Edmund Burke’s Club (Australia) Inc is organizing its second annual conference on the political philosophy of Edmund Burke at the Clifton Conference Centre in the Melbourne CBD for Saturday 19th of November 2016. The conference theme will be the state of conservatism in Australia seen through the framework of the thought of Edmund Burke. A dinner will be held at Melbourne’s Savage Club on the evening of the conference.
An examination of the state of conservatism in Australia is a pressing task. For some years, it has become apparent that some self-described conservatives have a deficient idea of what conservatism is as a political philosophy. The aim of the 2016 Edmund Burke conference will be to present a clear understanding of the political and philosophical issues. Edmund Burke’s historical context and the influence of his thought in Australia and on modern conservatives such as Michael Oakeshott and Roger Scruton will be examined.
The Edmund Burke Conference 2016 will be a marvellous opportunity for conservatives and those whose interest in conservatism has been recently sparked to be become engaged. Political events in Australia during the last few years – especially the demise of Tony Abbott and his government – call on conservatives to clarify their philosophical position and discuss action to counter the grip of leftist thought on Australian state and society.
For information about the conference go HERE
R. S. Thomas, the Welsh poet, was curmudgeonly by nature and when he saw how the Czechs used their freedom after the destruction of the Berlin Wall he was appalled, all the more so as he had detested communism. The first fruits of their freedom were precisely the things in modernity that he most disliked or despised, such as a vulgar consumerism and a militant licentiousness. In the same vein, Generalissimo Franco told General Walters that after his death there would be everything in Spain that they (the Americans) liked: democracy, pornography, etc.
Conservatives are attached both to freedom and to the preservation of a cultured tradition. There sometimes seems to be a conflict between the two, in so far as the exercise of freedom results in the destruction of a cultured tradition. In this respect, some socialists have been more conservative than some conservatives: Their ideal was the extension of the appreciation and availability of the best of civilization to those who previously had little access to it, rather than the radical destruction of that civilization that now seems to be the main aim of radicals—a destruction that market forces alone also successfully effect.
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Andrew Bolt has been generous enough to promote our Edmund Burke Conference 2016 ‘Defining Conservatism in Australia’ on his blog. There are the usual responses from those who are incapable of doing more than slinging off at conservatives on the bases of their primitive idea of conservatism. A few support the idea of a conference. Others seem to think conservatism is some sort of economic theory. On the whole, the comments confirm the desirability of a conference on the state of conservatism in Australia.
Conservatism is not an economic theory. Indeed, conservatism as a political philosophy is not a systematic abstract theory in the rationalistic sense of a self-contained theory like socialism or libertarianism. It is rather a framework of thought that is applied to the concrete political situation. Conservatism as developed by Edmund Burke in response to the major political issues of his time (the corrupting power of the throne, Irish oppression, the nature of parliamentary democracy, the American Revolution, British despotism in India, and the French Revolution) has something to say about all those concepts and issues political theory deals with, down to the basic epistemological (knowledge) and metaphysical presuppositions of political discourse.
The 2016 conference of Edmund Burke’s Club (Aust) Inc, ‘Defining Conservatism in Australia’, aims to examine and expound the most important of those concepts in the Australian context from a conservative point of view: freedom, rights, how nations originate and endure, the legitimacy of the state and the obligation to obey, among others. The conference’s program can be found here.
Conference attendees will be invigorated by the presentations and the discussions that follow. Those attending the dinner at the Savage Club will enjoy the fellowship of the evening as well as the well-chosen short readings and comments during the reception and the dinner. Of course, there is the three-course dinner with drinks included (wine, beer and soft drink).
President Edmund Burke’s Club (Aust) Inc.
Mervyn F. Bendle is one of Australia’s foremost conservative intellectuals. He frequently contributes to Quadrant magazine and Quadrant Online, Australia’s foremost organ for the display of conservative thought. Quadrant‘s importance is highlighted by the constant attempts of Australia’s dominant leftist class to shut it down. It is a magazine that belongs in the library of every philosophical conservative. The article below is a survey of the philosophy of the world’s foremost conservative intellectual Roger Scruton. There could hardly be a more readable survey and introduction to Scruton’s thought than this article. Lovers of the writings of Edmund Burke will recognise Burke’s deep influence on Scruton.
The Philosophy Of Roger Scruton
Quadrant May 2014
Mervyn F. Bendle
As the conservative philosopher put it, his “unacceptable” views prompted character assassination, three lawsuits, two interrogations, one expulsion, the loss of a university career, contemptuous reviews, Tory suspicion, and the hatred of decent liberals everywhere. And, he swears, it was all worth it
Reality itself had been affronted. Repulsed, it had recoiled and collapsed into countless pieces, never to be reconstituted. Such is the striking image of the May 1968 French student rebellion recalled by Roger Scruton in his autobiography, Gentle Regrets (2005; all quotations are from this source unless otherwise stated). The twenty-four-year-old Scruton had completed a BA in philosophy at Cambridge and was determined to be a writer, taking Jean-Paul Sartre as his role model because the French existentialist’s prose moved effortlessly “from the abstract to the concrete and from the general to the particular [and] wound philosophy and poetry together in a seamless web, which was also a web of seeming”, as Scruton later recalled on his web page. From Sartre he learned that intellectual life need not be confined to the academy but can flourish around the creative arts like literature, art and music, “through which the world strives to become conscious of itself”. But he rebelled against the Frenchman’s conviction that such a life demanded a radical political commitment, and Sartre’s mindless embrace of Maoism in 1968 alienated him completely.
In the decades since, Scruton has established himself as Britain’s leading conservative public intellectual and as an influential philosopher in a large number of fields, publishing some forty books, innumerable articles, several novels and many other works. Nevertheless, on that May Day forty-six years ago, anarchic leftism held sway and appeared momentarily to threaten President Charles de Gaulle’s Fifth Republic.
Transfixed, Scruton watched as a violent battle between students and police unfolded beneath his attic window until abruptly “the plate-glass windows of the shops appeared to step back, shudder for a second, and then give up the ghost, as the reflections suddenly left them and they slid in jagged fragments to the ground”. In this moment, at the centre of an archetypal 1960s event, it appears that Scruton enjoyed an epiphany, a sudden intuitive insight into the advent of the nihilistic postmodern era, characterised by the collapse of representation, and the fragmentation, violence, heresy and unbelief that Scruton later claimed in A Political Philosophy: Arguments for Conservatism (2006), provided the context for the conservative philosophical response of which he has proven to be the most articulate British proponent.
In Chapter 1 of Roger Scruton’s How to be a Conservative, we find the following description of an ordinary conservative in our present society.
Ordinary conservatives – and many, possibly most, people fall into this category – are constantly told that their ideas and sentiments are reactionary, prejudiced, sexist or racist. Just by being the thing they are they offend against the new norms of inclusiveness and non-discrimination. Their honest attempts to live by their lights, raising families, enjoying communities, worshipping their gods, and adopting a settled and affirmative culture – these attempts are scorned and ridiculed by the Guardian class. In intellectual circles conservatives therefore move quietly and discreetly, catching each other’s eyes across the room like the homosexuals in Proust, whom that great writer compared to Homer’s gods, known only to each other as they move in disguise around the world of mortals.
How ironic that Scruton uses the image of the secretive homosexual in Proust’s books to describe how the conservative must behave in intellectual circles today.
Scruton, Roger. How to be a Conservative (Kindle Locations 75-81). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.