Saturday, April 23, 2005

Thinking about Cultural Conservatism and the Fight

In this age of muscular Christianity and fetishized specialties, the “drift of the times” often goes unremarked except for an incidental squabble or two that are truly distractions. The cultural conservative, Andrew J. Bacevich in The New American Militarism (2005) provides perspective on the build-up of the spectacle of war that has been crafted by the neo-conservatives. He approving cites C. Wright Mills’ prescient 1956 observation, now even more apt than when he wrote it, that ". . . men in authority are talking about an ‘emergency' without a foreseeable end." In the era of perpetual war and Patriot Act without end, war has become spectacle, tragedy, and farce all rolled into one by so-called authority figures.

What has been expressed by neoconservatives has been a matter of public record for some time, but involves a use of language that can be better used in cranking oppositional sentiments than contemporary commentary and meaningful politics. Other vehicles can be used for some intellectual heavy lifting before we expend the energies on advancing more progressive views, that is if we are willing to take up the fight and not give the neo-conservatives one inch of intellectual terrain.

When the works of neoconservative are critically examined and understood, we are left with a series of ideas that lack an understanding of complex political relationships. Rather than looking for keys of understanding for the neo-conservative movement in some incidental squabble (for example between the “free exercise” and “establishment” clause of the First Amendment bearing on religion) or on the genealogy of neo-conservative views through a mystical sketching of influence via a godfather like Leo Strauss, but rather what we must do is untie the knots, contradictions and conflicts that hold the neo-conservative movement together. And we must explain how these threads weave together to propel this movement.

This means that we must do more than complain about how bad the neo-conservatives are, we must attack them where they live -- the realm of political ideas and action. And we must not concede one bit of contested terrain. Not one bit.

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