Easy To Be Hard: Conservatism and Violence

This is the second post in my (very) occasional series of excerpts from The Reactionary Mind. (You can read my first, on Justice Scalia, here.) This excerpt is from chapter eleven, “Easy to Be Hard,” in which I examine the relationship between conservatism and violence. I’ve removed all the footnotes; if you want to follow them up, buy the book!

(Fun fact: an earlier version of this chapter appeared two years ago in The Chronicle Review.  It drove Jonah Goldberg crazy: “This piece at the Chronicle of Higher Education may be one of the uniformly dumbest piece [sic] of intellectual claptrap I’ve read in a good long while.”)


I enjoy wars. Any adventure’s better than sitting in an office.

—Harold Macmillan

Despite the support among self-identified conservative voters and politicians for the death penalty, torture, and war, intellectuals on the right often deny any affinity between conservatism and violence. “Conservatives,” writes Andrew Sullivan, “hate war.”

Their domestic politics is rooted in a loathing of civil wars and violence, and they know that freedom is always the first casualty of international warfare. When countries go to war, their governments invariably get bigger and stronger, individual liberties are whittled away, and societies which once enjoyed the pluralist cacophony of freedom have to be marshaled into a single, collective note to face down an external foe. A state of permanent warfare—as George Orwell saw—is a virtual invitation to domestic tyranny.

Channeling a tradition of skepticism from Oakeshott to Hume, the conservative identifies limited government as the extent of his faith, the rule of law his one requirement for the pursuit of happiness. Pragmatic and adaptive, disposed rather than committed, such a sensibility—and it is a sensibility, the conservative insists, not an ideology—is not interested in violence. His endorsements of war, such as they are, are the weariest of concessions to reality. Unlike his friends on the left—conservative that he is, he values friendship more than agreement—he knows we live and love in the midst of great evil. This evil must be resisted, sometimes by violent means. All things being equal, he would like to see a world without violence. But all things are not equal, and he is not in the business of seeing the world as he’d like it to be.

The historical record of conservatism—not only as a political practice, which is not my primary concern here, but as a theoretical tradition—suggests otherwise. Far from being saddened, burdened or vexed by violence, the conservative has been enlivened by it. I don’t mean in a personal sense, though many a conservative, like Harold Macmillan quoted above or Winston Churchill quoted below, has expressed an unanticipated enthusiasm for violence. My concern is with ideas and argument rather than character or psychology. Violence, the conservative intellectual has maintained, is one of the experiences in life that makes us feel the most alive, and violence is an activity that makes life, well, lively. Such arguments can be made nimbly—“Only the dead have seen the end of war,” as Douglas MacArthur once put it —or laboriously, as in the case of Treitschke:

To the historian who lives in the world of will it is immediately clear that the demand for a perpetual peace is thoroughly reactionary; he sees that with war all movement, all growth, must be struck out of history. It has always been the tired, unintelligent, and enervated periods that have played with the dream of perpetual peace….However, it is not worth the trouble to discuss this matter further; the living God will see to it that war constantly returns as a dreadful medicine for the human race.

Pithy or prolix, the case boils down to this: war is life, peace is death.

This belief can be traced back to Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful. There Burke develops a view of the self desperately in need of negative stimuli of the sort provided by pain and danger, which Burke associates with the sublime. The sublime is most readily found in two political forms: hierarchy and violence. But for reasons that shall become clear, the conservative—again, consistent with Burke’s arguments—often favors the latter over the former. Rule may be sublime, but violence is more sublime. Most sublime of all is when the two are fused, when violence is performed for the sake of creating, defending, or recovering a regime of domination and rule. But as Burke warned, it’s always best to enjoy pain and danger at a remove. Distance and obscurity enhance sublimity; nearness and illumination diminish it. Counterrevolutionary violence may be the Everest of conservative experience, but one should view it from afar. Get too close to the mountaintop, and the air becomes thin, the view clouded. At the end of every discourse on violence, then, lies a waiting disappointment.


  1. Todd January 19, 2012 at 6:27 am | #

    Not hard to drive that inveterate liar Goldberg crazy: just tell the truth.

  2. s. wallerstein January 19, 2012 at 8:35 am | #

    If you’re referring to the current U.S. political scene, then the rightwing is more violent than the leftwing.

    On the other hand, if you’re talking about world history since the French revolution, the era in which the distinctions between right and left appear, then in their discourse at least the right is still more violent than the left, although in the practice, we end up with the sad exercise of counting bodies, those of Hitler, Franco, Nixon and Bush 2 versus those of Stalin (or of Lenin or of Fidel).

    However, I doubt that you can find passages glorifying war per se in the writings of Lenin or Fidel or Marx himself (although all three would agree that violence may be necessary to bring about radical social change), while you can find all too many rightwing apologists of war and of militarism (as building character, as making men men, whatever that means).

    And if by the left, we confine ourselves to the social democratic left of Northern Europe, the Swedes, the Danes, the Dutch, the Norwegians, etc., then their track record on violence is saintly.

    • Pull My Finger January 19, 2012 at 4:55 pm | #

      First off, other than Hitler, Mao, Stalin and Lenin are in a class by themselves in modern times. Franco, Pinochet, Marcos, all your rightwing boogeymen pale badly in comparison to those three. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say Hitler was a Leftist, he certainly wasn’t a reactionary or conservative. He was a revolutionary, anti-Democracy, anti-Monarcahy, anti-communist, athiestic Social Progressive. I think he is of himself and no other.

      Nixon? Nixon ended the Vietnam War, he didn’t start it. Look to Kennedy and LBJ for that.

      • s. wallerstein January 19, 2012 at 5:47 pm | #


        I agree with you that Hitler and the Nazis don’t fit any easy category.

        Franco and Pinochet killed all whom they had to kill, as did Lenin.
        If they killed fewer people than did Lenin, it was only because there were fewer people in their way.

        Before ending the Vietnam War, Nixon invaded Cambodia and bombed North Vietnam mercilessly. I’m not going to Google the number of estimated civilian casualties, but some estimates run into the millions.

        Nixon also put Pinochet into power. Enough said there. (I’m from Chile.)

        I agree that Kennedy and LBJ began the Vietnam War. Could we call them centrists, since neither of them was exactly on the left, except by the very distorted standards of U.S. politics?

        There are folks on the left and the right who will annihilate all those who stand in their way or whom they perceive to stand in their way: Lenin, Fidel, Nixon, Franco, Pinochet

        There are folks, some on the left and some hard to classify, who will annihilate even people who do not stand in their way: Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot.

        How about that?

      • iam he January 19, 2012 at 8:12 pm | #

        Hitler insisted that Pope Pius XII instruct/order the Catholic Church Clergy in Germany not to use the Catholic Church’s Pulpits against his national party under threat of round-up and a trip through the concentration camps. A few Clergy violated the vatican order sadly Hitler made good on his word. The entire clergy of that church priests and nuns were sent to the gas chambers… Hitler insisted on the Separation of Church and State.

        people often think religious freedom is in what you believe, what songs you sing, what worship and what rituals you chose to practice and identify yourself with. But this is merely the cosmetic aspect of religion.. the function of religion was to pass on values, ethics, morals, principals, virtues to the next generation, in effect to minister to the conscience of the laity, to raise up godly people who were/are loving, lovable people of conscience..

        to participate in the socialization of the human from childhood through adulthood.

        Religion’s function was to minister to the conscience of the people.

        how well they did that, and how well they accomplished that goal s immaterial. That is what all religions attempt to do.

        The Clergy if free to speak, free to minister to the conscience of the masses would have to speak out against violations of “God” laws and instructions”, they would have to speak out against ungodly conduct, they would have to speak out against evil conduct, they would have to speak out against infidels, they would have to speak out against sociopaths in the family, in the community, in the government, in business.

        The Sociopaths of the past and present hate conscience, they see conscience as a dictator, a religious fanatic, and restriction on their “Freedom and Liberty” to what ever the hell they please..

        Hitler was a “natural born” sociopath… from cradle to grave, unable to form a fully functional humane conscience. And he made his government into an unconscionable sociopathic government.

        One out of 25 persons are born sociopaths -from cradle to grave- unable to form a fully functional humane conscience.

        Don’t you think Humanity should restrict theses people from government office, from running for elected office…

        Only one government in the world screens all who run for elected office… and keeps sociopaths, and corporate agents out of government.

        Natural born sociopaths are sick people, they are born with a human psycho social pathology…..

        more later…

      • Ed January 20, 2012 at 11:46 am | #

        Hitler was not an atheist, and Nazism was not an atheist political program. Though the idea that Hitler was an atheist is a talking point proffered by Christian apologists such as Dinesh D’Souza, that doesn’t make it true. Sometimes reference is made to Hitler’s ‘Table Talk’ to back this up, but a serious examination of those documents does not support the claim that he was an atheist — he did criticize certain forms of Christianity, but did not deny the existence of God, and took himself to be a true Christian (see “‘Hitler’s Table Talk’: Troubling Finds” by Richard C. Carrier in German Studies Review, 26:3 [Oct 2003]: 561-576).*
        * http://www.jstor.org/stable/1432747
        Furthermore, the Nazis were supported institutionally by both the Catholic and Protestant churches (the Nazis had treaties with the Vatican, for example). Occasionally individual Christians would oppose Nazism, but generally not the religious institutions themselves.
        As for the specifics of the Holocaust, many of those were already modeled one the one hand by the Catholic church in Spain and on the other (Protestant) hand, laid out almost point by point by Martin Luther (“What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? […] First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn…” from “On the Jews and Their Lies,” 1543).

      • Pull My Finger January 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm | #

        I think Hitler would be best described as an occultist, he certainly was not Christian and tolerated Christianity in as much as it toed the Nazi Party line and was useful in propogating his idels of Aryanism and Germanic traditions, unlike Lenin who active sought to clense the USSR of religion and create a truly atheistic state. He also tolerated Christianity in that it would contrast Nazi totalitarianism against Soviet totalitarianism.

      • Ed January 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm | #

        Pull My Finger: You say, “I think Hitler would be best described as an occultist, he certainly was not Christian…” You can think whatever you want, but your claim is not supported by what he said* and did. It is _possible_ that he wasn’t a Christian (anyone can lie about being a Christian), but it is not “certain” that he wasn’t a Christian; in fact, based on the evidence, it is most probable that he was a Christian.
        You also did not address the additional problem that the Catholic and Protestant churches (not to mention most German and Austrian Christians) found it easy to support the Nazi program (in other words, it is not merely a question of Hitler, but also of the overwhelming cooperation of Christian officials and institutions). The antisemitism of the Nazis was a direct inheritance from centuries of Christian (both Catholic and Protestant) antisemitism (the Vatican waited until the 1960’s to officially repudiate the idea that the Jews as a people were guilty for murdering Jesus — the idea, stupid as it is, can be found, after all, in the New Testament: Matthew 27:24-25, “His blood [be] on us, and on our children.”). For the whole question is not merely a matter of Hitler’s beliefs; regardless of his beliefs (accepting your personal opinion, for the sake of argument, that Hitler was secretly not a Christian), Nazism was sold — and bought, by Christians — as a Christian political program.
        Clearly, there were also many other, perhaps even more significant, factors in play (such as the economic condition of Germany under the Treaty of Versailles), but to claim that Hitler and, more importantly, Nazism as a political program were atheist, is simply to deny reality.
        * For example, “…the Sublime Founder of [Christianity, namely, Christ] made no secret of His disposition towards the Jewish people, and when necessary He even took to the whip in order to drive out of the Lord’s temple this adversary of all humanity, who even then as always saw in religion only a means for his business existence. But for this, of course, Christ was crucified…” Hitler, _Mein Kampf_ (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1941), p. 423.

  3. Mike January 19, 2012 at 9:24 am | #

    Can we say that conservatives have an innate predisposition to violence as it is – in their eyes – an energy/cost efficient approach to eliminating the challenge of the unknown future.
    Violence eliminates the need to convince others of the rightness of their opposition. Why bother with disputation? They project their weakness on to others, an error that underlies many of the conservative fantasies.

  4. Gobineau January 19, 2012 at 10:32 am | #

    That Treitschke quote doesn’t support your argument that conservatives find violence “one of the experiences in life that makes us feel the most alive.” Read it closely and you’ll see his argument is that war has often been the chief engine of progress, both political and cultural, throughout history. And whether or not pacifists want to admit it, that’s probably true, and Treitschke was certainly not the only person to make this claim. I’m not sure if that was written during his early liberal or his later national conservative phrase, but I’m pretty sure he expressed similar sentiments throughout his life, so it doesn’t matter.

    I’m sure you’ll also pull out certain passages from de Maistre (likely the same passages that Isaiah Berlin dwelt on), but the fact is that there have always been different and competing “conservative” views on war. de Maistre’s contemporary Louis de Bonald held a more pragmatic view of war. Chateaubriand disliked the military despotism of Napoleon. And I find it amusing that not once have you mentioned, to my knowledge, that modern military conscription was introduced by the Left during the French Revolution. This was even attacked by Ultras like Jacques-Joseph Corbière.

    Furthermore, you shift easily between terms like “war” and “violence” as if they were interchangeable with each other. While war is almost always violent, it goes without saying that there is much violence which takes place outside the context of war. Likewise, there are many components to war besides violence (the adventure of exotic locales, the separation from quotidian comforts, the camaraderie among troops, etc.) which some might find “enlivening” and are not found in more mundane forms of violence. I’m not saying I do, but merely pointing out what should be obvious from phenomenological perspective. There’s a distinct lack of nuance in many of your arguments which would receive low marks in an undergrad paper.

    Your reading of Burke’s Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful is just bone-headed. It’s an aesthetic treatise. It was written decades before the French Revolution broke out. And limited to the realm of aesthetics, Burke’s remarks regarding distance/nearness are completely accurate and even ahead of their time. You can observe this phenomenon on a daily basis. Most people, not only conservatives, have no qualms about violence from an aesthetic remove (such as watching violent films or playing violent video games), but many of these same people would be seriously disturbed if similar violence took place within their proximity. It’s something deeply rooted in human psychology that has little to do with one’s political orientation.

    As for public support for ventures like the Iraq War, the problem on the rank-and-file level was not some conservative fascination with violence, but a sheepishness and ignorance about world affairs. I recall polls at the time indicating that many Americans actually believed there was a connection between Saddam and 9/11. On the intellectual level, there were so many different motivations behind the scenes that reducing it to a fascination with violence just won’t cut it.

    Keep in mind that I do not identify as conservative in the American sense of the term. I do have to admit the common Anglo-American claim that conservativism is non or anti-ideological is just bizarre. It seems to originate with people like Russell Kirk and Oakeshott. I’m not sure many on the continent would agree.

    • voltayre January 21, 2012 at 7:01 pm | #

      Responding to Robin’s analysis, you wrote: “There’s a distinct lack of nuance in many of your arguments which would receive low marks in an undergrad paper. Your reading of Burke’s Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful is just bone-headed.” Such denunciation does not amount to refutation, and its purpose escapes discovery. Undergrads often write eminently sound papers, and “bone-headed” is most frequently heard on primary school playgrounds. To claim: “I do not identify as a conservative” ignores the nuances surrounding this classification. I jest, of course.
      I would like to suggest that contributors on this Forum engage in demonstrating fallacies in arguments, unsound reasoning, conceptual inaccuracies, and other intellectual deficits, not personal condemnation and abuse.
      The term, war, describes violence deployed by governments against other governments. Almost a half-century ago, Hannah Arendt railed against the marginalization of the problem of violence in studies of “the human condition” but she herself did not define it. Indeed, “violence” remains in a definitional limbo. A possibly plausible definition could be: “Violence is destructive, nonverbal, or non-communicative, action taken in the context of unilaterally or mutually perceived conflicts of interests and directed at the bearer(s) of the conflicts or a surrogate.” “Conservatives” cannot be said to be more or less prone to use violence than “Liberals/Leftists, given the hyperinflation of meanings of these categorizations. A perusal of recreational offerings in mass media, statements from political leaders, reports on human rights violations throughout the world, and social science texts and textbooks would reveal a well-nigh universal belief that violence is therapeutic, unavoidable, natural, necessary, and effective. This claim was propounded by the ancient philosophers, mystics, prophets, and theologians, and still resonates among contemporary theologians, philosophers, and educators, in general. These are areas of analysis that Robin’s work missed.

    • Mufasa February 24, 2012 at 10:16 pm | #

      Treitschke clearly says that only during tired and unintelligent periods of history is peace dreamed of. Your interpretation seems to ignore this entirely. A direct implication of the quote is that historical precedent would suggest that an ideological aversion to war is an indication of a cultural torpor, something one might assume is a thing to be avoided. Not the same as saying that an appreciation for war is vital, but it is suggestive. Note that he’s not attacking some Utopian pacifist ideal, but a desire for sustained peace. It’s not as though he’s saying that there can’t realistically be sustained peace, but that people shouldn’t even want it. Of course, not that he’s brutal or anything, or even like any person or class is responsible, it’s all academic because the Lord gives us the medicine of war.

      War has often been associated with progress because progress must often come at the expense of reactionaries, implying the necessity of a struggle of some kind. War can also weaken the current social order, opening up opportunities for progress. However, in order to make a case against an aversion to war, one would have to demonstrate the greater effectiveness of war vs. peaceful struggles. War can often inflame reactionaries and create an infrastructure for the oppression of domestic progressive movements. I think your judgement on the cultural benefits of war is probably not accurate. The militarization of American society following WW2 and its impact on propaganda and policing set the Civil Rights movement back enough to make this example worth mentioning.

      I don’t think that French Revolutionary conscription is relevant. It’s not an indication of a fascination with violence or warfare, but a clear matter of military necessity. I don’t know who Corbiere is and I can only find mention of him in French, but I assume Ultra means Ultraroyalist? Certainly the right wing wouldn’t like the mobilization of a large military by a revolutionary group.

      The proximity of violence doesn’t seem to have much to do with an ideological affinity for violence, which I don’t think necessary to distinguish from warfare or police action in this case, since Robin clearly isn’t talking about the politics of axe-murderers. The violence that results from warfare may be tangible and proximal to a lot of people, but not politicos at home.

      If war had any substantial cost in the minds of such people as supported action against Iraq on the basis of complicity in 9/11, the lack of evidence presented for a link ought to have prevented them from doing so. It’s not likely that many of those people had any sort of sophisticated argument at all. Why would they then believe what they did rather than the inverse? I think it is far more likely that the presentation of a justification for the exercise of force, allowed those who support in general, or are at least in general not critical of the use of military force by the US to be mobilized, than that humane and pacific people were persuaded by force of logic to accept the necessity of action.

  5. iam he January 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm | #

    “Freedom and Liberty” sounds wonderful! and no one, on first hearing these words would argue against them as a goal for social systems and for government systems.

    If one lives alone in the woods at a great distance from others, one would truly be free and a liberty. But as one moves closer to others freedoms and liberties must be compromised. Living in a civilized society no one is really free and at liberty to do what ever they wish. Every single liberty and freedom spelled out in the Bill of Rights is compromised often by law.

    We recently experienced a deranged -psychotic- man shoot all those people, including an elected US House of Representative. Everyone agrees that his 2nd amendment right to own and bare arms should have been revoked based on his medical diagnosis -psychosis-

    thus he was/is not free and at liberty to own and bare arms..

    so freedom and liberty have many necessary compromises.

    The Right to Life.. is ignored in war, and the courts often order an execution.. and lately political assassinations are “justified”.

    The Point is, “Freedom and Liberty” should not be highest goals of social and government systems… there are better ideals and virtues,, “Freedom and Liberty” are not high enough, “Freedom and Liberty” yes but not on the graves of Truth and Justice which are the better goals for Human Societies and Governments..

    any system that puts “Freedom and Liberty” ahead of “Truth and Justice” carries the seeds of its own destruction..

  6. iam he January 19, 2012 at 2:27 pm | #

    Violence, and retaliation -war- are breakdowns in social order… it is not a breakdown in “Freedom and Liberty” so much as it is a social failure in “Truth and Justice”.

    often, if not always, violence and retaliation, are the result of unconscionable failures to limit Freedom and Liberty… followed by a failure of the social system to provided “Truth and Justice” it is then that violence and retaliation breaks out, like a festering sore due to a vitamin deficiency. A deficiency in Truth and Justice.. which people need like food and water.

    Social order requires limits, restraints, on “Freedom and Liberty”

    Should there be a class of human beings, a government, or corporation free and at liberty to do what ever pleases them, what ever serves their self interests? what ever they can “rationalize” or “justify” in their own minds?

    Violence, and retaliation -war- are breakdowns in social order, a chaotic social storm, an insanity in social order and in social systems.

    I am going somewhere with this, I am building up to it, IF allowed to participate.

    I will show how this is a genetic problem in the human genome.

    and explain what I believe humanity must do about it. I hope you will allow me..

    feel free to respond with your best comments.. and questions..

  7. voltayre January 20, 2012 at 3:32 am | #

    In the Preamble to UNESCO’s Constitution it is written: “. . . wars begin in the minds of men.” But war is a species of violence, violence initiated and waged by governments. Clausewitz’s notion that war is a military extension/continuation of politics suggests that perception of irreconcilable conflicts of interests sire war. But these perceptions are traceable to specific intellectual tradition, for example, Greco-Roman philosophy and Abrahamic theology. The latter served up contemporarily hegemonic perspectives on “human nature,” fractious, essentialist identities, enmity as an existential condition, and violence as an unavoidable feature of the human world. If “Only the dead shall see the end of war” was Plato’s, Douglas MacArthur was a plagiarist. The classical philosophers did not consider relationships between reasoning and nonviolence.In effect, the intellectual ancestors of Western civilization discredit “civilization.” Barbarians killed as an end in itself. Greek and Roman soldiers, and early Christian converts glorified death. The West’ political leaders inherited necrophilia, and played it out wherever they “discovered.” Between the first Iraqi War (sic) and the troops’ departure last December approximately three million Iraqis were killed, which is about equal to the amount of Vietnamese killed. The beat goes on. Now for Iran!.
    Discursive endorsements of violence can be found in ancient intellectual traditions, and obviously predate the Enlightenment, as well as the emergence of “conservatism” and “liberalism.” Social science texts reek with logically unsound definitions of violence and fatalistic explanations, such as human nature, emotions, culture, and poverty. However, in the history of ideas, conservatism and liberalism exhibit a hyperinflation of meanings. Advocacy and approval of violence as a means of maintaining social order cannot be laid only at the feet of “conservatives.” But what is violence? A consensual definition of violence is yet to be constructed. Former CIA Director, William Colby reportedly opined: “I have definitional problems with the word ‘violence.’ I don’t know what the word ‘violence’ means.” At a summit meeting in Tokyo, Former Prime Minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher, took a different tack. She knew both the nature and source of violence, arguing: “You cannot remove violence from society. It goes back to Cain and Abel.” Benito Mussolini was renamed: Benito “Three cheers for wars” Mussolini. Those having a penchant for endorsing and practicing violence cannot be made to fit Conservative and Liberal molds. In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Obama made claims strikingly similar to Robert McNamara’s: “I’m not so naive or simplistic to believe we can eliminate war. We’re not going to change human nature any time soon.” In three years, Obama has outpaced Bush with military interventions in the Middle East and Africa. How is violence best defined?
    There is a standard definition that can be found in most social science textbooks—as actions that intentionally cause harm, injury, or death. This definition has fatal weakness. How can intentions be ascertained? Someone points a loaded gun, shoots, and misses the target. Was it intentional? A parent spanks a child to stop it from getting injured while playing on streets. Which intention is to be considered? An alternative to the standard definition could be: “Violence is destructive, nonverbal or non-communicative action taken in the context of a unilaterally or mutually perceived conflict of interests and directed at the bearer of such interests or a surrogate.” Under what philosophical, educational, and economic conditions do people conclude that their conflicts are verbally irreconcilable? Surely this conclusion is invalid, given that they reached the impasse precisely through language use. Human beings reason and communicate their way into perceptions of irreconcilably conflicting interests.
    Perceptions of self and interests, however, are optional and changeable. By implication, self-estranging identities, the idea that human beings have a nature, and the status of both reasoning and language-use in human relations are matters of interest in understanding violence. Human beings reason and communicate their way into perceptions of conflicting interests. Identities, too, are products of reasoning. When regarded as mandates from a god, or Gods, nature, “human nature,” science, society, or culture, they stymie the critical re-framing necessary for verbal conflict resolution. Conflicting interests appear intractable and violence unavoidable. Its antidote is educators’ cultivation of dispositions to reason, to evaluate reasoning, and to use language with clarity and logical consistency. Deficiencies in Greco-Roman and Abrahamic intellectual legacies–particularly, god-given identities and the notion that violence is natural and innate to humankind–would be recognized as such, and discarded.

    • Graf Kord January 31, 2012 at 3:02 am | #

      I know violence when I feel it! Perhaps “treat others as we wish to be treated” would obviate the need for definitions.

      • voltayre January 31, 2012 at 9:55 pm | #

        @Graf. How would you resolve the dispute arising from a difference between your feeling and another person’s feeling? What will you “know,” given that you have no idea what violence is? Does “feel” refer to a sensory experience? If so, is it conceptually independent? Regarding “treat others . . .”. obviating the need for definitions, on what bases did you reach this conclusion?

  8. iam he January 22, 2012 at 2:28 am | #

    New Testament: Matthew 27:24-25, “His blood [be] on us, and on our children.”)

    so often the jews point to that text and lay a false claim that the quotation is antisemitism or the source foundation of anti-semitism in the Christian New Testament,

    Nun’s always taught me, it was all of our sins, past, present, and future that Christ died for. The always corrected any of us who suggested that it was the Jews who killed Christ.

    Concerning Matthew 27:24-25… some one in the crown shouted that out.. because it was passover and he claimed the innocent blood of christ as his passover animal sacrifice.. recognizing Christ was innocent…. customary animal blood sacrifices on passover was to wipe away the last year’s sins…

  9. Graf Kord January 31, 2012 at 2:57 am | #

    In the mileu of the very violent French revolution at least Burke could be forgiven his conservatism but why in the name of god do you include Sarah Palin in the same canon as Burke? Burke could at least write and argue a position coherently. I am sure the Falangist battle-cry “Viva la muerta!” had not escaped your notice, I agree there seems to be an inherently violent dimension to Conservatism. For those interested in Hitler’s believes, check out occult history of the third reich – fascinating and compulsive.

    • voltayre February 25, 2012 at 5:39 am | #

      Greater clarity and conclusiveness would be infused into this discussion were contributions to remain within Corey Robin’s analytical orbit—“the relationship between conservatism and violence,” not conservatives and violence. “Conservatives” is an historical chameleon, a most commodious and eminently deniable categorization of persons. The sub-title of The Reactionary Mind—From Burke to Sarah Palin—makes the work vulnerable to a charge of an illegitimate ideological conflation. After all, there are no indications that Sarah Palin read Burke’s works. However, what justifies her inclusion is her casual placement of the US at the helm of the world order and people “like us,” which Barack Obama is not, in charge. Burke’s writings mirror the Romanticist rejection of Reason and endorsement of God and Nature–divine and irreversible moral and ontological hierarchies. God is a Conservative, and both Nature and God are unapologetic practitioners of violence. Rulers represent both God’s chosen agents and the uppermost realms of Nature. The ruled not only have no rights, they cannot even want them. It follows that only violence from rulers is justified. Syria’s Asad believes this as fervently as the self-characterized world leaders seeking to oust him violently. For Burke, the French Revolution was sacrilegious and abominable. Conservatism endorses a particular species of violence—violence from rulers, political and religious leaders, violence from governments. Wars are acts of violence in defense of the national interest that is embodied in rulers. A perusal of social science textbooks used in US primary and secondary schools and colleges finds a common thesis that violence is therapeutic, unavoidable, natural, necessary, and effective. As a result, a neuralgic commitment to violence strides manfully across America’s political landscape, enrapturing members of Libertarian, Democratic, Republican, and Tea Parties.” Support our troops!” Official practitioners of violence are doing God’s work and realizing the nation’s mission. The critique of conservatism must address religion’s hegemony and its protagonists’ eviction of critical thinking from educational institutions.

      • gary September 17, 2012 at 7:48 am | #

        First of all, it seems unlikely that you have troubled yourself to bother with a “purusal of social science textbooks…”. It seems to me that you speak a little too complacently from the view that the problems of the larger society are somehow caused by or likely to be solved by the practices of education in general or the content of social science textbooks in particular.

  10. iam he January 31, 2012 at 10:50 am | #

    War is anti-social insanity, fomented by natural born sociopaths who should not be allowed in government and international politics tactics and agenda.

    it comes from the anti-social sociopath genes. 1 out of 25 are bord with this terrible disease…

    Humanity has not yet truly addressed the problem…

    • manosoceano June 25, 2012 at 3:41 am | #

      Yes, with clear sight we would all see that the Bush Family Crime Syndicate deserves its own wing in a sociopath clinic. The world knows it and wants a trial.

  11. iam he January 31, 2012 at 10:04 pm | #

    the problem is not religions… it’s sociopaths… they use unconscionable tactics to accomplish unconscionable agenda. Learn to identify them… be careful, they are good at deception… but over time, easy to spot… The GOP attracts them big time.

  12. manosoceano June 25, 2012 at 3:29 am | #

    Ch 8 is a gem, thank you for the post-cold-war doldrums analysis of why the Bush Family Crime Syndicate would want to design a false-flag attack on 9/11, kill hundreds of thousands of innocent lives, and envelope a prosperous community into the pits of Hell. It doesn’t change the fact that the USA is controled by the perpetual war machine of the CIA, but the clear logic does add intellectual comfort for the next time I’m asked, “… but how can you think someone would do such a thing!?” As you conclude the chapter poignantly, “they are preparing for an altogether more theatrical, otherworldly drama. Their endgame, if they have one, is an apocalyptic confrontation between good and evil.” It’s the polar shift of highly medicated

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