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October 01, 2008

Jim Kalb's Book Is Almost Available

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Traditionalist conservative Jim Kalb's new book "The Tyranny of Liberalism" goes on sale soon. Read an interview with Jim about the book here.

I've long been a fan of Jim's. His thinking strikes me as deep, his writing as helpful and clear, and his manner as both calm and patient. He makes a great and humane case for traditionalism both in what he says and how he says it. This ain't Fox News conservatism, to put it mildly.

Jim's blog is here. Long ago, I interviewed Jim at some length. You can get to all three parts of the interview from this posting. I urge you to give the q&a a read: provocations and surprises (of a gentle but trenchant sort) are guaranteed. Don't skip the very interesting commentsthreads that follow the postings.

Jim writes eloquently in praise of nostalgia here.



posted by Michael at October 1, 2008


Part of the triumph of liberalism has been the successful misrepresentation of Fox News as a far right outfit.

Posted by: ricpic on October 1, 2008 10:56 AM

That's a sneakily smart point.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 1, 2008 2:35 PM

I'll be interested to see how Mr. Kalb deals with the kind of objections to the irreducibility of consciousness that he faced in the comments to the earlier post you referenced. None of the objections in the comments struck me as at all convincing, yet Mr. Kalb had very little success in making headway with the objectors. I hope his book has more on the hard problem of consciousness--a particular area of interest of mine--and its relationship to traditionalism. It's odd that such an "abstract" argument should be important, but it is.

I like the quote by Jerry Fodor: "'To be sure, we can't prove that we are conscious; but that is hardly surprising since there is no more secure premise from which such a proof could proceed." Seems obvious to me. But not to many of Mr. Kalb's interlocutors.

Posted by: PatrickH on October 1, 2008 3:01 PM

Oh come on, Fox News is absolutely right-wing, just as MSNBC is absolutely left-wing.

I'll have to check out Kalb.

Posted by: JV on October 1, 2008 3:24 PM

Fox News is neo-conservative (as are National Review, the Weekly Standard, the American Spectator, and most of what passes for conservatism in media); whereas Mr. Kalb is paleo-conservative (like Chronicles Magazine, the New American Magazine, the American Conservative, VDARE, Kevin Michael Grace's "The Ambler" website, etc.). The distinction is important, though there are some who attempt to straddle the two POVs (e.g. John Derbyshire, View from the Right's Larry Auster, Rod Dreher and his "crunchy cons").

Posted by: Will S. on October 1, 2008 5:30 PM

Will, I admire your temerity in lumping Lawrence Auster in with John Derbyshire. I'm not saying you're wrong...just that if Auster gets word of it, you might just be hearing from him.

You're a better man than I, Will-a din!

Posted by: PatrickH on October 1, 2008 7:19 PM

Is National Review entirely neo-con, even aside from Derbyshire? It's certainly neo-con friendly.

There was also that purge for alleged antisemitism of Sobran in the mid 90s. (He did pointedly criticize the failure of the media to notice outsized Jewish lobbying influence and effectiveness, and our unreflective and uncriticizeable obsession with a "small socialist ethnocracy" in the Middle East. Do such things constitute antisemitism?) So I guess that kind of critic was and remains thoroughly chilled there.

But Catholic voices that aren't particularly neo-con are much heard there, aren't they? Seem to be when I check it out, which is once in awhile.

Posted by: dougjnn on October 1, 2008 11:07 PM

Oh, I've already crossed swords with Lawrence Auster more than once, on VFR and on Jim Kalb's blog. But my lumping John Derbyshire and Lawrence Auster together is basically in terms of the fact that while traditionalist conservatives, they feel the need to stand apart from the Chronicles crowd, disavow paleoconservatism, and support Bush's disastrous Iraq War, and ultimately get behind the Republicans. Whereas even though not all true paleos favour third parties, or mavericks like Ron Paul, most of them can't bring themselves to hold their noses anymore and actively support the GOP, when it is antithetical to so much of what they hold dear. No insult or slight was intended to either Mr. Derbyshire or Mr. Auster. And as a Canadian like you, PatrickH, I really don't have a dog in that intra-American-right fight. :)

Posted by: Will S. on October 2, 2008 12:18 AM

I should point out that I haven't read much written by either Mr. Auster or Mr. Derbyshire in the last few years, so my previous statements are based largely on their policy stands of a few years ago, and not on their present disagreement (based on a brief perusal just now of VFR). I recognize how different they, and Rod Dreher, may be from each other, whilst still classifying them together as straddling the boundaries of paleo and neo, insofar as being unable to disassociate themselves from the GOP, the way the outright paleos do - which I think is most sensible, in light of their beliefs, and frustrations with movement conservatism's domination by the neos.

Posted by: Will S. on October 2, 2008 2:08 AM

dougjnn, I wasn't trying to argue that the various publications I cited were entirely of one rightist orientation or another, but that they are generally, mostly one or the other, except those somewhat decidedly in-between, as cited.

Posted by: Will S. on October 2, 2008 3:20 AM

Hey Will, all true. I wasn't saying you're wrong to lump them together, and for all the reasons you stated. I pointed out only that Auster would go berserk if he found out you'd done that (I don't think Derbyshire would mind, or even care). Auster has developed a real dislike, even hatred, for JD as the Derb has abandoned his religious faith and moved solidly into the evo-bio camp (and even liberalized on some issues!). He's really torn into the Derb on more than one (many many many more than one) occasion on View from the Right.

I don't think it's the narcissism of small differences either. Derbyshire has really moved very far in the last few years, perhaps under the influence of GNXP as much as from anything. He was visited by godless capitalist at one point, and I think gc overwhelmed him with human biodiversity science (gc has a way of doing that). I would say that the Derb is now effectively an atheist, a scientific reductionist (though not a simple-minded one), something of a moral relativist (again not simple-mindedly so) and has liberalized in some areas far more than he has publicly admitted (his attitude to homosexuality seems to me to have noticeably softened, for example).

So, lumping them together on the right is still legit, placing them outside of ideological campgrounds is valid too (they are both sui generis in many ways), but there are real fundamental differences, especially in the area of religion, of which I now believe the Derb to be an enemy.

Posted by: PatrickH on October 2, 2008 8:55 AM

Oh, my. I hadn't realized how much the Derb had changed; I'd known about his becoming an atheist, but I assumed he was otherwise still fairly conservative, like Roger Scruton, for example - who is an atheist, and a conservative. I can't say that I'm surprised, though; "born-again atheists" appear to undergo as rigourous a conversion experience as any others who convert to a faith (which atheism actually is, as distinguished from agnosticism), and can't help but have their entire worldview change as a result, and have missionary zeal to spread their new faith.

Posted by: Will S. on October 2, 2008 11:41 AM


hadn't realized how much the Derb had changed; I'd known about his becoming an atheist, but I assumed he was otherwise still fairly conservative

Derbyshire is and remains very conservative -- what are you talking about? He's certainly far more conservative than I am, but then I'm not really a clear rightist. I'm just a clear anti-leftist, or more broadly, an anti-dogmatist. (I'd be undermining Catholic dogma if I was alive in 1450, I can promise you.)

For one thing he is clearly and fundamentally a conservative by temperament. He recoils from revolutionary change and embraces tradition and its evolution. But he does embrace change of that sort. He is intrinsically Burkean. He is in fact something of an old fogey, grumpy, pessimistic conservative by nature, which he'll be the first to admit, though he likes to shine it up and call himself genial -- which he is also. (And I hope he works hard on remaining genial as he further ages. I think his apparently very charming and loving wife, who's certainly a looker, Chinese-American division, helps huge on that score -- as he himself would no doubt readily affirm.)

If you're focusing on his alleged relaxation of hostility to homosexuality, my reaction would be 1) I hadn't noticed and 2) if so it seems to me a very good thing. I do think many quarters of our society take gay taste and "wisdom" too seriously, but I also think that benign tolerance, and yes some relaxed but never uncritical borrowings, are the way to go. I'm a classical liberal myself, happy to take the juice wherever it comes from, but determined to make everything prove itself, rather than being uncritically acclaimed as "an equally valid voice".

Posted by: dougjnn on October 2, 2008 7:18 PM

I've been reading the Derb for a while now, and while he hasn't lost his curmudgeon side (side? It's all of him!), he's formally renounced his Christian faith, generally moved strongly towards a reductionistic (not simplistic) view of consciousness, seems no longer to believe in life after death, and has adopted a much less overtly hostile tone to gays. While by no means gay-positive, he writes of gays with much less venom than of old.

However, he is definitely not "liberal", he has undergone no real political conversion. The Derb is now fairly firmly in the evo-bio camp, trusts Darwin over the Bible, was very much in favour of removing Terry Schiavo's feeding tube, attacked Ramesh Ponnuru and the pro-life crowd as a "cult", and much else besides. His movement over recent years has been in those areas, but have in no way made him a friend of the left.

After all, GNXP and godless capitalist are hardly leftists, are they?

So Will, when I said it was correct to place both Derbyshire and Auster on the right, I meant that. Derbyshire is a man of the right. It's simply that he and Auster have severe differences over very important matters. Religion, abortion, stuff like that.

I insist however that Auster cares far more about Derbyshire than Derbyshire does about Auster.

Posted by: PatrickH on October 2, 2008 10:25 PM

Thanks dougjnn and PatrickH for the clarifications.

Posted by: Will S. on October 3, 2008 8:47 AM

Kalb had me until question 5. What I'm sure he meant to say was "duh - the US military, of course."

(Or at least some element thereof. SOCOM, for instance, is one obvious choice...)

Posted by: Mencius on October 6, 2008 12:26 AM

Have to agree with PatrickH - I have recently been exposed directly to Auster's emotional side - he gets very cranky when his positions that rely solely on religious underpinnings are challenged. He also seems to have some paranoia regarding "people lying about him". Therefore, I have to imagine, if anyone cares, it's Auster for Derbyshire.

Posted by: Mack on October 15, 2008 12:00 PM

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