Round Table Discussion

Cataloguing What’s Been Lost

Chilton Williamson’s study of the sources of American conservative thought presupposes certain assumptions about his subject that may not be universally shared but are defensible nonetheless.  Williamson suggests that American conservatism is essentially paleoconservative, and both his choice of current conservative authors and his comments on Joe Scotchie’s Revolt From the Heartland underline this association.  Furthermore, Williamson’s contemptuous references to the neoconservatives and his scathing comments on the marital infidelity of the libertarian Albert J. Nock indicate that there are positions often identified with the contemporary right that Williamson does not consider “conservative.”  He comes back repeatedly to the Christian roots of conservative thought, and, from the repeated citation of Catholic thinkers and the conspicuous absence of the Protestant Reformers, who heavily influenced American religious and political culture, his conservatism, it may be concluded, is largely (if not exclusively) a function of his Catholic beliefs.  Williamson justifies this linkage by locating the heart of conservatism in the inseparably Catholic principle of “subsidiarity.”  To this, one may respond by pointing out that European Lutherans and Calvinists defended the same principle in early-modern times; also, Thomas Fleming’s The Morality of Everyday Life,...

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