This blog has an identity crisis. It has been superseded, it is being replaced, we're moving in a new direction. But it lives on, feeding on the scraps that the new Sword and Ploughshare won't dare touch. Oh well. Such is life.
I am a Master's student in Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, where I am studying Reformation political theology with the venerable Oliver O'Donovan. Thankfully, I have other interests as well, and as time permits and the Spirit moves, I spill the excess of my reflections into blogdom, where it has coalesced into the bricolage you see here.
Oliver O'Donovan suggested in class yesterday that Burkean conservatism was, to a large extent, responsible for the development of the totalitarian nationalist state. Not, of course, that Burke caused the totalitarian nationalist state (O'Donovan is rightly skeptical of all claims of historical causality), but the lines of development and logical connections are certainly clear. By renouncing universal abstract claims about the nature of rights and the state, and focusing attention on the historically contingent character of individual states, which ought to reflect the national characters of their own people, and create institutions suitable thereto, Burke's conservatism paved the way for an understanding of the State as embodying the personality, the soul, of the nation. What feature of national life, then, lay outside the legitimate scope of the State?
A jarring narrative, but a persuasive one. Perhaps then the recent mutation of conservatism into fiercely patriotic nationalism is not such a mutation after all.