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
"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.
S"orry, 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."
LOL! For the record: I drive a pickup, live in a three bedroom home, buy my clothes at Target and JC Penney, I utterly detest television, and I do garden when I find time. We also live well below our means.
I don't see this gentleman as being all that misinformed. I know quite a few so-called political "liberals" who are actually very "conservative" in their personal lifestyles and habits.
This was a great find. And he's a convert to Eastern Catholicism to boot.
Thanks for the ping!
I agree with Dreher and concur with Russell Kirk, or as Ronald Reagan called him, the prophet of American conservatism that the institution most essential to conserve is the family. In this day and age when most women have taken to heart one of feminism's cherished rules that it is unfair for a women to stay home and raise her children, it totally thrills me that there is a quiet revolution of conservative women out there, who have decided to stay-at-home mom, and homeschool their children. More power to them!
Kate O'Beirne is one of them!
Hey Bruck -- we have a new "title". ;)
Kate O'Beirne is a very smart woman. I like her a lot.
"One thing Rod Dreher sho' nuff ain't is a liberal Democrat. He IS Catholic, though."
Yep and the crunchy stuff all goes back to church teachings on subsidiarity and how it relates to family and community.