I read this blog post back in June when it was already a couple years old. I left a comment anyway because I was so happy to see someone else writing about the significance of art’s impact on the rest of culture. There were some good comments and it made me realize that there are people out there who get it. I left a couple links to MachinePolitick and Liberatchik hoping to hear back from the author. This week, a musician contacted me because of my comments and is now considering joining Liberatchik. Here is the full article. I hope you will go to the page and look at some more writing to get a little perspective on what it means to be Conservative outside the US.
From the blog: Oz Conservative
Since the end of WWII artists have been overwhelmingly liberal modernists. Where has this got them?
They have become irrelevant. As a reward for their role in transgressing the traditional order, artists have been given a few state grants and then ignored.
A liberal modernist society doesn’t need artists. It’s run by a managerial class on a technocratic basis. There simply isn’t an important social function in such a system for art.
Serious artists, therefore, have been shunted out of the public square. How many people today know or care about an important contemporary poet or painter or playwright or composer?
It wasn’t always so. Traditional societies ultimately found a basis for order on the transcendent (on the recognition of a “good” existing beyond our own immediate individual preferences or desires). It wasn’t functionaries who were best able to express and communicate the transcendent to the public. This was a role for high art, a role which gave artists an important place within society and culture.
Consider the case of poetry. Wordsworth had a tremendous influence in the early 1800s. If you read his most famous poems, they express the transcendent in Wordsworth’s response to nature. By the 1920s and 30s, you get poets like E.E. Cummings, who is a modernist in some regards, but who still expresses the transcendent in his love poetry.
People once cared about art because they cared about the “transcendent moment” that artists might communicate in their work. They also cared about art because art had a role in sustaining a civilisation: in giving finer expression to what was both good and necessary to the existence of a people and culture.
Artists might, for instance, represent to the public a higher ideal of fatherhood, or of national feeling, or of the masculine virtues, or of romantic love.
What is there for artists to do in alliance with liberal modernism? For a while, they could assist modernists in trashing the remnants of a traditional culture. There was a moment, too, when they tried to align art with the goals of technocratic efficiency (think of the principle of the architect Le Corbusier that a house is a “machine for living in”).
But none of this has a future. Eventually there is no more tradition to set yourself against, and there is no reason for an art based on efficient, abstract function to resonate with the public (most people do their best to ignore it).
It’s difficult to see how the situation for artists can improve; the further we descend into liberal modernism the more irrelevant that artists become to the processes of society.
So let me repeat: it makes sense for artists to decouple themselves from the forces of liberal modernism, as it is through these very forces that they are being relegated to insignificance. The hope for artists is that liberal modernity will falter and that this will allow a reassertion of the traditional within Western culture.