Friday 10 July 2015

Seven conservative principles and the tragic view of life

The common principles of the early Conservatives of Western Europe (roughly, from Burke to Donoso Cortes) listed by Robert Nisbet in his foreword to “The Works of Joseph de Maistre” (Schocken, 1971). 

1. God and the divine order, not the natural order, must be the starting point of any understanding of society and history. 

2. Society, not the individual, is the subject of the true science of man. 

3. Tradition, not pure reason, is the only possible approach to reform of government and society. 

4. Organism, not social contract, is the true image of social reality. 

5. The groups and associations of society, not the abstracted individual, are the true seats of human morality – and also of human identity. 

6. True authority springs directly from God and is distributed normally among a plurality of institutions – church, guild, social class, and family, as well as political state. 

7. A tragic view of man and history is required, one that sees the recurrence of evil and disaster in human affairs, not the kind of linear progress assumed by the Enlightenment.


  1. De Maistre had some shrewd observations to make, but he was the father of Fascism. Mary Kenny

    1. So Isaiah Berlin said but it is not true. But he was no conservative but a reactionary. He would have HATED fascism.

    2. Okay - I stand corrected, then. It was indeed Isaiah Berlin's essay on De Maistre that so impressed me - and perhaps misguided me. A very good read, however.

  2. Plenty to think about there, eh? It's very dense and there's a lot to like. Christian T