Patrick J. Deneen over at his substack The Postliberal Order (photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame):
Mid-century conservatism arose as a defensive response to an advancing liberalism. It began as an effort to defend liberalism, the “good” liberalism constructed in mid-century and attributed to the Founding Fathers and the Constitution, a politics based upon as an avoidance of any idea of the Good in politics and economics. This stance attracted widespread support and donations, leading to the creation of countless institutions that were devoted to the protection of “good liberalism.” It was a defensive crouch conservatism, occupying the ground that was, until fairly recently, occupied by their opponents.
Consider the positions that the mainstream of American conservatism spends a great deal of its time and treasure defending today:
- Religious liberty
- “Limited” government
- The inviolability of private institutions (e.g., corporations)
- Academic Freedom
- Constitutional “Originalism”
- Free Markets
- Free speech and “expression”
Each of these positions was a creation of early modern liberalism, designed to overthrow a predominantly Aristotelian/Thomistic worldview. Each of these liberal features represent an aspect of what Alasdair MacIntyre has called “the privatization of the good.” Each was designed as a battering ram to demolish any prospect for a social, political, and economic order that – while never perfect – nevertheless understood that society must be ordered toward the end of advancing the telos of human beings.