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Reclaiming America's Conservative Soul

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Publication Details

Hardcover / 168 pages
ISBN: 9781641770569
Available: 5/14/2019


Coming Home
Reclaiming America's Conservative Soul

Americans have been forced from their homes. Their jobs have been outsourced, their neighborhoods torn down to make room for freeways, their churches shuttered or taken over by social justice warriors, and their very families eviscerated by government programs that take over their functions and a hostile elite that deems them oppressive. These elements of a rooted life historically have been defended by conservatives—people dedicated to maintaining cultural continuity in the face of changing circumstances. Unfortunately, official “Conservatism” has become fixated upon abstract claims about freedom and the profits of “creative destruction.”

Conservatism has never been the only voice in America, but it is the most distinctively American voice, emerging from the customs, norms, and dispositions of its people and is grounded in the conviction that the capacity for self-governance provides a distinctly human dignity. Emphasizing the ongoing strength and importance of the conservative tradition, the authors describe our Constitution’s emphasis on maintaining order, balance, and protection of the primary institutions of local life. Also important, here, is an understanding of changes in American demographics, economics, and politics. These changes complicated attempts to address the fundamentally anti-traditional nature of slavery and Jim Crow, the destructive effects of globalism, and the increasing desire to look on the federal government as the guarantor of security and happiness.

To reclaim our home as a people we must rebuild the natural associations and primary institutions within which we live. This means protecting the fundamental relationships that make up our way of life. From philosophy to home construction, from theology to commerce, to the essentials of household management, our ongoing practices are the source of our knowledge of truth, of one another, and of how we may live well together.


About the Authors

Ted V. McAllister is the Edward L. Gaylord Chair and Associate Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University.

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Bruce P. Frohnen is Ella and Ernest Fisher Professor of Law at Ohio Northern University College of Law and Senior Fellow at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal.

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Praise

Excerpt

The peaceful era of global prosperity declared at the end of the Cold War has ended, if indeed it ever began. We have entered a time of deep cultural conflict forced to the political surface by unprecedented economic dislocation and social change. From serious questions about the viability of the Euro- pean Union to fits of highly dangerous nationalism in Russia and China, geopolitics bespeaks nothing so clearly as system collapse. Peoples and governments are in crisis.

Even in the United States these forces are at work. The levels of panic evident among so many Americans at the election of Donald Trump, which have continued well into his presidency, are a clear sign of a crisis in our political, social, and even cultural life. Americans’ lack of trust in our political system, in each other, and in the decency of our way of life are undermining our ability to function as a people. And this distrust stems from deeper, more frightening causes; it is a painful eruption from a civilizational disease. A civilization is diseased when its people lose faith in its essential ideals and institutions, and when its elite loses or distorts its historical memory. This disease eventually produces an ersatz culture so alien to genuine human needs that the people come to lose the feeling of home – of belonging and attachment – that is any culture’s lived reality. Years of leftist attacks on time-honored institutions that have served to knit a nation of patriots and friends out of America’s rich pluralism, combined with a progressive case of historical dementia, have robbed many Americans of our cultural home, our distinctive, rooted, and beautiful tradition as a self-ruling and self-respecting people.

Our ancestors have been turned into a rogues’ gallery of exploiters and their countless victims – a past that our cultural elite tells us is so shameful that loyalty to any of its cultural bequests makes us automatically complicit in the crimes that now constitute our only patrimony. In a civilizational sense, our elite has left us without cultural forebears; they have made us orphans.

Orphans can still find home, security, and the conditions for happiness so long as they retain institutions serving their most human needs. All humans need stable families to help us develop a strong sense of belonging and attachment. We need local, face-to-face associations and institutions that help us form solid characters and secure our identities as persons and members of communities. And we need a sense of purpose linked with our identity. But we American orphans confront an elite culture that, in the name of liberating the individual, dissolves the institutions and structures that help form stable identities. Instead of a cultural home capacious enough to shelter natives and orphans, we have been left with a perverse species of individualism, stripping from us the relationships that give us strength and meaning. The childish rebellion for so long sold to us as “liberation” has alienated us from our spouses, neighbors, and communities, leaving us “free” from that which makes life worth living.

The crisis of our time, then, might be called homelessness. Homelessness, in the way we mean it here, is a separation from our true nature or our true selves. To rebuild America requires that we reclaim our heritage and rethink our culture and institutions to allow the natural growth and revitalization of the cultural places where we find our natural home.

In writing this short work about reclaiming conservatism and its principles, we have made the assumption that you, in choosing to read it, already have some understanding of the contemporary crisis. Still, a quick overview of conditions on the ground may highlight key characteristics of the current malaise.

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