The Permanent Epiphany

The Permanent Epiphany

The confrontation between two sensibilities, progressivist and conservative, is replacing the Left-Right cleavage, observes the historian and essayist. Having dissected the mentality of conservatism in our columns at the beginning of January, he now sketches out the idea of progress and of progressivism.

Jacques Julliard is leader-writer for the weekly, Marianne. Continue reading “The Permanent Epiphany”

To Theorize Is To Intimidate

To Theorize Is To Intimidate

Attempts to understand the phenomenon of political correctness now form a respectable corpus of work. Although often mocked as “moral vanity”, political correctness nevertheless deserves serious sociological study, not least because of the enormous impact it has had on the fate of the West. Perhaps only those with long enough teeth to remember an earlier time can assess this impact. There was indeed a time before political correctness took the Occident in its icicle-fingers, and subjected it to the slow, nightmarish drip of cant that we have lived with, or for, ever since. But while ever exasperation remains a faculty of Man, practitioners of PC run the risk one day of sending it critical.

Political sagacity is not cumulative. A great civilization, such as classico-Christian Europe, is safe only insofar as its incumbent leaders are both educated in history and free from the narcissistic desire to imagine their bronze avatars lolling in public squares. European leaders of our era appear to have inherited nothing from their Continent’s vast historical experience: instead, they invented the European Commission, and talked to it as they might to an imaginary friend.

What does accumulate and constantly re-synthesize itself through the passage of time is the high culture of a civilization. The Colombian writer Nicolás Gómez Dávila says somewhere that soul “emerges” in things that endure. Political correctness is inimical to high culture because of the former’s “normative frenzy” in pursuit of “equality”, to quote Lecourt. Egalitarianism attacks high culture — notably through the schools, mocking it with its own “pop” travesty. (Witness the loss of classical languages from the curriculum in France.) The hoisting of one travesty after another is seeing to it that when the neoliberal mist rises, little recognizable will be left of European civilization. The loss of Palmyra and Nimrud is both visceral and symbolic for Europe. The forces that destroyed them are exaggerated only in degree and modality, not in kind, relative to the western intelligentsia’s and nomenklatura’s much paler destructive enterprise. Ultimately, the result will be much the same.

Dominique Lecourt is a French philosopher. Here, he talks with Alexis Feertchak about the mercurial menace of PC, in an extended interview for Le Figaro.

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The Exhausted Lie

The Exhausted Lie

Intellectuals of the French Left are, often on their own admission, beginning to look as silly as the postmodernist clique who preferred arcane formulae to clarity of thought and exposition, and with whom they share a revolving door. In any system of rational thought, a proposition is true if it is supported by repeatable observations or rigorous deduction. In the postmodernist system of thought, a proposition is true if at least one poor wretch can be found to believe it. There has of late been a sharp decline in the supply of poor wretches. The Left has been exhausted as much by systematic lying as by hope long overstaying its welcome. What is this exhausted and enervating lie, essentially? It is the doctrinaire liberal lie of the end of history and the irrelevance of geography, both joyfully ceding the stage to the great Integrated Supply Chain that, given total freedom of action, will bless our race with indefinite economic growth, and the general felicity that must go with it…

In this recent piece for Le Figaro, Eugénie Bastié documents the baffled indignation of the French Left-intelligentsia, as they mourn the loss of their most piquant pleasure: moral blackmail. There is a litany of references to writers, political henchmen, and organizations, most of which will be lost on English readers: but they are not essential to the theme. In the age of Google, the reader can follow any of them up if he or she so wishes. A few of the more obscure are explained in the text…

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The Game of Values

The Game of Values

It seems self-evident that culture teaches values: not values culture, as might be implied by the political discourse of the West, bereft as it is of all historical perspective. There, human rights recast as universal values have overshadowed any notion of Occidental culture or civilization as anything worth curating, much less preserving intact. Indeed, the word culture barely rates a mention, even as a footnote: except of course as the nullity, multiculturalism, which is dinned daily into every ear. Where national culture comes into conflict with arbitrarily chosen human rights, the latter prevail: except of course when it appears necessary to bomb both of them simultaneously.

The relentless harping on unexplained ‘values’ hides a political vacancy that is yet to be filled. It is a marker for political hypocrisy and Europe’s strategic void. Where there is no strategy (goal), the void is filled by tactics and technocracy (The European Commission). Tactics (“more Europe!”) cannot be passed off indefinitely as strategy. In this interview with Le Figaro, the French writer Robert Redeker sets the record straight on the purpose of politics and education. Needless to say, he mentions no role for the Commission in either.

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The Limits of Resemblance

The Limits of Resemblance

The defining feature of modernity is its inability to reproduce itself within the limits of resemblance”. Such is the economy of expression employed by the German writer, Peter Sloterdijk. Perhaps the sense of the aperçu could even be enhanced by substituting “within the limits of recognition”. Be that as it may, in this interview with Le Figaro, Sloterdijk, as social pathologist, continues his mauling of modern progressivism’s high priesthood, as it quits the House of History in jocular procession, bound for Angela Merkel’s uplands of future-funded compassion. The word might still be mightier than the sword — the experiment is best avoided, but alas it is no match for the pulverizing faith of those who ride the war-horse of modernity. It never will be.

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How To Be A Conservative

How To Be A Conservative

logo_caesar_35pxRoger Scruton’s little book of lucid prose, How To Be A Conservative, is his first work to have been translated into French. Extracts from De l’urgence d’être conservateur were recently published in Le Figaro under the introduction, Our heritage is also the property of those who have not yet been born. “Although Roger Scruton is a prominent figure in the intellectual life of Britain, he is little known in France. None of his books had been translated into French until Les Éditions de l’Artilleur repaired the omission. Rich, nourishing, stimulating, like the most captivating of conversations, this essay offers a rare pleasure: to explore the sharpness and depth of an intellectual position.”

The Europeans Book Review. In How To Be A Conservative, Scruton leaves a coherent intellectual trail. But the scent crosses a river and gets lost when he appears to genuflect before one of the great shibboleths of Leftist orthodoxy: the independence of race and culture.

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Michel Houellebecq in Berlin

Michel Houellebecq in Berlin

The important thing about Michel Houellebecq is his part in liberating French intellectuals from the New Terror of the socialist media and, since 2012, the governing Parti socialiste: that is, those intellectuals who wished to be freed. What they can practically do with their new freedom remains to be seen, as demographic change in Europe continues to bulldoze nice philosophical categories, precisely as outlined in Houellebecq’s novel, Soumission [Submission].

Houellebecq was recently in Berlin to receive a literary prize. His acceptance speech was delivered in French, but The Europeans, having been unable to locate a transcript, has provided here a translation from the Neue Zürcher Zeitung‘s German version. In other words, the text — an abridged version of the speech — has been laundered twice: with what result, the reader will judge. We learn most, of course, when authors speak for themselves, outside of their writerly personæ, and that is why the present labour has been undertaken.

Submission was, and is, important because it was not to much launched, as detonated. It still reverberates throughout French intellectual and media circles, with little fumaroles of outrage appearing here and there in the landscape. What fun it must have been, to crack so many heads.

Continue reading “Michel Houellebecq in Berlin”