As one who considers himself mostly conservative but who has some problems with the unabashed worship of the free market that resounds from the right, I found this review of Rod Dreher’s book Crunchy Cons quite interesting. Dreher rejects spiritually damaging consumerism on both sides of the political aisle and calls for true conservatives to live a more fulfilling “sacramental” life.
Specifically, Dreher calls for a return to a simpler lifestyle and a focus on that which is wholesome spiritually, physically, economically, politically, culturally, and ecologically. He calls for people to buck the current system for a counterculture lifestyle that he says represents true conservative principles. He says that true conservatives, which he calls crunchy conservatives, live more by principles than by policies. I can buy that.
While Dreher “reports on the amazing depth and scope of this phenomenon,” Publisher’s Weekly says, “the book fails to offer any empirical evidence to connect [featured] individuals to a wider "movement."” Dreher wants crunchy cons to become a major cultural and political force, but presents only anecdotal evidence of such a groundswell.
I found a number of principles that I can agree with in his Crunchy Con Manifesto (included here among several editorial reviews and a book excerpt). The rejection of the culture of greed and accumulation, a call to exercise a good stewardship over our blessings, proper recognition of beauty and wisdom, and a conviction of the family as the most essential institution of society all resonate with me.
On the other hand, if the mass market is such a bad thing, why is Mr. Dreher marketing his book through all of the major mass market outlets? And is a hippie lifestyle with a conservative bent really as beneficial to individuals, families, and society as he claims?
I will put the book on my to-read list. It obviously has some provocative arguments. I engage in primitive camping with some frequency, but it’s going to take a lot of persuasion to make me want to give up the modern conveniences that the free market has brought us. Is it impossible to live a fulfilling sacramental life while living in the modern world? If so, how far back in history does one have to go to get to the ideal lifestyle?