Alan Jacobs over at The American Scene had an interesting article on culinary conservatism, which provides food for thought for nostalgic posers rigidly bent on an idealized past:
The theologian Jaroslav Pelikan once wrote, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.” The idea of “tradition” is a central one in the kind of conservatism that I am most drawn to — the kind that moves from Burke through Kirk — but it is a vexed notion. To use Pelikan’s language, one man’s tradition is another man’s traditionalism. Did Russell Kirk’s cultural proposals amount to a vibrant conserving of the best of the past, adapted to the modern world, or did they amount to little more than nostalgia? Was Kirk’s attachment to what he called his “ancestral homeland” in Michigan an admirable model of cultivated tradition, or, in this young country, a kind of faux-aristocratic posing?If most "conservatives" have succumbed to that last danger, would it be fair to say that we have succumbed to the first? Are we attempting to take the world back to an idealized place where it cannot go, instead of conserving the best of the past and adapting it to the modern present? It's a good question, but it assumes that there are still things worth preserving and that modernity is something worth adapting to.
Alasdair MacIntyre thinks that Burke himself had succumbed to a rigid traditionalism, adhering mindlessly and unquestioningly to an idealized past — which just goes to show that MacIntyre has not read Burke well, or at all. But MacIntyre rightly demonstrates (primarily in his 1988 book Whose Justice? Which Rationality?) that this moribund traditionalism is one of the twin dangers facing any Burkean conservatism. The other is the maintaining of a merely nominal connection with one’s tradition, using its language perhaps but losing sight of its core principles.
We're not proposing that we should return to the idylic Tory fantasy of medieval England where jolly peasants, English minstrels and French troubadours supposedly dwelt in a cozy and spiritually happy Gemeinschaft world. Nor are we suggesting that it is even remotely possible to once again reach the Edwardian high watermark of aristocratic society (one must have goals), but at some point you have to take on the garbage culture and stand to retain some remnant of civilisation. I'm not even sure you can do Burke anymore.