The kind editors at DRC (among them, my friend and former pastor, Charles Brown) invited me to make an occasional contribution to this blog. I’ve enjoyed following the discussions here over the past couple years, and it’s a great privilege to be able to contribute in any small way I can. My own plans for the near future (graduate studies this fall at Notre Dame, plus the birth of my firstborn in May) may prevent me from any strictly regulated posting, so to speak, but I’ll do my best.
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Over at my homeblog, I mentioned a piece from the Washington Monthly which profiles the rise and fall of the webzine Culture11. If you’re not familiar with the journal, it’s worth poking around the archives. C11 sold itself as an outside voice of conservatism, one not afraid to challenge the reigning orthodoxy or talking points of movement conservatism. However, the autumn 2008 release of the new journal could not have been timed worse, economically speaking, and it closed up shop in January. Prior to its demise, C11 made practice of leveling scattershot attacks at both the liberal and conservative establishment. Sarah Palin was dissed right along side John Maynard Keynes. But the diverse range of the editorials was my favorite part of Culture11. Besides old-liners like Bill Bennett, you had crunchy cons like Rod Dreher, localists like John Schwenkler, and libertarians like Peter Suderman.
After C11 failed, the general diaspora of talent extended into other blogs: Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, et al. And perhaps that’s for the best. But part of me still hopes (with self-defeating irony) for a central hub of anti-movement thought. The conservative monolith — represented by Fox News, talk radio, and a host of establishment journals — could use a strong outside voice.
With that in mind, I wonder sometimes about the legitimacy of conservatism as a movement. Movements tends to value unity over debate, whereas it seems to me that the primary value of political conservatism is its ability to provide a dose of social skepticism. Conservatism counters utopianism. Perhaps it’s better to view conservatism as a disposition, rather than an ideology.