This is, perhaps, why Caleb Stegall and those like him are, to me anyway, the most important-if not necessarily the most persuasive-of all the localists and agrarians out there: they are entirely willing to contemplate doing without the liberal bargain of modernity entirely, and revert to a much different-possibly more virtuous, certainly more communal, probably less healthy, definitely less secure-way of life. … but I sincerely doubt many of the people reading this site would genuinely want to live in a world where patriarchal authority was so unquestioned, where educational opportunities were so limited, etc.
I’m trying to figure out if this is damnation by faint praise or praise by faint damnation. “Important yet unpersuasive” … I think that’s what they said about Socrates.
I admit to finding this line of argument bizarre and impenetrable. You want to find people to marginalize for their “virtuous” abandonment of modernity, go to Clear Creek, Oklahoma or Lancaster, PA. I have an iPhone for Wendell’s sake!
And I’m sorry, but the bit about no one wanting to live in that scary, backward world of limited educational opportunities is just dishonest argument. As if we could, even if we wanted to! And such disdain for a time not our own. It’s bad manners if nothing else.
Here is what I think is really going on. Russell and I are both thoroughly modern men (how could we possibly be anything else?). The only difference is for me, modernity has lost its magic. For Russell, it hasn’t. I don’t mean that just colloquially (though that too, has a certain power of expression), but as a technical term of political philosophy. In other words, every political community must generate its substance with a “magical evocation.”* Those who live under the magic spell form the ruling and activist center of the political community. In this sense, every coherent political community is a “single party” system.
In our case, our magical evocation starts with a “whiggish” history that takes as its core the rise of central, national, secular states in Western Europe after the Peace of Westphalia and posits an evolution within these states toward constitutional democracy and its ever increasing citizenship made up of outlying populations which had formerly been denied active participation in the political community.
Eventually, however, this magical evocation runs its course as the constant and generational struggle for constitutional rights of participation wears away at the substance of the community itself until one is left with a mass society supported by nothing more than its own self-congratulation. From the point of view of political philosophy, what we are dealing with is the problem of political disorientation that occurs whenever man experiences a period of political disintegration where the magical evocation of the political community falters-and in our case, falters badly, and perhaps fatally.
In such a world, certain men will be willing to do without the creature comforts of this self-congratulatory existence because, for them, it has lost its magic. Their task is either, like the medieval jokers (see Cervantes and Rabelais), to make a vast joke of the absurdity of their fellow citizens, or to generate by force of will and personality a new evocation out of the strength and substance of their own souls.
I certainly do not claim to have the strength of character necessary for that, however, I at least recognize the need for those who do.
* See Eric Voegelin, from whom I am borrowing a great deal