Sir Roger Scruton, arguably the greatest conservative philosopher of the 20th and 21st centuries, passed away on the 12th of January of this year. If you were unaware of this, or simply haven’t heard of Mr Scruton, it would be a prude decision to learn more about this brilliant philosopher.
Douglas Murray recently wrote in the British Telegraph that, “Roger Scruton kept the light of conservative philosophy burning in dark times. [And] We owe it to him to follow his example.” A very true statement that highlights the incredibly important role Scruton had played over the past four decades. This was through the writing of over 50 books, becoming an adviser to the British Conservative Government and achieving numerous noteworthy educational achievements.
It would be an almost impossible task to simplify Scruton’s views on a litany of topics into a few paragraphs. But, it is feasible to explain the essence of what I believe his most important and well-known teachings were.
Scruton once said, “Conservatism starts from the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created.” Like many conservative philosophers, Scruton was exposed to radical Marxists and socialists at a young age, which set him on the path to becoming a conservative.
The event that set him on that path occurred in May of 1968 when he was in Paris and witnessed the rioting, erection of barricades and the throwing of rocks at police. It was after witnessing this and listening to his friends talk “Marxist gobbledegook”, did Scruton realise that he wanted to conserve things instead of tearing them down.
He famously wrote of the events, “I suddenly realised that I was on the other side. What I saw was an unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans. I was disgusted by it and thought there must be a way back to the defence of Western civilisation against these things. That’s when I became a conservative.”
These protests are similar to what can be seen in Australia, the US, the UK and many Western countries today. I don’t think it would be a stretch to argue that the often reckless and violent behaviour of masked Antifa and Black Bloc protestors set many on a similar path to the one Scruton took.
One of Scruton’s fundamental beliefs was that conservatism was far more practical than liberalism. Both share a common goal of attempting to found things on what a human is. But, they differ when liberalism begins to focus more on abstract conceptions of what a society should be whereas a conservative sticks firmly with concrete reality.
An example of this differentiation can be found when watching socialist-minded and conservative-minded persons debating about societies issues. Often the more conservative-minded person presupposes society as flawed and impossible of absolute perfection and works from this point to improve it into the ‘best’ realistic version of itself.
Whereas the socialist-minded person believes society capable of a version very close to perfection and strives for it. And if you’ve ever read socialist and/or Marxist literature, you’ll find that this idea of perfection or ‘near’ perfection is fundamental to their beliefs.
This differentiation is a good Segway into another of Scruton’s beliefs, that most political problems are not soluble. A more left-leaning person would most likely disagree with this premise and believe that a centralised authority, such as a government, is capable of solving most political problems.
This is demonstrable when looking at the implementation of vast government welfare problems that more often than not fail to properly address the core issues. Or even the extension of police authority or greater control of the education system.
Like many conservatives, who at the core of their beliefs seek to conserve what they love and their immediate environment, Scruton rejected the idea of multiculturalism and defended his beliefs in family, nation and tradition. He saw at the heart of the Wests changing landscape ‘oikophobes’ who wished nothing but ill will on their own people in favour of a global and metropolitan community.
Interestingly, Scruton was advocating for Brexit long before the British referendum in 2016 and was one of the first people to be ‘cancelled’ by students and academics alike decades ago. But, despite this, Scruton went on to possess potentially greater influence then he would have had his fellow academics remained true to the genuine ideals of real liberalism.
This, however, ultimately benefitted the world as it allowed one of the greatest conservative philosophers to create a litany of literature and videos for us all to enjoy and hopefully learn from.