Monday, June 1, 2009

Postmodern Conservatives v. Front Porch Republicans

"PoMo Con" appears to be an oxymoron at first. Postmoderns reject the intelligibility of the universe in favor of the social construction of reality, while conservatives believe it is the other way around. The paradoxical title is probably an attempt to startle readers and encourage them to take a second look at this group. Here is an excerpt from the introductory post of a blog being run by the group:
It is a phrase that is inspired by Peter Lawler's efforts to recommend a
"postmodernism rightly understood" - a period that may or might arrive after the
passing of the modern order. Thus, it is not to be confused with the
trendy (or, really, tired) postmodernism of modern academia inspired by such
thinkers as Derrida, Foucault and Lyotard. It is instead a rejection of
modernity in the name of the insights of premodernity - Thomistic and
Aristotelian "realism" in particular. That said, it is a postmodernity
that also wishes to retain a good number of the boons of modernity - Starbucks,
McDonalds, suburbs and exurbs, the interstate highway system, orthodontic
dentistry, etc....) - while rejecting its excessive materialism, individualism,
liberalism, atheism, etc.
By this definition, it makes sense PoMo Cons would find a home at First Things, a journal in which the Editors want to embrace democratic capitalism while rejecting its Enlightenment presuppositions.

That being said, I would call attention to another school of thought, also grounded in Tocqueville and connected to ISI, which has a blog titled Front-Porch Republic. The title is a reference to the absence of front porches in many neighborhoods today. Patrick Deneen, whose blog is posted on my daily news websites, is part of this group. They reject modernity outright and want a return to localism, agrarianism, and tradition. They would argue that Starbucks, McDonalds, and the interstate highway system is either bad or cannot be obtained without the corresponding modern values of materialism, individualism, and atheism.

It will be a treat to watch these two groups debate these issues over the coming months. For what its worth, as a ROFTER I lean towards to the first group.


  1. I've been looking for a brief and illuminating explanation of this rift for some time. Many thanks.

  2. Peter Lawler has an excellent post on the meaning of postmodern conservatism. Here is a snippet:

    "It’s the “stuck with virtue” approach that distinguishes postmodern conservatism from porcherism, neoconservatism, neoorthodoxy, anti-progressivist founderism, tea-party techno-libertarianism, evangelical worldviewism, paleoconservative traditionalism, and so forth."

    The rest of the post can be read here: