So Republicans will keep winning because Americans are becoming more entrepreneurial and “market-oriented” and because they’re increasingly “saying it’s not all about materaliasm, it’s not all about the pursuit of material things”? It’s hard to imagine a balder description of the essential contradiction at the heart of the GOP coalition, and yet Rove seems unaware that there’s anything contradictory here at all. ~Ross Douthat
This contradiction echoes part of what I was saying earlier today:
The pairings of social democracy/cultural hedonism and economic liberalism/cultural conservatism are extremely weird and abnormal.
There is a way in which the computer chip-empowered people of Rove’s active imagination and the culturally conservative, not-so-materialistic people could get along or prove to be more complementary than I might normally allow. It is even possible that technology will facilitate a large-scale flourishing of homeschooling, home businesses and some measure of agrarian ”return to the land.” This might even be joined together with a religious ethos and a respect for consecrated order, but I wonder whether it is at all likely.
It is annoying to say, but from what I understand of his thesis Brink Lindsey is right. Abundance and technology tend to lead to what I would call cultural disintegration and atomistic individualism (he would call this “freedom”) and actively undermine the ethic that says “it’s not all about materialism.” It may rely on those who are driven to pursue higher goods and it will create the space for people who want to say, “it’s not all about materialism.” It is quite conceivable that the excesses of the “Age of Abundance” will send sane people running screaming (and making prostrations along the way) back to churches and perhaps even real monasteries (and not merely the MacIntyrean metaphorical monasteries of the home), but this still suggests a sharp tension and even a dialectic between the Mammon voters and the God voters.
Incidentally, the whole controversy over “crunchy conservatism” and the more general traditional conservative critique of the materialism of capitalist society centers around the basic truth from the Gospels that you cannot serve two masters. “Fusionism” has been premised to some considerable extent on the assumption that you can do this. The “fusionists” have been mistaken.