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Not Hegemonic Enough: Deneen on Conservative Great Books Promoters

February 18, 2014

I hadn’t read, until recently, either this Jan. 2013 piece or the one Patrick Deneen wrote in March 2010 when I was working on my book. But in the more recent article he makes the case I make in my work. Namely, if conservatives and liberals really understood what constituted “the books movement” and the mid-century liberals (and moderates) who promoted it, their roles might’ve been reversed during the canon battles of the Culture Wars.

Note how Deneen wants to promote, ironically, a more narrow form of “critical thinking” (his quotes, not mine) that leads to particular truths (i.e. humility, limits, virtue). He complains, in essence, that conservatives who promote great books haven’t been hegemonic enough in their aspirations. They need to aspire to rid the great books idea of contradictions, but especially of works that promote empiricism, positivism, relativism, and scientism (e.g. from authors such as Bacon, Hobbes, and Dewey).

On the plus side, it’s nice to see Deneen acknowledge that not all invocations of “great books” are the same. – TL

[Note: Updated 2 pm, 2/18/2014]

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