Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Patrick Deneen, What Is to be Done?

Professor Deneen explains the purpose of Front Porch Republic.

So, this site is at least this much: an effort to change our self-understanding - the selves we are, the selves and communities we might be. Many observe rightly that its arguments are almost everywhere and always paradoxical, if not contradictory - arguing on behalf of communities and a culture in which choice and escape and individual self-assertion is subordinated, yet urging the embrace of these ways as a matter of choice and self-assertion. This paradox is forced upon anyone making these arguments by a culture that renders everything into a choice. Still, ultimately a people persuaded by the wisdom of such a course will begin to enact some of its basic presuppositions into law, and thus slowly create a “virtuous circle” in which the law emanates from culture, and culture is in turn strengthened by law. Some of us will act as individuals within communities, stepping out of the mainstream to preserve or create a distinctive alternative for our families or small communities of families. Others of us - and here, I would include myself - will call for citizens to begin to consider public acts large and small that will begin to offer us a different way to live.

But will academia lose its credibility when its ties to and dependence upon the current system become better known?

In the combox he writes:

There is the temptation to anarchistic romanticism that pervades the “libertarian” inclination among some FPR-sympathizers. I, for one, think (following Aristotle) that man is by nature the political animal, or (following the Bible) that our fallenness does not permit us to live outside law. Recognizing that, we need to think politically, and your sympathies are shared considerably by me as well, as you know. Much of a political program will involve urging the national State to act less; but some measure will require the national State to act - albeit differently - to at least reverse some of the damage it has done, and even beyond that, to tame the commercial realm to become far more friendly to local and community settings.

This seems to me to be naive. Even if a coalition between 'left' and 'right' communitarians can be formed, I do not think they have the numbers to change the National Government and its favor of oligarchy. Can resistance be organized by individual states? That may be more likely, but even then perhaps the resistance cannot be sustained for long.

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