The Chimera of Conservatism

The Chimera of Conservatism

The rise of conservatism among American intellectuals has provoked ironic comment here and there but few attempts to explore its sources in the condition of society or to articulate its living function or to surmise its fate.

Despite the recent attempts of Russell Kirk, Clinton Rossiter and others to suggest some canons, neo-conservatism behaves like the Cheshire cat when one examines it for a common body of doctrines and assumptions. What is “new” and unique about the movement is not at any rate doctrinal, for the doctrines have been around for a long time, but the way a multitude of diverse elements are so easily assembled and identified as “conservative.” What was formerly a chaos of trends (High and low Whiggery; laissez-faire economics as well as corporate syndicalism; all sorts of aristocratic, oligarchic, anti-democratic, xenophobic and quasi-fascist impulses) now becomes an orderly array under the arranging hand of conservatism. The unity in this farrago of notions and sentiments is simply a unity of function.

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