History and Historiography

Traditional Conservatism Can Never Defeat The Enlightenment Left

A pretty interesting discussion of the Left/Right divide from a thone-and-altar perspective. My take on the Left/Right dichotomy is that while there are important philosophical differences between the two but, as Kirkpatrick Sale and Peter Marshall have pointed out, the wider anarchist critique of power is over and above either one. Both Edmund Burke and his “Vindication of Natural Society” and Thomas Paine and his “Age of Reason” were prototypical left and right anarchists.

By Ricardo Duchesne

No one knows Friedrich Julius Stahl (1802 – 1861). He was a legal philosopher of Jewish parentage who converted to Christianity and became a conservative defender of Prussian Lutheran conservatism against the imposition of Enlightenment values. He rejected Hegel’s argument that one could create polities based on principles generated by rational minds rather than principles sanctioned by “divine authorities”. Stahl insisted that any politics that derived its principles from human reason in abstraction from the traditional rights and Christian beliefs of the German nation violated the natural distinctions between men and “God’s ordering of the world”.
This has been a standard argument of traditional conservatives since the “counter-Enlightenment” movement against the French Revolution of 1789. It is an argument that has suffered one defeat after another in the face of the relentless advance of science, and the rights of individuals to pursuit their own happiness. Traditionalist eulogies for the “divine sanctity of monarchical rule,” the value of faith, and the inborn merits of the aristocracy, have been no match for the leftist celebration of “progress,”  “education over ignorance,” “tolerance over intolerance,” the “open society” over the “closed minded” world of conservatism.


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