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Marvelous

He [Buruma] marveled over Ramadan’s mix of anti-globalist fervor and ultra-conservative cultural views. “In American terms,” Buruma remarked, “he is a Noam Chomsky on foreign policy and a Jerry Falwell on social affairs.” ~Paul Berman

So, in other words, he’s rather like…me?  Well, not quite.  For starters, my grandfather did not found the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a piece of information that any cursory introduction to Ramadan always mentions, but which Berman has failed to bring up in the first page and a half of his miniature biography).  Of course, this description of Ramadan doesn’t tell us much about him, since the religion and tradition he wants to conserve are radically different from the religion and tradition that I want to conserve.  Incidentally, Berman does not go into much detail about why Ramadan was denied an entry visa when he tried to come to this country.  It was denied because the government claimed he gave material support to Palestinian terrorists.  Now it may be that the government is wrong, but you would think that something like that would be worth mentioning early on. 

Anyway, there is nothing that strange or marvelous about a combination of social and cultural conservatism and ferocious anti-globalism and anti-imperialism.  Indeed, the two pretty much go hand in hand.  “Don’t Tread On Me” and “mind your own business” are saying more or less the same thing with slightly different emphases.  It is only because of the weird confluence in a few Western countries of the battered remnants of classical liberalism with social and cultural traditionalism (a combination of the interests of capital and cultural capital, you might say) that those who are (at least rhetorically and symbolically) culturally conservative at home endorse the whirlwind of “creative destruction” sweeping over the world and devastating, er, “enriching” everyone else’s cultures.  Perhaps this is because these people see this process as a creation of “our” culture and therefore a demonstration of our culture’s vitality or value, but then they have to ignore that this creation acts rather like a nihilistic parricide against the very culture that raised it up in the first place. 

The more fiercely conservative you are about your religion, your culture, its habits, morals and traditions, the more likely you are to regard all forms of globalism and globalisation–political, economic, cultural–as perverse, destructive and hostile to your “vision of order” and your way of life.  Opposition to hegemonism and globalisation on the one hand and opposition to cultural decay and fragmentation on the other are a natural pair.  Support for their opposites (with some qualifications in the realm of foreign policy) forms another natural pair.  The paleocon combination is the normal, relatively more common conservative response to these phenomena around the world.  The pairings of social democracy/cultural hedonism and economic liberalism/cultural conservatism are extremely weird and abnormal.  It doesn’t actually make sense for people who want to preserve tradition to support international capitalism with the enthusiasm that many conservatives do, and indeed some “conservatives” today not only see the contradiction but decide that they are quite happy to let tradition fall by the wayside for the most part.  That is the outcome of the fraud of “fusionism”: the decision to discard virtue and to start a torrid affair with “economic dynamism.”  The marriage of liberty and virtue that “fusionism” was supposed to represent and defend did not take account of that “other woman,” which we might also call “growth.”  For that matter, it doesn’t make much sense for people who believe social solidarity is extremely important to endorse rampant individualism in social and cultural matters.  Both are like patients suffering from ulcers who believe that drinking acid will help with the cure.  These combinations exist only in fully industrialised Western societies and map onto no other alignments anywhere on earth.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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