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Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 14:27 | SYDNEY
Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 14:27 | SYDNEY

Is there an \'international society\'?

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16 March 2011 08:28

Cross-posted from James Fallows' blog at The Atlantic, where I am guest blogging this week.

As you might have seen from James's introductory post, I want to use this wonderful opportunity to talk about two areas of interest: international relations and political conservatism. I won't spend a lot of time explaining my precise views on the latter, since those who are interested in this topic will probably be aware of Andrew Sullivan's take. I have a broadly similar sensibility. I don't share Andrew's interest in religion, but like him, I studied the mercurial English political philosopher Michael Oakeshott, who is a major influence.

I also share Andrew's scepticism toward the ideological conservatism that now so dominates the US right (it has always been there to some degree — Irving Kristol once turned down an Oakeshott essay for Encounter on the grounds that it lacked the 'creedal mentality' preferred by American conservatives), and I continue to be alarmed at the various ways this doctrine harms US foreign policy.

Neo-conservatism is the obvious culprit here, but there's another brand of conservative who identifies with what is known as foreign policy 'realism.' In fact, it's this strict division between idealism (because neo-conservatism is an idealist ideology) and realism that I want to take on, and argue that conservatives belong in neither category.

Let me start with what seems to me a basic proposition about conservatism, by the English philosopher Roger Scruton:

Conservatism presupposes the existence of a social organism. Its politics is concerned with sustaining the life of that organism, through sickness and in health, change and decay.

For conservatism so described to have any relevance to international politics, we must first agree that the international realm is a 'social organism' in some respects. It isn't that we need to prove international politics is exactly like domestic politics; merely that they share some important characteristics...Read the rest of the post here.

Photo by Flickr user pinke_olive.

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