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((released 2018-06-07) (handle arp-21-m) (supplement ))
Conservatism against Itself
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Conservatism against Itself

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In this early article from First Things, historian Christopher Lasch poses the question of whether cultural conservatism is compatible with capitalism. If, as Lasch argues, conservatism is defined by a respect for limits — that human freedom has constraints imposed upon it by nature, history, human fallibility, and “original sin” — then the unrelenting and insatiable quest for ever-increasing standards of comfort that capitalism encourages is completely at odds with conservative values. Despite nineteenth-century attempts to bolster the family as the primary means of curbing the large-scale transfer of “private vices” to “public virtues” implied in liberal economic theory, the effects of twentieth-century capitalism have only underscored how vulnerable the family is when the integrity of its surrounding local institutions is destroyed. Also included in this article is an account of lower-middle class versus upper-middle class cultural values as well as the alternative — though now largely unheard of — economic approaches to liberal capitalism advanced by the distributists and syndicalists.

This article was originally published in First Things, April 1990. Read by Ken Myers. 42 minutes.

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