said, it’s all about hierarchy – in all societies, there’s a “conservative” ideology whose main purpose is to explain why the people on top deserve to be on top. And the ideology’s strikingly similar regardless of context – it’s an “if the king doesn’t work the peasants will starve” belief that tells people that everything they have, they owe to the small group of superbeings running society, and they should be grateful and submissive about it.

    (Applies equally well to big businessmen in modern societies, aristocrats in feudal societies, Party chieftains in communist societies, etc).

  122. 122
    hitchhiker says:

    @mclaren:

    Watched the Wire obsessively off netflix after hearing Bill Moyers interview David Simon for an hour . . . there’s a podcast. Terrific, amazing, wonderful stuff.

    You can see it here

  123. 123
    Chris says:

    @General Stuck:

    I see what you mean but am not sure I agree.

    While their personal/familial safety nets may make them *feel* like they don’t depend on government assistance as much as city folk… the red state vs blue state maps continue to indicate that the average rural red state gets far more money from the federal government than it gives to it, while the average urban blue state does just the opposite.

    The family-and-friends safety net gives off a warm fuzzy feeling which government welfare never will, but I don’t see any evidence that they are in fact less dependent on government welfare than their urban counterparts.

  124. 124
    Chris says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    As opposed to today’s conservative sci-fi fans… who don’t slam Star Trek, but long for the old, TOS Star Trek where Kirk was a badass, before “the left took the Enterprise” in the eighties with that bald French nancy boy.

    (Conservative fashion: whatever was liberal fifty years ago, as long as it’s not liberal NOW).

  125. 125
    Chris says:

    @Nicole:

    Conservatives have a thing for slamming “crony capitalism” and praising truly free markets, then going on to present crony capitalists as True Free Marketeers. Ayn Rand was no different, IMO.

  126. 126
    Anne Laurie says:

    @PurpleGirl:

    I hung out with a bunch of guys at school and there was one guy in particular who hated Star Trek. He refused to go with the rest of us (science geek students from NYU) to the Trek conventions.

    Yeah… I’m so old, the only Trek cons then were in NYC and, I think, SoCal. When I was a freshman, the SF club at my Midwestern university was six guys, plus somebodys-girlfriend, all seven bitterly bitterly vocally anti-“pop cult pretend sf”. I made the mistake of asking, since the five unattached guys were forever wistfully discussing their wish to spend more time with members of the the opposite sex, why encouraging a few of the more classic-sf-friendly Trek-club members (17+ women, 2 straight men, 1 semi-closeted gay guy) to carpool to “real” sf cons wouldn’t greatly improve their chances. I eventually realized that the poor schmoos didn’t think of that as increasing the pool of potential partners — they considered it a brutal incursion of “not like us” people who only introduced the odds of being publicly rejected into the safe space where, pre-Trek, they’d been able to pretend that their unpartnered status meant that women just weren’t smart & sophisticated & forward-looking enough to appreciate them.

    Which is to say: There are certain factors of the young libertarian/objective/conservative mindset that don’t seem to have changed much in almost 40 years, tragically…

  127. 127
    General Stuck says:

    @Chris:

    There are pockets of deep poverty in these places, and plenty of poor that get assistance from the government. But they are folks who rarely vote, and many eventually migrate to cities. The ones I’m talking about do vote, and vote republican. The valley I grew up in there were periods of poverty but rarely did anyone go hungry or end up without shelter. They accept things like SS and medicare, and maybe some other assistance from time to time, but only as a last resort. But for purposes of food and shelter, there are distinct forms of self created safety nets of a sort. Some places in say Appalachia are more like I describe, other places, such as the main coal fields there are other factors involved that create social problems, like the boom bust nature of the coal industry.

  128. 128
    General Stuck says:

    @mclaren:

    Bats in your belfry, Quasimodo!

  129. 129
    General Stuck says:

    deleted – not worth the trouble

  130. 130
    wilfred says:

    Hard to see how Robin’s points are not just dialectics in new bottles: World is made of opposites, spiral changes, exchanges of dominance, etc.

    What of certain positions held by conservatives and liberals alike, ones that oppose the emancipatory aspirations of other people? What about places where opposites congeal into one unified front – the war on terror for example?

  131. 131
    Chris says:

    @General Stuck:

    Thanks for the clarification.

  132. 132
    burritoboy says:

    FlipYrWhig,

    What you say is true, but it’s interesting that Burke chooses not to actually defend monarchy or aristocracy in a substantive way. There were plenty of monarchists in the Renaissance and Middle Ages who do precisely that – Aquinas, Shakespeare and so on.

    Instead, Burke goes with this argument essentially based on prudence and/or caution. But that’s an inherently much weaker argument. If there was an ancient, long-standing communist regime, Burke’s train of thought would argue for not overthrowing that regime but making piecemeal changes gradually – i.e., Burke is not really solidly defending an aristocracy perse. And if democracy is the best regime, then all regimes should (over long periods of time) tend to become democracies for Burke. That is, even for Burke, if we believe democracy is the best regime, the aristocracy should eventually be swept away.

    Now, it’s true that, in practical terms, Burke is defending the then-existing aristocracies of Europe, since few regimes of that time lacked a powerful aristocracy that dominated politics.

  133. 133
    handsmile says:

    Sorely disappointed that another obligation prevented me from participating in last night’s discussion. Having now read through this substantive thread, I was particularly intrigued by comments from Nicole, Linnaeus, and Lavandula. And FlipYrWhig, kudos to your interpretive skills replying to comment #98. Wild horses…for next week’s Book Club conclave.

    While I imagine this thread is now a dead letter office, I”d still like to contribute a few brief remarks:

    For those who have not yet begun to read Robin’s book, I strongly recommend that you do not neglect its Introduction. There he fully lays out his thesis on the ideological parameters of conservatism. The subsequent chapters are all reprints of essays/reviews from other journals which he has fashioned into a cohesive volume.

    To those interested in Joseph de Maistre, the more incorrigible of conservatism’s two founding theorists, the essay “Joseph de Maistre and the Origins of Fascism” by British philosopher Isaiah Berlin is simply a must-read. It’s a chapter from his book, The Crooked Timber of Humanity. Examining the intellectual history of Maistre’s ideology, Berlin regards him as a dark prophet whose “deeply pessimistic vision is the heart of totalitarianisms, of both left and right, of our terrible [20th] century.”

    For the past several months, Corey Robin has been contributing a column to the Al Jazeera website. Here’s a link to his most recent one, on Ron Paul:

    http://www.aljazeera.com/indep.....63232.html

  134. 134
    burritoboy says:

    Mclaren,

    You’re not quite right that the Republicans have been pursuing Leninism – what they’ve been doing is instead the strategy of the NSDAP (yes, I’ve broken the Godwin rule, but that’s the correct analogy).

    But the strategy of the NSDAP (the Nazi party) is inherently based on creating the impression that victory is inevitable and coming soon. Central is building from success after success. Such a strategy is inherently unstable – if you don’t maintain the emotional highs of one victory after another, the whole project collapses within a few years. That’s why we saw the Dubya administration doing so well until the Iraq

    When that collapses, there are a number of routes a regime like that will take – most end up becoming minor old-style, military-dominated dictatorships along the lines of Franco. That type of regime is quite unlikely for the United States – there’s too much international trade that the American elite wants to participate in.

  135. 135
    burritoboy says:

    @burritoboy:

    And I meant to say: until the Iraq war got bogged down and then the Dubya administration sat around for three years until being kicked out.

  136. 136
    mclaren says:

    @burritoboy:

    You make excellent points. In truth, the strategies of the NSDAP in the 1930s and the Bolsheviks in 1917 were really pretty much the same. In essence, both political parties were tiny minorities (the “Bolsheviki” — which means “majority party” in Russian — accounted for only 1 out of every 25 Russian voters in 1917!) with no prospects for becoming a majority unless the entire society broke down so badly that the general public turned in desperation to a “hail mary” to save the entire collapsing system.

    As for the old-style military-dominated regime, well, you know, America has become so militarized that we’re rapidly heading toward a de facto martial law society. Think about it: what we’re really seeing is police turning into paramilitary groups, the DHS has turned into a national secret police paramilitary group, the DEA is now a national paramilitary group, and increasingly the rules of military law and military operations are becoming the rules by which the American “justice” system and American police operate. I.e., secret trials, secret charges, secret evidence, suspects kidnapped without warning and held in cells without a number as prisoners without names. Unlimited imprisonment in secret prisons, evidence obtained by torture…basically, everything you saw being done to peasants in Iraq and Afghanistan is now being done to American citizens in the United States.

    Now, as Mark Twain said, history doesn’t repeat but it does often rhyme. So the militarization of American does not mean that the United States will wind up getting publicly ruled by a bunch of colonels wearing mirror sunglasses. There’s no sign of that. We are not about to see some junta of colonels take over the White House and announce an end to presidential elections “for the duration of the emergency.” We’re not going to see President Obama (or any other American president) get dragged out of the Oval Office by military guards and thrown into prison.

    But if you think about it, what really happened on 9/11?

    A soft putsch. While the colonels in mirror sunglasses aren’t publicly in charge of U.S. domestic policy, ask yourself — who today is really in control of American domestic spending and domestic policy?

    Clearly, the U.S. military is in charge.

    The United States budget is now set by anonymous colonels in the E-Ring (the outermost and most important of the 5 rings of the Pentagon, where elite policy is made) of the Pentagon. After the internal turf wars finish inside the Pentagon and the annual military budget is set, only then can whatever pittance of money that’s left over be allotted by the elected officials in congress and by the inhabitant of the White House to domestic spending.

    Notice something here: American military spending can never decline. It can only rise. We’ve got a ratchet principle. The ratchet never goes down, it only goes up. This means as the American middle class dwindles and the U.S. tax base declines that a larger and larger proportion of America’s annual budget goes to U.S. military spending every year.

    Ultimately, this means the total militarization of American society. Instead of civilian law, we’ve now effectively got martial law. No one declared it. But in effect, with the Patriot Act and DHS goons armed with automatic weapons and wearing military armor patrolling bus stations and train terminals and airline terminals and every other public space, America is now under martial law.

    The way to understand 9/11 is this:

    After 1991, the U.S. military-industrial complex faced an existential crisis. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, suddenly the U.S. military-industrial complex found itself high and dry like a beached whale, without a purpose. Like all organizations, the U.S. military-industrial complex desperately wanted (needed!) to survive. But how?

    9/11 gave the U.S. military-industrial complex the answer. It was a risky move, and all-or-nothing gamble. The U.S. military-industrial complex had to either dwindle away and accept the end of military Keynesianism…or the U.S. MIC could perform a soft putsch and take over American society.

    The U.S. military-industrial complex chose the soft coup. And it succeeded. Americans turn out to love torturing brown people in distant countries. Americans adore indiscriminate genocide of peasants in third world countries — as long as Americans themselves aren’t inconvenienced in the process.

    So the soft putsch worked. We now live in a totally militarized society in which armed drones now patrol American skies under the control of paramilitary organizations (the FAA won’t tell us who, exactly, since iin a militarized society, this, like all other aspects of post-9/11 “security,” is a closely guarded secret).

    Secret laws…secret trials…military SWAT units smashing in the doors of American houses with military SWAT tanks…DHS goods in riot armor armed with military machine guns and Lawes rockets patrolling openly on American streets and dragging away any American without charges and without explanation whenever they decide…

    …Armed military drones surveiling Americans 24/7/365, all American conversations and emails electronically wiretapped…the president of the United States orders the assassination of American citizens without a trial and without even charging him with a crime…

    What do you call that if not a military coup? Albeit a “soft” coup –a putsch in which the civilians remain in control to all appearances, but in which the actual budget and the real policy of America gets made by anonymous Pentagon colonels and generals in back rooms?

  137. 137
    burritoboy says:

    McLaren,

    Not quite right, I think, though there’s certainly a lot of truth in what you say.

    The Leninists and the NSDAP had extremely different strategies. The Leninists essentially waited until the Romanov Empire had gotten itself into a bad enough shape to collapse and only then did they take advantage of the chaos. They had no role in creating the chaos itself.

    The NSDAP actually tried the Bolshevik approach, but they failed at it. Instead, they decided to pursue an electoral strategy which was quite successful – the NSDAP did legitimately win a large number of seats in the parliament. Then they created substantial additional chaos by making the parliament completely disfunctional. Only at that point did they get power, partly as an attempt to get them to restore functionality to the parliament.

    The Republicans are (primarily) using this NSDAP strategy not Bolshevik strategy, which would primarily be focused on planning the cadres’ strike at the key infrastructure.

Comments are closed.