Mandeville, LA – But the reader still wants to know why historical forces, even of the kind he visualizes, make conservatism more irrelevant than other political philosophies. Here it becomes necessary to look more closely at the idea of conservatism which he has codified. The term which he uses most frequently in designating its essence is “harmony.” I suspect that this may be an evasion of a more accurate word which would be embarrassing for the author to handle. The word is order. Order, or harmony as an expression of order, I would agree, is the goal which most if not all conservative thinking has in view.
Now the present author appears to believe that because ours has been increasingly an age of conflict, the conservative ideal of order must be abandoned as an impossibility. I quote from page 85: “Conservatism seeks ‘community,’ tradition, harmony, and quiescence. In this century it has found organization, violence, political powers, and revolutionary upheaval.” If these two sentences are taken as premises, what conclusion is to be drawn? The conclusion I would draw is that however incompletely conservatism may be realizing itself, it offers the remedy for the major evils besetting our era.
No informed person will deny that conservatism, with its passion for an order reflecting a meaningful hierarchy of the goods, has been having a rough time for several decades. That is evidenced by the common admission that we are passing through a period of exceptional crises. But to pass from the presence of conflict to a conclusion that control and discipline and order have no place in the world is to reverse the process by which political judgments should be arrived at.
Any theory of political ordering has some difficulty in actualizing and maintaining itself in the face of empirical reality; and any such difficulty can be interpreted as a “tragic” limitation. It is highly characteristic of the author’s militant secular liberalism that he is very impatient with the idea of tragedy. Anything containing an element of the tragic is repudiated by him for this reason, and if in some places he makes himself appear difficult to argue with, it is largely because he has left out this dimension of reality. And correspondingly it is because he shies away from any such recognition that he can insist upon the unrealistic standards of complete consistency and triumph for the politically permissible. In his account, as previously noted, conservatives are always being “defeated” by adjusting themselves to the liberal trend, or by becoming alienated, or they are undone by the contradictions in their own doctrines. – Richard Weaver, reviewing author Morton Auerbach’s The Conservative Illusion-1959.