The Conservative Tradition in America

By Charles W. Dunn; J. David Woodard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
The Ten Most Important Beliefs of
Conservatism

To be a conservative in the "means" of communication is the
road to effectiveness in modern life, in whatever direction one
wishes to be effective.

E. D. HIRSCH, JR.1

The dictionary definition of culture, as the "ideas, customs, skills, and arts of a given people," has a particular affinity for conservatism. Conservatives have always believed that the political structure of a state, if it is to be stable, must reflect the traditions and customs of that society. "Do what you may," wrote Alexis de Tocqueville, "there is no true power among men except in the free union of their will; and patriotism and religion are the only two motives in the world that can long urge all the people toward the same end." 2 Conservatives believe that society is not a machine which can be tinkered with and altered at whim, rather it is a living organism nourished by the values of the culture.

The conservative fear is that the United States as a society is unaware of the past values which made it exceptional; as a result, it is in danger of adopting new ideas foreign to its history. The movements of Darwin, Marx, and Freud based on their ideas of evolution, economic determinism and the unconscious, and advances in modern science and technology have the potential of destroying modern man. In the minds of conservatives, the crisis of the hour in the United States is that the permanent metaphysical things of our culture (the belief in God and an understanding and shared sense of honor and duty) are gradually being replaced by the mindset of the twentieth century, which holds that such ideals are primitive figments of the imagination. In a book entitled Out of My Life and Thought, Albert Schweitzer wrote shortly before his death that two experiences had cast their shadows on his existence: the first

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