Tag Archives: Wendell Berry

Antiacademism as Anticapitalism: The Rise of American Cultural Conservationism

It is the opposition to the permanent revolution of capitalism that enacts American conservationism’s credibility as an anticapitalist tradition. By contrast, classical American conservatism entrusted industrial capitalism with the revolutionary proclivities it otherwise condemned on social, moral, and religious grounds. The conservationist tradition is, then, conservative in the Marxist sense, despite the misunderstandings such a description inevitably entails. Hence, by opposition, the historical rapprochement and mutual compensation of classical, mercantile American conservatism and the New Left: What classical conservatism repudiated in revolutionary capitalism (the “uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions”), the New Left soon made palatable under the guise of “destratification.” What the New Left criticized in revolutionary capitalism (“inequalities”), turned out to be a profitable intellectual position posing as ‘post-Marxism.’ As early as the mid-1980s, the CIA, speaking from its own conservative position, already identified some of the institutional perks of adopting such an intellectual posture.

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