Mar 5, 2023·edited Mar 5, 2023Liked by Adrian Vermeule, The Postliberals

Fabulous pieces; thank you for posting! Each one has tremendous explanatory power for the moment in which we find ourselves. In addition to the wonderful quotes Sally pulls, I'd add, "First, when society is affluent, stable and well-functioning, skepticism about the common good is a viable luxury for the intellectual classes . . ." These two clauses speak to an issue I often grapple with. If the intellectual classes control everything--academia, government, culture, press, news media, NGOs (I could go on)--then what leverage do the majority of Americans have when, as Professor Deneen accurately points out, " . . . the “populace” is generally not a revolutionary, but a conservative party"? The intellectual classes to which Professor Vermeule refers are in fact actualizing their notion of the common good, and it looks like liberalism, replete with the deleterious effects for those not part of the intellectual classes.

What is the leverage the "populace" has to effect changes that would instantiate the political commitments outlined on the Postliberal Order and the other outlets (print, internet) Professor Pappin lists in his piece? Because, for better for worse, all these common good conservatives are also part of the intellectual class?

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Mar 5, 2023·edited Mar 5, 2023Liked by Adrian Vermeule

Love your input, David. I've grappled with the same "knot" nearly all my life - that of the leverage the intellectual class has over the non-intellectual class, so to speak. It just seems NOT FAIR when a person, due to lack of opportunities, has not acquired the trappings of the former class, and is therefore thrust into a "lesser" class, as it were, and thereby assigned a "destiny" the person has no intention of being stuck with. I am specifically referring to a formal education which awards a lot of acronyms. I firmly believe values such as honesty, integrity, love, filial piety (very important in Confucian teachings), empathy for others (another Confucian value, also the teaching of Jesus - “Love thy neighbor”) have little to do with acronyms. I further believe acronyms do not guarantee moral rectitude. This is the reason I am wholly enamored of Professor Vermeule’s Common Good perspective which, to me, transcends the artifact of tribal division and political impasse. The process which Professor Vermeule so dedicatedly and touchingly writes about will take time and a few more rounds of dialectics (thesis-antithesis-synthesis) for its reification, in my judgment. Nonetheless, as Man advances onward to the next stage of Evolution, the lines of division will fall away to make room for a future where every newborn will see and feel and say: How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world. That has such people in’t!

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I find very little in these pieces that is practical. Monarchy? Theocracy? In America?! America's democractic Republic is created by and enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Attempting to overthrow it would be an act of treason. Somehow, I don't think the good professors are giving up their tenured positions to join (much less lead) the revolution.

Stopping the excesses of the progressive left will require voting in elections. If the U.S. populace wants "common good conservatism," they will have to vote for it, and persuade a lot more Americans to vote for it as well.

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Mar 5, 2023·edited Mar 5, 2023Liked by Adrian Vermeule

There's not much in these pieces that concerns praxis, but I don't see how anyone who's interested in the ideas expressed could fail to see the extraordinary explanatory power here. I don't see to what you're referring when you talk about theocracy or revolution, and Professor Pappin prefaced what he said about monarchy with the acknowledgement nothing of the sort is possible in America.

To your last point, and one I tried to address is my original comment about elements of the US populace who want common good conservatism, we need politicians at the local, state and national level whose projects are committed to such. Where are they? Who are they? Rubio? Hawley? DeSantis? Maybe. Sort of. Are there politicians willing to commit to common sense cultural commitments ordered to the common good of family, faith, and community, while also using executive power to order the economic/financial realm to the common good: housing, wages, unions, job security, and, yes, even affordable, easily accessible medical coverage for all?

It seems to me everyone (well, not everyone), but enough people know what needs to be done, and enough extremely intelligent people, like the four men who run this website, have explained how the liberal order is impoverishing the majority of Americans, both culturally and economically. Perhaps Sally is right in saying we need "a few more rounds of dialectics for its [common good conservatism] reification"--to wit, things need to get worse before they get better.

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The other, simple reason there isn’t much about praxis in these pieces is that the extensive and ongoing practical work is cross-referenced in Gladden Pappin’s Introduction - American Affairs, Compact, my last book, the Ius et Iustitium site, etc etc

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Thanks for the reply, Professor. I am a graduate of The Harvard Law School (I am in my 60s, so graduated from HLS long before you became a professor there). I look forward to reading more of your philosophy, particularly on constitutional interpretation.

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Thanks for the reply, David! I do agree that the quality of the writing and intellectual thought on this site is top notch.

I do still have some confusion regarding the praxis of what is being advocated. I thought integralism does advocate for a sort of theocracy. If Postliberal Order is advocating something different than monarchy or theocracy, that will be welcome news (at least to me). However, if the proposed Postliberal Order will operate consistent with the United States Constitution, then I think "postliberal" is rather a misnomer, as the U.S. Constitution is one of the definitive documents of liberal government.

I am generally skeptical of big government solutions in either the cultural or economic sphere. I am predisposed in favor of individual autonomy and free markets, although not to the degree of an extreme libertarian.. Having said that, I am worried about the increasing influence and power of a very intolerant progressive left, particularly in the U.S. educational system.

I look forward to reading more specifics of what is being advocated by the Postliberal Order, including its implementation (and whether it is truly postliberal). However, if "postiberal" involves replacing an intolerant, autocratic, and anti-democratic progressivism with an intolerant, autocratic, and anti-democratic conservatism, liberal democracy is looking like a much better path (at least to me).

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David, I am dipping my toe in a vast pool of water which my intellectual grasp is at best tenuous and ancillary, at worst plain wrong.

It seems to me the term “praxis”, etymological derivation circa C13-C14 Latin and Greek, raises new issues in its own right in the context of Catholic social teachings. My own view is that to the extent “praxis” means something having to do with practices, actions, and behaviors, it is not a thing with no beginning and no end. It is rather an ongoing process integrated with a body of ideas and values that constitutes its basis, or, sticking to the imagery of water, moor. This in the ever-flowing stream of History.

Indeed, some Christian scholars have defined or described “praxis” as “a combination of reflection and action that realizes the historicity of human persons. In this sense actions are realized in light of the way they affect history.”

Toward the end of action, reflection, the human persons and history, “praxis” is broken down into component parts in time-sensitive sequential order: (1) The conceptualization of a task; (2) The planning of the steps in the tasks; (3) The execution of the steps in the task; (4) The reflection on the results of steps (1), (2) and (3).

Thus, Praxis in temporal terms is the conjoint-twin of Theory, not an orphaned stranger.

In the context of Common Good Constitutionalism. This meaning of Praxis is of paramount importance, in my view. The Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land. How to read it, interpret it, execute it filters down to the real lives of real people precisely in the realm of Praxis.

cc: Adrian Vermeule

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Thorough and interesting, as always, Sally. I agree--reading, interpreting, and executing law is praxis. I was making a more prosaic point, namely who are the politicians that make me wake up in the morning and pump my fist and say, "He (or she) is fighting the good fight! Bravo." I guess I'll have to settle for pumping my fist when Professor Deneen's new book arrives in the mail in June.

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Yes, without any doubt, there is some sort of constitutional crisis in America today, chiefly, in my view, engendered by partisan politics. In the aftermath of Dobbs, the Court now has another weighty case before it, which disposition will determine who pays what and how much in Student Loan Cancellation proposed by the current administration. I believe the legal issues presented in this scenario were addressed by Prof Vermeule in a PostLiberal essay in link below. Essentially the Q is: Who calls the shots? To my knowledge, FDR was a Democrat, a rather "conservative" one in the ordinary meaning of the world "conservative". Also, he was Episcopalian, not Catholic. To my knowledge, no one, thus far, in America's 247 years history has characterized his administration as "theocratic". Perhaps, just perhaps, LABELS obfuscate more than they elucidate.


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Mar 3, 2023·edited Mar 3, 2023

Chock full of nutritious food for thought. Thanks for a great one.

Impossible to list all the points with which I fully agree. Allow me 3 to start:

"Liberalism is an 'elitist' political philosophy—advancing the material and social interests of a select set of individuals who flourish under the conditions I’ve described. Yet, it has “sold” itself as an egalitarian philosophy." IMV, this is the part that is the most objectionable - a deceptive label to the detriment of those whom it self-represents it serves.

"I emphasize that the common good is as much a legal and juristic concept as a philosophic and theological concept. That is, I am influenced even more heavily by the practical and juristic side of the classical tradition, the great civilian lawyers, than by the philosophical and theological side of the tradition. The common good is built into the text and principles of the law, into the fabric of the law itself, whether as public order, public interest, general welfare, or similar concepts." Seems to me the common good permeates the air we breathe, the water we drink. It in fact is what we all share. Any dishealth is systemic; likewise health inures to all. That is why ancient sages saw it as the genesis of moral virtues.

"It was traditionalists and reactionaries who accurately sensed that the new order was unsustainable, and that human nature would have its revenge." In my Eastern way of thinking, I wholeheartedly agree with this observation. What is human nature in the final analysis but a reflection of Nature? Humans cannot break or overrule Nature. Humans must respect Nature.

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