Monday, December 26, 2005

Scrutinising Scruton Again

Although I thought of him as a reactionary crank, some of his Financial Times articles and then reading his autobiography recently have persuaded me otherwise. He used to teach at Birkbeck, but found academia, supposedly the cradle of non-conformism and originality, a cold and unwelcoming home for a thinker who was individual enough to endorse a most typically English instinctive conservatism.

The West and the Rest is on my American Foreign Policy reading list and it's erudite and widely-sourced. His own earlier books, on the sectarian constitution of Lebanon, on his personal beliefs and on English nationalism and architecture are all cited.

On the other hand, perhaps he's overgeneralising his analysis of Islam and is less comprehensive in giving references to current events - describing widespread public rejoicing among Western Muslims at 9/11 - where and when is he thinking of? He refers to almost no group among them but the extremist al Muhajiroun groupuscule led by the media-whore Syrian Muslim Brother Omar Bakri Mohammed known to the tabloids as the "Tottenham Ayatollah".

I assumed that he'd oppose the Iraq war also, but he argues in this OpenDemocracy article that Kant's enthroning of reason and proposal for a world republic were not to be assumed feasible until the dawn of universal freedom.

The idea of a world republic is just such a regulative idea. For Kant, it does not indicate a condition that can actually be achieved, but an ‘Ideal of Reason’ – an idea that we must bear in mind, by way of understanding the many ways in which mortal creatures inevitably fall short of it. The principal way in which we fall short is by failing to establish any kind of republic, even at the local level. And Kant is clear that a League of Nations can establish a genuine rule of law only if its members are also republics. Unless that condition is fulfilled, nations remain in the Hobbesian state of nature.

Although Scruton would certainly disapproveove, I've found reading him with this soundtrack is particularly stimulating.