It is a quiet civil war within political parties; less quiet in the nation as a whole. I have to ask though how far apart the sides actually are. It is a yawning chasm between the extremes, but for most it is a matter of priorities. Extremists have no hierarchy of priorities as normal people have.
Were the Kulturkrieg just a time of new opinions being aired and thriving or withering in time, that would be interesting, discomforting for the conservative-minded, but a natural thing for any age. Instead, we find threats and actual careers ended, families impoverished, as a heap of unelected opinion formers try to bang in their own rickety Overton Windows without debate.
I do not want to write, yet again, of the ‘Woke’ idea in this consideration: they are not liberal in any logical sense. They might think they are, but their essence is prescriptive, censorious, regimented, and their prescription is strict laws against freedom. They are extreme conservatives, just for a different conservative philosophy, and with such a departure from sense and reality that those ideas are unworthy of serious philosophical consideration. No: the liberal-conservative divide lies elsewhere.
One aspect on the battlefield is the push-of-pike between socially conservative and socially liberal. The general thrust is characterised on both sides as a fight for freedom. On the liberal side that seems to ring truest, as the essence of the philosophy is that individuals will find their own path without interference from the norms of society, which norms must give way to allow free expression of lifestyle. That is a powerful message, especially to the young finding their feet in the world, wanting to spread their wings.
From a socially conservative viewpoint however, a free, liberal society can only thrive if there is society in the first place. Otherwise freedom is illusion. We need not descend as far as ‘Warre Of Every One Against Every One‘ to see that complete liberty becomes no liberty at all: our security to build and thrive depends on having a structure within which to build and thrive. Fundamental to that are family, faith and nation.
The radical liberal idea speaks to the desire of all to breath free and to be what we can be, without being defined by other’s requirements, or in Hobbesian terms “a generall inclination of all mankind, a perpetuall and restlesse desire of Power after power”.
It sounds all very well until you see those cast aside by others’ freedom weeping in the dark corners; children abandoned and falling into neglect or crime; women with no more hope passing from abuser to abuser; the lost cultural understandings; the feral individuals becoming Caliban; the neglect of poor communities because they are no longer communities.
The late Roger Scruton provided a philosophical basis for social conservatism. It was said that he set his face against the economic liberalism of the Thatcher era, but in fact his objection was to treating that economic idea above all, as if free economics would solve every social issue too. It cannot, and there we have a more accurate division between the wings of conservative thought. In that characterisation the two sides, of economic liberalism and social conservatism, are not in opposition to each other in any principle; only in emphasis.
Difference of emphasis is how Jordan Peterson has characterised the psychological conservative-liberal split, and he notes that the two are not so much in opposition as in a necessary symbiotic tension, and by implication that society will ossify or collapse unless both character types and their ideas and are present.
Where we are then in the genuine liberal-conservative divide is not such a division as it may seem. If it is characterised as freedom against restriction, it misses the complexity of positions. Socially conservative Conservatives are most often supporters of free enterprise, free trade and free commercial innovation. It is the social field where paths divide, but even there it is in individual areas. Social conservatism is unpopular in the opinion-forming media, which according to the Peterson thesis is inevitably the domain of creative, liberal types, but it is necessary to defend family, faith and flag for the stability of society on which all else is built.
- Liberals, conservatives and the Jordan Peterson thesis
- The Noble Savage, Caliban and Hobbes
- Quarrel of a dying empire poisoning modernity
- In a sentence, Her Majesty defines us
Some social conservative organisations:
Groups promoting aspects of socially conservative ideas seem to come and go with the tide, either becoming so mainstream as to vanish in redundancy or becoming the-place-not-to-be-seen, or just evaporating as the momentum is lost. Some remain however.
- The Bow Group – thinktank
- Orthodox Conservatives (2019)
- The Ulster Democratic Unionist Party
- Apparently vanished:
- The Liberal Delusion by John Marsh
- By Jordan B Peterson:
- The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies by Ryszard Legutko
- By Thomas Hobbes:
- By Anthony Burgess:
- By Aldous Huxley:
- By George Orwell: