18 September 2006

Ideas, Consequences...

And speaking of "Agrarian Dreams," here's Roger Kimball in the New Criterion reconsidering Richard Weaver:

"...As one of Weaver’s biographers, Fred Douglas Young, notes, The Southern Tradition at Bay was less a dissertation than “an apologia.” Most of Weaver’s mature themes make their appearance in the book. Indeed, several critics have pointed out that Weaver’s later work is essentially an elaboration and application of ideas he first formulated there. Weaver begins by laying out a constellation of four distinctively Southern, almost universally besieged, virtues: the feudal concept of society organized by an interlocking hierarchy of duties, filiations, and privileges; the code of chivalry; the ancient concept of the gentleman; and religion or at least “religiousness,” which may have “little relation to creeds” but, prodded by “a sense of the inscrutable,” “leaves man convinced of the existence of supernatural intelligence and power, and leads him to the acceptance of life as mystery.”

But that scaffolding describes only one level of Weaver’s argument. For every lost cause there is a victorious alternative. Weaver was interested in analyzing, elaborating, advocating what he took to be the virtues of the Old South; even more, he was interested in criticizing the forces that had undermined those virtues. The enemy, he thought, was not so much Grant’s and Sherman’s armies as the spirit that moved them. It was “science and technology.” It was centralized government. It was the ethic of “total war.” It was affluence, materialism, and the love of comfort. In a word, it was modernity. Hence the lessons of American’s premier lost cause: “The mind of the South,” Weaver wrote, is “conspicuous for its resistance to the spiritual disintegration of the modern world.” Is such resistance futile? Never mind. Resistance itself is glorious: strenuous, romantic, precisely because—perhaps one should say “even if”—futile..."



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