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Phillip Blond and the Red Tories

March 26th, 2010 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

If you have an hour or so this weekend, you would do well to watch this lecture by Phillip Blond.

Blond’s version of conservatism is a British version of the Front Porchers, and it captures well some of the tensions and objections to contemporary liberalism that I have occasionally written about over the past year.

Though Blond is a student of theologian John Milbank, one of his main objections to contemporary liberalism echoed that which Oliver O’Donovan raised.

Once finished, though, it’s important to note Davey Henreckson’s suggested modification:

I suppose that the essence of my critique — and it should be taken as a friendly, sympathetic one — is that Blond’s peculiarly British form of Red Toryism sometimes appears to privilege the state in such a way that the political structure itself is too closely associated the “good beyond the state.” Perhaps an American antidote is called for — one that is infused with a Calvinistic republicanism that is historically and theologically suspicious of any ultimate, realized political virtue. Rather, this American Red Toryism might reinforce Blond’s “tertiary” good of liberalism by way of pursuing civic virtue as a means to an end, and not the end itself. I tend to think that our first premise should be a denial of any civic ultimacy. The old Calvinistic motto might come in handy here: the finite cannot possess the infinite. Crucially, however, this is not to deny some connection between the present good and the “good beyond,” but it does force us back into a state of poltical humility as we orient ourselves to that higher good. Mathewes’ proposal for a “proleptic” pursuit of the good beyond strikes me as helpful here, or perhaps also Eric Gregory’s moderate Augustinian perfectionism.

I’ve had to listen to the lecture while multi-tasking, so I won’t comment further (though I hope to in the near future), but if you’re interested in finding interesting ways of getting beyond the contemporary political polarization, Blond’s work seems to be a good place to start.

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.