David's politics blog

The hazards of studying conservatism

21 June 2020

I Study Conservatism

by David

For those who don’t know, I entered my master’s (after writing a mess of a manifesto) feeling irritated by what I saw as low-quality, careless and occasionally intellectually lazy work about conservatism, including work about right-wing populism, men’s rights, creationists, and all lives matter.

I was convinced — and still am — that the keys to understanding this ideology are out there for those who are willing to do the work to find them, keys that will open doors of power and possibility for making a better world.

Academia can be so arcane but some work that happens there does change the conversation every single day. I want to be part of that – hard to say if I am or ever will be, but that is my hope.

Studying a foreign ideology

I’m not conservative and I’ve never had the slightest intention of doing “neutral” work about it.

I’m not interested in “he says, she says”. Still, my goal was neither to condemn nor to sympathize. I’ve always felt that Paul Tillich was right when he wrote:

The opponent’s weapons are forged from our rigidity, not from self-criticism. Take from them the possibility of their forging and sharpening such weapons, and every assault can be withstood.

Paul Tillich, Socialist Decision, 1933

Ironically, I’ve always felt that the key to power, the way of disarming this toxicity, was critical understanding of conservatism but also a more bold understanding of ourselves.

tags: UQAM, masters, thesis, conservatism