Did conservatism die with Sir Roger Scruton?

Sep 21, 2023 by

by Karl Williams, The Conservative Reader:

Why is it that we adhere to ‘conservatism’? Following his untimely death in January 2020, Roger Scruton was eulogised as Britain’s ‘greatest modern conservative thinker’, ‘the leading contemporary philosophical defender of conservatism’ and ‘the greatest conservative of our age’ by friends and foes alike. Yet the ‘conservative’ label was not one that had been overly conducive to success in life.

Scruton was endlessly persecuted for the audacity of being a self-proclaimed ‘conservative intellectual’. During his time as Reader in Aesthetics at Birkbeck, for example, he was invited to address the philosophy society of a certain Scottish university. He arrived on campus only to discover that the faculty had organised a boycott of his talk – in today’s parlance, he had been no-platformed. Rather than lecturing on beauty, he instead got to watch ‘a desultory procession of apparatchiks’ on their way to confer an honorary degree on Robert Mugabe.

Worn down by all this, he came close to suicide. But he was generally able to respond to such situations with the same sangfroid that sustained him during his ventures behind the Iron Curtain. Indeed, he found being roughed up by the Czechoslovakian secret police rather more intellectually stimulating than the socialist protestors who harassed him at home in Britain.

Even when he eventually attained some establishment recognition as Sir Roger Scruton, he remained a target precisely because he was an unabashed conservative. In 2019, he was sacked from a government commission after distorted quotes were published by the journalist George Eaton. Scruton died of cancer less than a year later.

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