23 October 2017

Yoram Hazony Spots the Problem

Israeli public intellectual Yoram Hazony has a nice piece in the Wall Street Journal here in which he articulates a "de-fusionist" account of what ails contemporary American conservatism. (For earlier posts on the delightfully provocative Hazony go here and here.) Hazony argues that American conservatism, at least since the 1950s, represents the amalgamation of two inconsistent strands of political thought, classical liberalism and tradition-based historical conservatism.

Classical liberalism, the secularized step-child of of European Christendom, posits a deracinated but universal human nature made up of a few natural rights (life, liberty, and property) that, when mixed in a human society, create liberal democracy. (Think John Locke to Thomas Jefferson to John Rawls.) Traditional conservatives (of whom there have been precious few in America) eschew abstract ideology and look to maintain a wise political order by keeping a firm eye on the successes and failures of a polity's past. (Think Edmund Burke to Alexis de Tocqueville to Roger Scruton.)

Classical liberalism (Liberals) itself gave rise to Progressivism with its socializing impulse under governmental control. Thus, both Liberals--emphasizing the individual--and Conservatives--emphasizing non-governmental social entities--found a common enemy in Progressivism. Combine that internal enemy with an external one, international Communism, and Liberals and Conservatives joined forces to create a powerful fusion that occupied a powerful place in American political life. At least until the collapse of the Soviet Union. Lack of an external enemy and the refraction of Liberalism into sexual autonomy and gender identity movements de-fused the union. And this split, according to Hazony, is what has given us Donald Trump:

Mr. Trump’s rise is the direct result of a quarter-century of classical-liberal hegemony over the parties of the right [in America and the UK]. Mr. Trump was not necessarily seeking a conservative revival. But in placing a renewed nationalism at the center of his politics, he shattered classical liberalism’s grip, paving the way for a return to Conservatism.
We shall see.

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