So I’ve gotten a fairly gratifying number of confused and disgruntled emails this afternoon about the disappearance of the blog devoted to postmodern conservatism. There’s been a change I hope you all can at least half-believe in.
Our distinctive “brand” has disappeared. And the importance of branding can’t be underestimated in the world of the screen.
All our authors remain, though. They will all post with complete creative freedom on First Thoughts. And the postmodern yet conservative conversation will continue in the threads.
Some undeniable improvements: Our postmodern yet conservative wisdom will be immediately available to a much wider audience. We (especially me) will receive some needed and appreciated editorial support. The new First Thoughts look is much more attractive and professional, and maybe the appearance is even more important than the brand.
An ambiguous change: ALL CAPS will disappear as a mode of postmodern communication. The argument against it, of course, is professionalconsistency of style, not seeming like I’m shouting for no good reason, and all that.
The distinctive contributions of our blog to the First Things universe have largely been about politics (public policy and partisan competition), political philosophy, and pop culture (especially music and film). One great thing about this new format is that you can browse for yourselves in a very user-friendly way through our past posts, if you haven’t been a regular reader up until now.
You can divide up into small groups and discuss whether our contributions have been to the “left” or to the “right” of First Things in general. There’s a case to be made in both directions. They’re, on balance, less explicitly religious, although almost every one has a Christian foundation, if you look closely.
Postmodern rightly understood means thought in light of the distinctive successes and failures of modern thought. It means incorporating what’s true about classical, Biblical/Christian, and modern thought in how we understand who we are and what we’re supposed to do. “Postmodern” used in this way can be found, for example, in the thought of Walker Percy and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. (I refer you to Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard Address for an especially clear articulation.)
Postmodernism is a return to the moral and metaphysical realism of St. Thomas Aquinas. Well, not a return in every respect. As Walker Percy explains, one avenue we have to a return to realism or a true science is putting back together what’s true about Anglo-American empiricism and what’s true about European existentialism. Well, you have to add a little more besides.
Postmodernism is conservative because liberalism, consistently understood, points in the direction of the unrealistic and humanly destructive extremes of libertarianism and transhumanism. But postmodern conservatism isn’t illiberal. It’s all about the judicious or somewhat selective use of liberal meanssuch as the modern science of politicsfor conservative ends. Many liberal meanssuch as the separation of church and state and limited government in generalare more Christian in foundation than many of our liberals seem to know. Unlike, say, Lockean liberals, though, we postmodern conservatives know that the human person is both free and relational, and so liberal means are only good insofar as they aren’t destructive of indispensable relational institutionsbeginning with the church and the family, but also including political lifethat make life worth living and freedom more than another word for nothing left to use.
Welcome back our faithful readers, whom I hope will spend more time enjoying all that First Thoughts and First Things have to offer. And welcome to all our new readers as well.
Thanks to First Things for all the priceless support, and especially to Austin Stone for this stunning new site.