ANOTHER NOT-SO-RANDOM THOUGHT ON POSTMODERN CONSERVATISM:
What prompted the below. From Peter Lawler, on "Postmodernism Rightly Understood":
"“Rightly” obviously means both correctly and conservatively in context."
Four adverbs--I'm not a Strunk and White guy, but they both must be rolling in their graves. It's hard to pick where to begin. "Correctly" seems a little question-begging: are there people who champion their own "incorrect" readings? (Perhaps I should start doing this). How does one read "conservatively?" I assume it's not in opposition to reading "liberally" (which one might think would be a good thing). Perhaps it just means "very slowly;" progressives being too busy twittering to read a book. (And goodness--"conservatively in context?" I have no idea.)
The one that sticks in my craw is "obviously." It's not obvious. If it were, everyone would do it that way. One of the real strengths of the modern period is its push to objectivity. It's quite popular to be down on objectivity as a feature of intellectual inquiry. As the postmodernists are happy to remind us, we all bear marks of the communities of which we are a part, whether we realize it or no. I cannot but read something in the way I was raised to read; I think in the manner my advisor and committee members think (it's funny to read their published work, even when our politics are quite different, and think, "yes, that's about right"). We are constrained in a real way by the things that constitute us. Postmodernism is wrong, and I think the postmodern conservative movement is wrong, to embrace this aspect of what it means to be human. It's as though, since we are always at least partially bound by what we come from, that this provides an excuse to embrace the chauvinism of one's own causes.
Total objectivity is never possible. But when one makes objectivity a goal, one at least sets the task of recognizing the limits to one's own positions. I may not be able to see with eyes other than my own, but that doesn't mean there is nothing I can do. The more widely I read, and converse, the more it becomes possible to recognize one's parochialism and combat it when harmful. This means believing that some things cross particular boundaries, that I can make useful interventions into times and places other than my own. Modernism goes wrong when it makes objectivity an idol (though I think this happened much less than people assume), but as a goal, it's worthy and, I think, the only end we can possibly have.