Epistolary Foreword

Dear Reader,

Boundless in our arrogance, we could not be bothered to publish this May issue of The Hipster Conservative on time. Actually, most of my collaborators on the magazine have been busy this past month. Two are graduating from law school; two are graduating from college, and all of us have been busy. So it was left mostly to me to assemble this future-themed issue. Fortunately, I discovered a piece an old friend had written in November, which he graciously allowed me to republish. David’s review of the title song in what I am so bold as to call the best new music album of 2011, Helplessness Blues by the Fleet Foxes, aligns perfectly with this magazine’s concern for how our generation will fare in today’s mass-everything culture. What are we looking for and how will we find it? One thing is certain: Fleet Foxes will be playing when we get there.

Artwork: Walter Crane, "The Workers' Maypole"May first is a sort of holiday for utopian socialists, as the picture at left depicts.  The political theorist Eric Voegelin would designate these as “gnostics” because of their belief (derived from an old Christian heresy) that mankind can bring into existence the perfect society through ideology. My essay “The Hipster Conservative and the Future” seeks by contrast a grounded, constructive approach to the future, to complement our criticisms of harmful futurism. I propose that we look to the past to learn how to behave in the present, for the sake of future generations. I also take the requisite number of pot-shots at libertarians, transhumanists, and American Exceptionalism.

We have a couple of poems, including one dedicated to bock, a traditional style of beer associated with the month of May; and another dedicated to “Julia,” the recent protagonist/victim of a propaganda slideshow.

And final words from the French political theorist Bertrand de Jouvenel and G.K. Chesterton. Enjoy!


The Hipster Conservative and the Future

Douglas Haddow writes in Adbusters Magazine, “The hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new.” Conservatism often inspires similar spite from modern liberals, technologists, and neo-conservatives. In The Future and its Enemies (1998), Virginia Postrel characterized people of a conservative disposition—“reactionaries” and “stasists” she calls them—as opposing the increase of knowledge and improvement of human life (“progress”).

Postrel, while critical of conservatives, made a number of surprising observations in which she was ahead of her time. We hipster conservatives can only turn green as we imagine how soon we might have hopped that bandwagon, if only we had not been in middle school at the time. Postrel observed various instances of individuals on the political Left finding common cause with others usually considered “right-wing.” Continue reading The Hipster Conservative and the Future

Macaulay, Whig Historian

All hated Whiggery; but what is Whiggery?
A levelling, rancorous, rational sort of mind
That never looked out of the eye of a saint
Or out of drunkard’s eye. All’s Whiggery now,
But we old men are massed against the world.
—W. B. Yeats

Outside Thomas Bramwell Welch’s “unfermented wine,” surely Whig History remains the foulest invention of the 19th century. What is this treacherous human construction? According to historiographer and hipster conservative sensei Herbert Butterfield, Whig History is a historical narrative that paints the past as march toward inevitable enlightenment and inexorable progress. The present is the standard and justifies the past. Those parties, men, and (much over-estimated) “forces” in history that champion or prelude the Whiggish ideal of democratic government, liberalized personal freedoms, and scientific accomplishment stand as undeniable heroes; those which oppose this movement towards progress must be understood as authoritarian villains intent on accumulation of power, superstition, and widespread ignorance.

Although the case against this approach has already been made with incisive scholarship, I will try to make a quick if insufficiently thorough rebuttal before moving on. Whig history ignores the multiple failures and uncertainties of science and technology in particular and the potentialities inherent in human choices in general. This progressive historiography also suffers from a chronological snobbery: what is new and present is invariably better than what was past. The present is the political, moral, and even spiritual gold standard from which we “objectively” judge other men, women, and their institutions. Continue reading Macaulay, Whig Historian