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Consecrated Order, Not Sacralised Politics

But, having spent 3 years reading and writing about fascism, I will say I have become more libertarian and vastly more sympathetic to the freedom side of the freedom-virtue fusionist coin (though few would have ever confused me for a virtucrat). What may sound libertarian in my response to things Crunchy is my opposition the what scholars of fascism refer to as the sacralization of politics (note: students of Voegelin (like Caleb) will understand this doesn't merely refer to theocratic enterprises, but Progressive enterprises generally). ~Jonah "Lie for a Just Cause" Goldberg, Crunchy Cons

Maistre famously said: "If there you wish to conserve all, consecrate all." Does this mean that Maistre and conservatives who tend to agree with this statement want to "replace" religion with politics, as Goldberg suggests is the danger with crunchy conservatism? Obviously not. Maistre's consecrated order has nothing to do with the created, political transcendence championed by fascists with their political liturgy and secular religion, and everything to do with joining all of man's life to a sacred order (literally, a hierarchy) that connects God and man and shapes the life of men in the broader world. The ecclesiastical hierarchy, obviously, is the central and tremendously more important hierarchy that join God and man, but that God has a claim on our entire life is a complement to this.

Consecrated order presupposes that, far from politics replacing religion, the claims of the Transcendent should take primacy in the affairs of the world. But the Transcendent in no way "replaces" the immanent, nor does it "substitute" for the world. To use theological language, the Uncreated does not replace the created, but will raise the created up to itself by God's grace and energy to its perfection, but only if the creature turns back to the Uncreated. In our lives, we may freely open ourselves to God's drawing us to Himself, and if we do this God will transform us and how we live. Conservatives should oppose man-made metastasis, not divinely-gifted metamorphosis.

If the two "spheres" interact, as Goldberg allows, one of two things will happen: either the City of God will increase, or the City of Man will. Without any presumption or expectation that here below the City of Man will ever be completely transformed, which is a heretical fantasy, it seems patently obvious that a conservative who "emphasises" the transcendent should want the eternal verities of the City of God to advance and transform as many people as possible. The distinction between the two Cities was intended as a means to explain where the ultimate and proper loyalty of Christians lay. It is not, as it seems to be as it is used here, an excuse for people to focus most of their attention on the affairs of the City of Man and have religion do as relatively little "informing" of values as humanly possible.

Maistre wanted to exalt established institutions and shore up their authority against the damage inflicted by the Revolution, and we could argue over whether that was the right way to apply this idea of consecrated order, but what does not pass muster is any claim that this idea--which I think is reflected everywhere in Rod's book in his references to the sacramentality in daily life--has something to do with either exalting something merely immanent to the level of transcendence (as in fascism) or in simply replacing any concept of transcendence with the chiliastic hope of realising complete perfection here below (as in most modern forms of gnosticism as Voegelin described it). Immanentist ideologies are as far removed from the crunchies as East is from West. But this is Goldberg's none-too-subtle attempt to align cruncy conservatism with the f-word.

The whole of Rod's book is filled with examples of exactly what Goldberg pretends (and I do mean pretends) to accept: that religion should inform "values" and "values" should inform politics. Nowhere does a single person in the book, so far as I noticed, make his politics the priority, and almost all of them "inform" their "values" and politics with their religion. That's part of the larger point: a crunchy would probably be the first to say that making politics a priority over religious convictions and a more sane way of life is exactly where conservatism, as a whole, has gone off the rails.

The "politics" of the people in the book is, if anything, tertiary behind their religion and their daily way of life (which, strictly speaking, is part of politics, but in the broader, Aristotelian sense). Their sense of vocation and their sensibility and way of life take such pride of place in the book that conventional politics as we understand them, and as the fascists would have understood it, almost disappear from view. Instead of the political program defining all of life, the political program has instead practically been overcome and set aside. This is practising politics in the sense that it is done with the good of the polis in mind, but it is serving the political community by first tending to their own business according to the eternal verities they embrace.

Daniel Larison | March 02, 2006


ever read voegelin on de maistre?

DK | 03/02/06 13:46

In fact, no, I don't think I have. I take it that he finds fault with Maistre's talk of consecration? I'd be interested to see what he says about it, as I genuinely see no necessary conflict between what Voegelin and Maistre say. My acquaintance with Voegelin is admittedly not all that great, so I am sure that I wouldn't know Voegelin's views on many figures. I have read Anamnesis, Science of Politics, one of his volumes on political philosophy and some parts of Order and History.

Daniel Larison | 03/02/06 14:56

Oh boy, I gather some folks cannot wait until Goldberg's book on Fascism hits the bookstores.

If his recent comments are any indication, then he really does an excellent job -- at misinterpreting and getting it wrong. I don't know about you, but it seems to me that Goldberg has a jones for de Maistre. I believe, though he may not be the only misinterpreter, that Goldberg links de Maistre somehow as a precursor to fascism. If such is the case, it illustrates the complete a-historical sensibility affecting Goldberg. He, in essence, rips de Maistre out of historical context and makes a him into caricature.

Honestly, I'd take Mark Henrie's intellectual prowess over this hack any day. Henrie points out quite cogently that: "Fascism, on this score, would not be continuous with Maistre and Bonald, because in various ways it was enamored of modern technology and actively endeavored to mobilize mass will, or the mass consent on the part of the people."

In any event, when speaking or referencing the work of Eric Voegelin -- however extremely thought provocating and erudite it may be -- it is important to acknowledge the older or newer Voegelin.

One may argue that his scholarship became progressively esoteric and mystical. As a result, his work has run the risk of being appropriated by all indiscriminately -- becoming everything to everybody and nothing to nobody.

Not this is not necessarily a problem for Prof. Voegelin per se, he gains disciples (despite the fact that he's on record abhoring such a development). Under such a condition, his insights become obfuscated and the residue of ideology he so despised begins to encrust much of his original thought.

MJK | 03/02/06 15:27

To my undying shame, I actually anticipated Goldberg's missive on the concept of Crunchy Conservatism, if only out of a sort of voyeuristic curiousity as to how egregiously would be his incomprehension, or outright misrepresentation. In that sense, I was not disappointed, not in the least respect. By the time he had finished ("Are you done yet?), he had thrown everything into the barrel: CCs are fascist. They are Marxist. They are narcissistic. The existence of the very concept is a slander on other conservatives, merely on account of the disagreement of the latter with the former. They repudiate laissez-faire. They think that when Adam Smith says "rational self-interest" that is just another way of saying "selfishness is rational and virtuous". They claim to repudiate materialism, but who doesn't?

The appropriate metaphor for what Goldberg performed in his piece is this: imagine a lengthy pole with a bucket attached to each end. Goldberg went down to the Holy River Enlightenment to draw from the freely-flowing ordure there, thinking to spin maniacally and fling the ordure up aginst the wall too see just what would adhere thereto. Except that most of it merely splashed about him as he thrashed.

His accusations may be interpreted as follows, for greater intelligibility: CCs are fascist because they believe that religious convictions should acutally inform one's conduct, even where those convictions, concerning community and stability are subversive of the values of the unfettered market. They are Marxist because they reject the notion that the values of that market are either sufficient unto themselves, overriding, or entitled to universal deference. They are narcissistic because they are actually self-conscious and self-reflective in their daily decisionmaking. They slander other conservatives because they demonstrate that other conservatives are not substantively conservative. They are heretics or apostates because they abstain from the veneration of Ayn Rand's economics. They take Adam Smith at his word. And, most terrifyingly, they actually believe, and manifest in their lifestyle choices, that the satisfaction of desire ought not - and indeed cannot - be the organizing principle of society.

Distill Goldberg's complaints down to their essence, and the resultant product amounts to an amalgam of stark terror and resentment arising from the recognition that some who abjure the claims of globalized, mass-market, laissez-faire capitalism, even upon the soul, have the temerity to arrogate the mantle of conservatism. Why, for them to do so would be to interrogate the legitimacy of the regnant social order, to deny the primacy of the individual, autonomous, passional self, and their reactionary refusal to yield with the submission of faith must result in their anathematization: "To the Left, GO!"

That's what this little ruction is all about. The irony, of course, is that there already exists a word for what Goldberg evidently espouses: liberalism. And liberals who accuse conservatives of having embraced the phantasmagoria of the left can only charitably be described as delusional.

Maximos | 03/02/06 16:46

Why, oh why do I type the adverbal from of egregious when I intend the adjectival?

Maximos | 03/02/06 16:48

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