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tv   Conservative Thinkers of the 20th Century  CSPAN  May 14, 2016 10:30am-11:46am EDT

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actor, ronald reagan. eisenhower actually critique some of his speeches and reagan thanked him. again, he should seek out democrats and independents and in my opinion, this is the true origin of where reagan democrats began. eisenhower public endorses reagan and donates to the campaign. watch the entire lecture on sunday at 8:00 p.m. on american history tv on c-span3. >>, a panel of scholars discusses influential conservative thinkers of the 20th century including writers ts, russell kirk, and peter furyk. the panel was part of a daylong symposium at grand valley state university in grand rapids, michigan. it is about an hour. let's move forward in time to mid 20th a look at some of those eras most unfortunate
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conservative thinkers as illuminated by the scholarship of been lacquered, bradley byrne's are, and leases awful. i use the words influential on perfect. -- on purpose. the trajectory of conventional conservatism was created and informed by the figures are panel will discuss this morning. we will think you will find well conservatism is a uniting theme, elements of common ground thinking will be apparent due ty informed philosophies. as the editor of the t.s. eliot and christian tradition, then will be discussing elliott's significance and the mid-20th century conservative traditions. bradely is at -- hillsdale college and is the cofounder of the imaginative conservative.
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his scholarship and imagination have led him to publish on topics as diverse as christopher , james cooper and tolkien's middle earth. is russellsubject kirk, a thinker who in many ways was intellectual standardbearer of postwar conservatism. -- associateis is professor of history of pacific university. she focuses on the development of american values and social and political mores. the author of the gospel of beauty and the progressive era, she will today be discussing the subject of her current project, a biography about peter, the pulitzer prize winning poet who coined the term new conservatism. please join me in welcoming them. [applause]
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>> late in life, t.s. eliot and delivered an address entitled the literature of politics. to the london conservative union. it begins with what i take to be mostly a statement of sincere humility. i and nearly and men of letters, he says, who believes that the questions he raises may sometimes be of interest. even if the answers he can give are negligible. man of letters, i have never taken any part in politics other than that of a voter, a walking on parts, and that of a reader, a city down part. this is not merely, i think, a charming disclaimer to disarm a critical audience. elliott had written much about political topics by the time. from a philosophical distance. he had, for the most part, touched only in passing on the issues of the day while attempting to set out fundamental ideas that might serve beyond the moment. in this talk, he names as
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classics of conservative literature the writings of own burke, coleridge, and israeli. coleridge, he says, was rather a man of my own type. different for myself chiefly in being immensely more learned, more industrious, and endowed with a more powerful and subtle mind. i think he is sincere about that. he identifies with the poet who wrote about political philosophy , but never attempted to enter the arena of practical politics. in this talk, he also mentions an article he had read recently on american political philosophy without naming the author. we know that he was referring to russell kirk. it was to become somewhat more involved in the political fray than elliott, but who never held public office except that of justice of the peace in the cast the county. elliott and his brief talk by emphasizing that there should always be a few writers you
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occupied in penetrating to the court of the matter in trying to arrive at the truth. and to set it forth without too much hope. without ambition to alter the immediate course of affairs. and without being downcast or defeated when nothing appears to ensue. he terms this realm of thought pre-political. naming as exemplars christopher dawson in england and ryan niebuhr in america. such pre-political thinking , he says, with the fundamental question what is man? throughout his career, elliott attempt to do this type of philosophical political thinking rather than trying to offer solutions to immediate issues. one, as a student at harvard, elliott came under the influence of some of the leading conservative thinkers of that time, irving babbitt, paul elmer
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more, and george cynthiana, of the three, babbitt had the greatest influence on elliott's thinking. in his books, he identifies the romantic era as the time when western thought went off the rails. he blames her so in particular as the one who initiated the revolution in thought that led to the modern malaise. abbott made a distinction between the humanitarian and the humanist. the humanitarian, he says, is a sentimentalist, one who felt for humanity at large and wanted to make life better for everyone. the humanitarian also subscribes to a naturalistic dogma which held that all it takes to improve people's lives is an improvement in the material conditions. make sure they have food, shelter, and so on, and they will be happy. habit and more call themselves moore called
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themselves new humanists and that the material approach ignores the spiritual dimension of human life which cannot be satisfied by material commodities. thus, the utopian schemes of rousseau's humanitarians were destined to fail. elliott has the humanitarian utopian scheme in mind when he later writes they constantly try to escape from the darkness outside and within by dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will have to be good. if the humanitarians have their way, virtue will be assumed or .ill be irrelevant the systems of provide everyone with the said city will ovulate -- obviate need for virtuous hater. his battle against these humanitarians is one elliott carried on lifelong. after completing his degree at harvard, he spent the newly -- school year in 1910 in paris. he became better acquainted with a french clinical thinker he had bbot's course.
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he was fighting a rearguard action against romanticism and revolution, arguing for a return to the traditional authorities of monarchy and catholicism. many years later, he was echoing a statement when he declared himself a classicist and literature, a royalist in politics, and an anglo-catholic in religion. however, elliott later regretted that he had not confine himself to political philosophy, but atlanta led a political movement which became increasingly reactionary and anti-semitic. himself, heced allied himself increasingly with another french thinker, philosopher. in the 1930's, the two found themselves offering similar analysis of cultural and political questions.
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he insists that religion not be pushed out of the public square and treated as a purely private matter. churchesrgued that the influence should not be coercive , but should operate through appeal to people's consciences. now, i want to turn -- this is some background in elliott -- the trajectory of his political thinking. i'm going to turn to the person who had the biggest influence on his cultural and political thought, christopher dawson. the central aim of his cultural criticism is to envision the possibility of bringing the religious and civil spheres into dynamic complementarity with each other. as he works on this cultural theory, elliott found support in dawson's writings. russell kirk declares that of social thinkers in his own time, none influenced elliott more than dawson. christopher dawson was born in 1889, a year after elliott.
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to bete 20 books and came regarded as one of the leading historians of his time. in a book that gives an excellent overview of his life -- work, bradley byrne's are who is this bradley that keeps popping up where everyone turns? henry devoted his editorial column in one issue of life magazine in 1959 to praising dawson's ideas. he went so far as to order copies of his latest book for all of the editors at times. some ideaent gives us of how prominent the british historian was by that time. in elliott's two books of ultra criticism, he exposes me acknowledges the importance of his work to his own ideas. not surprisingly, given these acknowledgments, his thinking in these major works of cultural criticism is indeed close to dawson's. you might possibly have noticed that we heartily paid scholars
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specialize in proving the obvious. the central idea of all of his writing was the integral relation between culture and religion. he repeatedly emphasized that his doubt that a completely secular culture could even survive area noting that the intellectual class has replaced the priesthood, he maintains that this substitution has been a failure, his words. for the intellectuals who have succeeded the priests as the guardians of the higher tradition of western culture, they have been strong only in her negative work of criticism and disintegration. they have failed to provide an integrated system of principles and values which could unify modern society. consequently, they have proved unable to resist the nonmoral, inhuman, and irrational forces that are destroying the humanist as well as the christian traditions of western culture.
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the integral relation between religion and culture is the main concern in elliott's books on the subject, too. he says the first important assertion is that no culture has appeared or developed except together with a religion. say as so far as to culture is essentially the incarnation, so to speak, of the religion of the people. elliott concludes i do not believe that the culture of europe could survive the complete disappearance of the christian faith. i am convinced of that not nearly -- not merely because i'm a christian, but as a student of social biology. if christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes. then, you must start painfully again, and you cannot put on a new culture, ready-made. one problem both elliott and dawson saw with the increasing secularized culture of europe was a tendency to cut himself off from the past. that arosesive dogma
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in the enlightenment and was strengthened by the scientific materialism of the 19th century tends to regard all early thought as mere superstition and nonsense. the religious mentality, on the other hand, regard to the traditions of the past as prime sources of wisdom. quotes edmund burke as saying that society is not an artificial construct, but a spiritual community, a partnership in all science, a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection. of such as partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those were living, those who are dead, and those who are yet to be born. elliott uses similar words and speaking of the central role of the family and society. he says when i speak of the family, i have in mind a bond which embraces a longer period of time than this. a pie he tore dead, however
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obscure, a solicitude for the unborn, however remote. the historical sense in itself tends to be lost in the shift from a traditional to a progressive idea of culture. both elliott and dawson argued that every culture will have either a traditional religion are some ideology acting as a religious substitute. dawson maintained that when a society attempts to become secularized as the russian society was doing at that time, the religious impulse will still be powerfully expressed, but in a perverted and destructive manner. he writes when the profits are silent and society no longer possesses any channel of communication with the divine world, the way to the lower depths is still open. men's frustrated spiritual powers will find their outlet in the unlimited will to power and destruction.
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he saw virtually the same thing happening in the fascist states, asserting the militaristic rotelle of the nazi state in germany was secondary to its attempts to replace religion at the core of culture. he makes the pointer medically soon after, if you will not have god,and he is a jealous pay your respects to hitler or stalin. it begins to sound as if elliott and dawson favored some sort of medieval theocratic state. both, reject unequivocally and over supplication. dawson -- oversimplification. dawson says it is impossible to return to the unity of medieval culture. elliott admired -- acknowledges the christian society and bridges commuted -- and visions can you lately be -- can neither .e medieval he insists christianity must be
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part of a healthy culture, but is against the total identification of american culture saying it is equally fatal to both partners. elliott puts it this way. ofknow from our reading history that a certain tension between church and state is desirable. when church and state fall out completely, it is ill with the commonwealth. when a church and state get onto well together, there is something wrong with the church. notion that religion is a purely private matter and should not intrude in the comics intrude in the private sphere is rejected. awson says to say religion is purely personal matter is to deprive it of actuality. to keep religion out of public life, is to shut it up in a stuffy victorian back parlor whenthe anti-mcallister's
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the streets are full of life and vitality. in this longs quotation from him, the liberal notion that religion was a matter of private belief and conduct in private life and that there is no reason why christians should not be able to accommodate themselves to any world which treats them good-naturedly is becoming less and less tenable. the problem of leaving a christian life and a non-christian society is now very present to us. it is the problem constituted by our implication in a network of institutions from which we cannot dissociate ourselves. institutions the operation of which appears no longer neutral, but non-christian. and for the christian who is not conscious of his dilemma, and he is in the majority, is becoming more and more decreased her nice by all sorts of unconscious purse -- the christianized by unconscious pressure. paganism holds the most value wire or ties in space.
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in the modern world, he concludes, it may turn out that the most intolerable thing for christians is to be tolerated. two maintained that a christian society must not be theocratic, but it must express its christian principles publicly and legally. today, of course, liberal politicians are trying harder than ever to push religion out of the public space and witness the obama administration trying to force the little sisters of the poor to provide contraception, sterilization, for their staff. elliott was working out this conservative philosophy in the 30's, all eyes were turned toward the continent where experiments in communism and fascism were being carried out. there was a widespread sense that the free market economic system and the democratic political system had failed to and would have to be replaced by
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some form of central planning and strong leadership. elliottkirk says that was from the first a consistent and intelligent opponent of both fascist and communist ideology. that is true. -- the reason of this is so important to think about today is that the attraction of many intelligent people in the 30's, and there were very many educated people drawn to both communism, either communism or fascism, it bears some resemblance to the demagoguery we are seeing on both sides in the current campaign. it is important to note that elliott did not automatically put his faith in whatever sort of conservatism was on offer. he says the conservative party has a great opportunity in the fact that within living memory,
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the memory of no living man under 60 years old as it acknowledged any contact with intelligence. this is his party. has what no other political party or present enjoys, a complete mental vacuum. a vacuum that might be filled with anything, even with something valuable. i leave it to you to make connections with today. pre-poetical thinking, elliott continues to return to the fundamental question what is man? by restating ancient answers to the question, he sought to nurture, as he stated, not a program for a party, but a way of life for a people. he also reminds us that even if we conservatives could have our own way and the political arena, what we would achieve is what he calls assorted travesty of what human society should be. such a wise mixture of hope and humility is what can keep
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conservatism from becoming just another utopian ideology. thank you. [applause] >> good morning, everyone. i was fantastic. thank you. lisa, i'm looking forward to your talk. i am very honored to be here. i'm sorry i just came in and i will have to leave immediately after my talk. i have six kids at home and my oldest 3, 16, 15, and 12 are in joseph and the technicolor dream coat. i have to get back to that. i apologize. a fantastic conference. i am deeply honored to be a part of it. had a tienks, i have to him even though he didn't know it. i first read him 25 years ago this year. it was in december of 1991. i read an article my him on the meaning of decadence and culture. i can say without cold --
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without question that you're medically reshaped my life. all honor to him. thank you for including me. he has been without question as important and mentor as anyone i ever had an undergrad or graduate school. i also want to thank ben and lisa for being up here. i'm looking forward -- i-40 learned a lot, i'm looking forward to learning a lot from lisa. thank you to joe and a couple of other people. where is sam? sam wired me up, i felt like i was going to the tsa. that was a great way to wake me up. this morning, what i want to do, filling in between t.s. eliot, i want to look at russell amos kirk who is generally regarded as the true founder of postwar conservatism. it was his book in 1953, the conservative line, which had been his dissertation at the university of saint andrews. they was that both which came
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out on the 11th of 1953 that opened up the conservative movement and gave voice to it. people like peter viereck had been writing about conservatism as early as 1940, but the term had not caught on. there were a bunch of different things going on at the end of world war ii, especially american string to claim voice for who and what they were, not just to it they were not. they knew they were nazis are communist, but they tried to figure out who they were. -- they knew they weren't not seas were communists. russell plays a critical role in giving a voice to a variety of movements that we may as well call non-leftist. there were a bunch of people who believe the war was waged improperly. people who were anti-communist, libertarian, and then you have people that ben was ringing up like irving and paul evermore were very anti-progressive, but were really trying to capture a humane voice in literature as
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well as in the liberal arts and education. other people are swirling around this. flannery o'connor, ray bradberry, a whole number of figures who were a part of this movement, but it is kirk in 1953 with his book the conservative mind that gives voice to all of these groups. not movement only stays together for about two years. by the time you get to 1955, there was already a split that you will not be able to heal between the libertarian and the conservative. for about two years, there is a nice juxtaposition of all of those groups agreeing with one another. certainly taking on what they consider to be the progressives in the progressives, as they saw it, being inhumane, intolerant, and not being with any dignity promoting human justice. i will come back to that in a little bit and talk about why russell kirk found himself as he saw it as the arch opponent of
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progressivism and why he saw conservatism as something transcending progressivism, not just challenging it, but transcending it in some way. as i mentioned a little bit ago, russell kirk is acknowledged as the founder of the postwar conservative movement. in poororn in 1918 circumstances in plymouth, michigan which was a rundown railroad town. of course, now it is a suburb of detroit. but then, not a nice place at all. he grow up and this not nice place, but he grew up in a not nice place of a not nice place. on the wrong side of the tracks. he knew nothing but poverty. one, but imaginative he knew nothing the party until his adult years. he didn't know anything but poverty until his ago years. he studied in saint andrews and his late 20's. he earned what would be ,onsidered wpa -- double phd
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wrote his dissertation, came back to america in 1952 and from 1953 until the goldwater fiasco of 1964, was the celebrity among all conservatives. time magazine named him one of the 10 or 15 most important intellectuals in the west. he had become very close friends with t.s. eliot in 1953, and they were a strong influence on one another and the new york times had said they would follow kirk no matter what, not because they agreed with him but they found him adjusting. kurt came up right away was six point. he argued there was six points to conservatism. we can go beyond that and look at what he argues a real conservatism is. a real voice of conservatism as he is arguing in the late 40's and then again throughout the 50's. probably, first and foremost, for his conservatism, this will blend in perfectly with what then said, with t.s. eliot.
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conservatism is almost always and everywhere either a political or pre-political. he did not believe that conservatism in politics mixed well. he opened up a number of his works in the early 1950's by suggesting that the worst thing a conservative could do would be to go into politics. we may conservatives may change in the classroom, at the pulpit, maybe an bureaucracy, but they always did so in the arts. much more so than they would in actual politics. while politics with the necessary endeavor, he certainly didn't believe it should be the first thing we move into. even his own definition of conservatism, which she defined by a series of cannons, and i think that is important, he recognized conservatism could never be an etiology. ideology. it could never be political.
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it had to be pre-political or a political set of ideas. the very usage of cannon, even though he was not himself a believing christian at the point that he wrote this, he takes the idea of cannon from the council of trent, from the counterreformation cancel. for those of you who've had the privilege or depending on your point of view, the disaster of having to read the council of trent, trent is based on the idea that you have a number of cannons and then you have decrease. in termses only matter of those being actual church law. cannons are points of argumentation. and the cannons of the council of trent, you may have one that says to a certain degree we are predestined. on that says we have free will. it is the decree that has to bring those various cannons that can contradict one another or juxtapose one another. it is the decrees that matter. kirk never matters his decrees. he offers us cannons. those cannons matter because kirk is more than willing to admit that what is significant
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at this moment in history, 1953, may not meet -- may not be the most significant thing in 2016 or in 1816. we have to be able to use our judgment and decide what matters at this point in time and not the bold and to any really -- rigid ideology. we have to be flexible. this was important for kirk. i think this is one of the reasons everyone is so important. the most important aspect of a conservative is to decide what it is we are a part to conserve. his understanding of what needed to be conserved where our ideas throughout history of the dignity of the human person. terms we draw constantly now and use them when we are on the left or right. liberal or conservative. for kirk, this was absolutely essential that no conservatism could ever exist in less it's first premise was to conserve human dignity.
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to understand human freedom and understand where the human person belongs. in the order of justice. one thing i think we have lost, especially in the modern world which conservatism tends to be either loud and a noxious, or purely for consumers pleasure, look at the myriad of news wherens, radio stations conservatism is just one soundbite being yelled at another soundbite or one refrigerator magnet being thrown at another person, usually by very blonde classy people with loud voices. for kirk, conservatism was not that at all. instead, it was this thing that was deeply anti-conformist. wet is something i think have often missed about conservatism and libertarianism as a came out of the 1940's and 1950's. it was not just the left. arguing against the fear of conformity and mass man, but people
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people we remember, some we've forgotten, they were fearful were making usns no different from one person to the next. kurds in the conservative mind argues that he says that as conservatives we must promote the principle of proliferating variety. this is a full 10 years before the vatican ii council. in 1952 andes this 1953, his argument is, each person is a new revelation of the face of god. wet is the kind of argument -- we don'tom
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attribute that we should to the conservatives of that era. we more than anyone else were conformity very strong, and it's in all of their writings. there wasot believe such thing as a left and right. he believed this was a ruse, that there was no such thing as left wing, right wing, that we this as ais -- used way to confuse our own dialogue of person verse in person -- ver uss person. kirk, not quite christian here but allying himself with the christian humanists, kirk believed the only way you could define a person properly was not
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by left or right, but by down. do you believe in a the degradation of man, or do you believe that man can reach a glorified state? it was always this idea of god, i-god, nature, anti-nature, man, anti-man. that's the division. vertical and horizontal. number four, kirk believed thingly that the highest a government could attain -- in this he sounds very much like saint augustin from the city of that the most important thing a government can ever secure and will always do so poorly but when it does so we should cherish it, that it's justice. justice is the highest thing of government.
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governmentss that -- she's not an anarchist and a libertarian. we have both those streaks in his 20's. him verymain with strong, that fear of what the new state could be, whether it's communist or fascist or democratic, that it did have a totalitarian streak, even in free societies. governments when they behave properly at best secured justice. if you remember, from "city of god," august and said, all governments are nothing but robbers who have achieved ascendancy over other thieves and robbers.
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under the rubric of justice, then we can have natural law and natural rights secured in this world. it is first most important that we secure justice. this is government's sole job. finally, number five. for kirk, the idea that every generation must in some way promote prudence. this he takes from the ancient virtues, prudence being the first of the great virtues, not the highest, but the first. the way kirk went -- meant prudence is not the way it was thrown around now in common discourse. kirk's idea of prudence hearkens back to an older idea of prudence, that we must always be able to judge good from ill,
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good from evil. we do not loveif what should be loved, we will never hate what should be hated. he believed that hatred of the right things is very good. we should hate things that should be hated. we should hate tyranny. abuse of.hate the all these things must be hated. this is something god gives us through grace. prudence is the ability to discern good from evil. kirk, who is deeply rooted in the western tradition, takes this all the way back, not just to the greeks, but if we jump forward a bit, he takes us to the ancient anglo-saxons as well. in particular, he's thinking about their use of common law, what we regard as central to our own jurisprudence, thing such as
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a trial by jury, the right to habeas corpus, the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. kirk's argument was that when we inherit these laws, we have to decide every generation what to do with them. but our grandmothers and grandfathers have given us, is this good, is this bad, is this good and bad. if we tack it on without question, do we take a thing and reform it, or do we stop it. this is every generation's duty. there are huge implications in this. if we take it to its logical extreme ,kirk does not see government as a creator of laws -- law andd as a legislature, a legislature exists not to create laws but to ratify laws that already exist.
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has to maketion that determination. every congress, every president, every supreme court. we must decide what we inherit. is it good, is it bad, is it a mixture, most likely, of folks. for kirk -- this will probably be the most controversial point at this conference. for kirk in the modern world, there was nothing deadlier to the human condition than progressivism. progressivism was for kirk the ultimate inhumane act. there are reasons he argues this. why is it that progressivism is so dangerous? fear that is kirk's man as a fallen being will never be able to embrace perfectly what should be perfected, that is, what alone should be given to god to perfect these things in the next world. kirk's theory was that all progressivism must play into what we would call a greater
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good as opposed to a common good. if we are to understand history kirk was in favor of what the founders stood. he believed history was not a it was notoment -- merely one event after another. in alternately toward something else. history was instead, deeply ancient ande medieval traditions. history was a large expanse of time. sometimes we did well, sometimes we did poorly. sometimes we advanced, sometimes we regressed. it was perfectly possible that we could progress technologically while decreasing morley. in fact, this was more likely than not. because, for kirk, the great moments of technological jumps
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were usually the moments in history where we had been loosed from the morality of our fathers and grandfathers and mothers and grandmothers. it was at that moment where we are loose from all of these things that we have an absolute explosion of human energy. we have an absolute explosion of innovation. all of these come forward, and we see that and we have to be careful. let me end with this, i will and -- i will end and his diary. after he is contemplating the dropping of the atomic bombs, which he is horrified about, especially as a member of the u.s. army. he takes it personally that the united states has developed this person -- this technology and has used it against civilian targets. for him, this was what progressivism meant.
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this doctorate of progress is the most interesting incidents of blind and foolish confidence that the americans have ever had in their god. progress. none of the progressives in history, not joseph smith, not william james, not john dewey, know what this progress is toward. not even what direction it can take. thus far, apparently all progress has been toward annihilation. and end that we have accomplished. perhaps, when we go forward with a new and improved atomic on, we have dealt more death and distraction in the space of 10 years as progressives than the men of the middle ages with all of their supposedly devil were able to accomplish in 1000. we hold the tools of destruction . like all people before, we have used it heinously. for kirk, that is progressivism. thank you very much. [applause]
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>> as and mentioned, i have been working on a day on the fee of purex -- peter burri in researching this project i came across the controversy in 1949. grewwas a 25 page chapter into a 99 page chapter, so i decided to write a small book about the prize controversy. thes called "think or die, price of ezra pound -- when we are done i look forward to a very lively conversation, especially with brad who said that kirk is the founder of american conservatism.
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ezra pound was in a very odd position. he had just been given, by the library of congress, and a award, the prize for the highest achievement in poetry. it was $1000, the highest money prize at the time. however, he just happened to be, at that time, in an insane asylum, under indictment for treason for his anti-franklin roosevelt, anti-democracy speeches over the radio in italy during world war ii. you have one government agency, the library of congress who want to honor him as a great poet. and you have another agency, the department of justice, who wanted to hang him for treason. award sparked one of the fierce literary controversies in history. andeflected political cultural alignments that were in flux after world war ii. , hum -- in of war
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the wake of war, holocaust, and carol -- and peril. a concern about reasoning and reading, thinking and critical analysis span the political spectrum. i think that looking at this controversy rewritten -- reveals a lot about the shifting values and art and politics that marked the end of world war ii's victory culture and the beginning of world war culture. you some background, ezra pound was living in italy, he moved there in 1943 to live the life of the mind. another reason was, it was inexpensive so he could live cheaply. after america
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he went on the radio twice a week and started to give these lectures. he saw himself as a professor teaching the american and british public. what on earth was this guy thinking? he was a poet, after all. he thought he was doing an invaluable service to the american public. he was indicted for treason in 1943. the reason why he moved from poetry to politics was to events. the first was the great war.
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friends living in london who fought in the great war who died great he was upset about this. the second event was the great depression of the 1930's. it reminded him of when he was a child in america in 1893, when there was another economic collapse. it brought back a lot of bad memories for him. he decided he would apply his fierce intellect. he was very confident about his medical ability to leave -- lead into politics and economics. he big -- he became convinced that a conspiracy of bankers and created war to make themselves rich. as american troops were making their way up the root of italy, he was arrested and taken to the detention training center just
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outside of pisa. cage, 60pt in a steel years old. he was subject to the hot tuscan sun during the day. at night they had lights on him because he was under suicide watch. while there, he managed to write. sometimes he had access to a typewriter. sometimes there was no paper, so he wrote on toilet paper. he eventually suffered a collapse because of the physical strain he was put under. when he was brought back to the united states to stand trial for treason, in 1945, he did not receive a welcoming reception. the communists leading new said,s hould ezra pound be shot? all the contributors said, he should have known better.
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but worse, he's a poet. poets are supposed to be the of civilization. they thought he should be punished even more than a non-poet. hearing he would be found guilty, pound's friends got together and argued he was insane. they said the time and attention training center had caused mental collapse, and he shouldn't stand trial. they did this even though four psychiatrists examined him and found no paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, evidence of emotional instability. he was remanded to saint elizabeth hospital for the insane, which some of you may know is now the headquarters for homeland security. there is a nice irony there.
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three years later, new -- theons published collection contained a lot of the ideas that were in the radio talks during world war ii. some people call the radio talks the poor man's canto. -- cantos. here you get an idea of the anti-semitic versus. the collection also contains 17 languages. there is reference to 17 different languages. and then pound's own cryptic abbreviations.
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it was sometimes tough going. what could be made of cantos 72? there is arabic, chinese characters -- what is going on here? however, it did contain some of the most beautiful lines ever composed in the english language. what thou lovest remains, beauty is difficult. however, the prevailing assessment of the work was summarized by archibald. degree, almost never before considered in the serious work. fascist rhetoric and
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anti-semitism is prevalent throughout. you're probably thinking, why would anyone give him a government-sponsored award for this collection? i think the decision becomes clear if you see it as part of the multi-year effort by small boys network of friends, loyal friends, who wanted to get count out of saint elizabeth. a government award would really help to improve his status in the eyes of americans, they saw it. were starting out as an artist, writer, musician in the 1930's, he was your best friend. he would give you advice on your writing. here is an example of the editorial work he did. extensive cuts. ernest hemingway road in
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private, i'm writing some damn good stories. i wish you were here to tell me i would believe you are the only guy who knows a writing. thing about in public, hemingway said, he has taught me more about how to write and how not to write than anyone else. the academic and literary community quickly divided into two caps. the first group who supported new critics.e in the 1930's, the new critics saw that on the one hand, english teachers and professors
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had no idea how to analyze a work of literature. it was rote memorization, learning about the author's biography, teaching civics. they also saw that in the 1930's, writers themselves were using and abusing literature for political ends, and that was wrong. literature is of value all on its own. plus, the moscow trials and the of 1939 provedac an embarrassment to these literary partisans. modernists joined others in the retreat from politics after that time period. new critics and other public became part of the academy because they wrote a series of best-selling books. a glossary of the new criticism, understanding poetry was the main textbook you would read in college.
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they didn't like the traditional literature that was romantic. on rhyme, meter, and they celebrated paradox and the beauty and tension. they did not care what a poet meant to say. a poem to then was a self-referential aesthetic object. they also didn't care if someone was offended by a poem, because that is an affective fallacy. really know what's going on in a work of art, they have to be steeped in the literary tradition of the english language. modernist writers appreciated the new critics because they emphasized close reading, and took seriously works of literature. difficulty was a badge of honor, and this cartoon captures that. it says, offhand it was something by ezra pound.
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it did not matter what pound said. he wrote anti-somatic poems praising miscellany. so what? poem doesn't mean anything. a poem should not mean, a poem should be. it had no impact. it provided an aesthetic experience. they believed a specialist had more claim to legitimacy than the average reader. new criticism became institutionalized after world war ii. there were many gis returning from the war. you did not have to take a class on history before you studied shakespeare. you did not have to know about elizabethan england. with images of cultivated gestapos reading poetry in concentration camps, it was hard to make the claim that poetry somehow in noble -- ennobled readers.
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this holds true with this value free, objective approach in the realm of national security as well. the federal government recruited morally compromised german experts, arguing their politics did not matter because they can perform an invaluable service in the cold war against the soviet union. the brilliant job -- brilliant scientist part won out. ion to think or die really resonated with the idea the public intellectuals, writers, artists, academics, a
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national security leaders across the political spectrum were advocating. in order to save democracy, americans have to develop critical thinking skills. they have to read widely and deeply. in the realm of culture, they had to strive for originality and creativity. be solid andto durable to avoid the siren calls of conformity, madness, and anarchy. reading between the lines became a best practice. i turned to the second group the supported ezra pound, new york intellectuals right of is an auto alignment. the new critics were largely southern and conservative, sometimes anti-semitic. the new york intellectuals, liberal, and many of them were jewish. they came together for several reasons.
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groups care deeply about the freedom of the imagination. people wrote about the freedom of the imagination in magazines like partisan review and "the nation." published "the liberal imagination" in 1958 in which he argued to meet the challenges of the postwar democratic world, liberals needed to -- humans are complex. conservativench whittaker chambers situated the struggle between totalitarianism and democracy squarely in the realm of the liberal mind as a spiritual quest after freedom. similarly, arthur's lessons are
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defined the free play of the imagination in the opening chapter called "politics in an age of anxiety," and called anxiety the official emotion of our time. you get anxiety when you have freedom. george kotkin has a wonderful book about this anxiety in america after world war ii called "existential america." this cartoon captures the vote for existentialism among vogue foruals -- existentialism among intellectuals at that time. either one was soft or hard on communism. senator joseph mccarthy clubbed his critical and minis by saying they were soft on -- enemies by saying they were soft on communism.
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all across the political spectrum, there is this emphasis on masculinity. what they were doing then, the new york intellectuals and new critics, they were doing what doing,h congress was coming together in the face of a common enemy and to communism and for these new york intellectuals and critics, conformity and mass consumer society, to uphold american values. i'm going to go a little more quickly. cia loved the new york intellectuals and new critics and high culture. as one of them said, the cia not only engaged in a cultural cold war, they had a very definite aesthetic -- they stood for high culture. divide,ther side of the then against the award was a man who was a professor at harvard, and he wrote two articles for
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the saturday review of literature, saying that the is the of congress property of the american people and the american people should not give out an award to someone who is anti-american. he went too far and called the other side fascists, which led to a whole big controversy. standing in the middle is peter very at. to himself. he found much to appreciate about modern literature. good reviews of it. his dissertation from harvard was about the mind and the role of culture. this bookid was, contains a lot of beautiful poetry, but it's ugly. it has hateful ideas. if we want to give it an award, move it to a university. don't give it a government award. the award was kicked out of the library of congress, and under the auspices of yale university.
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of the things he did that some of the other conservatives did not do was try and hold intention opposite. you see from the title of this book, "terror and the karam -- glory of "shame and the intellectuals" -- he thought it's not either conservativism or liberalism. you take the best of both. in conservatism revisited, as george nash wrote in the book that remains the best book about conservatism, peter viereck created the new conservatism as a self-conscious intellectual force. this comes from one of viereck's books.
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he had this idea that ideas are not sculpture, they move. they dance. in his thinking about progressives, he was a little bit quicker to the take of changes. he supported brown versus board of education. it did not take him 54 years. he was one of the first to speak out against mccarthy. timeline for evolving is a lot faster than some of the other conservatives. viereck would love some of the initiatives today that bring common ground. one of them is this philanthropy , boththat says republicans and democrats tend
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to equally value justice and caring for the vulnerable. just by accepting that we have common ground, instead of castigating the other side and saying they don't care about anyone. there is one more initiative i wanted to mention by the brookings institute and the american enterprise institute, which is a working group on poverty and opportunity. they said whenever democrats talk about poverty, they say these things. when conservatives talk about poverty, they talk about these things. let's bring them together and bring the best of both ideas so we can solve this problem. this was published in december of 2015. my final note of appreciation for the ways some conservatives and liberals can come together is this movement among about birkians in birkenstocks. matthew scully wrote some of the most beautiful speeches for
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george w. bush. the acceptance peace sarah palin gave when she was given the vice presidential nomination. if you read one book this year, i recommend -- "dominion" is one of the most powerful, moving books about the plight of animals in factory from situations. peter viereck did not want anyone to become rigid. he wanted to take the best of both. it did cost him personally, and hopefully we will get into some of that when we talk about kirk and viereck and their squabbles in the 1940's and 1950's. thank you. [applause] if you have any questions, please come up to the microphone.
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>> i enjoyed all the talks very a question fore brad. it's good to see you, brad. i was interested in the distinction you made between the canon and the decrees. i wonder if it's a bit of a shell game that kirk was playing. the canon seems acceptable. the rubber hits the road on the decrees. there's a way to talk about these very large principles that don't have much meaning when you come to the actual thing of trying to get things done in politics and society. >> thanks, paul.
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since you addressed it to me, i will jump in. i don't know if he's been talked about yet at the conference because i wasn't here last night or this morning, but albert jay. knock. kirk gave voice. i agree with lisa, we can have a debate about whether it's vierec k or kirk who was the first conservative. albert jay. knock was a critical figure and when he passed away in 1945, you have a lot of people trying to claim his mental. -- mantle. you have the daughter of lord ingalls wilder, the great author of the "little house" books. admired have kirk, who him intensely. a lot of them aren't trying to claim the mantle. -- are trying to claim the
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mantle. there is a split over who has the real mantle to oknock. -- to knock. in many ways it moves from knock to whittaker chambers. your question is well taken. it's an important caveat. in a young conservative or republican who picks up the conservative mind hoping to find a solution to current problems is going to be sorely disappointed. there's nothing in the conservative mind that would lead us to understand anything tout politics, except understand the larger ideas behind a lot of that. i don't think kirk's conservatism at least in the beginning government to be political. when there were people asking in the reviews why is the conservative mind not more political, he was happy they ask that. he was frustrated that that question kept coming up.
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he could be very playful. he had two things he said all the time. the professor always plays the fool in politics. the only people who ever going to politics are the quarter educated. we can agree or disagree with some of that. he clearly had that view that conservatism was more of a movement of arts and literature and philosophy than he was of politics. viereck believe the same thing. he retreated and became a professor of history at the college with the most beautiful campus in the world, my alma mater. my context will be in the realm of culture and teaching, just like russell kirk. these people are not architects of social movements. they don't provide the foot soldiers for the movement.
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>> this piggybacks on the question -- could you make an argument that russell kirk is the godfather of conservativism, more than viereck precisely because of the anti-politics? many conservatives are going back to principle as one of the things you are talking about. it seems to be calling into question the notion of compromise as being ugly, un-divine. there seems to be increasing purism on the part of many conservatives and intellectuals. cs the thingoliti that is fueling a lot of contemporary conservativism? is not something we can draw back to kirk? >> i'll answer that, and i hope lisa and ben will jump in on
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this as well. politics was even at its best, always imperialist, always expansionist. it was the kind of sphere society -- sphere of society that wanted to take over other spheres. the great conservatives of the 1950's where trying to push back. they wanted to see community expense at the expense of national politics. that was part of it, i think. debate.legitimate it may not be in either/or, it's probably both/and. viereck stays out of politics. kirk goes into politics, which pretty chastises kirk strongly for. >> if i understand the question,
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i think you're talking about this anti-establishment movement in conservative circles in this election cycle. i think that is very different from the anti-political attitudes of these thinkers we've been talking about. a title byd christopher dawson. he wrote a book called "beyond politics" that influenced elliott deeply. the title implies that politics won't solve all our problems, and we have to a culture, or as elliott put it, is trying to come up not with a program, but with a way of life. or to affirm a way of life that is already there. i think that goes back to paul's question, because that's always the liberal question. what are you going to do? after kirk published "the conservative mind," he was
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challenged by many reviewers to come up with a program. he wrote a second book called "a program for conservatives." in it he said, there's no program. >> thank you very much. [applause] >> you're watching american history tv, 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter for information on our schedule and to keep up with the latest history news. sunday night on "q&a," a historian at his book, "spain in our hearts." >> this coup attempt happened in spain where all over the country right army officers tried to seize power, and in parts of the
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country succeeded in seizing power in 1936. it sent a shockwave of alarm throughout the world. here was a major country in europe, the right-wing military quickly backed by hitler and arms,ini, who sent airplanes, pilots, tanks, tank drivers, and mussolini eventually sent 80,000 ground troops -- here was the spanish right making a grab for power. people all over the world felt it ought to be resisted. if not here, where? if not, we're next. >> this year marks the 60th anniversary of john f. kennedy's courage."files in it told the story of eight u.s. senators who had demonstrated great political coverage.
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his book are the 1957 pulitzer prize for biography. a panel of former kennedy recount their white house experiences. this program was hosted by bonhams and northern trust. it is about an hour. fromis is an event birthed a number of sources. it started for us for the collection you see against the back wall. that is one of the finest collections of documents and ephemera related to history. the collector who put it together was trying to focus on finding objects, documents, printed matter that bring you as close as you can to the contemporary events described. i encourage you to have a look after the event at these


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