OPINIONSrnM.E. Bradford and the Barbarism of Reflectionrnby Donald W. Livingstonrn”The hours of a wise man are lengthened by his ideas.”rn-Joseph AddisonrnA Defender of Southern Conservatism:rnM.E. Bradford and His AchievementsrnEdited by Clyde WilsonrnColumbia: University of Missouri Press;rn208 pp., $29.95rnThis is the first critical study of M.E.rnBradford, whose untimely death inrn1993 silenced the most eloquent voicernever raised on behalf of the permanentrnthings as they are revealed in the Southernrntradition. It would be a mistake, however,rnto think of Bradford as an academicrnspecialist in things Southern or as arnSouthern ideologue crediting the Southrnwith impossible virtues at the expense ofrnits real ones, hi fact, behind Bradford’srnscholarship on the South was the question,rn”What does it mean to be an American?”rnThis queshon had to be raised becausernthe American tradition which wernhave inherited contains a broken memory.rnRooted in state and local soereignty,rnthe original federated republic was designedrnto protect corporate libert’: waysrnof life that bind the generations, not thernradical autonomy of individuals. Ultimatelv,rnthis federation was subverted byrnthe concentration of power necessan,’ torncoerce the Southern states back into thernUnion and to destroy their social andrnpolitical order. On the ruins of the oldrnDonald W. Livingston is a professor ofrnphilosophy at Emory University and thernauthor, most recently, of PhilosophicalrnMelancholy and Delirium: Hume’srnPatholog)’ of Philosophy (University ofrnChicago Press).rnrepiu^nc, a new public rhetoric wasrndeveloped —bv Lincoln especially —rnlegitimating a unitary state and the nniversalistrnand egalitarian ideology, in thernFrench style, that lay behind it. hitcntrnupon disguising this revolutionar)’ character,rnpurveyors of the new rhetoric coirstructedrnan imaginary history of thernFounding, and a false American identit}’.rnMuch of Bradford’s work is an attemptrnto rescue an authentic historical understandingrnof the American Founding. Hisrnresearch rexealed that the Southern tradition,rnfar from undermining that event,rnconstituted tiie most coherent applicationrnof its underlying principles. ThernSouthern tradition appears as eccentricrnand troublesome only by comparisonrnwith the newer, Jacobin-inspired Americanism.rnYet Bradford’s work is never narrowlyrnhistorical: It is more like a running critiquernof the moral and political rationalism,rnderived from the Enlightenment,rnwhich has dominated American publicrnspeech since Lincoln’s day. Enlightenmentrnideology, whether of the liberal orrnMarxist variety, requires us to disown (inrnthe name of “rationality”) our historical,rnethnic, and religious identities, tainted asrnthey arc with particularity and contingency,rnin favor of a universalist civilization ofrntradition-free, autonomous individuals.rnBrill iantiy, Bradford exposed the gnosticrncharacter of this aberrancy from thernWestern tradition and showed that totalitarianismrnlies in wait at the end of thisrnpath for all who consistentiy pursue it.rnBradford’s career spanned the periodrnof the Cold War, when the antagonismrnbetween Marxism and liberalism maskedrnthe fundamental identity of the goals pursuedrnh each: Botii required the destructionrnof traditional society in favor of a universalrncivilization grounded in thernautonomous self. The liberal ideal ofrnlimited government for the sake of individualrnfreedom and the Marxist fantasy ofrna classless socieh’ in which the state hasrnwithered away pursue the same end: tirernautonomous individual free from the restraintsrnimposed b’ supposedly irrationalrncontingencies and particularities. Althoughrnthe American liberal regime hasrnoperated more gradually than its Marxistrnrivals, both succeed in purging religion,rnsubstantial moral communities, and traditionrnfrom public life. Because liberalismrnis more successfid economicallyrnthan Marxism, the process of destructionrnhas been less painful in America and thernother Western democracies, yet this differencernin means should not be allowedrn26/CHRONICLESrnrnrn