The term “Conservatism,” like the term “Socialism,” is a contentious one inasmuch as the definition is always determined by the Weltanschauung of the person describing it. For “Socialism,” I argued in The Work-Standard and The Third Place that the term should be split into two definitions vis-à-vis a “Scientific/Artistic Socialism Distinction,” distinguishing the Non-Marxist Socialists from the Marxist Socialists. In “Conservatism,” things are more nuanced. When we think of “Conservatism,” we define it as an ideology that seeks to preserve values and norms. That could be products of an ideology, such as “Liberal Conservatism” (which is more compromising than Classical Liberalism), or the actual traditional, religious and cultural attitudes of the Totality, as in the cases of “Social Conservatism,” “Traditional Conservatism,” and “National Conservatism.”
One could theoretically argue for the existence of a “Revolutionary Conservatism” in the context of the Konservative Revolution within the Weimar Republic. That ideology wanted to revolutionize everything that could no longer be conserved and to preserve everything else that remains receptive to change. The metaphysical premise alone continues to resonate a century later.
In “American Conservatism,” we encounter an empty vessel whose definition has yet to be fully redefined. The previous saw an “American Conservatism” characterized by a marriage of convenience, a “Fusionism” among Liberals of various tendencies. This Fusionism was comprised of Classical Liberals who remained in favor of Laissez-Faire Capitalism; Anti-Soviet Liberals advocating for the expansion of Thomas Jefferson’s Empire of Liberty across the Eurasian landmass as the “Neoconservatives”; and Social and Traditional Conservatives critical of the excesses of Social Liberalism. There was even a small, but noticeable faction that adhered to the kind of Green Conservatism begun by Theodore Roosevelt. If there was anything that kept these tendencies together, however contradictory and fragile their consensus truly was, it was their consistent opposition to the Soviet Union.
After the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s, their “Fusionism” eventually collapsed, giving way to a vacuum which laid the groundwork for the Trump Presidency by the late 2010s. “Trumpism” in particular represented a decaying or withering away of that old Fusionist consensus and, in a certain sense, an attempt to fill in the void that defines American Conservatism. Since American Conservatism lacked authenticity and substance in its definitions of “Conservatism,” and because the void has yet to be filled, the ideology remains open to reinterpretation.
If one were to read between the lines on how American Conservatism came to be defined, one discovers that the “American” in American Conservatism was defined more so in English Protestant terms than in European Catholic ones. It is part of the same problem that is tied to the definition of “American Nationalism.” Are “American Nationalism” and “American Conservatism” meant to be about preserving and promoting the values and behaviors of the Union’s English Protestants? Or are they supposed to be more Pluralistic in order to forge a truly American National Consciousness befitting of a proper National Identity and National Essence?
Regardless of how one chooses to answer those questions, they contributed to the recent establishment of Compact magazine, an online publication that began back in March of this year. Compact was founded by Sohrab Ahmari, an Iranian American convert to Catholicism and Conservative opinion journalist, the former senior editor of First Things Matthew Schmitz, and Edwin Aponte, a Marxist proponent of “labor populism.” They published the magazine to provide a platform uniting various authors, intellectuals, and others who share a common opposition against Neoliberalism. The publication is neither Left nor Right insofar as the three men seek to forge a shared narrative favorable to a Left-Hamiltonian perspective. I say “Left-Hamiltonian” because their views can be understood as a suitable analogue for the Right-Hamiltonian perspectives promoted by Julius Krein and other authors in American Affairs quarterly journal.
Just looking at the various articles available in their entirety, there are some similar viewpoints and ideas that resonate with those of my own and those of American Affairs. Sure, there may be some disagreements on specific details, but overall, I agree with them on the broader topics. I have yet to read through most of the articles to warrant a lengthy discussion about one of them on my Blog. Even so, I will admit that a lot of them are diverse and come from a multitude of various authors, and there a handful who do not necessarily share the views of Compact’s founders and editors. But the fact that they were willing to get a diverse list of authors to write articles for Compact is indicative of the magazine’s aims as a publication.
If I have any time next week, I am thinking about writing my responses to a chosen article. My goal is to illustrate how that article relates back to the ideas covered on The Fourth Estate, including those found in The Work-Standard and The Third Place.
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