Phillip Blond and the small, beautiful polity

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.


  • March 22, 2010

    Brian Brown

    I noticed N.P. West made the following comment on Deneen’s post of Brooks’s piece:

    “While it is nice for Blond’s ideas to receive a reception by Brooks, he needs to remain wary. Traditionalists are a small minority in the larger conservative movement and if Red Toryism looks to be adapted in the States and suddenly becomes popular then the same crowd that has co-opted the Tea Party movement will swoop in and glom onto the Red Tory movement (Brooks endorsement of Blond could be seen as an example of this). Brooks is a neoconservative pundit who basks in the light of liberal approval (i.e. PBS, the New York Times, etc.) and is known to be pro-choice on abortion and for gay marriage.

    “Blond would be best served to make an impact in the states by not associating with neocons and libertarians but rather the traditionalists with whom his ideas align. The next time he comes to America he needs to avoid Fox News, the Weekly Standard, and Brooks and instead show a few public statements of Red Tory-Trad Con unity: a pilgrimage to Piety Hill in Mecosta, continued contact with FPR, maybe a trip to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the National Humanities Institute, an interview in “The American Conservative”, maybe an article or two in “Modern Age” and “Touchstone”…maybe an appearance on “Morning Joe” with Joe Scarborough (a public figure who writes with praise of Burke, Kirk, and traditionalism).”

    Your response was, from the practical side, sensible. I didn’t even get that far; I got stuck chuckling over West’s conflation of Brooks with the Tea Partiers, Fox News, and the Weekly Standard. Most conservative public figures (especially writers) don’t seem to know what to do with Brooks, but lumping him in with these folks almost reaches the realm of the comical. Yet West himself used the Fox folks’ critique of Brooks: that he likes liberal approval too much. Which, I wonder, is it?

  • March 23, 2010

    Nathan P Origer

  • April 1, 2010

    The Great Big Society «

    […] we’ve already had an introduction to these ideas through Philip Blond, and we already knew Cameron is in sync with some of those. Clearly, both men are more nuanced and […]