Back to the Rough Ground: Towards a Conservative Theory of Democracy




Giesbrecht, Jared

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This work seeks to recover the critical spirit of conservatism and re-emphasize its goal of stability and resilience in society. I will argue that we should strive to view ourselves as deeply dependent and persistently vulnerable beings rather than free, equal, and rational individuals. An understanding of ourselves as embodied and interconnected patternings-in-the-world – res ecologia – will allow us to better recognize a diffuse violence at work in the modern world. I consider the nature of causation and suggest that the internal stability of res ecologia, when disrupted, should be a primary concern when considering the nature of violence and domination. I then invite us to understand the violence and domination arising in modern liberal societies – protocolic modulations – as abstract standardization that ensures efficient synchronization between individuated or atomized actors. Further, I suggest that the rapid modulations of this kind of protocolic domination disrupt the structural causation within and between res ecologia. In chapter five, I begin to show how this kind of violence and domination is manifest in and through the tradition of liberalism by tracing out a shared, underlying dualistic logic that simultaneously individuates and totalizes. In chapter six, I turn to the role of reason in creating freedom and legitimizing violence. Reason is seen to be contributing to both freedom and domination depending upon whether or not it creates resilience within society that resists standardizations. In chapter seven, I argue that the only way to effectively counter the excessive violence within the dualistic logic of liberalism is to cultivate an ethic of mutual support and restraint that invests society with stability and resilience. Finally, I conclude by contending that a resilient society requires intermediate structures and civil enterprises to instill tradition and reciprocal responsibilities in interdependent familial, socio-economic, and religious life.



conservatism, res ecologia, violence, liberalism, domination