Jan 02

The Conservative Tradition, by Patrick Allitt ????

This is a Teaching Company lecture series, including a total of 36 1/2 hr lectures on the history of conservatism in the United States and Great Britain. Patrick Allitt is a professor at Emory University, though he came from England, but studied at UC Berkeley. He covers the tradition of conservatism from the mid-1700’s until the present day, providing a fairly even-handed summary of the nature and character of conservatism during that time period in the two respective countries. It is particularly interesting how problematic it is to define somebody as a conservative vs. a liberal, in that radical conservatives and radical liberals often live in the same camp, and neither a conservative nor a liberal can be clearly defined, with a multiplicity of camps between the two of them, as well as gradations. Certainly, conservatives tend toward adherence to the past traditions, which at one time was the royalists who adhered to the King. At one time, Adam Smith style economists were the liberals-they are now the conservatives. It was helpful to see that controversy raged throughout America’s history, so that certain belief systems that we hold were at one time fixed in the American ethos, such as constitutionalism, definitely never were, and the issue of the constitution of the US has always been controversial. One might define conservatives as tending toward elitism, or the upper class, and liberalism toward the common man, yet in practice, both liberals and conservatives love elitism if you are the “ruling class”, and hate elitism if your are the “common class”. By this, we see that liberals have an extreme arrogance about conservatives being “stupid”, as witnessed by their recent treatment of Sarah Palin, and their orientation toward the academic setting, and desire for secret meetings in government, contesting that the common man does not understand the intricacies of government. They are inclined to regulation and paternalism, since the “ruling class” knows better than anybody what is good for you. Contrary, the conservatives tend to argue for Republicanism rather than Democracy as the form of government of the US, which in actuality is another form of elitism, the elected official knowing better than the public at large what is good for you. All in all, the lecture series has generated a number of thoughts and questions regarding ones’ personal stance, as well as realization of the diverse nature of conservatism.

You are left guessing what leaning the professor  tends toward; is he a liberal or a conservative? One of his first statements is that he will try to remain unbiased and not disclose his personal leanings. That is an immediate clue that he has liberal leanings. His remarks about a number of conservatives  sometimes discloses an absence of understanding of conservatism, such as his comments regarding the fundamental thesis and work of Francis Schaeffer. Yet, at times, he tends to labor in argument for the strengths of the conservative tradition. My guess is the Professor Allitt is a moderate though somewhat right leaning. I could recommend this series to  liberals and conservatives and moderates and libertarians, as they would all enjoy this series and find it thought provoking.

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One Response to “The Conservative Tradition-Teaching Co. Series”

  1. Uncle Dennis says:

    This series appears to reinforce the abundantly established point of pointlessness to words that create a false dialectic. Not only are “conservative’ and “liberal” meaningless visceral labels, so are political “right” and “left”. NAZIs were clearly “right-wing” but the very name, as national socialists, places them in the “left-wing” category.

    The above series seems to be suggesting that two categories that can be well-defined and reflect the actual state of affairs is “top” and “bottom”. As Reagan once used in a speech, borrowed from elsewhere: “It’s not left versus right, but top versus bottom.” Once you leave the false left-right dichotomy and start thinking in terms of top versus bottom, the whole political world begins to make sense and becomes clarified. If you buy into the ruling-class propaganda that they do not exist, you will never understand history or your own time in it.

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