More Red Toryism, plus “atheism is bourgeois oppression”

Russell has a nice post tying together some of the recent threads about “dissident conservatives” and “red tories.” Meanwhile, John Milbank expands a bit on his views in this interview. Pertinent passage:

To my mind then, modernity is liberalism, liberalism is capitalism (‘political economy’) and capitalism is atheism and nihilism. Not to see this (or rather not to fully see this) is the critical deficit of Marxism. Again, Taylor is right: all critical resistance to modernity is ‘romantic’’ in character: it 1. allows that more freedom and material happiness is a partial good; 2. yearns also for elements of lost organic values and 3. realises that the anti-body, anti-festivity, anti-sex and doctrine of hell-linked disciplinary and over-organised character of Latin Christendom is ironically responsible for the Enlightenment mentality.

I’m starting to think that this triple romanticism is more fundamental than left/right characterization, which after all is a kind of accidental result of the French Revolution. Both left and right, as André de Muralt argues are nominalist: either one favours a strong single centre of money or power or both (right) or the rights of the many singly or when totted up (left). Both positions are also in the end atheist.

We need instead a new kind of ‘romantic’ politics that is specifically religious, and often Christian, in thinking that one can only get distributive equality on the basis of agreed values and an elite transmission and guarding of those values. A more Carlylean and Ruskinian politics then—basically left yet with elements that are not really right so much as pre-modern and traditionalist. Strictly speaking the pre-modern predates right versus left. In Great Britain Phillip Blond is developing a crucially important new mode of ‘Red Toryism’—which might in my view equally be seen as a kind of ‘traditionalist socialism’. This is starting to be noticed in very significant public places and in effect marks the political translation of the paradox of ‘Radical Orthodoxy’ and the beginning of its entry upon the political stage.

The hard thing now for critical thinkers to do is to think outside ‘leftism’. They have to see that if neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism have totally triumphed this is because the left in traditional mode is incapable of carrying out an adequate critique. In the end this is because it’s atheistic – one needs to be religious to recognize objective values and meanings as not just epiphenomenal. Today in Great Britain the left is more or less now defining itself as scientistic which actually permits an underwriting of a new mode of fascism and ‘racism’ as said above.

‘Left Christians’ now have much more to stress the Christian bit if they are truly going to be able to make a critical intervention.

Atheism is bourgeois oppression. Atheism is the opium of the people—it claims to discover an ontology which precludes all hope. This is what someone like Žižek now openly says. We need now to celebrate instead the faithful legacy of peasants, learned, honourable and paternalist aristocrats, Christian warrior kings like Alfred the Great, yeomen farmers and scholars. Péguy is the man for the hour. William Cobbett also. Chesterton and Belloc likewise.

Lots of interesting stuff in there, but lots of stuff I think is deeply wrong too. Milbank steals way too many argumentative bases here for me to endorse his call for a romantic pre-modern politics. (Though, presumably he either has or will expand on this in his more formal writings.)

One thought on “More Red Toryism, plus “atheism is bourgeois oppression”

  1. Lee, thanks very much for finding and posting this excerpt. I’m going to want to think about this a bit before making any comments. I’ve been reading Taylor’s A Secular Age, which is where the whole notion of the “buffered self” comes up; I’ve wanted to blog about it some, and maybe these comments of Milbank’s will give me a chance to get started.

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