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What Conservatism Really Means - Roger Scruton in Conversation with Hamza Yusuf

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Event Name: What Conservatism Really Means - Roger Scruton in Conversation with Hamza Yusuf
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What Conservatism Really Means - Roger Scruton in Conversation with Hamza Yusuf


I read your book recently how to be a

conservative and I think it's arguably a

serious question is conservativism still

alive at all because we've seen in the

united states for instance

conservativism has been reduced to a

type of free-market economy it's really

an economic conception and not really a

moral conception so maybe we could just

start yeah well this is one of the

worries that intellectual conservatives

like me have there aren't very many

intellectual conservatives it has to be

said we on the whole take the view that

ordinary people are conservative but

they just don't articulate it and not

ever pushed into the place where they've

got to find the way of expressing their

views rather than just having them and

acting on them but when it comes to

politics in a democracy politicians have

to offer things always and that means

that there is a natural tendency for

them to put their policies and their

suggestions in economic terms they say

you will be so much better off if you

vote for us than if you don't and

gradually the language of economics

takes over every question so that it

doesn't look as though there's any real

distinction between politics and

economics and I think this is this is

actually damage to the conservative

position greatly because precisely what

conservatives are trying to say is that

there are things that are jeopardized

things that are at risk precisely

because of our modern way of assigning a

cost to everything or seeing everything

in economic terms the profit and the

loss dominating everything rather than

those things that really matter to the

spiritual and moral health of the

community so but you're absolutely right

that because of this dominance of the

economic question conservatism tends to

be seen as simply an apology for a free

market economy

come what may you know and so if there's

a question about an institution for

instance what should we do to protect

the institution of marriage or primary

education or whatever it gets put into

and to another form you know what are

the benefits economically of the old

idea of marriage you know who can answer

that question

you know one of the things that that is

troubling to me Berkeley is probably one

of the edge most educated cities on the

planet just in terms of a sheer number

of PhDs people that have have been

through high levels of academic training

and a lot of our neighbors are our PhDs

we have one of the highest

concentrations of Nobel Prize winners

what's really interesting is this is

also one of the most liberal cultures in

the world and so the question and I

think a lot of people see this is that

conservativism and intellectualism are

almost mutually exclusive and and very

often the the conservative view is a

kind of it's almost we've got some

troglodytes out there that that tend to

present conservativism in a way that

smacks of an almost anti intellectual

approach and that's very different from

say a Burkean the type of conservativism

which acknowledged gradualism and the

importance of change yes absolutely III

mean you I've I've suffered this all my

life that well Lisa ever since I became

a conservative in which was in May 1968

in Paris yeah yeah I didn't know I

hadn't a very clear idea of how to

articulate it all I knew was that when I

looked down the street and saw all these

rowdy students throwing stones at

policemen I I just said to myself

whatever they believed I and then I

didn't know what it was and and then it

was a sort of lifetime's work to find

out what the opposite is and I somewhat

arrogantly came to the conclusion

it's if you start thinking about

politics in an intellectual way you are

likely to be on the left because that

provides a systematic solution and

answer to their questions give puts it

all in a system and and also gives you a

rather dignified and self-congratulatory

place in the system but once you started

thinking if you think a bit harder and

longer about it you'll move back to what

you would have been if you had never

thought at all you know and that's what

that's my view it's what an intellectual

conservative is he's it's someone who

articulates the real reasons for not

having reasons say that again

someone who articulates the real reasons

for not having reasons but just feeling

and doing what's right right

well I think you know is I think it's

Yates Yates has a wonderful poem Easter

1916 and and in there he has the

lettuce mock at the great that had such

burdens on the mind and toiled so hard

and they to leave some monument behind

he wrote that when he witnessed some

Irish revolutionaries destroy a

beautiful house of a very wealthy landed

English Anglo Irish person and in a lot

of ways that poem articulates that idea

that it's very easy to destroy and tear

down it and and one of the I think one

of the things that's so tempting for

many people because the world is so

troubling to so many people and and so

many people suffer in this world and and

a lot of what the the liberal left tends

to to rely on is is that sense of

indignation that a lot of idealistic

people feel because there are things

that are deeply wrong with the world but

then when we look historically at how

when these people have gotten into power

whether they're I mean people tend to

forget that the Nazis were actually they

were quite bohemian in a lot of ways

they they had a lot of leftist politics

certainly their

was tend to be collectivist and and and

they were National Socialists as opposed

to being internationalist but when they

when they get into power they they tend

to really really tear things down and

don't give us yeah well I I think

there's an explanation of this it's um

what Hegel calls the labor of the

negative right that the initial instinct

on the left is that negative instinct

things are wrong and it must they must

be rectified

they can only be rectified however by

the seizure of power and so we're going

to seize power in order to rectify them

but once you've got the power the

negative is still there in your heart

because that it's driven you all along

you know that's the thing that has

inspired you so you set about destroying

things at punishing people you Indic you

find classes who are to blame you know

the Jews the bourgeoisie wherever it

might be and you don't get out of that

negative structure and I feel that's

what I felt very strongly in 1968 you

know that okay of course there are

things that are wrong in France but

there are also things that are beautiful

them right and you've got to go through

this and come back and rescue those

things which is much more important than

destroying a few obstacles along the way


Blake has a interesting the he says the

hand of vengeance found the bed to which

the purple tyrant fled the iron hand

crushed the head and came a tyrant in

its stead and that tends to be a pattern

that we see again and again that when if

you have for instance in Iran's a good

example of that I mean Civ aquas was one

of the major reasons for the revolution

itself because the heavy handedness of

the Shah is his secret police which he

probably had no idea they very often

live in these silos and bubbles yeah but

they've got you know the secret police

the apparatus all comes back yeah and

and the disappearing the people that

disappear all disappear again so I mean

this is

part of the problem but again it's still

this fundamental problem for instance I

mean one of the things that that you

talked about in in fool's frauds and

firebrands is is the idea of power being

the way in which everything is

articulated that the critique is about

power I mean Foucault is a good example

of that of somebody who just saw

everything in terms of power but there's

there's definitely truth embodied in

that and I think that's why it's so

seductive for so many people

I mean we have to deal with with the

fact that so many people are seduced by

this because they experience especially

marginalized and disenfranchised people

yes that is true

but of course in the intellectual world