Rousseau as Red Tory -

Rousseau as Red Tory


All should read Jacob Levy’s Cato piece on Red Toryism. For obvious reasons, I really liked this part:

The claim that commercial modernity necessarily represents a time of mutual alienation, dissolution of traditional communal bonds, decline of virtue, and perpetually increasing wealth for the wealthy and poverty for the poor — that claim found one of its most profound and influential formulations in Rousseau’s work. In short, Rousseau has as good a claim to be the founder of Red Toryism and conservatism as anything else — and much better a claim than to being any kind of founder of liberalism.



Rousseau as Red Tory

  1. The thing about Red Toryism is not the supposed paradox that conservatives can be socialists. It's that socialists are, at heart, conservatives, in the 19th c. sense of the word. Grant's Lament was a fullscale revolt against modernity — and I mean anything post-1750 — and it was an unconscious but entirely revealing irony (or not an irony at all) that so many on the left took it up as their manifesto.

    • i ove those conscious and partially non-revealing non-ironies

  2. "I mean, I think the fundamental difference, the difference that defines the difference between American, Anglo-American conservatives and European welfare states, leftists or liberals, is Locke versus Rousseau. Every philosophical argument boils down to John Locke versus Jacques Rousseau ….. Rousseau says the government is there, that our rights come from the government, that come from the collective. Locke says our rights come from God, and that we only create a government to protect our interests." Jonah Goldberg, interview about his book Liberal Fascism in 2008

    I think part of our problem is that liberal and conservative have different meanings than they did even fifty years ago. There is good argument to be made that liberals, progressives and red tories are today's version of Conservatives/ reactionaries from previous eras. To me, left/right all boils down to how much control you are comfortable with government having over your life.

    • Not really. A lot of Canadian and American conservatives (mostly American) want government to have all sorts of control over our lives, they just disagree with leftists about what to control. Not all Conservatives are small-government, even when they say they are.

    • You lose for having quoted Jonah Goldberg.

      As a Red Tory I beleive in rules. You just broke one.

      • Except for spelling. Proper spelling is fascist.

    • Okay. Seriously.

      For Goldberg, teh fundemental difference is "tastes great" versus "less filling".

  3. "But conservatism is bitterly anticapitalist, much as it is anti-urban and for much the same reasons."


  4. What is the difference between Phillip's celebration of what amounts to the medieval world and the kind of communitarian ideas espoused by Noam Chomsky?

    • How are ideology and philosophy relevant in the age of identity politics, besides being the metaphorical piece of bread in the middle of a circle of pseuds?

      • Because your philosophy is a big part of your personal brand identity.

  5. I just want to point out that Amazon is suggesting that I also buy what appears to be an entirely unrelated book that also has a rubber duck on its cover.

  6. "Blond, however, remains unshaken. The last 30 years — somehow it always seems to be about that long, so that the middle-aged can remember their childhood with sepia tones and the young can prefer their grandparents to their parents — have been a “social disaster.” This is, to be blunt, false"
    It's funny. When i was a young man i considered myself a conservative basically. It took this definition of Liberalism to convince me otherwise:
    "Lberalism is the only philosophy for our time, because it does not try to conserve every tradition of the past; because it does not apply to new problems the old doctrinaire solutions; because it is prepared to experiment and innovate and because it knows that the past is less important than the future."
    No prizes for guessing the origin. But somehow i doubt any of the present crop of Liberals could make the same statement so boldly. Could it be the Liberals have become the new reactionaries? Or is it simply that the stakes have become so much smaller now?

  7. Okay, help out a guy who's never read Rousseau. Didn't Rousseau think that humanity is primally innocent or inclined to virtue, but has been corrupted by civilization/modernity? Red tories–at least if we're talking about people like Grant–think humanity is inherently flawed. Modernity merely worsens the situation.

    That's a rather profound difference. It makes it rather silly to conflate Rousseau and antimodernist conservatism.

    • I think where the Red Toryism is coming in is that Rousseau believed property was an artificial invention, that prior to the development of "civilization," people basically used all property communally. It's all in the beginning of the Discourse on Inequality:

      "The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said 'This is mine,' and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody."

      Basically, Rousseau represents the communitarian side of the Enlightenment, whereas Locke represents the individualist side of the Enlightenment, though there are inevitably differences between Rousseau and Grant.

  8. Does this new book rip off of Thomas Frank just like the Rebel Sell ripped off Comodify Your Dissent?

    Brilliant, actually. What better way to prepare for a book about authenticity than writing an inauthentic book.