The radical core of conservatism

Nobody wants to feel as if there is a “big Other” against which one has to defend oneself. Most people do generally want to learn about new ideas and the perspectives and experiences of others; I even think many people would be generally open to hearing marginalized voices and trying to understand how oppression works, but nobody wants to learn about new and strange ideas if they see those ideas as a pre-written doctrine which they’re simply being told to accept. This is the radical, anti-authoritarian kernel of conservatism: the resistance against new ideas and vigorous reform is often, at its root, a refusal to trust authority—perhaps most often it is the refusal of the uneducated to trust the authority of the better educated. This is a tough and surprising point for educated radicals, but it is real nonetheless: normal bourgeois folks reject and loathe the earnest radical because the radical wants people to believe ideas with which scarcely anybody has the time or resources to ever become familiar. Our society tends to distort and confuse nearly everything in whatever way will make it as reactionary as possible, and the distribution of education is exemplary in this regard. Skhole —the Platonic word for the real leisure required for thinking—is attained by so few that whatever can be found there is doomed to be despised by everyone who has been excluded. Education is a cave no less than ignorance. Privileged or oppressed, no one’s thoughts, words, or expressions are immune from accidentally contributing to a repressive society because the effects of even the most genuine, real, and true thoughts are determined quite apart from their authenticity, reality, and truth.

Cite this post: RIS Citation BibTeX Entry

Murphy, Justin. 2013. "The radical core of conservatism," (April 24, 2017).