Saturday, January 30, 2016

Roger Scruton, Thinkers of the New Left


Book on Amazon

First I read the Interview/Article in the top link, which is of reasonable length and I would recommend it to anyone who has a passing interest in the decline of our academic and general culture. I found this quote representative.

‘I agree there is a paucity of conservative thought. It is partly the effect of the dominance of the left. If you come out as a conservative in a university context, you will find yourself very much on the margins. But my main explanation of this is that conservative thought is difficult. It doesn’t consist of providing fashionable slogans or messages of hope and marching into the future with clenched fists and all the things that automatically get a following. It consists in careful, skeptical rumination on the near-impossibility of human existence in the first place.’

The "impossibility" plus the GRACE and the FRAGILITY of that Grace as it relates to culture and the potential for a meaningful relatively peaceful life.  The richness of Family, Faith, Community and Freedom of Thought. All items that the left continues to destroy. "The little Platoon" of Burke -- ruthlessly replaced by the cold totalitarian state. The result of this endless destruction is NOTHING ... as he puts it here:

So, what is all this Nothing-ness about? ‘My view’, says Scruton, ‘is that what’s underlying all of this is a kind of nihilistic vision that masks itself as a moving toward the enlightened future, but never pauses to describe what that society will be like. It simply loses itself in negatives about the existing things – institutional relations like marriage, for instance – but never asks itself if those existing things are actually part of what human beings are. Always in Zizek there’s an assumption of the right to dismiss them as standing in the way of something else, but that something else turns out to be Nothing.’
The book is not long, but it is intellectually challenging primarily because the "thinkers" of the left being dissected are nebulous and obtuse in the extreme, so although Scruton is relentless in his exposure of their nonsense, parts of their texts must be suffered through.

In many places he reaches basically this conclusion on the reason that leftism lives on even after the disaster of Fascism and the fall of the USSR:
"It also provides the exact equivalence of religious faith. As in Pascal's wager, believing becomes a kind of doing, and in this doing lies the moral salvation -- the inner identity with the revolution -- for which the intellectual craves."

In "The Closing of the American Mind", Bloom reports to us on "what happened" when the left took over the American university. Scruton plumbs the modern lineage of leftism, still based on Marx, but fermenting in it's fetid juices -- prominently in Paris:

"The effect was to destroy the conversation on which civil society depends. All the delicate ideas concerning law, constitution and the roots of civil order, all the ways in which human beings argue over rights and duties, honor their opponents and seek for compromise, were flattened by mathemes, deterritorialized, and buried beneath the debris of the great Event. This was the turning point in a battle that has been raging now for a century -- the battle to take possession of the culture by defining the intellectual life as an exclusively left-wing preserve."  
"mathemes" are an attempt to use the language of mathematics to make leftist thought more impressive -- and inscrutable. "The Event" is some version of "revolution" ... economic, political, intellectual.

Throughout the book are countless examples of methods, justifications, etc for wiping out all thought that is not against "capitalism, the bourgeoisie, religion, tradition, family, etc" and in support of the inevitability of "Marxism, the rise of the proletariat, communism, atheism, nihilism, etc".

It was a read that motivated me, so I made it through it rapidly and actually enjoyed it, but I can see that if I had not been exposed to a good deal of leftist literature in the past, as I have, it would also be easy to get bogged down. Worthy, but certainly not "required reading". While in the quote above, Scruton says that conservative thought is "difficult" -- I certainly don't find it difficult to read in comparison to the left, but I think his point is that it is not "stylish". It is often unpopular, indicating that man is limited (mortal even!) and in need of salvation by a power greater than himself.

Yes, that is "difficult" for many today -- but for me it is reality and grounded in eternal vs popular truth.

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