| Nicolai Foss |
The Mission Statement of O&M stipulates that we occassionally discuss cultural conservatism. We do so too rarely, so the following is an attempt to meet that stipulation.
I am admirer of the British conservative philosopher Roger Scruton (Scruton’s homepage is here; check out his hilarious cv). Although I have not bought fully into Scrutonian conservatism (I have problems with his excessive statism — plus I just don’t get his love for Wagner!), I find him to be an extremely profound and challenging writer. One of the very few contemporary conservative thinkers worth taking seriously (e.g., see this and this). And if you really want cultural conservatism, this is it!.
His books are among those books that I bother to re-read. Thus, I have just re-read Scruton’s autobiography, Gentle Regrets: Thoughts From a Life, published last year. Rather than a traditional autobio, the book is a series of vignettes from Scruton’s life.
Standouts include a hilarious description of a research trip to Finland for which the word “acerbic” is much too weak; Scruton is no friend of Finnish mentality (something for Teppo at orgtheory.net to blog on?). There is an equally hilarious description of his involvement with conservative politics in UK, and accounts of his trips to then-communist Eastern Europe to support opposition groups. As he notes, “… the catholic university of Lublin was the only university I knew where a right-winger could speak openly in defence of his views” (p. 72). This is to be contrasted with the situation in UK, where Oxford University denied an honorary doctorate to Margaret Thatcher, but eagerly bestowed it upon Bill Clinton, and where the likes of Robert Mugabe and Nicolai Ceacescu were made honorary doctors at other universities.
There is also a very nice and to the point smashing of the thought of Foucault (something that is always popular here on O&M). Of Foucault’s Les Mot et les Choses — “the bible of the soixante-huitards” — Scruton notes that it is “… an artful work, composed with a satanic mendacity, selectively appropriating facts in order to show that culture and knowledge are nothing but the ‘discourses’ of power. The book is a not a work of philosophy but an exercise in rhetoric. Its goal is subversion, not truth … The revolutionary spirit, which searches the world for things to hate, has found in Foucault a new literary formula. Look everywhere for power, he tells his readers, and you will find it. Where there is power there is oppression. And where there is power there is the right to destroy.” In sum: Highly recommended!