Tuesday, January 02, 2007

On Confusion Concerning the Term 'Conservative'

Claes Ryn's book, America the Virtuous, presents some interesting remarks on the contemporary American confusion surrounding the term 'conservative.' On pp. 193-4 we find:
A particularly striking example of intellectual bewilderment and helplessness are intellectuals who think of themselves as conservatives but who are unthinkingly embracing much of the heritage of the French Revolution. Another example are putative conservatives who assume that a conservative is someone who is more inclined than others to use military power or bullying against other countries.
Again on p. 210 Ryn wrote:
with regard to present political-intellectual discussion, some widely used terms have changed meaning. Some of them have become useless or, worse than useless, perniciously confusing or deceptive.... Much is not at all what it seems.
It is pseudo-conservatives like William F. Buckley who have confused and deceived us about the meaning of 'conservative.'

Ryn also wrote (p. 21):
Paradoxically, in the United States the new Jacobinism also finds expression among people called "conservatives" or "neoconservatives." This is a curious fact considering that modern, self-conscious conservatism originated in opposition to the ideas of the French Revolution. The person commonly regarded as the father of modern conservatism, the British statesman and thinker Edmund Burke (1729-97) focused his scorching critique of the French Revolution precisely on Jacobin thinking.

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