The Fearful Descent

Tory anarchist

Richard M. Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences, published in 1948, was one of the books that (so it’s often claimed) helped define postwar American conservatism. Today the title, which wasn’t even Weaver’s — he planned to call the book The Fearful Descent, but his publisher insisted on something less pessimistic (see also Kirk’s Conservative Mind, which was originally to have been The Conservative Rout) — is a cliche among movement conservatives, many or even most of whom have never read Weaver’s succinct, 190-page book.

How much of a relationship is there really between Weaver’s thought and latter-day conservatism? Perhaps a pretty strong inverse relationship. My host last week when I spoke on “Where the Right Went Wrong” at North Carolina State University was a very principled student named James Lawrence. Although I didn’t recognize his name immediately, I was familiar with his work from long before my…

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