Departments of Conservative Studies

In the future many colleges and universities, having for the most part driven conservatives and traditionalists out of the academy, will invite them back in under the guise of multiculturalism. Rather than replacing entire religion, history, philosophy, art, and literature departments with traditionalists, they will create an academic ghetto for the conservatives and traditionalists to inhabit. These academic ghettos will be called Departments of Conservative Studies.

Some of the topics will include:

  • Introduction to Religion: Taught from a point of view generally friendly to Judeo-Christian religion.
  • Greek Spoken Language
  • Greek Literature
  • Latin Spoken Language
  • Latin Literature
  • Hebrew Language
  • Old English Language
  • The Ancient Greeks: History, Mythology and Literature, including drama, of the ancient Greeks.
  • Rome: History and Literature of the ancient Romans.
  • Jewish History: History and Literature of the Jewish people.
  • Christian History: History and Literature of Christian Africa and Europe up to the Enlightenment.
  • Natural Philosophy, Empiricism and the Birth of Physics: From Aristotle, Plato and Archimedes to Galileo, Bacon, Newton, Descartes, Hobbes, Burke, Locke, Franklin and Boyle.
  • From Ramses to Napoleon: Pre-Modern Warfare: History, theory, practice, and literature of War from the beginnings of history to the campaigns of Emperor Napoleon.
  • From the Civil War to 4GW: History, theory, practice, and literature of War from the outbreak of total war in the Civil War to the present day and 4th Generation Warfare.
  • Muhammad and Islam: Islam’s history, ethics, literature, and way of war, its rise and fall, and its modern-day Wahhabist and Khomeinist Jihad revivals.
  • The Terror: From the French Revolution to the Marxist, Nazi, Maoist, and Khomeinist revolutions. The history and literature of atheist or religious, idealist, revolutionary movements and their aftermath.
  • Anthropology: An overview of the historical development of human Subsistence patterns, Economics, Kinship, Civic Works, Government, Religion, and Education.
  • Liberalism: From Democracy to Republic, History and Literature of the political will to achieve and secure individual liberties.
  • Religion, Morals and Ethics: The history and literature of Judeo-Christian moral and ethical thought from Genesis through Vatican II. With a brief introduction that surveys the Greek moral philosophers.
  • Rhetoric: The art and practice of logical thinking (including how to recognize and oppose logical fallacies) and persuasive speaking and writing.
  • Currents of Modern Conservative Thought: Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Edmund Burke, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Russell Kirk, F.A. Hayek, Leo Strauss, Ayn Rand, William F. Buckley, Milton Friedman, Irving Kristol, and Ronald Reagan.

Looks like a syllabus I, or anyone, could learn a few thousand useful things from.

[Edited: See Original Introduction Following]

Peter Berkowitz writes in the Opinion Journal:

This absence on the left of debate or dissent about moral and political ends has been aided and abetted by many of the party’s foremost intellectuals, who have reveled in denouncing George W. Bush as a dictator, in declaring democracy in 21st-century America all but illegitimate, and in diagnosing conservatism in America as in the grips of fascist sentiments and opinions.

A few months ago, Hoover Institution research fellow Dinesh D’Souza published a highly polemical book, “The Enemy at Home,” which held the cultural left responsible for causing 9/11 and contended that American conservatives should repudiate fellow citizens on the left and instead form alliances with traditional Muslims around the world. Conservatives of many stripes leapt into the fray to criticize it. But rare is the voice on the left that has criticized Boston College professor and New Republic contributing editor Alan Wolfe, former secretary of labor and Berkeley professor Robert Reich, New Republic editor-at-large and Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Peter Beinart, Berkeley professor George Lakoff, and New York University law professor Ronald Dworkin–all of whom have publicly argued in the last several years that conservatives form an enemy at home.

One explanation of the unity on the left is its belief that today’s divisive political questions have easy answers–but because of their illiberal opinions and aims, conservatives are unable to see this and, in a mere six years, have brought democracy in America to the brink. This explanation, however, contradicts the vital lesson of John Stuart Mill’s liberalism that political questions, as opposed to mathematical questions, tend by their very nature to be many-sided. Indeed, it contradicts the left’s celebration of its own appreciation of the complexity and depth of politics. […]

[T]he widespread ignorance among the highly educated of the conservative tradition in America is appalling.

In contrast to much European conservatism, which harks back to premodern times and the political preeminence of religion and royalty, in America–which lacked a feudal past to preserve or recover–conservatism has always revolved around the preservation of individual liberty. Of course modern conservatism generally admires virtues embodied in religious faith and the aristocratic devotion to excellence. It also tends to emphasize the weaknesses of human nature, the ironies and tragedies of history, and the limitations of reason and politics. At the same time, it wishes to put these virtues and this knowledge in liberty’s service.

Balancing the claims of liberty and tradition, or showing how liberty depends on tradition, is the very essence of modern conservatism, the founding text for which was provided by Whig orator and statesman Edmund Burke in his 1790 polemic, “Reflections on the Revolution in France.” The divisions within contemporary American conservatism–social conservatives, libertarians, and neoconservatives–arise from differences over which goods most urgently need to be preserved, to what extent, and with what role for government.

The varieties of conservatism are poorly understood today not only because of the bitterness of current political battles but also because the books that have played a key role in forming the several schools go largely untaught at our universities and largely unread by our professors. Indeed, perhaps one cause of the polarization that afflicts our political and intellectual class is the failure of our universities to teach, and in many cases to note the existence of, the conservative dimensions of American political thought.

Rare is the political scientist, to say nothing of other faculty, who can sketch the argument, or articulate the point of view, of such influential works as Russell Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind” (1953), F. A. Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” (1944) or Leo Strauss’s “Natural Right and History” (1953). Yet these works, and the schools they helped launch, are essential to understanding not only where we come from but where we should head.

Kirk identified six elements that make the conservative mind: belief in a transcendent order that “rules society as well as conscience”; attachment to “the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence” as against the routinizing and leveling forces of modern society; the assumption that “civilized society requires orders and classes”; the conviction that “freedom and property are closely linked”; faith in custom and convention and consequently a “distrust of the ‘sophisters, calculators, and economists’ who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs”; and a wariness of innovation coupled with a recognition that “prudent innovation is the means of social preservation.” The leading role in this mix that Kirk attaches to religion marks him as a social conservative; his insistence that religion provides the indispensable ground for individual liberty marks him as a modern conservative.

Famously, at least in libertarian circles, Hayek, an Austrian-born economist who became a British citizen and then immigrated to the U.S. in 1950, wrote a postscript to “The Constitution of Liberty” (1960), explaining why he was not a conservative. For him, “true conservatism”–which he confused with European reaction–was characterized by “opposition to drastic change” and a complacent embrace of established authority. Because his overriding goal was to preserve liberty, Hayek considered himself a liberal, but he recognized that in the face of the challenges presented mid-century by socialism, he would often find himself in alliance with conservatives. As a staunch member of the party of liberty, Hayek was keen to identify the political arrangements that would allow for “free growth” and “spontaneous change,” which, he argued, brought economic prosperity and created the conditions for individual development. This meant preserving the tradition of classical liberalism, and defending limited, constitutional government against encroachments by the welfare state and paternalistic legislation.

For Strauss, what was most urgently in need in preservation was an idea, the idea of natural right. Like Kirk, Strauss believed that modern doctrines of natural right derived support from biblical faith. Like Hayek, Strauss taught that limited, constitutional government was indispensable to our freedom. But Strauss also saw that modern doctrines of natural right contained debilitating tendencies, which, increasingly, provided support for stupefying and intolerant dogmas. To arrest the decay, he turned to the classical natural right teachings of Plato and Aristotle, who were neither liberals nor democrats, but whose reflections on knowledge, politics and virtue, Strauss concluded, provided liberal democracy sturdier foundations.

There can not be a conservative soul today in the way one can speak of a liberal soul or spirit. Whereas the latter revolves around the paramount good of freedom, modern conservatives, while loving liberty, differ over its position in the hierarchy of goods most in need of preservation, and indeed differ over the paramount good. Yet the writings of Kirk, Hayek and Strauss do form a family. All developed their ideas with a view to the 20th century totalitarian temptations of fascism and communism. All agreed that liberal democracy constituted the last best hope of modern man. And all showed that defending liberty involves a delicate balancing act.

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