Published March 21, 2022
One of the hallmarks of this present age is our growing inability in Western society to define anything with any degree of cogency. As J.K. Rowling has pointed out repeatedly, the concept of “woman” is now a matter of bitter debate and not, as it was until the day before yesterday, something that was essentially tied to biology, even if some cultural variation regarding what constituted femininity has always existed. But it is not simply those words targeted by the mainstreaming of the least plausible aspects of modern academic theory that have plunged into the abyss of incoherence. Others have become victims too, not least the whole notion of conservatism.
What is modern conservatism? Is it the “Christian nationalism” that haunts the nightmares of so many evangelical elites? Is it working-class populism that pits itself against the claims of the privileged panjandrums of the progressive political class? Is it just code for a rejection of any notion of progress? Is it a radical libertarianism? Or is it the vision, now an increasingly forlorn hope, that was set forth in book after book by the late great Roger Scruton and inspired so many of us over the years? The answer, I suspect, is that all of the above are considered by somebody somewhere to be “conservatism.”
Carl R. Trueman taught on the faculties of the Universities of Nottingham and Aberdeen before moving to the United States in 2001 to teach at Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. In 2017-18 he was the William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life in the James Madison Program at Princeton University. Since 2018, he has served as a professor at Grove City College. He is also a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing editor at First Things. Trueman’s latest book is the bestselling The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. He is married with two adult children and is ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.