29 June 2014

A Conservative Prince Charles?

I admire the work of Rod Dreher (an allusion here) and even more that of philosopher Roger Scruton (some elaboration here). But to say I'm flummoxed by Dreher's lengthy post here Philosopher Prince: The Revolutionary Anti-modernism of Britain's Heir Apparent (with a supporting quote from Scruton) would be an understatement. Charles, Prince of Wales, may reject the sterile rationalism of the Enlightenment. He may even pooh-pooh the unappealing world-and-life view of the zealots of technological progress. But neither of those negatives, accurate as they may be, make the Prince into a conservative in Dreher's sense of the term "conservative."

Rather, the Prince's rejection of a number of the trappings of modernity speaks not of conservatism but of Romanticism. The Prince yearns for spiritual vibrancy whether found in Christianity or exotic or hybrid spiritualities. I see no evidence of a return to traditional Christianity, either High Church, Low Church, or English non-conformism.

Charles wants to live life intensely and directly, as a genuine moral struggle. Thus, he valorizes intuition against rationalization and the reasons of the heart against a science that can only count and measure. Yet he makes no attempt to restore the sorts of communities and hierarchies that characterize anti-libertarian Christians like Dreher. He seems content to float above the fray and adopts a pose (a Romantic gesture) of opposition to modernity. As I described in more detail here, Prince Charles is less likely a conservative than a moral, therapeutic, deist, one who "with perhaps a veneer of Christianity or, better, 'spirituality,' [whose] watered-down faith ... portrays God as a 'divine therapist' whose chief goal is to boost people's self-esteem."


  1. Granting that His Royal Highness is more of a modernist than Prof Scruton, I have two of his books on my shelf (in storage at the moment, really) which make attempts to restore the sorts of communities that characterize anti-libertarianism.

    But I always find myself wishing the Prince would take even just one step more . . . but speaking of movements, he recently has been flying (and then inevitably ferrying) to Mt Athos.

  2. Thank you for sharing that interesting article. To defend my intellectual hero (while having little knowledge of English politics), I take Scurton's quote as against the Tories rather than for some grand proposition about Prince Charles. Like the Republican party in America, the Tories don't always seem to know what it means to be conservative. Take the environment (or conservation) for example: Scruton calls conservation the quintessential conservative cause yet the Tories have abandoned it, leaving the Prince as its champion.