For all its Christian urgency, there is not much humility on view in “Heroic Conservatism.” The book has a hectoring tone, blithely claiming the moral high ground and ignoring a great deal of chastening experience. Such self-satisfied thinking runs counter to the Burkean temperament, which is painfully aware of the limits, and potential flaws, of even well-intentioned men. For traditional conservatives, societies evolve in an almost geological way—formed by the immense weight of history and culture over vast stretches of time. Grand schemes, even grand religiously driven schemes, do not suddenly “direct” history or solve long-festering problems or, for that matter, remake the world.
The great divide in political philosophy is between conservatives and progressives. The former are skeptical of the power of abstract reason to improve society. They believe that abrupt (exogenous) change is likely to make things worse rather than better. Change should be gradual and endogenous. They have a pessimistic view of human nature. The latter are eager to engineer society in accordance with their utopian blueprints. They have little or no respect for the past and view resistance to change as mere dogmatism and prejudice. They have an optimistic view of human nature.
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