Since my name is now on the masthead, perhaps an introduction is in order. My name is Patrick Deneen, and – like a few other people who write here – I am by trade a political theorist. I teach at Georgetown University where I hold a chair in Hellenic studies and nearly three years ago founded a program – The Tocqueville Forum on the Roots of American Democracy - devoted to the fostering among today’s students a deeper understanding of the American and western traditions.
Two years ago I launched a small outpost in the blogiverse that I entitled "What I Saw in America." In addition to posting a number of my quasi-academic writings – for instance, essays on G.K. Chesterton (for whose book recounting his travels in America the blog was named), Mark Twain, Christopher Lasch, Wendell Berry, Allan Bloom, Peter Lawler, Kurt Vonnegut, and my teacher, Wilson Carey McWilliams, as well as musings on American democracy – I also commented frequently on the state of American and modern life with special emphasis on the a-moral or immoral dimensions of the modern economic order. Believing we were poised at once for a trying time of declines in non-renewable energy sources that undergird every aspect of modern life, combined with an unsustainable way of life that highlighted consumption, debt and short-term thinking, I posted a good many essays in which I asked my readers to consider a better way. Connected to these concerns were regular critiques of the modern educational system – particularly higher education, the domain I know best – which is deeply implicated in perpetuating and feeding a modern consumptive economic system and forming a modern corps of deracinated cosmopolites who were encouraged to be citizens of nowhere and everywhere with devotions to everyone and no one.
I expect I will continue commenting in these areas, but think, too, that this new venue will lend itself to thinking and writing in some different directions. I am honored to be joining a site that features the thought of several colleagues whose work I have read with great profit – Peter Lawler, James Ceaser and Ralph Hancock in particular. For those who only know these gentlemen as occasional bloggers, I recommend their prolific corpus of published writings if you seek a deeper understanding of the philosophy that underlies our civilization. We are privileged to have them as commentators on this medium that infrequently features thinkers of such depth.
As for the title of this blog – Postmodern Conservative – it is a label that I can accept only under protest. It is a phrase that is inspired by Peter Lawler’s efforts to recommend a "postmodernism rightly understood" – a period that may or might arrive after the passing of the modern order. Thus, it is not to be confused with the trendy (or, really, tired) postmodernism of modern academia inspired by such thinkers as Derrida, Foucault and Lyotard. It is instead a rejection of modernity in the name of the insights of premodernity – Thomistic and Aristotelian "realism" in particular. That said, it is a postmodernity that also wishes to retain a good number of the boons of modernity – Starbucks, McDonalds, suburbs and exurbs, the interstate highway system, orthodontic dentistry, etc….) – while rejecting its excessive materialism, individualism, liberalism, atheism, etc. I can sign onto the "postmodern" critique but have more difficulty accepting that we can easily retain all the good stuff (so called) while jettisoning the bad. My deepest suspicions are that it’s a package deal, and so I’m not sure I can fully accept the label "postmodern conservative" and might rather consider myself to be a premodern radical. With that understanding, I expect we will have some interesting conversations here, and I’m happy, pleased and honored to be here. I will be posting a short essay here weekly – beginning, and continuing on Tuesdays – and look forward to what lies ahead.