sábado, 11 de julio de 2015

This temporal order is only a part of a larger, a supernatural order; and the foundation of social tranquility is reverence

The Enduring Significance of Edmund Burke

by Russell Kirk

What Matthew Arnold called “an epoch of concentration” seems to be impending over the English-speaking world. The revolutionary impulses and the social enthusiasms which have dominated this era since their great explosion in Russia are now confronted with a countervailing physical and intellectual force. Communism, Fascism, and their kindred expansive ideologies all in their fashion were manifestations of a common rebellion against the prevalent moral order. To resist them, rather gropingly and grumpily, the English and American traditions of mind and society have been aroused, quite as they stirred against French innovating fury after 1790. We appear to be entering a time of revaluation and reconstruction; we begin to discern, perhaps, the outlines of a resurrected conservatism in philosophy and politics and letters. Already many minds have swung right about from the spectacle of Continental terror to a reaffirmation of ancient values, as Coleridge and Southey and Wordsworth and Mackintosh and their generation abandoned their early levelling ideas and became the most zealous of conservators. England in Arnold’s “epoch of concentration” became, in spite of its disillusion, a society of profound intellectual achievement, the revolutionary energy latent in it diverted to reconstructive ends. That the epoch of concentration displayed moral qualities so powerful, that it did not sink into a mere leaden reaction, Arnold attributed to the influence of Burke. And in our time of revulsion against the twentieth-century revolutions, we need to recall the ideas which Burke’s genius moulded into a philosophy of social preservation. Lacking these or some other genuine principles, our own age of contraction is likely to slip into sardonic apathy and fatigued repression.

I have no intention of discussing here the details of Burke’s political philosophy, or of his religion and metaphysics, or even of his literary attainments. These things have been done before, though never quite as they should be: Burke’s immensity has frightened away biographers and editors, so that no proper life of Burke exists and no decent edition of his works. I am quite as much afraid of the ghost of Burke’s brilliance. What I am trying to do in this essay is to capture the bare essence of Burke’s passionate aspiration and exhibit it as the nubbin of any consistent conservative growth. What was it that Burke evoked in his own epoch of concentration? What enduring significance does his system offer to critics of society and ideas in any time of revulsion against innovation? Perhaps the soul of Burke’s darting genius is his principle of order.


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