Friday, 30 May 2008

Milbank and red Toryism: or, why it's right to be left

One of the fascinating features of the contemporary intellectual landscape is the appearance of surprising convergences between the political left and right. You can see it, for instance, in the retrieval of Carl Schmitt by contemporary leftist theorists; or you can see it in a conference like this one, where theologians and radical Marxist philosophers rally together around the Pope’s infamous Regensburg address.

In his delightful book on Paul, Jacob Taubes offers a humorous comment on this tendency in political theory. Referring to the fascist theorist Armin Mohler, he remarks (p. 99): “He was, so to speak, the right-wing extremist and I was the left extremist. Les extrèmes se touchent – in any event, we shared the same views about the middle.”

In the latest instance of “sharing the same views about the middle,” Dave Belcher refers us to John Milbank’s short piece in The Guardian. Milbank gets straight to the point, and calls for a “red Toryism”: “In the face of the secret alliance of cultural with economic liberalism, we need now to invent a new sort of politics which links egalitarianism to the pursuit of objective values and virtues: a ‘traditionalist socialism’ or a ‘red Toryism’. After all, what counts as radical is not the new, but the good.”

Dave has some further reflections on how this new statement fits into the trajectory of Milbank’s thought; and Phillip Blond also discusses red Toryism in today’s Guardian.

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