The Lawler/Deneen exchange is a good occasion for me to explain where I stand on some of these fundamentals . . . or for me to start figure it out, rather. The “don’t worry, be unhappy” is a delightful and memorable caricature of Lawler’s Pascalian-Tocquevillean position. Peter’s explanation of how we are “stuck with virtue” is brilliant and quite original, but possibly defeatist. I learned from Peter that I probably had been too pessimistic in imagining that the modern conquest of human nature might never reach a limit. But, like Patrick (and really like Peter too, to be fair), I don’t want to wait and see what that limit might look like. In part the FP/Pomocon “dispute” looks to me like an argument about what should be the task of thinking. The FPs are more radical critics of modern liberal capitalism, even in its more “conservative” formulations – Reagan Republicanism, etc. Pomocons seem to me more politically realistic, playing the hand we’re dealt, doing our best to conserve some good things that really already exist among good people who are carving out decent and even admirable lives within a liberal democratic order, looking for actual political friends who can help preserve some sanity within a market-driven society. FPs do well to remind us of a kind of world we have lost or are losing all the time, but risk romanticizing small, tight community existence. (My Daddy was from one, and I think I have a concrete sense of both sides of the question. He always wanted to go back home . . . but that was because he had chosen to leave and find more freedom, more scope for his ambitions. This is to say, with Tocqueville, that individualism works up to a certain point because it is in an important way true to human nature. That said, I have spent some sweet hours on a Southern front porch, and highly recommend it.) I don’t know what it would mean concretely to oppose “capitalist” development, or, for that matter, to revive virtue as a “private” matter, as Patrick writes. If this means to embrace an actual, definite religious teaching, then by all means, praise this teaching for its truth and the benefits that flow from it. I suppose I am a Straussian regime-thinker to the degree that I do not believe the private things can be saved without the public, that is, without influencing the national debate in such a way as to preserve or open up the political-intellectual spaces necessary to defend and cultivate virtue. Which means, again, making friends with real political forces that might have a chance to succeed on the “regime” level – that is, nationally. And for now those friends, so far as they exist, seem to me to be likely to be Republicans – i.e., market-friendly people who want families to be free to teach their children that marriage is more than a contract of convenience between any two consenting adults. Just for example.
OK, I think I’m beginning to see where I stand in relation to Messieurs Lawler and Deneen – but help is still welcome.

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Articles by Ralph Hancock

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