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« “Is Art a Superstition, or a Way of Life?” (Part 2) | Main | Silence is Golden »

12/30/2011

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Julien Peter Benney

The criticism of materialism has always united many cultural critics: the “crunchy con” movement Dreher identified about half a decade ago actually has many links with the counterculture of the 1960s - when the similarities you identify were noted within the Beat movement in particular, and still had roots as late as the middle 1970s before punk largely removed the communitarian or “personalist” emphasis of the Sixties.

Steve Shiffrin


Thanks for the comment. I think you are right and would add that
this form of criticism stretches back most powerfully to the
romantic movement in the late eighteenth century. By the way, I like
your comments on architecture and Dreher on your own blog.

Marc DeGirolami

Steve, terrific post. I agree that the criticism of modernity along these lines can be found in the counter-Enlightenment tradition beginning in the late-18th century -- a sensibility you describe very well in your book on Romanticism. On the conservative side, one of the important roots is Burke. Whom would you say is a strong progenitor on the liberal side of this genre of critique?

Steve Shiffrin

Thanks for the nice comment Marc. I interpret your question to focus on communitarians on the left who are critical of materialism and aspects of capitalism. I dont think there is an obvious single candidate as there is on the conservative side. There are quite a few traditions to draw from (republicanism, Marxism, and Catholicism - from the encyclicals to Dorothy Day and Commonweal). I drew primarily on Emerson in my first book for first amendment and democratic purposes; I see him as a romantic, but not as a communitarian; nonetheless, I think many of the left writers in the republican, Marxist, and Catholic traditions have been influenced by romantic communitarians even though many of those communitarians were quite conservative.

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