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Return, Not Revolution.

The modern left is a protean thing, as Joe Biden has discovered in his quest for the White House. Not four years have passed since he was Barack Obama's vice president, partner in an administration widely beloved by progressives. Today he is out of step with his party's ideological trendsetters--he is a reactionary or semi-racist in their eyes. As Scott McConnell notes in his essay this issue, actual voters, even within the Democratic Party, may not have moved so far and so unequivocally to the left as progressive tastemakers have. But voters play only a relatively small part in the machine of public life--they get a say on who wins elections, but they have only an indirect influence on the policies made by elected officials, to say nothing of those made by judges, unelected bureaucrats, and corporate America. Even "public opinion" is compiled and interpreted by elite institutions: the polling firms that decide which questions to act, the media outlets whose editors and producers decide what stories will be reported (and how), and the universities and think tanks where experts distill meaning from the raw data of history and public life. New notions and standards that the left's intellectual vanguard adopts have a way of becoming cultural orthodoxy sooner or later.

Yet there are consistencies in the left's ideas and methods over time. Glenn Ellmers examines some of the most important features of continuity and change in the modern left in his essay within these pages. He goes to the heart of the matter--the progressive spirit is revolutionary, an attempt at regime change, even if the Utopia on which the intellectual left fixes its eyes shimmers and changes shape like a mirage. Not only the Constitution but also the perennial truths of political philosophy itself are to be overthrown by the left's concept of Progress. But recognizing the revolution that is under way is a step toward checking it, and there are hopeful signs that even beleaguered citizens who have only an intuitive sense of what is happening feel certain that it is a derailment of tradition and right reason. Armed with better understanding, Americans may resist the progressive revolution all the more effectively.

In the work of historians John Lukacs and Paul Hollander--valued contributors to this journal who died this spring--we find another potent corrective to the temptations of ideology, as Lee Congdon, who knew both men, reminds us. Essays and reviews in this issue by Christopher Sandford, Philip Jenkins, Elliot Kaufman, Daniel Bring, Robert Ingram, and Jacob Heilbrunn all take a counterideological perspective on such too-often oversimplified subjects as nationalism and populism (from Pakistan to Ireland, no less), the British Empire, and the role of artists and immigrants in wartime.

To think of all the revolutionary forces of our era as consciously left-wing or ideological would be a mistake, of course. Steven Fairchild, Robert Dean Lurie, and Emily Holman herein consider science and technology as other powers to which human life has become subordinate. Jacques Ellul was one of the great minds of the last century to perceive what the pervasive systems of "technique"--not just technology--would mean for our souls and communities. Lurie works to bring this paradoxical figure, something of a Marxian Christian anarchist, into sharper focus.

Technique, technology, ideology, and the constantly mutating revolutionary shapes of the left all have a deep connection, a shared rejection of the grounds of being as classically understood, and a replacement of practical wisdom by gnostic imperatives. What follows from this is that the task of the right is more than just political--it also entails a counterrevolution at the level of knowledge and what is properly called philosophy.
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Title Annotation:EDITOR'S NOTE
Author:McCarthy, Daniel
Publication:Modern Age
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jun 22, 2019
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