In the European case, however, the peasantry’s conservatismnwas overshadowed by the more visible aristocracy.nSocial classes in America were in contention, but, unlikenEurope, the nascent American aristocracy was easily vanquished,nleaving only the national bourgeoisie and thenprovincial commons as the contending forces.nAmerican conservative localistic forces are often transmogrifiedninto radical progressive forces. There should benno confusion here: The commons of America were reactionariesntrying to maintain almost medieval social norms.nThey were communitarian and religious; they relied onnpersonal relationships and prized ethnic and religiousnhomogeneity.nSince the late 18th century, “peasant”-like populationsnin America resisted the forces of modernity in an attempt tonpreserve their premodern world of communitarian values.nAnd associated with their largely agrarian institutions wasnan ethical vision of man that was antithetical to thenemerging liberal view. Greater than his wants and passions,nman was challenged to overcome himself either throughnsurrender to God or through his actions as a citizen.nOf course, the forces opposing this parochial mind werencomposed of the small minority willing to embrace modernity;nthey were representatives of the same class that has soneffectively controlled American historiography that parochialismnis seen only as a force in opposition instead of as ancompeting and antithetical ethical system.nLate 18th-century America was not yet a liberal bourgeoisnworld of nationalism and individualism. It was a worldnof conservative communities that intruded everywherenupon the individual.nAlthough conservative minds have always existed, itnreally makes little sense to talk about conservative politicalntheory before the end of the Enlightenment. It was not untilnupper-class conservatism had lost its influence that Americannconservatism became self-conscious! Conservatism,nthen, was initially an attempt to maintain a certain worldnview that still had widespread acceptance in Europe. But itnwas only when it came under intellectual and politicalnattack that conservatives were forced to create a set ofnconsistent abstractions that we have come to know asnphilosophical or transcendent conservatism.nNo bourgeois political party in America has ever espousedna conservative vision, and outside the literaryncircles, articulate conservative discourse did not exist untilnafter World War II, when, ironically, popular conservatismnmay have already been fatally corrupted.nPhilosophical conservatism holds three axioms as essential:nThe first of these dogmas is a pessimistic view of humannnature in which man and society are understood as productsnof the Fall. From this perspective, man is not perfectible:nSociety can be ameliorated but can never be perfected.nMan is a tragic figure who can never be allowed totalnfreedom.nAssociated with this tenet is the concept of liberty. Fromnthe conservative view, liberty is conceived as freedom fromnsin and uncontrolled passion, in ways very similar to thenGhristian and republican perspectives that were widespreadnin colonial and early modern America. As Goethe put it:n”Everything that liberates the spirit without a correspondingngrowth in self-mastery is pernicious.”nThe second dogma is conservatism’s organicism and itsncommunitarian ethics. From the conservative perspective,nif a conflict develops between the intrinsic values of communitynand the individual, the community—which representsnthe higher moral end—takes precedence. The community isnprior to the individual not only morally but also historicallynand logically. Not only is the community a higher end but,nin the conservative’s view, the concept of a totally freenindividual is also an illusion.nSociety is an organism, and man participates in thisnhistoric living entity only as part of an estate, a corporationnor some such subordinate grouping, outside of which thenindividual has no standing.nConservatives and romantics are understandably drawnnto the Middle Ages, but this medievalism is only rarely anvulgar desire to recreate the actual institutional conditionsnof the medieval world; it is more frequentiy an attempt tonunderstand the universal principles embodied in the medievalnworld’s Christian sensibilities. This premodern vision isnopposed in the conservative’s mind to modernity’s thisworldliness,nmaterialism, anthropocentrism, anarchical individualism,nand vulgar hedonism.nHuman life, and to no less a degree, corporate (political,nsocial, and economic) life, is understood as a moral activity.nMan is a potential, situated between beast and God, andnconservatism demands that it is God who must be servednand that any culture not committed to that end, such asnliberalism, is to be resisted.nAlthough conservatives disagree over the appropriatenlevel of aggregation within which to pursue this aim, therenis broad agreement that the good society must seek thenperfection of its members’ souls. Furthermore, man isnexpected to overcome his passions in order to fulfill hisnresponsibilities to family, neighborhood, church, and abovenall else, to his divine soul. In accord with this ontology,ncultural and moral relativity at the individual level isn.••» «»-<• VM ..• InnnDECEMBER 19871 29n