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Published in 2017, a little over two years before his death, this I think was Roger Scruton’s last published work devoted to conservatism proper. He has written other books on music and art, albeit as seen through a conservative lens, but their primary focus was aesthetic and not civic. Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition summarizes a great career of a man who has lived his life in the public square with a particular philosophy that runs against the current of contemporary ethos. Roger Scruton (1944-2020) was a conservative in the paleo-conservative sense, not some neoconservative rebranding of once Liberal thought. He is British, though has had a voice in European and American conservative circles, a professor of philosophy, has published over 50 books on a wide range of subjects, and for almost twenty years was chief editor at the conservative quarterly, The Salisbury Review. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Scruton helped establish underground academic networks in communist-controlled countries.
This is an excellent and concise book on the history of modern conservatism by an author who lived through most of the debates of the last fifty years. When Scruton identifies modern conservatism, he says it is “a product of the Enlightenment,” although acknowledging that conservatism dates back in every era of history. Conservatism for Scruton is a set of customs, values, and institutions built by a community over time that have proven to sustain, preserve and “ensure [the] community’s long-term survival” and that give it a sense of identity and unity. Conservatism in the modern sense is a counter to the Liberal emphasis of reshaping society as radical individualism that rose out of the Enlightenment. “Tradition,” as Scruton observes from Edmund Burke, “is a form of knowledge.”
Scruton walks us through the philosophical ideas that have shaped conservatism going back to Edmund Burke, who argued against a notion of society as a “social contract” (from Jean-Jacques Rousseau) but as a “shared inheritance for the sake of which we learn to circumscribe our demands, to see our own place in things as part of a continuous chain of giving and receiving, and to recognize that the good things we inherit are not ours to spoil but ours to safeguard for our dependents” (p. 45). Indeed I never signed a social contract but I was certainly born into a shared inheritance.
To mark the first anniversary of the passing of Roger Scruton, Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson was asked by the Roger Scruton Legacy Foundation to participate in its Remembering Roger Scruton Memorial Event by interviewing the Right Honourable Michael Gove. Gove is a member of Parliament, a member of Britain’s Conservative Party, and the current chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and minister for the Cabinet Office. Gove began reading Scruton’s work as a teenager, and it had a very strong influence on Gove’s intellectual journey toward becoming a Conservative. In this conversation, Gove describes his own relationship with Scruton, how Scruton influenced British politics while living and even after his death, and how Scruton’s fierce support of Brexit was both personally and politically helpful to Gove. He also discusses Scruton’s warnings about— and his own experience fighting—“wokeness,” as well as what Scruton might have thought about lockdowns. Finally, Gove shares some thoughts about Scruton’s legacy and how history might remember him.
State solutions are imposed from above; they are often without corrective devices, and cannot easily be reversed on the proof of failure. Their inflexibility goes hand in hand with their planned and goal-directed nature, and when they fail, the efforts of the state are directed not to changing them but to changing people’s belief that they have failed. – Roger Scruton
Like Thomas Sowell, Milton Friedman and others, Roger Scruton quotes seem obvious, but they also show great wisdom. Even after his death on January 12, 2020, the quote above rings true with the present nonsense from all governments – villages, cities, states, countries, and especially the pan-national World Health Organization. Ricochet includes many conversations about Scruton, including those on Conservatism and Good Things in the Quote of the Day series.
As a conservative who enjoys art, architecture, and music, I was introduced to Roger Scruton about 3 years ago in this Beauty video. What impressed me was his approach to beauty, which could include rough items, while dismissing modern art that only exists to shock.
TOPICS: The presidential nominating process, U.S. foreign policy, RNA, and the 2012 Hillsdale College commencement address
Host Scot Bertram talks with Adam Carrington from Hillsdale’s politics department about the way we nominate our candidates for President. Ret. Major General Melvin Spiese discusses U.S. foreign policy and external threats. Chris Hamilton from Hillsdale’s chemistry department teaches us about RNA. And we hear excerpts from the 2012 Hillsdale College commencement address given by the late Sir Roger Scruton.
When Sir Roger Scruton passed away at the age of 75 on January 12, the world lost a giant in philosophy. Scruton wrote approximately 50 books on topics ranging from food to music to conservative thought, and in 2016 he was knighted for his contribution to philosophy and education. On this episode, Acton’s Samuel Gregg explains the most important veins of Scruton’s thought, especially those related to political philosophy and the arts.
I’m not part of the Quote of the Day group, so I hope I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes by posting this, but when I got this in my feed this morning I knew it had to be disseminated.
“Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created. This is especially true of the good things that come to us as collective assets: peace, freedom, law, civility, public spirit, the security of property and family life, in all of which we depend on the cooperation of others while having no means singlehandedly to obtain it. In respect of such things, the work of destruction is quick, easy and exhilarating; the work of creation slow, laborious and dull. That is one of the lessons of the twentieth century. It is also one reason why conservatives suffer such a disadvantage when it comes to public opinion. Their position is true but boring, that of their opponents exciting but false.” — Sir Roger Scruton
At a certain age on the path to adulthood, we begin to realize not just that our heroes are human, but that they are mortal. In the last five years, we have said goodbye to Harry Jaffa, Kenneth Minogue, Rene Girard, Bernard Lewis, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and Forrest McDonald, among brilliant others, and I have watched each go with an increasing sense that I was seeing my pantheon of intellectual greats fade rapidly.
Professor Scruton is a brave man for daring to criticise the sacred feminine and comparing it unfavourably with medieval theology. For those whose French is rusty, he’s not swearing at the 3:47 mark but saying Foucault, which of course sounds like a Gallican corruption of an epithet from the Anglo Saxon netherworld.
Fake news, fake views. The full talk from which this is excerpted can be found here.
Do modern campuses actually value ideas and intellectual discourse? Should there be limits on capitalism? Is modern architecture bad? Sir Roger Scruton and Christina Hoff Sommers join ‘Viewpoint’ on the AEI Podcast Channel to discuss each of these topics and more.
This conversation originally aired on the AEI YouTube Channel on March 22, 2017.
On Radio4, the BBC has posted a 15-minute reflection on the Brexit vote by the great English philosopher Roger Scruton. Scruton’s talk is an astonishing thing: for the sheer calm rationality with which it lays out its argument, for its insistence on championing the humble and traditional and unfashionable–and, I was struck again and again, for its applicability to our own country.
Consider this passage:
In modern conditions, in which governments rarely enjoy a majority vote, most of us are living under governments of which we don’t approve. We accept to be ruled by laws and decisions made by politicians with whom we disagree and whom we perhaps deeply dislike. How is that possible? Why don’t democracies constantly collapse, as people refuse to be governed by those they never voted for? Clearly, a democracy has to be held together by something stronger than politics. There has to be a first-person plural, a pre-political loyalty, which causes neighbors who voted in opposing ways to treat each other as fellow citizens, for whom the government is not “mine” or “yours” but “ours,” whether or not we approve of it.