The New Pantagruel may have shut down, but The Japery is still going strong. Earlier this month Fr. Jape reviewed an article from the American Conservative entitled “Goodbye to All That” by a young former National Review trustee by the name of Austin Bramwell. Bramwell’s piece is, according to Jape, a broadside against conservatism. Certainly it is an attack on the varieties of conservatism Bramwell doesn’t find useful–basically anything except neoconservatism. This stood out to me in what Jape said about the article:
The overall picture that emerges from Bramwell’s taxonomy of conservatives is so bizzarely Rousseauian as to nearly bugger description. Conservatives fall into three broad categories. There are the neocons, who know what they think and presumably have done actual analysis because they have clearly defined political opinions. The movement-cons are the thoughtless drones who provide most of the raw power driving the conservative engine. They don’t have an original thought in their head but their desire for revenge after 9/11 drove them straight into the arms of the neocons. Finally, there are the ostracized-cons who pine for something that never existed in dangerously subversive ways that result in a “mere posture” rather than the more substantial “political opinions.”
Bramwell clearly rejects the latter two groups. It is the neocons who actually come away with some approval, though Bramwell is coy enough to limit himself to praise in the form of faint damnation. What becomes apparent is that Bramwell condemns conservatism in its non-ideological forms. He can accept the neocons as at least being a legitimate political movement precisely because they are the only group of ideological conservatives. Which is to say that they “know what they think” and that what they think results in specific policy prescriptions as opposed to the mere postures of eccentric men or, even worse, the pre-political attachments of merely social relationships. In this sense, Bramwell is expressing an almost undiluted form of Rousseauian political philosophy; the very philosophy which the conservatism of Burke to Kirk has existed to stand against. Kirk famously defined conservatism as the absence of ideology. Is it any surprise that he and his intellectual heirs would exhibit their political thought principally as a “posture” rather than as a set of policy prescriptions?