Liberalism, Conservatism, Postmodernism, and Russell Kirk

My review of Gerald Russello’s The Postmodern Imagination of Russell Kirk is now on-line. It’s a very thought-provoking book; I’ll write a bit more about it here when I get a chance. In the meantime, check out my Reason review.


2 thoughts on “Liberalism, Conservatism, Postmodernism, and Russell Kirk

  1. Nathan P Origer March 1, 2008 / 1:47 am

    Daniel, thank you for the marvelous Reason review! I have no doubt that Mr Kirk would approve of your fine analysis; I feel nigh compelled now to seek and to read Mr Russello’s work.


  2. Tim March 15, 2008 / 7:48 am

    I don’t think Kirk would have much time for modern po-mos even if they did share a few common foes.

    It’s interesting to compare the critiques of the po-mos with those made by Harry Elmer Barnes and co of the WW2 and immediate post WW2 generation of historians. Barnes saw himself as representing the authentic tradition of liberal scholarship. Barnes sees the ‘next gen’ as having abandoned traditional scholarship and scholarly independence having absorbed the government line on WW2 hook, line and sinker. Barnes contrasts this to the more genuinely skeptical reception the government line received after WW1. Barnes sees the next gens as pretending to scholarship and liberal values and he crusades for a return to a more authentic standard of scholarship. Barnes does talk about the ‘historical blackout’ and the WW2 mobilisation of the scholars as critically undermining traditional scholarly independence, but his interesting and intriguing argument is perhaps not taken far enough. The growth of 20th century social democracy, the welfare / warfare state, ‘planning’ etc can be seen as much broader mobilisation of the intellectual classes in the service of the state. Perhaps Barnes as a social democrat himself was unwilling to let his argument rise to it’s full height.

    The po-mos of course are reacting to these ‘next gens’ as well ..but, unlike Barnes, they take them at their word as representatives of scholarship and Enlightenment liberalism. The po-mos thus reject those values rather than take the more skeptical and critical route of questioning the bona fides of postwar liberal academia. In a sense the po-mos self advertised claims of criticism, skepticism and diversity are window dressing.

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