“To love the little platoons we belong to…”: The Burkean | Jake Scott
I make no bones over the fact I consider myself a traditionalist, social conservative in many ways. Why, then, do I edit a publication such as the Mallard, that has a broad range of both social and liberal conservatives, libertarians and statists, party-faithful and heathens? Part of the answer is I believe in the aims of the Mallard’s founder, in giving students on the right of all stripes and colours a voice.
Another part of the answer is, one publication already does such a fantastic job of promoting social conservatism: The Burkean. This publication, that has been running since June 2015, and has made a substantial effort at defending the classical, social and cultural conservatism recognised by Edmund Burke, the site’s namesake. Taken from the site’s “about us” page:
After three years of branding and re-branding and a few new additions to the team – including Richard Thomas and Thomas Turton – The Burkean has now settled its direction as the home of social conservatism. We have since refined our mission statement above to best illustrate our aims and have been working on a concrete plan for achieving them.
But what does the Burkean aim to do? There are, broadly, four goals of the site:
- To promote the social aspects of social conservatism and seek to convince people of the merits of a socially conservative outlook without demanding the law matches our beliefs without first persuading the country.
This is a nuanced view of conservatism that is sadly lacking, even in our own ranks: you can be a traditionalist without being a statist. Believing, for instance, that marriage is an essential element in family life does not require a government restriction on divorce; it requires a social attitudinal shift. The strange attitude that only the state can answer our social problems must be changed, and only by emboldening society as a method of spreading conservative views can it be changed.
- To offer sustainable arguments in favour of social conservatism and a Burkean approach to political and personal life.
Too many arguments made by the right these days rest on an economic consensus that has been slowly eroded since 2008. Conservatism needs stronger, moral arguments that recognise the significance of society, not just the market; and these arguments must defer to fundamental truths and morality, not merely the whims of the moment, as the populists might desire – indeed, it is not simply the society of today we must embolden, but the society of the dead, the living and the unborn.
- To encourage the development of local organisations, “little platoons”, to challenge the monopoly of government over private life and offer real-life evidence of the power of the organic society.
The cornerstone of Burke’s philosophy was that society is a bulwark against tyranny, not the State itself. After all, Burke’s contemporary philosopher, Montesquieu, argued that the only way the State could be limited was the division of State power by the separation of powers – the legislative, executive and judiciary bodies. But what happens when all these branches of government are dominated by those of the same attitude? The separation becomes only formal, and the possibility for tyranny more likely; society must be the only defence between the individual and the State. But society is not monolithic: it is not one huge bloc that thinks and acts the same; instead, it is a communion of many small, local and limited society – the “little platoons” that Burke loved so much.
- To challenge and shed light on the growth of Oikophobia, identity politics and the rejection of history, tradition and culture.
This final goal is one I feel most sympathy for; Oikophobia, or “the fear of home”, is a term coined by Roger Scruton to explain the phenomenon of the increasing hate for the West, the Western tradition and, most significantly, the Nation-State. It is that trend amongst “intellectuals” to feel nothing but shame for the history of the culture most associated with the nation they live in – a strange attitude that it seems you have to be taught to feel. And the dangerous corollary of this trend is the identity politics of believing that each person is a product only of their essential characteristics – their skin colour, their sexuality, their religion, and so forth – and can only behave as those characteristics dictate. The odd irony of this movement is it fights so stridently against “racism”, “sexism”, “homophobia”, etc. without recognising that it only encourages its own form of these things. But I digress.
Put simply, the Burkean pursues goals all conservatives can sympathise with: an approach that emphasises society over the state; defends the culture and tradition of that society; and points out the irony of the identity politics movements. Finally, I doubt there’s much I could say about the Burkean that they couldn’t say themselves:
As Burkean conservatives, we believe that society, not politicians, offer the best chance of solving our country’s problems, and we hope to be a network for likeminded people who share our desire to nurture the British social organism.
If, like us, you are interested in the work the Burkean does, perhaps take a moment to browse their website.