Friday, September 09, 2005

# Posted 3:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REOPENING "THE CLOSING" -- THE AUTHOR RESPONDS: In response to my post from last night, Jim Sleeper writes that in

Commenting on my NY Times essay, "Allan Bloom and the Conservative Mind," David asks, "Who else but conservatives have the potential to reclaim the universities from the pathologies identified by Bloom?"

My only slightly tongue-in-cheek answer is, "No one but conservatives can do it." But first they've got to figure out how to save corporate consumer capitalism from itself, and to do that they've got to take back their movement from the greedheads, Hobbesian neoconservatives, loudmouthed pundits, and even more loudmouthed provocateurs like David Horowitz and Roger Kimball.

As Ross Douthat put my own point better than I did in [his post over at] The American Scence, "Is it really reasonable to think that the modern university will be won back to a Bloom-style intellectual approach by political activism, blogger outrage and legislative interventions, as Kimball and David Horowitz and others seem to argue?"

In my essay I wasn't trying to claim Allan Bloom for the left or to suggest that he was a scourge of everything conservative. At Saul Bellow's prodding, and in his own eccentric way, [Bloom] sent up a bright flare he would never otherwise have lit, and it illuminated not only what was wrong with liberals and the left but also what was and is wanting among honorable conservatives whom I'd love to see get stronger.

I am something of a social-democrat, a member of the editorial board of Dissent, and a pretty strong critic of conservatives. But I am just as deeply a civic republican who owes a lot to Edmund Burke and to Clinton Rossiter, whose Seedtime of the Republic was a transforming book for me, as well as to Russell Kirk and Michael Oakeshott, even though there is much in them with which I disagree. I air some of this, indirectly, in a long essay in the forthcoming 40th anniversary issue of Salmagundi, a quarterly of the arts and humanities, www.skidmore.edu/salmagundi, with which Christopher Lasch, another model for me, was long associated.

The older I get, the more of value I see in Daniel Bell's admittedly euphemistic comment that he is "a radical in economics, a (classical) liberal in politics, and a conservative in culture." In The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, he wrote that it's time to retire the old saw that "free markets make free men" because what we have now are not free markets but a corporate oligopoly that is far more controlling, intrusive, and destructive of our lives than government has been.

I would add, as Samuel Huntington has been doing, that many of the corporations in question, like Ford and Wal-Mart, are increasingly non-American, un-American, and even anti-American -- an argument beyond my scope here, but one I wish someone would take up.

Well, here we have conservatives taking money from foundations that are supportive of that oligopoly in order to "take back" the universities. (David Horowitz makes a yearly salary of over $300,000 that way.) And they are ginning up a pseudo-populist assault on the last hold-out against those "market" standards that are eviscerating our republic, its ethos, [and] its values.

Sure, the university hold-outs who are leftists are often maladroit, destructive, even decadent themselves. But at this point they are more reactive than causal, more symptoms than sources of problem itself. In 2002 David Brooks wrote in the Weekly Standard that many conservative students he'd met on Ivy campuses told him they "are privately embarrassed by confrontational conservatives such as David Horowitz and publications like the Dartmouth Review."

The alternative we all need has to come partly from within conservatism itself, and that is going to require internal struggles that are only being delayed -- sometimes deliberately so -- by the continued bashing of liberals, almost as if those targets help the attackers to paper over their own yawning contradictions. Far better to get these matters out in the open within conservatism itself while reaching out to people like me who really want the best of conservatism to grow and help reclaim the republic.

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