Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Search for Conservatives' Soul .....

... made for good reading and plenty of debate fifty-five years ago, and still does today. According to this post by Joseph S. Salemi at University Bookman, "the publication of Whittaker Chambers' Witness in 1952, and its phenomenal popularity, decisively shaped the conservative movement in America at a time when the movement could well have taken a different turn. After Witness, American conservatism gained what may be called a religious dimension."

Regardless of your philosophical leaning, or lack thereof, it's well worth your taking the time to read Salemi's entire post. We're not talking about neo-con religiosity here, but something far more fundamental, far more profound. And the debate back then was not so much liberal-vs-conservative ..... rather, it was Chambers, Buckley and others who found themselves at odds with none other than Ayn Rand and the Objectivists ..... a debate that got added spark from Cambers' critique of Rand's magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, in the pages of Buckley's National Review in 1957.

In the end, Salemi suggests, it wasn't much of a fight.

"In spite of all her efforts, Chambers (who had done more concretely to destroy leftist influence in America than a thousand objectivist study groups) had effectively linked anti-Communism and anti-liberalism to a strong religious impulse," Salemi concludes. "Chambers’ review of her book only confirmed what Rand had long feared: The conservatives were declining the chance to become secularized, profit-motivated capitalists. Chambers had convinced them that such a stance was insufficient ..... 'that God, the soul, faith, are not simple matters, and that no easy or ingenuous view of them is possible.'” [emphasis added]

If I were you, I'd book some time for this book. If it's not on your shelf already, it should be ..... for whatever reason. By the way, a tip of the hat to the well-read Frank at Books, Inq.: the Epilogue for connecting me with Salemi's post.

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