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Below is a very brief introduction to our video program “Conservatism and the Western Tradition.”

All five segments of this discussion are now posted here at The Imaginative Conservative.  (Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V)

western traditionWe hope you will join us in The Imaginative Conservative community. The Imaginative Conservative is an on-line journal for those who seek the True, the Good and the Beautiful. We address culture, liberal learning, politics, political economy, literature, the arts and the American Republic in the tradition of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Edmund Burke, Irving Babbitt, Paul Elmer More, Wilhelm Roepke, Robert Nisbet, M.E. Bradford, Eric Voegelin, Christopher Dawson and other leaders of Imaginative Conservatism.

We address a wide variety of major issues including: What is the essence of conservatism? What was the role of faith in the American Founding? Is liberal learning still possible in the modern academy? Should conservatives and libertarians be allies? What is the proper role for the American Republic in spreading ordered liberty to other cultures/nations? Bradley Birzer and Winston Elliott are co-founders of The Imaginative Conservative.

We have a great appreciation for the thought of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Irving Babbitt and Christopher Dawson, among other imaginative conservatives. However, some of us look at the state of Western culture and the American Republic and see a huge dark cloud which seems ready to unleash a storm that may well wash away what we most treasure of our inherited ways. Others focus on the silver lining which may be found in the next generation of traditional conservatives who have been inspired by Dr. Kirk and his like. We hope that The Imaginative Conservative answers T.S. Eliot’s call to “redeem the time, redeem the dream.”

Books mentioned in this essay and on the video link may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore

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4 replies to this post
  1. This sounds like a fascinating conversation. One thing that I find particularly interesting about the way Dr. Birzer begins this short video is his emphasis on community in conservative thought. I am currently working on a book on socialism, and one of the main arguments pressed on behalf of socialism is its own emphasis on community. The socialist conception of community typically has it motivated by caring, love, or altruism; is this the same in the conservative conception? I ask because the classical liberal, like Adam Smith for example, would argue that markets also create communities–including far-flung communities of exchange–that are not always, or even principally, motivated by caring and love for the persons with whom one exchanges, but rather out of self-interest. So on the Smithian view, I preserve my limited care and love for those with whom I am familiar–my family and friends, for example–and I am justified in acting out of self-interest (within the bounds of "negative" justice) when I deal with people I do not know, as is typically the case in markets. How does the conservative conception of community view markets and the communities or associations generated by self-interested exchanges? How does it view the socialist preference for community based on familiarity and altruism?

  2. Sir, socialism seems to be run by governments and not by communities, and state coercion is no moral charity: helping an old lady to cross a street is a charitable act – voting for someone to force your neighbour to help the old lady is neither altruism nor charity even if the outcome is good. socialism and communism use phony definitions of altruism and community to cover for a power grab by apparatchiks who tend to usurp and displace community decisions.

    voluntary association and a lack of state coercion is not the whole story for conservatives, but it is a part. in the absence of such state coercion, a community can set priorities and make decisions based on a variety of values including faith, tradition, precedent, practicalities, etc – rather than on the political or politicised factors that influence governments and often put local wishes last.

    PS, do see FA Hayek on markets as vast media for communicating goods and services and establishing prices, building on Smith.

  3. "Conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism. In a genuine community, decisions most directly affecting the lives of citizens are made locally and voluntarily. A centralized administration of bureaucrats, however well intentioned, cannot confer justice and prosperity and tranquility upon a mass of men and women deprived of their old responsibilities. That experiment has been made before; and it has been disastrous." Russell Kirk

    With "communio" we "start from within revelation, within the tradition, as the key interpreter of human experience", which David Schindler exhorts in his book, Heart of the World.

    When we talk about community and how its order frees one to pursue truth, modern man is taken aback by the word "order", not realizing its gateway to freedom. Both Kirk and Schindler give us an incredible gift in opening up our imaginations to find that community based on a real common good.

  4. Both Masty and MaterMax have added valuable insight to this discussion, and I will not try to improve upon them. But I would add that community is not something that government can manufacture. Conservatives understand that community comes from the cult, which is also directly related to the only true natural community, the family. Socialists (and all progressives, including all forms of liberals and communists) think that community and marriage are contrived, and therefore subject to reason and "compassion."

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