Left and Right

What Do Integralists Want?

It’s interesting that now that the capitalist class is moving increasingly toward the cultural “left,” traditional conservatives are moving toward anti-capitalism.

By Rod Dreher, The American Conservative

If you don’t follow the world of right-of-center Christian intellectuals, you might not have heard of the integralists, proponents of a 19th century political theory that, broadly speaking, conceives of a polity based on Catholic authority.

You might have seen them mentioned if you read the New York Times story on Sunday about right-wing American intellectuals and Hungary. There was this passage, centering Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule, who has become the leader of American integralists:

New approaches were needed. And Vermeule, a recent convert to Catholicism who is considered one of the most limber legal scholars of his generation, was in a position to provide them. Recently, in a spate of articles published in national magazines and small conservative quarterlies, Vermeule has laid out a methodology for halting what he regards as the relentless advance of the liberal “creed.” In place of originalism — a theory espoused by conservative judges which holds that the meaning of the constitution is fixed — Vermeule proposed “common-good constitutionalism”: reading “into the majestic generalities and ambiguities” of the Constitution to create an “illiberal legalism” founded on “substantive moral principles that conduce to the common good.” Vermeule also offered a complementary theory of the administrative state, a topic on which he has written a number of books, that could be used to promote those moral principles. Those occupying positions of power in government administration could have a “great deal of discretion” in steering the ship of bureaucracy. It was a matter of finding a “strategic position” from which to “sear the liberal faith with hot irons.”


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