Skip to comments.Rejecting Modern Materialism: The Rise of the Crunchy-Conservatives
Posted on 03/31/2006 7:39:09 AM PST by NYer
Over this past weekend, I had the opportunity to read Rod Drehers Crunchy Cons. This is a book that has been stirring up conservative circles since its release this past winter. Dreher is a popular Generation-X conservative writer and a convert to Eastern Catholicism. He has worked for a number of publications, including the National Review, the New York Post, and the Washington Times. He is now a full-time writer and editor with the Dallas Morning News.
A Manifesto for the Family Putting Families Back Together The Little Things Count
In Crunchy Cons, Dreher sets out to chronicle how Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, and their diverse tribe of countercultural conservatives plan to save America (or at least the Republican Party). What Dreher has tapped is a lively coalition of conservatives who believe that family and community ought to come before unrestrained free-market capitalism.
In fact, Drehers nine-point Crunchy Con Manifesto includes the following long recognized by social and paleo-conservatives: 3. Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government; 4. Culture is more important than politics and economics; and 9. We share Russell Kirks conviction that the institution most essential to conserve is the family. In defending these points, Dreher takes aim at the culture of lust and greed undermining American society in our day.
Sex and commerce are fine things, but man cannot live by Viagra and the Dow Jones alone, Dreher writes. A life led collecting things and experiences in pursuit of happiness is not necessarily a bad life, but its not necessarily a good life either. Too often, the Democrats act like the Party of Lust, and the Republicans the Party of Greed. Both are deadly sins that eat at the soul, and crunchy cons believe that both must be resisted in our personal and communal lives.
Throughout the book, Dreher provides several examples of how lust and greed undermine American society and what crunchy conservative families are doing to counter this perverse influence. Strong, healthy individuals and strong, healthy societies cannot be made without strong, health families, Dreher states in defense of homeschooling families. Kids today marinate in a sexually aggressive popular culture that teaches them that life is supposed to be an erotic free-for-all.
In a chapter explaining how modern architecture dehumanizes its occupants, Dreher notes the reason why children are often left to marinate in public schools, daycare facilities, and the popular sewage that passes for culture. The answer, to the shame of conservatives and progressives alike, is greed. Parents confuse their wants with their needs. The pursuit of the McMansion, the annual family cruise and a third luxury vehicle means more time at the office for each parent, more time in a daycare facility for the child, and less actual family interaction.
Even home time is not necessarily family time in modern North America. Each kid has a television and a computer in [his] room, observes David Holme, one of Drehers crunchy correspondents. Theres a six-foot TV in the living room. People just tend to sit in front of them and go to mush. The houses are so large that people go off in their own little area, and they dont interact. You never run into anybody, so you never have to play a game with anybody. People get to be like strangers living at the same address.
Thus Dreher draws a conclusion that many other conservatives find uncomfortable: The undeniable fact is that free-market, technology-driven capitalism, for all its benefits, tends to pull families and communities apart by empowering individuals and encouraging even mandating individualism.... Civil society has been routed over the past thirty years.
Drehers solution to this problem is simple: we must return our focus to family, our community and church. We must renounce the selfishness of lust, avarice and covetousness, and we must one again seek to be good stewards of creation over which God has given us dominion. Finally, we must pay attention to the needs of the soul and not just those of the flesh. Politics and economics will not save us, Dreher concludes. If we are to be saved at all, it will be through living faithfully by the Permanent Things, preserving these ancient truths in the choices we make in everyday life.
Dreher chronicles how many families are living out their crunchy con convictions. From homeschooling to organic and family farming, from turning off the television to turning on the oven and enjoying a good home-cooked meal, crunchy cons are doing little things to restore a more natural pace within the family. For at its essence the crunchy con philosophy is about living in harmony with the natural world as wise stewards entrusted by God with the care of His creation.
This last point has escaped Drehers critics in my opinion. Their most common complaint is that Dreher never gets around to presenting a plan for moving the crunchy con ideology forward. He does not have to present some grand plan; rather it is the little things that move crunchy conservatism forward. As Dreher repeatedly points out in his book, big things happen when enough people look after the little things.
Maybe Im too optimistic, Dreher writes, but I think theres a growing army of crunchy-con homeschooled kids, not only learning academics at a higher level than most of their conventionally schooled generational peers, but also learning how to think and, moreover, learning how to think independently and counter-culturally. This is especially true if their primary teachers their mothers and fathers make certain that the core convictions of their faith are the sun around which all the academic learning orbits. When these kids enter mainstream society in large numbers, we could see the beginning of a quiet cultural revolution. And since many of these children come from Republican families, as Dreher painstakingly chronicles throughout his book, the GOP is more likely to be the political vehicle used by these young crunchy cons to bring about this quiet counter-cultural revolution. But if so, it wont be the Republican party of today, it will be the one they rebuild.
Putting Families Back Together
The Little Things Count
I am a "Crunchy Con" and didn't know it! I am glad to see Gen-X'ers embracing this idea. I agree completely with his thesis!
See these two related threads for more about how Freepers feel about the values of this mushrooming group of conservatives. Great find NYer!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm seeing this alot with home schooled kids.
Kids actually getting their hands dirty; learning self sufficiency; carpentry, raising animals for food etc...
I agree completely.
Down with Greed Capitalism. Up with Entrepreneurial Capitalism. Historically, there is an interesting comparison between the English cities of Manchester and Birmingham. Manchester become the monster textile, single industry "capitol" of England, and then went into decline. Birmingham was a center of "garage" entrepreneurial capitalism (think Silicon Valley), and thrived greatly and
For several years I served on a Mayoral task force on street vending. One spouse of a major corporate executive said at a meeting, "we don't want to see any vendors near
Crunchy conservative ping!
Mr. Dreher is absolutely correct in his enthusiasm for "crunchy" conservatism. He is incorrect, however, in giving it a new name. "Crunchy" consveratism is nothing more than real, traditional conservatism of the altar-family-throne type. Since the Revolution of 1789, true conservatism has been overwhelmed by liberalism, whether of the statist sort (the Left) or the market variety (the Libertarians). The political landscape today is a battleground between two liberalisms: The liberals, out-and-out hedonists who turn to the State Almighty to keep society functioning despite the damage done to it by the uncontrolled pursuit of pleasure by the Mob; and "conservatives" -- libertarians, substituting social Darwinism for State power with megacorporations keep the Mob distracted from the wreck of society by sating them with floods of cheap food and consumer products. Big Government liberalism or Big Business liberalism -- that's the choice for people today.
Although I have had some problems with Mr. Dreher's actions in the past, his recognition of the resurgence of true ("crunchy") conservatism is to be commended. A return to the altar, family, and throne politics of the past is our only hope.
Exactly. And although I wasn't quite sure of the meaning of "crunch conservatism" until now, it's what I have been all along. To me, what he is describing here are the things worth conserving. And by conserving and building up these things, other things will be transformed and become worth conserving too.
What a bunch of generalizations. Sorry, but it's the Democrats I see driving around in Hummers, living in the 12-room houses in the high-end neigborhoods, dressed in designers duds and working in middle and upper management. Conservative kids more often than not are just that. One television, if any, in the living room, home schooling, and modest behavior and consumption. Am I the only one who sees this guy as disastrously misled and misinformed?
Our familiy is there too. Though I'm not sure that I like having a label now. ;^)
Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social (and sometimes nostalgic) aspects that directly effects Generation Reagan / Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations (i.e. The Baby Boomers) are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.
Freep mail me to be added or dropped. See my home page for details and previous articles.
Good article. I'm 25 and fit into this category. I have a bunch of these people in my circle of friends. Some of them are early to mid 30s and have little kids.
We never really needed a name for it like "Crunchy Conservatism", we just call ourselves "good, old school traditional Americans".
I think these views are pretty much identical with the so-called "distributists", like G.K. Chesterton & Hillaire Belloc.
Life in suburbia was too noisy in so many ways. The traffic, the bigger and better jobs, the materialism, the pressure on our kids, etc. Enough was enough!
I still prefer being a South Park Republican
I guess I'm a counter cultural crunchy con.
I've actually read excerpts from this book published on the Web-and passages from the book itself-recently, and agree with most of the sentiments Dreher expresses.
I can't say I fully share his mystical relationship with food-I suppose because it involves an ancestral European relationship with the earth that my family has gradually discarded as they've embraced America over the centuries, although my last name, believe it or not, means "pear tree" loosely translated-but I do appreciate the value of his words in this respect, especially the part of this book where he explains the benefits of being able to go to the farmer's markets that take place in this city every week.
When I have some more surplus cash to splurge on some of my favorite books I'll probably pick up a copy of Crunchy Cons.
For myself I can only say that, as a conservative, I've never thought of the market as a god, never worshipped capitalism, and always understood the trade-offs any economic system presents to those who participate in it. The market is simply a tool, the best tool ever devised for creating wealth. It's not the 'be and end all' of life, and if Dreher maintains that principled conservatives, with the exception of certain Randian types, have said otherwise in the modern era, he's simply mistaken.
Thanks for the ping...
Statistics don't back your observation. It's the Hummer-driving, 12-room house exurbs that are the Republican strongholds in this country.
I have always been there, as has my family. I'll just keep doing what I have been doing. I'm not especially thrilled with being labelled, though--just another socio-demographic pigeonhole.
In that case, what are the smug levels among the Crunchy Cons? Not to Clooney levels, to be sure, but still...
Crunchy on the outside? Soft and loving on the inside? I must put the Eucharist at the center of my heart and my life or I won't have any motivation for anything or anyone.
This is not on my reading list. The political debate, and the resulting society, have been shaped into a Marxist dialectic. Greed is not good, and the definition of Capitalism (Labor, Capital, and Capital Owners) is a straw man cast system intended to make communism look good.
I think we might be crunchy.
seems the MSM is trying to push this as "catholic liberal democrats".
This has all the stink of a media effort to produce "me too" democrats for religion.
I'm closer to this than any other conservative viewpoint I've seen expressed.
I take the train to work, have tried doing some container gardening, live below my means, etc.
Generally I'm not one for such labels, but I guess this sorta fits. Kinda.
You're quite right: this is an "older" conservatism, sometimes called "virtue" conservatism (as contrasted to "liberty" conservatism), with roots in Russeell Kirk and G.K. Chesterton and --- probably Louis IX, hey? I think Dreher invented the "crunchy" tag just as an entree or a teaser for people who might not already be familiar with the tradition.
I've got to thank Peter Vere for his good review of Dreher's book. Some critics have missed the point entirely, imagining that Dreher just wants
people to define their identity via a more refined consumerism, for instance expensive free-range chicken rather than cheap poultry-factory Tyson wingettes.
Vere (and you, B-Chan) correctly noted that Dreher is making much bigger points (like recovering a human scale for farming and a family centered way of living and a humane attitude toward other living beings) -- all
of which is consonant with a Catholic personalist philosophy.
Thanks for getting it...
And once you've hung around at Free Republic long enough, you'll see lots of soi-disant "conservatives" who are contemptuously down on marriage and family, whose response to porn is "where can I get me some 'a that?" and who think the most important Trinity is Me, Myself, and I.
If you haven't run into that yet, bless you, you are fortunate indeed.
"One television, if any, in the living room, home schooling, and modest behavior and consumption." Way to go. I'm with you, redhead.
"I've never thought of the market as a god, never worshipped capitalism, and always understood the trade-offs any economic system presents to those who participate in it."
You are absolutely correct; too many in our movement have a Walter Williams-like reglious belief in unrestrained capitalism, that the market is ALWAYS right, and that the "law" of supply and demand was handed down along with the 10 Commandments!
I do appreciate the ping.
Capitalism is a fine thing. I believe it is an important component of a free and prosperous society. Just another tyranny however when all else is sacrificed upon its' altar. Enterprise (ambition based) capitalism is a positive force. When unprincipled greed is elevated to the status of religion, bad things happen.
"And once you've hung around at Free Republic long enough, you'll see lots of soi-disant "conservatives" who are contemptuously down on marriage and family, whose response to porn is "where can I get me some 'a that?" and who think the most important Trinity is Me, Myself, and I."
Right again. I should drink more coffee before I hit the "Post" button... And, yes, I've been here since 2000, and I've seen all kinds.
Does this mean that Dreher believes his philosophy can be implemented through persuasion and inspiring personal examples, rather than being imposed by the state?
It would be remarkably refreshing if that was so, and on that basis alone I would wish him luck, despite whatever personal quibbles I have with his philosophy.
Could someone who has read his books fill me in on his position concerning the role of the state?
I think you may be exaggerating a bit. The only people who would come close to that description are anarcho-capitalists, who make up only a small portion of libertarians. Among conservatives in general, they make up a tiny fraction. I'm sure we could name a few on this site, but that would probably be because their rarity makes them stick out in our minds.
Most conservatives/libertarians believe in SOME role for the state and some activities that should remain outside of the market; the building of roads, national defense, the establishment of courts of law, legilative bodies, etc. Furthermore, most recognize the need for certain restraints on market activities, like prohibiting fraud or imposing fines or restrictions on pollution output. And I think most can point to certain market outcomes we don't like. I, for instance, find the branding phenomenon in clothing to be repulsive.
There are very, very few on our side who believe in an unrestrained, infallible market. There ARE quite a few (thankfully) who recognize that correcting the faults of the market is quite often worse than the problems being addressed. Some of us defend the market not for what it makes, but for what is required to make it work- individual rights.
Some things, like Birkenstocks and organic foods are going to remain distinctly minority tastes, but other things -- a turn against mini-mansions and SUVs and towards home-schooling and localism -- may become more prevalent without people really propgandizing much for them. The people who oppose them today may find themselves part of the trend without really being aware that they've changed their behavior.
Young people who grew up in affluence and conspicuous consumption turn against it and look for greater simplicity and authenticity (and perhaps in turn, their kids get fed up with their crunchy parents and turn back to ambition and acquisitiveness).
"Throne and altar" conservatism? Maybe a little bit, but distributism and localism haven't always gone hand in hand with monarchy or orthodoxy. The localists' wish for independence and a quiet life can come into conflict with the desire of kings and bishops for greater control. There's a "low church" or Quaker or pietist simplicity involved that doesn't always sit well with highly developed ideologies.
I guess I'm at least a semi-meta-pseudo-quasi-crunchy-con.
I make my own cider, sausage, pickles and sauerkraut. I collect guns and have serious doubts about the benefits of both big government and big business.
One thing Rod Dreher sho' nuff ain't is a liberal Democrat. He IS Catholic, though.
There are even those of us from the BB generation who have given it all up in search of respite from the din of society.