Saturday, June 16, 2018

She didn't get the memo?

Hayley Hendrix
Hayley Hendrix is a Perth woman who, being single in her early 40s, used a sperm donor she found on Facebook to conceive a child.

She's not alone in doing this, but she is right in line with modern ideology in how she frames her life choices.

Why did she wait until 42 to become a mother? She very honestly describes how she spent her prime years of youthful fertility:
I'm really ready at 42 to be a mother. I was too career focused, too 'me-oriented' to have done this a decade ago. I was living in Los Angeles – it was a hectic lifestyle and there is a real Peter Pan syndrome going on there.

'You almost never grow up and I suppose this is how I missed the memo for motherhood,' Ms Hendrix said.

'I was thinking of where to travel next, what bar was the coolest place to be seen at, who was the coolest person to hang out with.

'Life now is a world apart, filled with unwashed hair and dirty nappies. And I couldn’t be happier. I am more fulfilled now than I ever have been.'

Ms Hendrix explained that living in LA, she felt a void that is gone now. These days, she feels deeply rewarded by the simple things in life.

'Remy’s smile has filled my heart,' she proudly told Femail.

'I am really present with him – he is getting all of me so it is the best of both worlds for the two of us. Not only did I have a miracle child, I really found my purpose.'

It's not that there were no potential fathers to be had, but that she followed the liberal script and spent her younger years in pursuit of an "expressive individualism" in which we focus on those things we can choose as autonomous individuals, such as career, travel and food - as well as casual, uncommitted relationships.

Hayley Hendrix admits that this realm of choice was not genuinely fulfilling or purposeful, and that she has found herself in motherhood, but she just can't let go of her ideological commitments. This is how she justifies single motherhood:
Ms Hendrix wants women to know that they are the authors of their own story, and that regardless of their relationship status, they too can become a mother just like her.

She added that while she acknowledges that there are strangers out there who may disagree with her choice, she wants to share her story publicly to show women that there is no 'right' way to have children.

'It's about breaking down stigma and purely traditional ways of thinking.'

So she's learnt nothing. Instead of admitting "I should not have wasted my prime fertile years doing insubstantial things" she is instead claiming to be a liberal heroine who is the author of her own story (autonomous) and who is breaking down traditional ways of thinking (i.e. breaking down limits on individual choice).

It was this focus on maximising autonomous choice that got her into trouble in the first place, yet she is doubling down on it and encouraging other women to do the same thing.

And it's a lie. She claims that there is no right way to have children. Yet her child will grow up without having a father in his life. And she herself, as a mother, will lose the depth of love and support that would have come from a relationship with the father of her child. She is pushing toward a kind of spiritual barrenness or sterility in denying our more profound relational needs in favour of an "I can choose any which way" mentality.

We are "creatures" in the sense of having a given, created nature and therefore there are necessarily limits on what we can rightly choose if we wish to genuinely flourish as individuals within a community.

There are even leftists now who are using the word "slave" to express how they feel within a modern, liberal society. They are expressing a deeper intuition here, that freedom is not really being able to choose insubstantial things as an autonomous individual. We do not really experience this as a state of control or agency, but as powerlessness over ourselves and our society. In the classical tradition, freedom was more usually understood as an acquired ability to govern ourselves, through habits of virtue, which would then give rise to communities oriented the same way, i.e. in which men were able to apply self-limitations not only to preserve political freedoms, but to live within a community that was able to orient itself toward the good.

Hayley Hendrix changed her surname after having her Facebook baby:
Ms Hendrix, formerly Hayley Chapman, changed her surname as a result of her experience with social media sperm donation to represent the new chapter she had forged for herself and baby Remy.

'I did it to show that Remy and I are a family in our own right.

'I am my own person on my own mission –I don’t need to wait for someone else.'

I'm not sure what exactly to make of this. I suspect, though, that it is another assertion of individual autonomy, in the form of rejecting a connection both to the past and future. Usually our surname marks a particular family lineage that connects us to generations past, present and future. When you select your own surname, to mark yourself as "a family in our own right", then it is just you and the baby as a one generational unit and identity.

It's noteworthy that Hayley Hendrix is a very good looking woman. In most eras, she would have had no trouble finding a high quality man to form a family with. Yet, having embraced the liberal anticulture, she found herself in her later 30s "desperately seeking" motherhood. All she aspired to by this time was to be impregnated by an anonymous man.

It doesn't have to be this way. Last week I visited a family I've known for a couple of years now. I walked in at a good time - they were all on the couch, laughing together - father, mother, three children and another on the way. You could sense the familial love, of the kind that most people aspire to.

The parents have achieved this at a relatively early age, early 30s at the most. How? In their case, they have a serious commitment to an independent church, and therefore to marriage, family and parenthood.

Now, a lot of churches have collapsed into liberal modernity, and many more will not resist liberalism when it comes to issues of nation and identity. But this family nonetheless illustrates the point, that if there is an active community of people, with serious and explicit non-liberal commitments, that a culture different to the liberal mainstream, with different social outcomes, can be generated.

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Millennia of woe?

A feminist by the name of Suzanna Danuta Walters has written an opinion piece for the Washington Post with the title "Why can't we hate men?"

I found the piece interesting because it spells out so clearly the logic of the feminist position.

I have been writing for many years that if feminists took their theories seriously that they would be, at the very least, deeply conflicted in their attitudes to men. After all, feminists claim that throughout history men have organised together to create privilege for themselves at the expense of women; that men enact violence against women to uphold this privilege; and that at the core of society is a conflict between the two sexes for power and status.

If you were a woman who really believed that, then it would be logical to see men as the enemy and to have some sort of negative feelings towards men as a class of people.

And Suzanna Walters (a professor of sociology) acknowledges this:
...it seems logical to hate men...Women experience sexual violence, and the threat of that violence permeates our choices big and small. In addition, male violence is not restricted to intimate-partner attacks or sexual assault but plagues us in the form of terrorism and mass gun violence...wage inequality continues to permeate every economy and almost every industry...women have less access to education, particularly at the higher levels; women have lower rates of property ownership.

...So, in this moment, here in the land of legislatively legitimated toxic masculinity, is it really so illogical to hate men? For all the power of #MeToo and #TimesUp and the women’s marches, only a relatively few men have been called to task, and I’ve yet to see a mass wave of prosecutions or even serious recognition of wrongdoing. On the contrary, cries of “witch hunt” and the plotted resurrection of celebrity offenders came quick on the heels of the outcry over endemic sexual harassment and violence. But we’re not supposed to hate them because . . . #NotAllMen. I love Michelle Obama as much as the next woman, but when they have gone low for all of human history, maybe it’s time for us to go all Thelma and Louise and Foxy Brown on their collective butts.

...So men, if you really are #WithUs and would like us to not hate you for all the millennia of woe you have produced and benefited from, start with this: Lean out so we can actually just stand up without being beaten down. Pledge to vote for feminist women only. Don’t run for office. Don’t be in charge of anything. Step away from the power. We got this. And please know that your crocodile tears won’t be wiped away by us anymore. We have every right to hate you. You have done us wrong. #BecausePatriarchy. It is long past time to play hard for Team Feminism. And win.

It's all there. Men have created "millennia of woe" for women so that women "have every right to hate you". The suggested solution is for men to play for the other team by giving up all power ("Don't be in charge of anything").

Nor is this is new feature of feminism. In 1913 a male feminist by the name of W.L. George noted of the "new women" of his era that:
The "New Woman", as we know her to-day, a woman who is not so new as the woman who will be born of her, is a very unpleasant product; armed with a little knowledge, she tends to be dogmatic in her views and offensive in argument. She tends to hate men, and to look upon Feminism as a revenge; she adopts mannish ways, tends to shout, to contradict, to flout principles because they are principles; also she affects a contempt for marriage which is the natural result of her hatred of man.

Again, we should not be surprised as the same logic was at work in 1913 as it is more than a century later.

Professor Walters appears to be a lesbian and so can more readily embrace the logic of the feminist position. For heterosexual feminists the situation is more difficult: they have to reconcile the logic of their politics with their desire for relationships with particular men. The difficulty of achieving this is magnified when you consider that feminist women are not likely to be attracted to servile men who are willing to roll over and give up masculine power. The result is an uneasy compromise between the personal and the political for more serious feminists, whilst most women continue to refuse to identify as feminists at all.

The larger point, of course, is that feminist assumptions have to be challenged. The picture that feminists have of the past is, mostly, a strange one. It does not acknowledge the sacrifices that men made on behalf of their wives and children; nor does it recognise that men and women, rather than being set apart, mostly worked together for the larger benefit of their families and communities (ultimately producing Western civilisation).

I want to finish on a positive note, so I'm going to praise, again, the work of traditionalist women on social media, who are pushing a much more positive message of men and women cooperating together for larger purposes of love, family, community and culture. In no particular order, here are some of the traditionalist women worth following on Twitter:

Sarah Jean Gosney: https://twitter.com/sarahjeangosney

Sophie: https://twitter.com/mtnhousewife

Cherry: https://twitter.com/SewTrad

Trisarahtops: https://twitter.com/xTrisarahtops

Kami: https://twitter.com/Highheeled_Kami

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Why the fatal delay?

Chandler is a feminist woman. One day she wants to get married and have children. But not now. Not in her twenties. She thinks all women should wait until very late in the piece:



It's a popular message. Her tweet has over 160,000 likes and 50,000 retweets. But why would Chandler hold these views?

The answer is that Chandler is a follower. She is a follower of the ruling ideology of the age, namely liberalism. Liberalism tells Chandler that the primary good in life is that of autonomy. Autonomy means that a woman aims to develop solo as an individual rather than as a wife or a mother within a family. It means that a woman aims to be independent rather than interdependent. It means that she aims for power ("empowerment") rather than love. It means that she aims for things she can choose as an atomised individual, such as career or travel, rather than goods that are fulfilled within a family or a community.

Chandler answered her critics with the following tweets:





The problem for Chandler is that she wants contradictory things. She wants to have a husband and children. But she also wants to follow liberalism and believe in autonomy as the highest good. And so she attempts to resolve the dilemma by dedicating women's youth to the liberal goal of autonomy and their older age to the non-liberal one of family.

It's not a wise strategy. Consider the following:
  • Chandler will spend her formative years deliberately rejecting a culture of family and relationships in favour of individualistic goods of empowerment and autonomy. It will not be easy for her to switch over to being a wife and mother when the time comes. Is she not likely to resent the compromises that occur within a marriage?
  • It is likely that she will pursue numerous unserious relationships with men in her twenties, collecting emotional baggage along the way and damaging her ability to pair bond with just one man.
  • She will not attempt to find a husband or conceive children until long after the peak of her youthful attractiveness and fertility. Her options will be limited compared to other women.
  • Many of the men who are forced to wait will adapt to a bachelor lifestyle. It will be difficult to sustain a family man culture.

Here is Chandler advertising the "too many boyfriends already = emotional baggage" problem:


She seems to be repressing healthy maternal instincts in order to follow the liberal path:


How sad that the ideology of the day leads Chandler to deny herself something that is so fundamental to her sex. She has become an outsider to herself. If she could only free herself of her ideological bindings, she could be more openly oriented to the things she fatally delays.

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The rape of nature, left and right

I'm re-reading Patrick Deneen's Why Liberalism Failed. One of the arguments Deneen makes is that when proto-liberals reconfigured the Western understanding of liberty in the early modern period, one prong of their attack was an attempt to overcome "the dominion and limits of nature." The proto-liberals favoured a belief "in an expanding and potentially limitless human capacity to control circumstance and effect human desires upon the world."

Deneen argues that there were two phases in this attempt to assert dominion over nature. In the first wave, the emphasis was on the conquest of the natural world:
Liberalism...embraced and advanced as well an economic system - market-based free enterprise - that similarly promoted human use, conquest, and mastery of the natural world. Early-modern liberalism held the view that human nature was unchangeable - human beings were, by nature, self-interested creatures whose base impulses could be harnessed but not fundamentally altered. (p.36)

By the later 1800s, however, a second wave of liberal thinkers criticised the earlier view by asserting that human nature itself could be conquered or mastered. Deneen goes on to make the following interesting distinction:
First-wave liberals are today represented by "conservatives," who stress the need for scientific and economic mastery of nature but stop short of extending this project to human nature. They support nearly any utilitarian use of the world for economic ends...[my emphasis]. Second-wave liberals increasingly approve nearly any technical means of liberating humans from the biological nature of our own bodies.

Deneen writes further that,
Liberalism...seeks to transform all of human life and the world. Its two revolutions - its anthropological individualism and the voluntarist conception of choice, and its insistence on the human separation from and opposition to nature - created its distinctive and new understanding of liberty as the most extensive possible expansion of the human sphere of autonomous activity." [my emphasis]

It is this second revolution, namely the liberal insistence on the human separation from and opposition to nature, that I want to focus on.

I attended a victory celebration today. Some "conservative" (i.e. right-liberal) councillors gained the upper hand in the last council election and suddenly announced that they were going to sell off 17 public reserves in my suburban area of Melbourne, with the idea being that they would be sold to developers to build more units.

A lot of us were shocked to hear the news. Why would anyone want to sell off these pockets of nature within suburbia just for short-term profit? Well, the mentality of these councillors fits in with the description provided by Deneen of first-wave liberals: they assume that human nature is self-interested and that nature is there to be exploited for utilitarian ends.

But there are a lot of lefties in the area I live in. They campaigned against the sell-offs, mobilised public support and ultimately saved most of the reserves (hence today's victory party). In my dealings with these left-wingers, I noticed that they were genuinely non-utilitarian in their attitude to the natural environment. They spoke at times about the importance of the beauty of nature and of its spiritual effects.

But here's the thing. When it comes to human nature, the left-liberals are no better than the right-liberals. They are just as willing to slash and burn, and to tread all over whatever there is of beauty and spirit within human nature, in order to assert a conquest and dominion over it.

They are no better - it is just that the focus of their efforts differs.

For prime evidence of this have a read of how left-liberalism operates in Sweden's preschools. The teachers at these schools have, as their prime mission, to eradicate distinctions between the boys and the girls. They are fiercely dedicated to this aim of destroying one significant aspect of human nature. They do not care if, by doing so, they eradicate what is beautiful within womanhood or what is strong and admirable within manhood. Just like the right-liberals, they assume that humans should stand separate to and in opposition to nature - to our nature as men and women.

From the New York Times article:
Science may still be divided over whether gender differences are rooted in biology or culture, but many of Sweden’s government-funded preschools are doing what they can to deconstruct them. State curriculum urges teachers and principals to embrace their role as social engineers, requiring them to “counteract traditional gender roles and gender patterns.”

It is normal, in many Swedish preschools, for teachers to avoid referring to their students’ gender — instead of “boys and girls,” they say “friends,” or call children by name. Play is organized to prevent children from sorting themselves by gender. A gender-neutral pronoun, “hen,” was introduced in 2012 and was swiftly absorbed into mainstream Swedish culture

This began in 1996 in Sweden when Ingemar Gens, a journalist, realised that preschools were a good place to suppress sex distinctions:
Preschool struck him as the right place to do this. Swedish children spend much of their early life in government-funded preschools, which offer care at nominal cost for up to 12 hours a day starting at the age of 1.

Two schools rolled out what was called a compensatory gender strategy. Boys and girls at the preschools were separated for part of the day and coached in traits associated with the other gender. Boys massaged each other’s feet. Girls were led in barefoot walks in the snow, and told to throw open the window and scream.

The teachers are expected to watch videos of how they interact with the students, to pick up on any subtle differences in how they treat the boys and girls:
“It was hard at first to see patterns,” she said. “We saw more and more, and we were horrified at what we saw.”

In Sweden the idea that any distinctions based on sex might still exist is considered "horrifying".

One trainee teacher so much dislikes it when she sees her friends dressing their children as boys or girls that she makes a point of trying to re-educate them:
Ms. Gerdin’s friends have begun to have babies, and they post pictures of them on Facebook, swathed in blue or pink, in society’s first act of sorting. Ms. Gerdin gets upset when this happens. She feels sorry for the children. She makes it a point to seek her friends out and tell them, earnestly, that they are making a mistake. This feels to her like a responsibility.

Finally, you can see in all of this an error that is often made in politics. The left-liberals reacted to something they didn't like in right-liberal politics, but opposed it from within the same political framework. They weren't able to think outside of the framework itself.

You have to be careful that you don't become merely reactive to the thing you have grown to dislike. What should exist instead is an independent orientation to the truth.

Traditionalists do not want to live outside of nature, whether that refers to the natural world or to human nature. We want to be connected to it, deeply, and to draw from it what is best within the human experience. We orient our lives, in part, through our place within a natural order (an order of existence that encompasses the biological, the social and the spiritual). That does not mean rejecting efforts to employ technology for useful purposes, but this is not the principle we live by, or that we wish society to be ordered by, or that we measure progress by.

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

More feminist regret

Dr Taylor Burrowes is angry at the influence feminism has had on her life. She has a successful career as a family counselor and as something of a media personality (she anchors a news show and has done a Ted talk). However, she believes that feminism influenced her negatively when it came to relationships with men.

She posted the following as a Twitter thread, but I'm condensing it for readability:
A Dear Joan Letter to Feminism:

I’m mad that you took away my right to choose what I wanted as a woman...you took things too far when you pushed me out of my natural nurturing role & into a man’s world. The expectation to strive & succeed amongst men killed my femininity, thank you FEMINISM!

Why did you have to go & steal my hopes & dreams from me? You’re selfish & never cared enough about what I really wanted to even ask me first. Maybe I didn’t want to spend 18 years in post-grad school when I would’ve rather been prioritizing prospects for finding a good partner.

I would’ve never let you swindle me out of my prime years in the name of progress. I would’ve rather used my god-given gifts on what is truly important to me. My PhD can’t defend me in an attack or keep me safe from harm. It doesn’t even guarantee that I’ll be financially robust.

Sure, it’s impressive to other women in the game of competition, but what the hell are we competing for? Men don’t care that I have a PhD, in fact, it limits my options in the dating pool. It’s like height, I’m tall & average height men are mainly out of the market for me.

I can’t pair with a man beneath me, literally and figuratively. You forgot to discuss this temper tantrum you had decades ago with your older sister HYPERGAMY. If you had, she would have put you in your place a long time ago. But you had to go rogue and try to prove your point.

I just can’t believe I let you manipulate me into neglecting my feminine ideals & self-sabotaging to the point that I may have set myself up for being alone without any family of my own while I help other people find & keep their happy lives with their families.

I know somewhere along the way you thought you were right for doing what you did, but I need you to stop and reconsider things now. I can’t go back and redo my 20s or even go back to puberty and start my socialization over so that I understand male/female dynamics realistically.

My life may be irreversible now, and I’ll have to make peace with the consequences of what you did. But I know you’re still out there doing this to other people. I’m just asking you to stop for the sake of love and family values. Let women be women again.

And for goodness sake let men be men! If there’s anything I can say to appeal to your senses, this is it: thank you for showing me I am powerful & smart when I need to be. I will take that with me. It’s just not the whole story. I need to respect, honor & admire a partner.

This is what I needed to learn:

1. Men are awesome creatures when they are at their best & I need one in my life to love & keep me safe and ensure a healthy & happy home & life.

2. Find a man that inspires your whole being so that even when you disagree, you defer to his leadership.

3. There is no need to rebel against his leadership if I choose wisely. And when I do, know that “the ship has sailed” and we are on course for a lifetime of adventure together. We can strategize our teamwork to plan according to all the challenges at sea, but we must not waver.

4. Being feminine is everything. Denying our beauty is a sin on humanity. Embrace & celebrate your inner & outer sensual essence by being graceful, selective, kind, joyful, warm, loving & intuitive. You can do so without being weak or meek or insignificant.

5. I was put on this earth to love and to heal and to help and support someone, my someone! There is no progress without leadership, there is no leadership without followership, there is no home without a healthy system to guide & protect it and there is no love without a home.

Enough FEMINISM, you have done enough damage...You’ve proven your twisted point. If you carry on any further you are going to destroy life & love as we (used to) know it. Women will rule the world with subservient masses of weak men. Then what? Will you stop then?

Will you be happy when you look around at the mess you’ve created and smile? I don’t think so! I think you’ll wail like you’ve never felt sadness and despair before once you understand what you’ve “created.” The destruction will be catastrophic...it’s already begun.

But it’s not too late for our future even if it’s too late for some. So, I beg you FEMINISM: Enough! You’ve had your run, let go of the death grip and listen to your inner voice. I know you still have it. You don’t have to fight anymore. I’m sorry if you're hurt by my leaving.

But I’m done.

All the best,

The generations of women from who you squandered youth and the Divine Feminine for too long.
There is a genre of this kind of writing - of middle-aged women without families feeling dudded by feminism (which I hereby dub "feminist regret"). One of the earliest examples that I recall was written by an Australian journalist, Virginia Haussegger, back in 2002 - see here.

Dr Taylor Burrowes' letter is better than many I've read. I like the following aspects:

1. She recognises that men aren't very attracted to a woman's professional qualifications.

2. She recognises the reality of female hypergamy: that women feel attracted to men who they can look up to in some way. Therefore, both her height and her PhD limited the pool of men she might have successfully bonded with. She writes "I can’t pair with a man beneath me, literally and figuratively." This has implications for how society is organised - care has to be taken to ensure that men have the standing in society to attract their female peers.

3. She doesn't do the "men can't handle smart/strong women" shtick. She acknowledges that the problem was internal to her and that it would have helped if she had been brought up to better understand the male/female dynamic.

4. She does a good job in identifying the qualities that women might cultivate in themselves. She suggests that women aim to be "graceful, selective, kind, joyful, warm, loving & intuitive".

5. She is open and honest about needing a man to lead in the relationship. She associates a man leading and protecting with the creation of a loving home (leadership includes teamwork between man and woman).

Finally, I hope that the men reading this don't respond with a "white knight" instinct, because it is not what women like Dr Taylor Burrowes are looking for. She is not looking for a servant to uphold the feminine imperative, i.e. to do her bidding. She wants a masculine man who can more than hold his own in a relationship. Who she feels confident in deferring to for leadership. It is not a case of "rescue" but of being a man who can be relied on to make good decisions and to steer things in the right direction.

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Deakin story

I've now finished reading Judith Brett's biography of Alfred Deakin, an important father of Australian Federation, who set much of the national policy for the first four decades of the nation's history.

There's an important political lesson contained within the life of Deakin. Deakin was a progressive liberal, and yet there is much to admire about both the man and the impact he had on Australian politics.

The reason I can say this is that there is a disjunction between the political and religious principles held by Deakin, and the ancestral culture which he finely embodied. Deakin's liberalism (the political and religious principles) hadn't yet reached a point of overthrowing important aspects of the ancestral culture.

And this raises a significant issue about the way that politics has been framed in the West. For a traditionalist, the ancestral culture itself is the good to be conserved. Therefore, to be a conservative is a good thing, in the sense that you are upholding what is meaningful within human existence, regardless of the changing of fashions or technology over time. What a traditionalist ought to do, therefore, is to fit his religious and political worldview together with this defence of what is meaningful within his ancestral culture - so that it can be conserved.

Deakin didn't see it this way, and nor have most Western intellectuals. Deakin did very much value the ancestral culture, and thought of it as a core aspect of his life. But his religious and political principles were formed separately to it, being intellectually schematic and abstract.

He wanted to believe, as many intellectuals of the era did, that there was a divine purpose to the cosmos, in the sense that humanity was progressing to its ultimate, divinely appointed ends. Deakin was, in this sense, a "humanist" as he thought of humanity as a whole as the agent through which God's purposes would be fulfilled. Deakin therefore believed that as part of progress there would be a shift away from the parochial, toward higher unities and ultimately toward the global citizen.

Politics for Deakin was a means by which he could fulfil his own destiny in furthering God's plan for human progress. He would serve the ideal by engagement in progressive politics. Therefore, for Deakin, it was wrong to be conservative, because this meant obstructing progress and getting in the way of humanity advancing toward the ultimate purposes God intended for it.

And so the real goods that Deakin himself so finely embodied and which he had inherited from a more traditional culture, were left without an explicit defence. They were left undefended within Deakin's intellectual scheme or framework. Fortunately, however, Deakin hesitated before the precipice and did not abandon the identities and loyalties derived from his cultural inheritance. He brought these into the policy positions he developed for the newly formed Australia.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

The deepening

Sometimes you hear people say that we live in a post-industrial society. I'm not so sure. It seems to me that we are pushing toward a deeper - a more raw - stage of industrial society.

There was, of course, an intense stage of industrialisation in the 1800s. But at the same time there were efforts to at least contain its impact on society.

For instance, men were subject to the demands of industry during working hours. But often their wives and children were not. The family home was supposed to be a haven from the demands and values of the industrial world.

There was a deliberate effort, also, to establish garden suburbs. And, over time, working hours for men were reduced. As early as 1856, workers in Melbourne began to enjoy an eight hour working day.

There was a time too when "slow leisure pursuits" were popular. People read poetry, spent time in the garden, went on picnics, spent a day at the cricket or fishing at the river.

So, although industrialisation had a major effect on culture and society, there were still spaces in which the logic of industrial organisation didn't penetrate.

Great Britain became a world superpower, in part, because it was the first to industrialise. It's noteworthy that other self-disciplined and ambitious nations, such as Germany and Japan, recognised the need to modernise their economies along similar lines.

When you look at Japan, you see a somewhat different path. The Japanese did not mitigate industrialisation the same way the the British did, with garden suburbs or with leisure time. Their industrial cities were concrete jungles and their men were expected to be work warriors.

They did, however, for a period of time attempt to fuse certain more traditional values with industrialisation. It was thought masculine to be a successful work warrior and to support a family with long hours of work. It was also thought to be patriotic to contribute to building up the Japanese economy.

It's possible that this intense industrialisation explains some of Japan's social ills. Japan may not have committed to liberalism as deeply as the Anglosphere countries, but they did commit in a raw way to the industrial organisation of society. Does this help to explain some of the decline in the Japanese family even in the absence of a strong feminist movement? The failure of some young men to commit to society?

Here in Australia we seem to be following down the Japanese path in the sense that there is no longer the same effort to offset the effects of industrial organisation. Some observations:

1. The family is not as much a haven from work as it once was. The advice to women in the 1950s and 60s to prepare a comfortable and relaxing home for their husbands to return to work from is now mocked. With women increasingly at work themselves, men are now expected to keep working when at home. With a high rate of divorce, family is no longer the centre of stable values as a counterpoint to the world of work.

2. On a related note, now that many women are at work, it is harder for men to conceive their work role in terms of family or masculinity. For instance, a man who worked in an office could have once thought to himself that his efforts at work were not dedicated to "the office" but to his role as a husband and father supporting a family and creating a protected space for a culture of family life to flourish. Now, though, he is more likely to be drawn into a corporate culture, in which his efforts at work are connected directly to his corporate role and identity, rather than to something beyond them.

3. There is a trend for the more ambitious kind of young woman to give up on motherhood. Such women are already living a pressured lifestyle at work and find it difficult to imagine taking on the extra duties and responsibilities of raising children. And, more than this, the lifestyle associated with modern, urban, industrial society is one of long hours at work, followed by and justified by, certain trappings of the "good life" such as dining out, travel, designer clothes, shopping and so on - a lifestyle that would be cramped by motherhood. The dramatic drop in the birthrate seen in the "raw" industrial societies of Japan and Germany is likely to happen here as well,  especially among middle-class women.

4. There is the beginning of a trend for workplaces to act as de facto families. When I worked in Japan it was common for the entire staff to holiday together - that was how strong the work relationships were supposed to be. I haven't heard of this happening in Australia, but, with the decline of family, work is starting to be the main source of personal relationships for some people, and some businesses are beginning to take on a paternal role in staff well-being. A friend of mine has been applying for work recently and he told me how he was put off some workplaces because they struck him as being cult-like - as requiring a commitment that went beyond the professional and into the personal.

5. We are also following the Japanese path in building more congested urban spaces. The Japanese have a sense of themselves as lovers of nature, but modern life seems to have largely cancelled this out, and the same appears to be happening to Anglo culture.

6. The increase in leisure hours stalled in the 1970s. The picture here is not clear-cut, as work stress will depend on the circumstance of each family. In a family where both husband and wife are working-full time, as well as raising children, time pressure will be relatively high; on the other hand, there has been a rise in part-time work during this period. What seems generally true, though, is that people are less committed to leisure pursuits that bring them back to a more traditional pace of life that connects them to nature or to the arts (and, perhaps, to religion). Anglo society has moved closer to that fast paced, mass, urban culture that, unsurprisingly, was thought characteristic of life in Berlin during its period of industrial modernisation, and that was certainly part of Japanese culture when I lived there in the 1990s.

The larger point I am making in all this is that it may not be enough to challenge the liberal ideology that dominates the Western political classes. Even if this ideology was overthrown, traditional values would still be compromised within a society organised wholly along industrial lines.

If the individual is to be fitted to the most productive purposes within an industrial system, without limit, then not much will remain of a traditional culture. We do need to think through how best to respond to this problem.

Personally, I don't favour the nineteenth century approach of shielding women and children in the home, whilst subjecting men to industrialisation. Even if successful (i.e. in preserving family values as a counterpoint to an industrial culture), this only preserves the domestic aspect of life, at the expense of the larger civilisational commitments that men should ordinarily have.

I don't know if it's economically feasible, but I would prefer a dual system for men - to spend part of the week in an industrial role and another part in a "community" one set apart from both family and bread-winning responsibilities.

Another option would be to try to limit some of the unnecessary financial burdens in modern life (the high cost of housing, education and taxation) and to encourage men to achieve financial independence, allowing them a greater freedom to order their lives according to non-industrial criteria.

These are only musings at this stage, the important point being that you cannot curtail men's lives to the effort to survive within an industrial workplace and then expect the resulting culture to be imbued with traditionalist values relating to the distinct role of a father within a family, or to a man's role in leading his community or in contributing to his larger tradition.

Monday, April 30, 2018

So it doesn't matter?

What is interesting in the video below is how the last speaker, Johannes Leak, takes aim at leftist identity politics. He appeals to the underlying principles of liberalism:


This is what he said about the left:
Broadly speaking they are so focused on what makes everybody different. But at the shallowest level. Skin colour. What should not matter. The way that I was brought up was that that is one of the fundamental things that doesn't matter about people. The way they look. Where they come from. Their sexuality. These are the things they are obsessed with. And they're the things that shouldn't matter. It's beside the point. We're all people. I feel like they exist in a bubble they have to keep puffing up, while the rest of us are all getting on with it.

Regular readers will know that this is very close to how I describe the logic of liberalism. Liberals believe that we should be autonomous, self-determining individuals. This means that predetermined qualities, like our race, must be made not to matter.

So Johannes Leak is being orthodox in his liberalism in insisting that a predetermined quality like race should not matter. He therefore follows the traditional right-liberal view that we should be colour blind and not discriminate in any way when it comes to race or where people are from.

The fact that Leak's view is an ideological one doesn't necessarily make it wrong. So I'll briefly point out why we should reject it.

First, a person's race does naturally have some place in their identity. Race is a marker of a people who have a long shared history through time, who recognise something of themselves in each other, and who have developed over time a distinct culture, language and way of life. In other words, it marks the shared ancestry of those who belong to a distinct "ethny". In this sense, it is constitutive of a person rather than merely accidental to who they are.

To say that race shouldn't matter therefore undermines one of the larger identities that "moralises" people - that locates them within a tradition they can be proud of and act positively to uphold. It helps to ground the social commitments of individuals. That is one reason why there is such an effort in Australia to build up a positive sense of race for Aborigines - there is an understanding that young Aborigines are bolstered ("remoralised") in this way.

Think too of the ultimate logic of the liberal position on identity. If where people come from is accidental to who they are, then being a part of a nation, even a civic nation, is not significant to our identity. That's why another right-liberal, Andrew Bolt, rejected his family's Dutch identity in favour of,
asserting my own. Andrew Bolt's.

So I chose to refer to myself as Australian again, as one of the many who join in making this shared land our common home.

Yet even now I fret about how even nationality can divide us.

To be frank, I consider myself first of all an individual, and wish we could all deal with each other like that. No ethnicity. No nationality. No race. Certainly no divide that's a mere accident of birth.

So what we are left with is identifying with ourselves. A kind of hyper-individualism. No ethnicity, no race and not even a civic nation - as even this is thought to be a merely "accidental" way of dividing people.

Which leads to the next problem with the right-liberal option. A group of people who are hyper-individualists will find it very difficult to defend themselves against those who act in solidarity with each other. This is one reason why the left has been more successful than the right in seizing control of the institutions and in forming their own communities. Hyper-individualism also leaves the right blind to the realities of demographic change. In the mind of a right-liberal, open borders should pose no problem, as it is assumed that those entering the nation will act only as individuals, rather than identifying with a group interest. They assume that others will assimilate, even as the former majority population becomes a minority. It's a dangerous assumption. If you want to live in a safe, secure, high trust society with a limited government and secure property rights, then you are better off maintaining a degree of homogeneity that the right-liberal position undermines.

Nor do right-liberals understand that the very principles they uphold help to create the left-liberalism they so dislike. It goes like this. Right-liberals assert that race, as a predetermined quality that is merely accidental to the individual, should be made not to matter. The solution, they believe, is for individuals to be colour-blind.

Left-liberals agree that race shouldn't matter. But they notice that it still does: in educational outcomes, in employment, in income, and in levels of representation within the culture and the government. And so they see racism as being systemic within society and believe that as a matter of "social justice" that "white privilege" must be dismantled, with people of colour leading the way. And so categories of race do still matter on the left - even though they share the same starting point as right liberals.

The point being that the left-liberal position is just as logical a response to the liberal starting point.as the right-liberal one. If you push the idea that race shouldn't matter, as Johannes Leak does, then it is likely that people won't rest content with a colour-blind society in which there are still racial discrepancies.

Another problem with the right-liberal position is that, as a matter of logic, it won't just be applied to race. If things that are predetermined "accidents of birth" shouldn't matter, then that means that our sex shouldn't matter either. Logically, Johannes Leak should insist that we not identify as men or as women, that these categories are divisive and that we should just see ourselves as individuals. Yet, the truth, again, is that sex is constitutive of who we are rather than being merely accidental to our identity, and that it helps ground our social commitments, such as our commitment to family.

If we shuttle back and forth between left and right liberalism, we'll continue to repeat the mistakes of the past decades. We'll either have the hyper-individualism of the right liberals, or the anti-white identity politics of the left liberals. Both are dissolving of the West. Better to assert that our communal identity does matter and should matter, so that we seek to carry it into the future.

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

A refreshing take on the wage gap

Sixty Minutes is showing an interview with Jordan Peterson tonight on the topic of equal pay. So I thought it a good time to share a link to an excellent column on the issue by Hadley Heath Manning.

Her argument is that the main reason why men end up earning more than women is that women take time off to have children. Most liberals, on hearing this, would argue that a person's sex shouldn't matter in their life outcome and therefore the "motherhood penalty" should be abolished, either by coercing men into taking on at least half of the motherhood role, or by outsourcing the motherhood role to the state.

It is to the credit of Hadley Manning that she doesn't pursue this line of thought. In fact, she makes a couple of persuasive counterarguments. She notes, first, that for many women, such as herself, motherhood is not experienced in a negative way as a "penalty" but instead as a blessing. She believes that it is a rational trade-off for a woman like herself to make choices that mean she earns less than some of her childless colleagues, but which allow her to enjoy the experience of motherhood.

Her second argument is even more significant. She observes that married fathers end up earning the most, but that this is because these men make sacrifices in order to financially support their families. She then makes the very logical point, one that I have made before many times, that the extra money that these men make does not go into their own pockets but is shared with their wives. It is not as if the extra efforts of these men at work deprives women of money - the money ends up being made available to women anyway, and gives to women some degree of choice in their work/life balance that is not available to men.

This is how Hadley Manning herself puts it:
Among all demographic groups, who makes the most money? Married fathers. This isn't because society values them more, but because they often make sacrifices to try to earn more to support their families. And who shares household earnings and the associated wealth accumulation with married fathers? Married mothers, of course. The term “motherhood penalty” fails to capture this. Married motherhood comes with great benefits, both financial and non-financial.

The reality is that mothers are paid less than non-mothers (and accumulate less wealth as a result) not because employers or “society” penalize us, but because, on aggregate, mothers make trade-offs that result in less money. This leaves us “worse off” — but only in the eyes of those who value monetary earnings above other things, like spending time with children, volunteering, or other unpaid pursuits.

What would the liberal response to this be? I think I know. There is a conflict here within liberal theory. On the one hand, liberals believe that it helps individual autonomy if individuals are free to choose. Therefore, in theory, liberals should be happy if women exercise a choice to earn less money but to enjoy the benefits of motherhood. But, on the other hand, liberals believe that individuals are more autonomous (more self-determining) if predetermined qualities like being a woman are made not to matter. Therefore, liberals find it difficult to accept the outcome of a free choice, if it means that our sex still has an influence on our life outcome.

How do liberals resolve this contradiction in their philosophy? Usually, by finding ways to get people to make the "right" choice, i.e. the one that makes our sex not matter. In practice, liberals refuse to accept that there might be a connection between being a woman and motherhood and blame childhood socialisation for women wanting to look after their children (hence the belief of liberals that if girls didn't wear pink or play with dolls that the world could be put right).

So only one choice is the "right" choice and it requires intrusive social engineering in the lives of young children to bring it about - that is where the logic of liberalism leads society and we are supposed to accept that this represents a true and accurate state of human freedom.

We are freer when we have the opportunity to order our own selves toward higher things, and when we live within a culture and a community which helps us to do this. Hadley Manning hints at this when she suggests that a competition for money with men is not for her the higher blessing in life and that she would rather cooperate with her husband to achieve certain goals of family and community life.

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Deakin's strange contradiction

I'm still reading Judith Brett's biography of Alfred Deakin, a father of Australian federation. I've now reached the year 1901, but Deakin, maddeningly, is still holding a contradictory political outlook.

On the one hand, Deakin is willing to defend particular identities and loyalties, such as to family, nation and race. On the other hand, he is still pushing the idea of a spiritual progress of humanity away from the "selfish" and "parochial" and toward what he thought to be a more unselfish and universal outlook.

It's frustrating to read because the second position ultimately nullifies the first, even though he appears to have held to the first view sincerely.

From page 258:
To him the larger, more unified view was always superior, higher and more evolved, less selfish and closer to the divine purpose than the narrow and parochial...

Page 232:
Liberal nationalism has an inherent contradiction. It speaks of the universal values of liberty and brotherhood, but it applies them to particular populations. Deakin was well aware of the contradiction: his prayer would be "wide as they Universe...it would embrace all living things", "were not this to render it pointless and featureless", and so he narrowed his focus "to my kind, to my race, to my nation, to my blood, and to myself, last and least". A couple of years later he prayed for blessings "for my wife and children, family, country, nation, race and universe".

It's as if Deakin wanted to embrace the universal, but stopped short because he pragmatically realised what this would mean in practice: that the world would become "pointless and featureless" - just a mass of individuals without any particular connection to each other or to any enduring collective tradition.

In the last prayer referred to above, Deakin gave voice to a healthy sense of outwardly radiating loyalties, beginning with his own immediate family, then his wider family, then to his nation, then his race and then to the universal, but in his larger philosophical outlook he doesn't seem to have found a way to defend these loyalties as a matter of principle.

I would point out, in opposition to Deakin's philosophical views, that it is not really a "narrow" outlook to be committed to one's own family, as this is such a core aspect of how the human soul expresses itself - it is as much a connection to the transcendent as is membership of a nation. A mind which is open to the significance of one should really be open to the significance of the other. The closer loyalty is no less large than the more distant one. Similarly, a heart that is open to love of a distant stranger should really also be open to the experience of love of one's own kin or people. Which is why there is an instinctive distrust of those who commit themselves to far away causes, whilst neglecting those around them, to whom they have real, rather than abstract, duties.

Similarly, I'm wary of Deakin's use of the terms selfish and unselfish. Let's say that I have a son and I put a lot of effort into raising him to successful adulthood. Is that me being immorally selfish? After all, I didn't put the same effort into my neighbour's son. To be "unselfish" in this sense is, first, not possible. I cannot put an equal effort into everybody's son. Second, I am not the father of everybody else's son - I would have to erase the meaning of fatherhood to be "unselfish" in this sense. I would have to abstract myself and, in doing so, suppress significant and meaningful aspects of my own personality. Third, paternal love is particular, it is directed toward my own offspring. Is it really a problem if I derive a commitment toward another person from the motive of love? Or, let's say that I am motivated by pride in my family's lineage, reputation and honour - that I want this continued by my own son and therefore do my best to raise him well. Again, here I am recognising something of value - a good - that I feel I am connected to and have a particular duty to defend. Am I being immorally selfish in acting this way?

I just cannot agree that it is somehow more evolved to have universal commitments. As I have tried to explain above, it is not possible to give meaningful commitments to everyone equally and in trying to do so we would have to give up particular loves and loyalties, significant aspects of our own personhood, as well as our motivation to defend what is good in the institutions that we ourselves identify with and belong to.

The problem seems to be that Deakin needed to believe that humanity was evolving to some higher plane of existence - he needed to believe in the progress of humanity to some ultimate end point, that he himself was contributing to. Perhaps this left him vulnerable to an abstract, intellectual, schematic theory about how humanity was evolving from lower to higher.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Melbourne Britfest 2018

Melbourne Britfest, 2018, is on this Saturday 24th, 10.00am to 4.00pm at the Moonee Ponds Bowling Club. Celebration of British heritage and culture. Free entry.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sir Henry Parkes

Still reading Judith Brett's biography of Alfred Deakin. On p.160 there is a description by Deakin of another of the founding fathers of Australian Federation, Sir Henry Parkes. It's worth quoting, I think, because it shows how keenly a man's character was assessed at the time (late 1800s/early 1900s):
First and foremost of course in every eye was the commanding figure of Sir Henry Parkes...His studied attitudes expressed either distinguished humility or imperious command. His manner was invariably dignified, his speech slow, and his pronunciation precise...He had always in his mind's eye his own portrait of a great man, and constantly adjusted himself to it...Movements, gestures, inflexions, attitude harmonized, not simply because they were intentionally adopted but because there was in him the substance of the man he dressed himself to appear...

It was not a rich nor a versatile personality, but it was massive, durable and imposing, resting upon elementary qualities of human nature elevated by a strong mind. He was cast in the mould of a great man and though he suffered from numerous pettinesses, spites and failings, he was in himself a full-blooded, large-brained, self-educated Titan whose natural field was found in Parliament and whose resources of character and intellect enabled him in his later years to overshadow all his contemporaries.

In 1890, Parkes represented NSW at a Federation Conference held in Melbourne's Queen's Hall. He pushed the case for federation by reminding his audience of what the colonies shared:
The crimson thread of kinship runs through us all. Even the native born Australians are Britons, as much as the men born in the cities of London and Glasgow. We know the value of their British origin. We know that we represent a race...for the purposes of settling new colonies, which never had its equal on the face of the earth. We know, too, that conquering wild territory, and planting civilised communities therein, is a far nobler, a far more immortalizing achievement than conquest by feats of arms. (p.161)

Parkes was politically a liberal. At this time, the logic of liberalism had not yet unfolded to the point at which Anglo Australians thought it wrong to uphold their own existence as a distinct people (their own ethnic existence). For Parkes, at least, this belief in preserving his own nation was not because of feelings of supremacy. He supported restrictions on Chinese immigration, for instance, on the following basis:
They are a superior set of people . . . a nation of an old and deep-rooted civilization. . . . It is because I believe the Chinese to be a powerful race capable of taking a great hold upon the country, and because I want to preserve the type of my own nation . . . that I am and always have been opposed to the influx of Chinese.

This outlook was to hold until the middle of the twentieth century in Australia, before giving way to the situation familiar to our own time, in which both left and right liberals came to support a civic nationalism and then a multiculturalism. It is not a development that the Fathers of Federation would have supported.

Sir Henry Parkes statue in Parkes, NSW

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Deakin's courtship

With the failure of many marriages today, there is some interest in how the culture of marriage was different in earlier times. So I thought some readers might be curious to know how Alfred Deakin's courtship took place back in the 1880s in colonial Melbourne.

Deakin met his future wife, Pattie, when she was only 11. She was the daughter of a wealthy brewer; he was her teacher at a kind of spiritualist Sunday school. Deakin was a frequent guest at Pattie's home due to her father's involvement in the spiritualist movement.

In 1881, when Pattie was 18, Deakin asked her father for permission to marry her. He only gave him qualified approval, asking that the relationship be tested further. Pattie's family were disappointed with Deakin's low social status and wealth (he was the son of a clerk) - they were not to know that Deakin would be appointed a government minister just two years later in 1883. Pattie was strong-willed and did not follow her parents' advice to break the relationship.

Deakin was writing personal letters to Pattie at this time. They reveal that he wanted her to cultivate herself, so that she would be "well spoken, refined and cultured" and therefore "a woman worthy of any man's affection".

Deakin was given permission to walk out together with Pattie unchaperoned, and he spoke to her about his favourite writers, such as Ruskin, Tennyson and Emerson.

Pattie's parents did all that they could to prevent the marriage, and because Pattie defied them there was no dowry when she did finally marry Deakin. The suggestion in Judith Brett's biography of Deakin is that both were virgins on their wedding night.

What can we make of all this? The following spring to mind:

1. Marriages were not arranged and women did have the final say in who they married. However, asking the father for permission was more than a formality. Parents could put pressure on their daughters to change their minds and they could refuse a dowry if they opposed a marriage.

2. Deakin's courtship reinforces my existing impression that parents were often most interested in maintaining the class status of their daughters. This meant that there was pressure on young men to achieve a certain level of class wealth and status before marriage. For some men, this meant having to wait many years before they were in a position to marry (not necessarily a good thing).

3. There was not a culture of "dating" as we understand it today. Deakin was only left unchaperoned in Pattie's company once his serious intentions to marry her were clear.

4. The relationship dynamic was alpha rather than beta. Deakin expected Pattie to qualify herself to him, by cultivating herself, rather than the other way round. This is hardly surprising given the difference of age and experience (Pattie was only 18, Deakin was mid-20s and soon to be a government minister).

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Deakin & higher unities

In my last post I discussed how left liberalism had emerged in Australia by the 1870s, with the proprietor of the Age newspaper, David Syme, being its chief advocate.

Syme won over a young journalist and future PM, Alfred Deakin, to the cause of the left.

The shift from the market to the state was put in reasonable terms by Syme:
Self-interest and individualism have their place, but need to be balanced by the interests of society as a whole, for which the state is the appropriate agent.

However, Melbournians will be aware that the left-liberalism advocated by the Age has had a disastrous effect. So the question, then, is what went wrong with Syme's intention to use the state to "balance the interests of society as a whole"? Why did Syme's left-liberalism end up having a dissolving effect on society rather than a balancing one?

A reader made the following observation in the comments:
The conceptualizing of liberals tends to go in a straight line from the individual to the universal or universal state. Ignored or rejected is the importance of family, church, ethnic heritage, local and national sense of place, even professional and sporting organizations.

That does seem to fit in with some of Deakin's ideas from the 1870s. Deakin, in drawing out the differences between conservatism and liberalism, said of liberal policies that:
All such provisions point to larger and more effective Unions within the realm and then beyond it. (p.64)

Judith Brett, the writer of the biography of Deakin I am reading, comments that Deakin saw "liberalism as the agent of humanity's evolution toward higher unities".

So, on the one hand, Deakin did not just see the individual - he also saw "more effective Unions" and an evolution toward higher unities.

On the other hand, Deakin saw these unions as existing "within the realm and then beyond it" - the push seems to be, as my reader comments, towards the universal or universal state. (And note that Deakin was encouraging people in the 1870s to be "actuated by proudly loyal devotion to the State", p.68.)

So in Deakin's case there appears to have been a shift from the highly individualistic world view of the right-liberals, toward a higher unity involving individuals subject to a universal state.

Why the universalism? One possible answer is that it is another expression of the humanistic tradition. Deakin in the 1870s was not an orthodox Christian but a spiritualist. Humanism tends to arise when the focus of life shifts from a worship of God, and an acceptance of God's will in human affairs, toward the placing of hope and meaning in the progress of humanity toward some ideal end. The cause becomes "humanity" conceived in abstract terms, and allegiance therefore shifts away from "parochial" loyalties towards family, region, nation etc.

The other possibility is that it is an expression of the liberal belief in a progress toward equality. Lawrence Auster explained this once in a thread at View from the Right.
On the right, traditional conservatives believe in “larger wholes”—the realities of nature, society, and God—of race, culture, and religion—that make us what we are. They believe in natural and spiritual hierarchies that are implied in these larger wholes. Inequality is built into existence. Of course there are various kinds of traditional conservatism, each of them placing particular emphasis on certain aspects of the natural, social, and transcendent orders, while downplaying or ignoring others.

In the middle, traditional liberals (right-liberals) believe in individualism: all individuals have equal rights, the individual is free to create himself, he is not determined by the larger wholes into which he was born. We should just see people, all members of the human race, as individuals deserving of equal dignity.

On the left, socialists and Communists, like traditional conservatives, believe in larger wholes, but the wholes they believe in are seen in terms of equality: the whole of society—equal; the whole of the human race—equal. They believe that man has the ability to engineer this larger, equal whole into existence, wiping out the unequal, inherited orders of class, sex, nation, race, religion, morality, and thus creating a New Humanity. Only the largest whole—humankind—is good, because only at the level of all humanity can there be true equality and fraternity uniting all people.

So, both the traditionalist conservatives on one side and the leftists on the other believe in larger wholes and reject the pure individualism of liberalism. But beyond that, the right and the left are radically at odds, since the left seeks to destroy the natural and traditional wholes that the right believes in.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Why did Deakin go left?

I'm reading a biography of Alfred Deakin, who served as Australian Prime Minister in the very early 1900s, written by Judith Brett.

Chapter 5 is especially interesting as it provides some of the details of how a young Deakin became a liberal. In part, he came to identify as a liberal because of the influence of the leading liberal intellectuals of the time. He described himself (in 1878) as being "saturated with the doctrines of Spencer, Mill, Buckle".

But what did it mean to be a liberal in the colony of Victoria in the 1870s? The distinction between right liberals and left liberals had already emerged. The right side of politics championed free trade and laissez-faire liberalism and found support in the professional classes, the squatters (large landholders), the Argus newspaper, and the large merchants. The left side of politics denounced their opponents as "Conservatives and obstructionists, no matter how much the free-traders might protest that they were the true Liberals" (p.55).

The left saw itself as the progressive liberal movement and gained its support from the working-classes and the Age newspaper. It supported popular democracy, land reform, economic protection and "an active state to develop the colony's potential".

The story of the Age newspaper is highly relevant here. It was founded in 1856 and by the 1870s, under David Syme, had become the most widely read Australian newspaper. Syme played a key role in challenging the dominance of classical liberalism:
Syme also rejected classical-liberal economics' methodological assumption of an economic man motivated only by self-interest. Showing the influence of German idealism on his thinking, Syme argued that this was an untenable abstraction which excluded morality and the sense of duty. Nor, he argued, can it be assumed that the operations of self-interest are generally beneficial as postulated in Adam Smith's ideal market. Self-interest and individualism have their place, but need to be balanced by the interests of society as a whole, for which the state is the appropriate agent. Syme was happy to accept the description of his position as "in the direction of State Socialism" (p. 57).

We learn further that:
Deakin was already predisposed to such arguments from Carlyle's rejection of the dismal science of economics, with its mechanical operations of supply and demand leaving no room for the operations of the spirit...For Syme the arguments over trade were about far more than economics, and his arguments for protection connected it to other aspects of Deakin's emerging political outlook: his optimistic faith in the state as an agent of a harmonised and progressive common interest and his confident identification with the colonial point of view.

The political divide was therefore the dreary one that we are familiar with today. The right was made up of classical liberals who believed in the free market but who were called conservatives. The left saw themselves as progressive liberals and thought that the state could represent a "progressive common interest".

It's easy to sympathise with Syme's criticism of classical liberalism. The view that we are economic men motivated by individualistic self-interest is not exactly an elevated or inspiring ideal. It has to be said, too, that liberals like Deakin did try to use the state to promote a "common interest" at the time of Australia becoming a federated nation in the early 1900s. For instance, there was a policy to keep working-class living standards high through economic protection and immigration restrictions, and an arbitration system was devised to avoid the class conflicts of earlier decades.

But it fell apart. Neither the Australian state, nor the Age newspaper has promoted a genuine national interest for many decades. The focus on the state as "an agent of a harmonised and progressive common interest" didn't work in the longer term.

What went wrong with the new liberalism (the left-liberalism) that Deakin was converted to? I can't discuss this in detail but the following points are worth considering:

1. Syme was correct to want the interests of society as a whole to be considered rather than just individual self-interest. But there are problems in seeing the state as the agency responsible for regulating society. Patrick Deneen has a whole chapter in his book Why Liberalism failed outlining the ways in which individualism and statism are mutually reinforcing rather than alternatives.

2. The general liberal understanding of liberty and equality (and progress and reason), held by both sides of politics, has an inner logic that came to disallow the forms of identity, the loyalties and the social commitments which hold together a common life within society. Therefore, over time left-liberalism was just as dissolving of society as was classical liberalism.