A Conservatism of Liberal Emotions?

The philosopher, Edmund Burke is an oft-cited hero of conservative intellectuals. Here is a brief essay that looks at Burke through the prism of contemporary conservatism and comes to the conclusion that the intemperance of the radical right is colored by "liberal emotion".

Interesting in its entirety, here is my favorite passage:


An essential aspect of the conservative mind is the belief that society and civilization are neither competitions nor games to be won or lost. They are not contests between hostile ideas or policies or movements. In Reflections on the Revolutions in France, Burke defined society as “a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection.” The basic contours of this kind of partnership—things like justice, charity, fellowship, temperance, and patience—build a lasting civilization.

Furthermore, to concede to the popularity of Paine’s way of thinking and call it a victory suggests that this game of Western civilization has ended, and Paine is standing atop the podium. Not only does this smack of defeatism, but it also flies in the face of what Burke argues about society, namely that the partnership of society never ends.

Rather, as Burke puts it, the partnership “becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born. Each contract of each particular state is but a clause in the great primeval contract of eternal society.” Moreover, “the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations.” Whether it is the Tang Dynasty, the Roman Republic, the Byzantine Empire, or Enlightenment Europe, civilizations are built over centuries and are closely interconnected with the social partnerships that have gone before them. Corey, I believe, recognizes this, which is why she advocates for a greater sense of “patience, gratitude, and satisfaction,” while encouraging “reform … with careful attention to the familiar and the tried.”