Here is an extremely interesting article on the development of a new ‘Red Tory’ conservative communitarianism in Britian. I am told by a Canadian friend that similar things are afoot in Canada (George Grant is apparently the person to read there). Red Tory conservatism would be a culturally conservative movement that rejects neo-liberal economics. There are substantial overlaps with John Paul II’s critique of ‘rigid capitalism’ in his encyclical ‘On Human Work’ (Laborem Exercens). Both re-focus liberal economics on the common good and both reject the atomized relativism of modern liberal individualism (rooted in Lockean and Jeffersonian notions of the individual) in favor of an embodied communitarian and personalist ethic. Students in Contemporary Euro will see shades of the Heideggerian and Levinasian critique of subjectivity here. I find myself attracted to this Red Tory view, but wonder if American conservatives (at least, non-Catholic American conservatives) are anywhere close to being ready for something like this, or if they are simply too wed to liberalism.
Here is a taste of the critique, but link to the article for his list of concrete policy suggestions, most of which concern a re-localization of the economy and a call for conservatives to abandon big business.
‘To understand why the legacy of liberalism produces both state authoritarianism and atomised individualism, we must first note that philosophical liberalism was born out of an 18th-century critique of absolute monarchies. It sought to protect the rights of the individual from arbitrary abuse by the king. But so extreme did the defence of individual liberty become that each man was obliged to refuse the dictates of any other—for that would be simply to replace rule by one man’s will (the king) with rule by another. As such, the most extreme form of liberal autonomy requires the repudiation of society—for human community influences and shapes the individual before any sovereign capacity to choose has taken shape. The liberal idea of man is then, first of all, an idea of nothing: not family, not ethnicity, not society or nation. But real people are formed by the society of others. For liberals, autonomy must precede everything else, but such a “self” is a fiction. A society so constituted would be one that required a powerful central authority to manage the perpetual conflict between self-interested individuals. So the unanticipated bequest of an unlimited liberalism is that most illiberal of entities: the controlling state. Even the most “communitarian” liberals—from philosophers like Michael Sandel to politicians like Ed Miliband—cannot promote community without big government. They see the state as the answer, when it usually makes the problem worse. The legacy of liberal individualism is the restoration of the very absolutism that it originally sought to overthrow—a philosophical tragedy that can be summed up as: “the king is dead, long live the king.” ‘