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Category: Conservatism

Book Review: The Shipwrecked Mind (Mark Lilla)

Let us talk of many things, as the Walrus said, but primarily, of neoreaction.  What follows is the start of what I hope to make an extended exploration of this line of thought, for which I have much sympathy.  I embark on this project for four reasons.  First, to amuse myself.  Second, in order to make my own thinking coherent, for confusion already stalks the land, and why add to it?  Third, in the hope that what I say may bring value to others, since a man should not bury his single talent.  And fourth, so that in some small way, in a manner yet to be revealed, this combination of analysis of others and thoughts of mine will help to either forge the future, or smash and remake the present.

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Book Review: The Once and Future Liberal (Mark Lilla)

Mark Lilla has been a bad, bad boy.  He has dared to point out the feet of clay upon which stand King Liberal, and he, like Cassandra, will not be thanked.  Still, this short book is an excellent political analysis, and it points the way, if only loosely, to a wholly new order of things, thus starting to answer my perennial question, “What is next?

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Book Review: Indian Country
(Kurt Schlichter)

In the distant past—five months ago—I believed our country could heal its divisions.  Sure, we’d always have disagreements, and sure, our new President was always going to be unpopular with a lot of people. But, after all, he had won a democratic election.  The Left would regroup, consider why its offerings had been rejected, and perhaps dial back its extremism.  But I was wrong.  The Left has instead doubled down on hatred.  This was shown yesterday, when the fear and anger created and nurtured by the Left over the past two decades, deliberately whipped to a fever pitch in the past months, caused the first attempted political assassinations of Republican Congressmen.  In this harsh light, the split of the country originally posited by Kurt Schlichter in People’s Republic no longer seems as unrealistic as I thought in my November 2016 review of that book.  As Schlichter accurately says, “Yes, the Left hates Trump, but its hatred is really for us.”

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Book Review: Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right (Arlie Hochschild)

Arlie Hochschild has gone the extra mile, and then some, to understand conservatives.  I would say that she exemplifies the (pseudo-) Indian saying, “Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins,” except that is not politically correct, so I will not say it.  Nonetheless, Hochshild has spent a lot of time and effort genuinely trying to understand a group of Louisiana conservatives, and the result is a very interesting book.  Sure, it’s not perfect, in part because Hochschild, like most of us, can’t fully overcome her own biases that sometimes lead her to engage in unsophisticated analysis.  But she is never once contemptuous or patronizing of these people, whom she seems to really regard as her friends, and she never caricatures the individuals, who actually vary from each other quite a bit.  This enables her to, overall, do an excellent job (and a better job than Joan Williams in the more recent White Working Class, which covers very similar topics in an obtuse way).

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Book Review: Resurrecting The Idea Of A Christian Society (R. R. Reno)

Already before I began writing this review, I was worn out reading books with a similar theme, that  of Christian renewal, including Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option and Charles Chaput’s Strangers in a Strange Land.  I was already going to retire and turn to reading biographies for a while.  It is not, of course, Reno’s fault that this is the final book I read in the chain.  I have tried to ensure that my being worn out does not color my perception of the book.  Nonetheless, I was disappointed in this book.  While what it says has value, and Reno’s heart is in the right place, his book is largely derivative and superficial, and it omits, for all practical purposes, any real plan for achieving the goal of its title.

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Book Review: The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution: 1980-1989 (Steven Hayward)

This is the second volume of historian Steven Hayward’s voluminous biography of Ronald Reagan.  As with any modern, widely documented life, “voluminous” does not mean “comprehensive”—there is no such thing, and Reagan in particular is the type of man who, when writing about, the biographer must select his facts and weave them into a coherent whole that takes the measure of the man.  In this Hayward succeeds brilliantly, while simultaneously illuminating the America of the 1980s—for as I noted when reviewing the first volume, this biography is about the Age of Reagan, not merely Reagan himself.  But compared to that first volume, this volume, subtitled The Conservative Counterrevolution:  1980-1989 is much more about Reagan and less about his times.  Or rather, it is about his times, but viewed nearly exclusively through the prism of Reagan, who after all molded those times more than any other human being.  The first volume viewed the times largely through other prisms, including most notably Richard Nixon and Daniel Patrick Moynihan.  Here, the focus settles and stays on Reagan himself.

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Book Review: Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Anthony Esolen)

Reading this book is like wearing sackcloth and heaping ashes on your head. It certainly brings home to you that things have gone wrong, but unless the act of penance itself calls forth redemption, which sadly today it does not, without further action it only makes you feel bad and gets you dirty.

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Book Review: Conserving America? (Patrick Deneen)

This book, a book of essays, is effectively a companion to Ryszard Legutko’s The Demon In Democracy.  The core theme of both books is that “liberal democracy” is inherently defective; the books explore why and what that implies.  Whereas Legutko’s project is to compare liberal democracy to Communism, to explain their similarities and what that has meant for post-Communist Europe, Patrick Deneen’s is to explain how the American founding itself implies liberal democracy, and therefore, in a culture that needs renewal from the evils created by liberal democracy, conservatives are wrong to call for a return to the Founding—for, like the serpent in the Garden, the evil has been there since the beginning.

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Colloquy: Of The Possibilities of Comity, The Suppression of Speech, Identity, And Humanity

[This colloquy sprang from a Facebook discussion (largely, but not always, an oxymoron) about “fake news,” which I alleged may exist, but not in the sense used by the Left, and that in the sense used by the Left, it was merely a proxy for suppression of conservative speech.  As always, italics are my interlocutor.]

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Book Review: Strangers In A Strange Land (Charles Chaput)

This is a self-help book.  I don’t mean it’s to be found in the bookstore under the sign “Self-Help,” where people gather to remake their lives by unlocking the secret of costless auto-regeneration.  Rather, this is a self-help book because it, like the famous Kitchener poster, points at the reader and says, “You—there is a problem, and you are the solution.”  Of course, since the author, Charles Chaput, is a bishop (and an archbishop at that), and this is not Pelagianism, the reader is not expected to act in isolation, but with the guidance and help of God.  He is to act nonetheless, and much hinges on what he does.

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