Public Square Conservatives (aka The Downtown Blockers)
Alright…to jump into the Front Porcher vs. PomoCon debate, this from Carl Scott, friend of Ivan Kenneally posted by Ivan over at PomoCon:
Where do the Porchers want to go? Or where should they? Well, it would seem to me the most important sentences in Wendell Berry are the following: 1) “The destruction of the community begins when its economy is made—not dependent (for no community has ever been entirely independent)–but subject to a larger external economy.” 2) “…if you are dependent on people who do not know you, who control the value of your necessities, you are not free, and you are not safe.” (Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community, pp. 126-128) Hence, the Porchers should want to move from the current system to one in which a) the habits and beliefs of certain Porcher influenced or protected communities, and b) the hard-fought-for legislative prerogatives and jurisdictions of said communities (vis-a-vis national and state authority–esp. judicial) together allow, first, a much larger degree of economic/environmental self-regulation than is now possible, and second, a much larger degree of community-adopted morals legislation than is now possible. This dual goal assumes that the larger market system, so regulated locally and hopefully also subjected to greater national regulation in fields (esp. environmental and financial) beyond any local scope, nonetheless chugs along. It does not assume “post-capitalism.” It does not assume protectionist “post-globalism.” Nor does it seek to get past the far-older-than-Locke need to guarantee private property.
I think Carl’s analysis massively over-emphasizes the centrality of legal regulations (environmental, economic, moral). Watch the Kunstler video above. JHK is talking about the need to change public architecture and the formation of one’s sense of habitat which he believes will create places of meaning that people will quite naturally respond to with care and participation. I also really disagree with Scott’s point on assuming the national economy chugs along. See here for a counter view. But more on that anon.
If the legal framework is essentially a ratification of and judgment upon the placial (instead of spatial) structure and mode of production/fabrication, (which I think there is a good argument to be made that this is the case) then why start the fight on the legal front thereby assuming the economic order that is the central assertion of both points 1 and 2 from Wendelly Berry cited by Scott himself?
If (and I think Ivan Carl is right about this) those are the two central axes of Berry’s thought, then the view Scott lays out as the next steps for Front Porchers is a recipe for failure from the get go, since they contradict the very principles they are supposed to materialize.
Now there maybe a number of Front Porchers who would desire to enact localized moral legislation–maybe the more Crunchy Con flavor of Front Porchers (like Rod??). I get very leery of that possibility–on that point I’m with the Pomocons. And the closest Kunstler comes to this moral legislation piece is his constant (and I think rather annoying in an otherwise supremely brilliant and hilarious exposition) refrain that suburban sprawl et. al is “not good enough for America.”
So I do want to acknowledge that potential dark side, though I think there is a workaround. It involves a concept I often harp about here at the League (in fact it’s arguably the only domestic political point I ever really make). So, since I always talk about the necessity of a third leg (the commons) that is not the state nor the market, let me say it again. I think my negative reaction to that quoted paragraph above is that it is still assuming the 2 legged world of state and market. Incidentally this is why I think Kunstler’s paean to “not good enough for Americans” fails since I think we no longer live in a nation-state but a market-state. The world increasingly consists of one city, what Brugmann calls The Global City. The Commons is one to be created through cities as nodes of the global urban reality. Good urbanism in Kunstler’s terms.
[Sidenote: If there is a fight to come between regional, state, and federal governments versus front porch-esque cities than I imagine much more in an apocalyptic sense as the former forms of government increasingly face extinction and seek to stay on life support by attaching themselves parasitically to the hosts of potential real wealth creation.]
Do good urbanism (what Brugmann calls urban strategy) and do it well and it will so rejigger the entire edifice of how we conceive social, political, and economic modalities that it would I submit render essentially obsolete the kinds of institutions and processes upon which Carl Scott has based his programmatic agenda for Front Porchers. If the Front Porchers are going to assume the current economic model, then yeah he’s basically right on their action plan. I don’t think they will–or at least they would be stupid to do so. Otherwise they (again) will contadict Berry’s own central points and end up being nothing other than A) a various reform movement that will simply be conformed to the blob (point pomocons) and/or B)unleash the worst possible potentials of Front Porcher-ism, i.e. a localized moral puritanism (point again pomocons).
If however they take this other (largely unacknowledged) path–the path being laid out by Brugmann and Kunstler and others–than those critiques will be I believe more than answered and leave postmodern conservativism in the dust.