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In what, though, when the Marxist vision is weakening? On Evil (2010) strikes a paradoxical balance between Marxism and Christianity; Culture and the Death of God (2015) argues that religion has left a gaping hole in our culture that neither politics, culture nor sport can fill, but (in the last paragraphs) suggests that Christianity might play its part — for it offers “not supernatural support” but the “inconvenient news that our forms of life must undergo radical dissolution . . . the sign of [which] is solidarity with the poor and powerless”. Hope without Optimism (2015) doesn’t build on this, nor does it place much hope in radicalism — indeed Eagleton criticises the Marxist Ernst Bloch for being “hospitable to the whole wealth of human culture — but only . . . in order to appropriate it”, something of which he has perhaps been guilty himself. He then analyses how King Lear and Mann’s Doctor Faustus deal with tragic despair, finding that both bleak masterpieces offer a thread of hope which seems connected to neither God nor Marx. Eagleton remains a lapsed Catholic who won’t let go.

Because of their reciprocity, Scrugletopia is a kind of dialectic, which has been good for Eagleton’s approach and style. He has not in the end sunk into Gallic pretentiousness or German exhaustiveness. Thus in Culture (2016), he takes us on a lucid tour of the Kulturkritiker just as Scruton had done, referring to many of the same writers from Kant through Arnold to Eliot; he doesn’t mention Derrida or Foucault once, but instead devotes pages to the eccentric socialist credo of Oscar Wilde.

Scruton’s religious commitment is deeper: he seems to be an Anglican Deist — a faithful churchgoer who rejects the Resurrection and afterlife. In The Soul of the World he advocates “cognitive dualism”, a willingness to understand what things mean, at the same time as scientifically exploring what they are made of. This approach aims “not, as Kant argued, to destroy the claims of reason in order to make room for those of faith, but rather to create the space at the edge of reason where faith can take root and grow".

Taking this further in On Human Nature (see Adam Zeman in Standpoint, March), Scruton rejects consequentialist and contractarian justifications for morality; he doesn’t defend theism as such, but says that our sense of the power of relationships, of the moral and social structures that arise from them, is not captured by the “moral arithmetic” of Parfit and Singer, and argues “that we can only do justice to some of our moral emotions by invoking a concept of the sacred”.

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David Gerhard
July 8th, 2017
5:07 PM
Just to be clear, by the comment ‘above’, I meant the one by Winston Salem (who seems to be named after a city in North Carolina), which I now see is below. And I agree with Martin Adamson – Foucault was a real revolutionary, and said, for example, that ‘when the proletariat triumphs, it will exert a power which is violent, dictatorial and even bloody over the class it has supplanted. I don’t know what objection one can make against this’. Somewhat scary.

David Gerhard
July 7th, 2017
9:07 AM
For a much fairer, more temperate and appreciative comment than the sour one above, see this link to a post by New Criterion critic Andrew Shea: https://www.newcriterion.com/print/post/8735

Martin Adamson
July 4th, 2017
9:07 AM
Certainly as far as Foucault is concerned, once I found out that his preferred model of justice was the September Massacres, I rather lost interest. Hard to believe that it is worth spending much time engaging with someone whose ideal is that criminals should be punished by being chopped into pieces by an angry mob, and then having their body parts paraded through the streets of Paris stuck on a pike.

Winston Salem
July 1st, 2017
12:07 PM
"He saves us, if we need saving, from wading through Althusser, Habermas and Foucault." Well, you kept up a facade of intellectual engagement for as long as possible, but then it slipped. Let's leave aside the complicated question of Althusser for the moment, and ask: are you really so self-satisfied and blinkered as to believe that Habermas's immense synthesis of streams of ideas, and his reconstruction of social liberalism has nothing to teach you? That Foucault's inquiries into the transformation of social modes - sexuality, law, selfhood - are of no interest in comprehending the contemporary world? Pathetic and wearying, and one clue as to why the Right are so rudderless at the moment - their intellectual bases have become so narrow and self-flattering that the whole thing is toppling over.

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