Everyone is getting their shot at a Philip Blond point right now: the Brooks column, Deneen and Rod the Bod after the Tocqueville Forum event last night, The Immanent Frame. So, as I frequently ask myself, why not me?
In a moment of many voices, I will say but a few sentences. Blond identifies himself with the Distributists, which is a sometimes obscure reference for Americans, even among some traditional conservatives. And that’s because Distributism is not dealing quite so explicitly with a tradition being lost, so much as an alternative form of development – accepting historical change, but insisting that it must be steered in a certain way. Much as I like Chesterton and Belloc, my thoughts here drift toward E.F. Schumacher, whose Small is Beautiful was a minor milestone in “Third way” thinking.
Schumacher’s focus, and Blond’s, is that the physical community is a spiritual one, and that our spiritual future must be a relational future. This further reminds me of the ideals of Renaissance civic humanism, which took a medieval/classical ideal of a state that is good for its people, and began to think again about what this meant for the causes of virtue within it, eventually drawing deep conclusions about participation in the political process for the everyday man.
The problematic issue with civic humanism, and I think Red Toryism, is defining the point at which the community should no longer be politicized. Most of us think communities can and should be stronger, and if they are going to be politicized – ie organized into self-identifying polity, capable of decision-making – then it seems quite humane to do so in a very local way. Indeed, participatory citizenship, even to a small polity, bestows a sense of ownership as well as an enhanced awareness of the community. Great all around. But the spiritual identity of men is more complex than a mere zoon politikon. To what extent must we be satisfied with apolitical relationships, and when can even local politics overrun natural relations with institutionalized ones? These are questions the Red Tory in all of us should deal with … when it does become more of a reality.
Bryan Wandel works in government finance and has studied history, accounting, and religion. He is a member of the editorial board at Humane Pursuits. Bryan’s writing has appeared at Comment Magazine, First Things, and elsewhere.