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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The New Counterculture - Meet Rod Dreher, a conservative who is critical of capitalism
But Mr. Dreher is also a passionate environmentalist, a devotee of organic farming and a proponent of the New Urbanism, an anti-sprawl movement aimed at making residential neighborhoods more like pre-suburban small towns. He dislikes industrial agriculture, shopping malls, television, McMansions and mass consumerism. Efficiency--the guiding principle of free markets--is an "idol," he says, that must be "smashed." Too often, he claims, Republicans act like "the Party of Greed."
In Mr. Dreher's view, consumer-crazed capitalism makes a fetish of individual choice and, if left unchecked, "tends to pull families and communities apart." Thus consumerism and conservatism are, for him, incompatible, a fact that mainstream conservatives, he says, simply do not grasp. He warns that capitalism must be reined in by "the moral and spiritual energies of the people." It is not politics and economics that will save us, he declares. It is adherence to the "eternal moral norms" known as the Permanent Things.
And the most permanent thing of all is God. At the heart of Mr. Dreher's family-centered crunchy conservatism is an unwavering commitment to religious faith. And not just any religious faith but rigorous, old-fashioned orthodoxy. Only a firm grounding in religious commitment, he believes, can sustain crunchy conservatives in their struggle against the radical individualism and materialism he decries.
Mr. Dreher sees "Crunchy Cons," in part, as "a handbook of the resistance." He advocates homeschooling. He applauds community-supported agriculture, small businesses, simple living, historic preservation and much else that promotes a "sacramental" (non-utilitarian) sense of life. You cannot be truly conservative today, he avers, without being countercultural.

These themes, of course, are not new, as Mr. Dreher acknowledges. He cites E.F. Schumacher's decentralist 1973 classic "Small Is Beautiful." He approvingly mentions Richard Weaver (1910-63), the author of "Ideas Have Consequences," and Wendell Berry, a contemporary agrarian poet and essayist. Above all, he extols Russell Kirk, the author of "The Conservative Mind" and a tireless defender of the Permanent Things. Mr. Dreher, in short, identifies himself with the venerable traditionalist school of conservatism that reaches back to Kirk, the Southern Agrarians and beyond: a communitarian conservatism profoundly disturbed not only by secular liberalism but also by the relentless dynamism of modern commercial life.
I can't wait to read this book. From what I've read by him in the past and what's been written about the book he does a lot to show how conservatism and Christianity intersect a lot more than people (even conservatives) give them credit for.

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