10.02.2008

postmodern conservative economics?

Here's an interesting take on economics in which I find my own view being expressed by someone with much more eloquence than I currently possess. This is Ivan Kenneally writing at Culture11:
What is a Postmodern Conservative view of economics? While a true postmodern conservatism is cognizant of the power of markets and the great advantages of the prosperity it generates (and the reliable incompetence of government in providing regulatory supervision), it is also aware of the limitations attendant upon the libertarian theoretical assumptions that typically underwrite free market advocacy. We’re more than solipsistic individuals with rights, reason, and interests and so a reasonable modicum of care and compassion, consistent with the individual liberty and responsibility that any free society should respect, should temper the excesses any spontaneous order will likely generate. It also recognizes that Rousseau was at least partially right in the First Discourse (yep, Rousseau) that with the benefits of great wealth and luxury come new obstacles to the cultivation of virtue. If you prefer finding common ground with Aristotle, one could say that a postmodern conservatism recognizes that wealth is the equipment of virtue but not virtue itself, and that too much equipment can sometimes prove burdensome.
Why do these intelligent individuals insist on adapting the label postmodern? It may be simply that they want to recognize the paradigm in which they live. But what about this account is postmodern? I don't see it.

4 comments:

Kyle R. Cupp said...

My guess is that Kenneally means to distinguish his conservative economic philosophy from those grounded in particularly modernist paradigms and theories. He wants to go beyond the insights of modernity, its stress on individualism, rights, and interests, without just going back to pre-modern thinking.

Rob said...

The term 'postmodern' seems to reflect a liberal outlook. To my ears, 'Postmodern conservative' sounds as oxymoronic as Eastern West, or dry ocean.

Zach said...

Rob: agreed. I've always thought the most basic premise of postmodernism is the belief that we can and should construct our own systems to stave off the consequences of the ultimately meaningless existences we all live.

I've always thought the tendency of postmodernism was to create Nietzche's pathetic "last man".

Now, I would like to read Prof. Patrick Deneen's book "Postmodernism rightly understood". Maybe he'll set me straight.

Kyle R. Cupp said...

I would recommend reading a variety of books on the subject of postmodernism, as it covers a lot of ground. Lyotard’s short work The Postmodern Condition might be a good place to start. His central question concerns how knowledge – even scientific knowledge – can be legitimated without recourse to totalizing and narrative systems of knowledge. You will find, I think, that postmodernism has a precursor in Nietzsche, but also in others. While at the very conservative Franciscan University of Steubenville, I attended a guest lecture by John D. Caputo on the possibility of a Christian postmodernism, which took Kierkegaard as a starting point.

As for a postmodern conservatism, despite the reasonable association of postmodernism with liberalism, postmodernism and conservatism share a fundamental distrust of idolized systems, what Russell Kirk called ideology and what Lyotard called metanarratives.