14 March 2012

The power of the "sense of loss"

From an essay by Corey Robion in the December 2010 issue of Harper's Magazine:
"...victimhood has been a talking point of the right ever since Burke decried the mob’s treatment of Marie Antoinette. The conservative, to be sure, speaks for a special type of victim: one who has lost something of value, as opposed to the wretched of the earth, whose chief complaint is that they never had anything to lose... This brand of victimhood endows the conservative complaint with a more universal significance. It connects his disinheritance to an experience we all share—loss—and weaves that experience into an ideology promising that what is lost can be restored.

People on the left often fail to realize this, but conservatism does indeed speak to and for people who have lost something. The loss may be as material as a portion of one’s income or as ethereal as a sense of standing. It may be of something that was never legitimately owned in the first place. Even so, nothing is ever so cherished as that which we no longer possess. It used to be one of the great virtues of the left that it alone understood the zero-sum nature of politics, wherein the gains of one class necessarily entail the losses of another. But as that sense of conflict diminishes on the left, it has fallen to the right to remind voters that there really are losers in politics and that it is they—and only they—who speak for them. Conservatism is not the Party of Order, as Mill and others have claimed, but the Party of Loss.

The chief aim of the loser is not preservation or protection but recovery and restoration, and that is the secret of conservatism’s success. Because his losses are recent, the conservative can credibly claim that his goals are practical and achievable. He merely seeks to regain what is his; the fact that he once had it suggests he is capable of possessing it again. Whereas the left’s program of redistribution raises the question of whether its beneficiaries are truly prepared to wield the powers they seek, the conservative project of restoration suffers from no such challenge. Unlike the revolutionary, moreover, who faces the nearly impossible task of empowering the powerless, the conservative asks his followers to do more of what they have always done. As a result, his counterrevolution will not require the same violence and disruption that the revolution has visited on the country. “Four or five persons, perhaps,” writes Maistre, “will give France a king.”


  1. An interesting perspective. The psychology of the matter is deeper than most people realize. Even though the current political situation in this country is no doubt a ridiculous charade, understanding the motives behind those which govern us is an important and necessary piece of knowledge to possess.

  2. From Robin's site in the context of commenting on a review of his book:

    Conservatism, he says, is a reactionary ideology. It is a defense of hierarchy against emancipatory movements from below. It’s not a disposition or an attitude; it’s not a philosophy of liberty or even of limited government. (It supports the idea of limited government, Goldman says, but that’s a consequence, not a premise, of the theory.) It is first and foremost a coherent set of ideas about inequality that gets forged in the crucible of revolution.


    I think that's a pretty good description actually. A defense of hierarchy, power, and privilege. The "loss" they feel are for things that aren't just or justly earned.

  3. "It may be of something that was never legitimately owned in the first place."

    That sounds about right for a bunch of hypocrites so full of their own self worth that they relish denying that this is a country every inch of which was stolen at the point of a gun or saber, and built on the backs of slave labor.

    The Party of Entitlement.

  4. As I recall, Ms. Antoinette lost her head which is somewhat worse than being forced to live on food stamps. Personally, I think being murdered gives you the right to complain. And as for poor people having nothing to lose, as I recall, poor people have the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, freedom of religion, assembly, the press and the right to bear arms et cetera et cetera (but not if ass clowns like Mr. Robion have their way)

    And really, "the left's program of redistribution"? Redistributing what? Oh yeah, my stuff to your people. How does that differ from coming to my house and helping yourself? If that happens, pretty soon the only people who will have 1992 Honda Civics for the left to help themselves to will be Assistant Deputy County Commissioners. And don't think they won't like their cars because everyone else will be on bicycles.

    1. Funny to see a conservative defend tyrannical rule by monarchy. Robin is right.


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