Progressives and their allies consider it unfixed, malleable, and therefore raw material that invites endless progressive social engineering.
Will doesn’t equivocate here: “If there is no sense in which there is an eternal human nature, there cannot be eternal principles—certainly no self-evident truths—of political organization and action.” Throughout, he returns to human nature’s centrality.
In the intellectual battle between the vision of Founding Fathers like James Madison, who advanced the notion of natural rights that pre-exist government, and the progressivism advanced by Woodrow Wilson, the Founders have been losing. Expansive, intellectually thrilling, and written with the erudite wit that has made Will beloved by millions of readers, The Conservative Sensibility is an extraordinary new book from one of America's most celebrated political writers.
This is the first new political book I have bought.
Will’s midlife intellectual crisis, and its resolution, mirrors the midlife crisis of post-Reagan conservatism, which is still working itself out even as it recalibrates its meaning in relation to Donald Trump’s presidency.
George Will Essay Madison Creative Writing Programs For S
* * * Will also delivered the Godkin Lectures at Harvard University in 1981, the basis for his slender book (1983).
Now, he says, “properly understood, conservatism is the Madisonian persuasion,” and “the fundamental political axis of our time is an argument between Madisonians and Wilsonians.” Will joins the growing number of conservatives who, influenced by the work of Ronald J.
Pestritto (Pestritto is cited more than any other scholar in Will’s new book), regard Woodrow Wilson and Progressivism, not Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, as the primary attack on the American Founding.
It is the conservatism of Augustine and Aquinas, Shakespeare and Burke, Newman and T. Eliot and Thomas Mann.” In calling for revisions to conservative rhetoric about government, Will argued that it should be “less Madisonian and [John] Marshallian.” Like Russell Kirk’s, Will’s brand of American conservatism back then disregarded or disowned the distinctly American elements of our political life.
By contrast, Will’s new book places the American Founding front and center: Although it distresses some American conservatives to be told this, American conservatism has little in common with European conservatism, which descended from, and often is still tainted by, throne-and-altar, blood-and-soil nostalgia, irrationality, and tribalism.