On Friday Postmodern Conservatism in Australia co-author Matthew Sharpe left in the comments thread a large number of responses to my original post on his book. My responses on the main issue of how to characterise recent Australian conservatism:
On whether we have “postmodern” conservatism:
The main claim is that Howard’s appeal to ‘our values’, the ‘mainstream’ is relativist. It relies on the idea that ‘our values’ ‘are not ours because they are just, but just because they are ours.’
When conservatives criticise ‘relativism’ they are usually attacking the idea that all cultures are equal. A better description of the conservative argument here would be ‘particularist’ – the idea that our culture has value at least partly because it is ours, because of our historical experience. It is consistent with – and usually implies or expressly states – the idea that our culture is better than other cultures, which is not a ‘relativist’ notion. All conservatives have a particularist element to their thought (though as I noted in a slightly different context, complicated when the particular culture they are preserving has universal elements to them, liberalism and Christianity being the two most important in the West). So I am not convinced that calling contemporary conservatives ‘postmodern’ clarifies their thinking or distinguishes them from past Australian conservatives.
Continue reading “The last post (I hope) on postmodern conservatism”