Sunday, May 01, 2016

Don't miss the Sydney Traditionalists Symposium

I feel a bit of national pride in announcing that the Sydney Traditionalists have put together a very impressive symposium on the topic of “transcendence: community, nation, civilisation; religious aspects of the present turmoil.”

This is exactly what the traditionalist movement needs right now: a bringing together of some of the intellectual heavyweights of the movement on an important theme.

It is also well-timed from my point of view. I am making a concerted effort to finish my booklet and so I will devote this website for a period of time to making commentary on the Sydney Traditionalist symposium. I'm going to try to comment on each contribution this year.

So far I have read through the introduction to the symposium. It's very well done - it certainly whets the appetite for further reading.

The first part of the introduction that really caught my attention was this observation by Gwendolyn Taunton:
by embracing capitalism and the ‘valorization of the worker’, [we] have created a nation which is no longer capable of generating authentic culture. The necessity of full time employment for both men and women in a capitalist worker/production society, requires that in order to live at even a level of basic subsistence, the prospect of any pursuits capable of generating culture are instantly negated.

It's one of those things that often go unsaid. You can't have great culture without having a class of people who have the time to appreciate and support that culture. And yet both the right and the left (including the radical left) believe that an individual is fulfilled through their competitive status in paid work.

The other day I vented to a radical feminist about a mutual friend who had dropped out of work and was choosing to live on welfare. This mutual friend now had time for family and for a range of creative pursuits, and I must admit I felt a bit jealous, as I can hardly keep up with the demands of my career despite very long work hours. But the radical feminist was not at all perturbed. She said disparagingly of our mutual friend "But she is never going to amount to anything" - the assumption being that work status is what matters. And this is from a radical leftist.

Well, here's a radical thought of my own. If we are ever to get out of this current situation, not only should we aim at reining in excessive work hours, we should also try to combat the idea of men acting "in servitude" to women. It is normal and healthy for men to want to fulfil a provider role, but if we want men to have time to be part of culture creation, then we are going to have to confront the expectation that men are just there to work on behalf of women (i.e. the idea that men should either be at work, or with their wife, with any other commitments being thought of as an offence to their wives.) A man should ideally spend part of the day working as a provider; part of the day as a husband and father; but crucially also have time to contribute to his community and to his culture.

The next quote that caught my attention was, unsurprisingly, from James Kalb:
James Kalb writes that the “basic proposition” of modernity “is that each of us establishes the good by his will, since individual preferences are what make things good or bad. The result is that each of us becomes a sort of divinity that creates ultimate moral reality ex nihilo.”

Regular readers will know that I share this thought, though I express it a little differently. This "basic proposition" of liberal modernity then becomes one of the logical foundations on which a liberal morality - with an emphasis on inclusion, diversity and non-discrimination - is logically built.

I was also very interested in this insight from Alain de Benoist:
For liberals, the notion of the common good makes no sense because there exists no entity likely to benefit from it: since a society is composed uniquely of individuals, there is no ‘good’ that could be common to these individuals. The social ‘good’, in other words, can only be understood as a simple aggregate of the individual goods, a result of the individuals’ choice.

I have to admit I haven't really pursued the logic of this as much as I should have in my own writing. It is the age old problem, the one that goes back to the classical liberals and even earlier to the proto-liberals, of beginning philosophy with an abstracted and atomised individual (what modern philosophers call the "unencumbered" individual) rather than with individuals who share certain characteristics which connect them to specific human communities. (It is the problem too of nominalism - in which there are held to be only individual instances of things.)

Finally, I thought it useful that this general criticism of the non-liberal right (the alternative right) be made:
most discourse within the political Sidestream, that heterogeneous milieu of individuals that are sometimes referred to as the dissident or alternative right, is rarely characterised by uplifting, positive or even hopeful rhetoric. Instead, and with few exceptions, contemporary criticisms of modernity tend to be cantankerous, sarcastic, mocking and often fall into the trap of nihilistic capitulation.

Nihilistic capitulation is, in my observation, the most common stance of those on the alternative right (i.e. the attitude that "there is nothing we can do, it will be good to watch it all burn down"). The nihilistic strand is, I think, here to stay, so we will have to just build around it, and be careful not to be drawn into it.

Once again, I encourage readers to visit the symposium. I'll be putting up some of my own commentary on the contributions over the coming week or two.


  1. Thank you to Mark Richardson and OzConservative for your promotional mention. We appreciate your support and your readers' interest in our Symposium.

  2. Charles De Koninck on the Common Good

    And re: wage slavery/elite economic discipline: natural building blog, permies dot com, christopher alexander's "a pattern language" , catholic land movement (GKC's 'Outline of Sanity'/Towards a Truly Free Market and Josef Pieper's 'Leisure:The Basis of Culture'

  3. Very good post, covering a lot of points.
    I think men more than women tend to derive a sense of self worth from labour outside the home, that is part of male nature and not at all a bad thing.
    I agree there is a risk to men of being swallowed up in marriage or quasi-marriage, existing only to serve the woman at work or in the home, even losing track of old friends. A man's full life needs a good balance of work, wife and (male) play, as you indicate. For many women the trinity is more like family/children, husband and friends/social, with work often filling the last category. Of course there are women with a stronger and more consistent orientation to paid work for its own sake, but I think these are a minority.