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Conservatism and Ideology

December 16, 2016

Many people–including many conservatives–think of conservatism as an ideology. They would be surprised to learn that thoughtful conservatives reject ideology of every sort. They insist that their position is not an ideology, but an attitude. Read more from Gerhart Niemeyer in “Russell Kirk and Ideology.”

Conservatism cannot be shrunk to the principle that everything in human life should be reduced to the economics of the marketplace, an idea which in its poverty is first cousin to Marx’s historical materialism. Nor can we do better by linking conservatism to John Stuart Mill’s individualistic society, which may be compared to an ocean of atomized islands having no communication with one another. Nor can we fall back on Locke’s human rights, the condition on which each isolated person enters human community by the gate of quid pro quo. These and other similar worldviews have nothing to say to the reality of living human beings with body and soul, mind and spirit. They have oozed from a consciousness deliberately separated from living reality, which has sweated abstract realities out of itself. This is the ideological mind building thought systems around utopian fantasies with which to manipulate human beings into false hopes.

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