Saturday, December 26, 2009

Free and/or Virtuous Society

In a previous post, I presented an example in favor of Patrick Deneen’s thesis that Modern Ideals are inherent to Modern Institutions. The example I gave was India, which has been modernizing technologically, but has also been importing the worst aspects of our culture e.g. hemlines are getting shorter in Bollywood Films. Moreover, the children of Eastern Immigrants to America are cohabitating, contracepting, and divorcing at rates no different from Americans.

Deneen linked that post on Front Porch Republic and Peter Lawler responded in the comment section. He raised some interesting problems which are worth delving into.

1)He says Harvey Mansfield is not a PoMo Con because he is Aristotelian and not a Thomist. But is a commitment to Thomism something all PoMo Cons share? Would James Poulos characterize himself that way? The reason why I associated Mansfield with Postmodern Conservatism is because he is trying to provide an alternative philosophy of man for Modern Institutions.

This seemed to have been JPII’s goal also. He did not oppose the Modern Ideal of Freedom with the Ancient or Medieval Ideal of Virtue; instead, he argued for a “Free and Virtuous Society.”

2) Lawler does not think India is a good example; He refers to their traditional values as ‘creepy’. Having just read Aravind Adiga’s White Tiger, I might be inclined to agree. The novel portrays a traditional society in the midst of modernization. Adiga depicts the ‘Old Ways’ in the most unsavory light. The Hindu religion and the hierarchical family structure are sources of injustice in the story; on the other hand, the hero which emerges from it all is a bundle of all the terrible ideals we associate with modernity: a skeptical and rootless individual. The novel could be read as confirming Lawler’s Tocquevillian observation that things in India are “getting better and worse.”


  1. Very Tocquevillian correction, thanks. India is certainly getting more prosperous and in many ways more just. And that's gotta be bad for the Hindu tradition and its super-strong family values. (I don't think it's necessarily fatal, and traditions can be more adaptive than the prochers sometimes suggest.) But any American or any Christian would see both good and bad (and some very bad, as you say) in that tradition. This is a small part of the general question--has the West beginning with St. Francis Xavier and then, of course, the British empire, been good for India? There's no yes or no answer to that one. The Churchillian, imperial, "natural right" yes is far from completely right, but neither is the simple-mindeded anti-imperialism or traditionalism that would back up an unambigous no. All in all, the mixture that is India has a quite promising future, given good leadership and some good fortune. Peter Lawler
    --This is the blog of the year, by the way.

  2. Thanks. Blogging has helped me work out ideas and converse with others regardless of our physical location-much to the chagrin of my Porcher Friends.