The Failure of Conservatism and the Path Ahead

Swedish-American Political philosopher Claes Ryn joins Michael Vlahos for a conversation about the meaning of conservatism, the civilizational crisis in the West, and his new book.

For the latest installment of Radicalis, AGON’s senior editor Dr. Michael Vlahos sits down with Professor Claes Ryn to discuss Ryn’s new book, The Failure of American Conservatism—And the Road Not Taken, fresh off the print by Republic Book Publishers.

Claes Ryn is Emeritus Professor of Government at the Catholic University of America, founding director of the Center for the Study of Statesmanship, and writer of many books—most notably, The New Jacobinism: America as Revolutionary State and Will, Imagination, and Reason. He is also the editorial director at AGON.

During their 75-min exchange, they discuss Ryn’s powerful critique of the postwar “movement conservatism” in the United States, the richness of America’s constitutional tradition, the dangers of American exceptionalism, the Jacobin penetration of American politics which begets the global American empire, and much more (including J.R.R. Tolkien!).

In the course of the discussion, Ryn offers a provocative account of the devolution of conservatism as temperament—focused on character—into Conservatism as ideology—fixated on political power. The latter, he claims, was philosophically unsophisticated, easily transformed into dogma, and prone to both “hubris” and “dreaminess”.

To overcome the pathologies of the age, Ryn calls for a radical realism that affirms the world as it is and “explodes” the dangerous illusions undergirding the ahistorical idealism and ideologies of both the Left and the Right.

A short sample from the book is available here.

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Radicalis Podcast
In each episode, AGON's Dr. Michael Vlahos speaks with a subversive and interesting thinker: together, they uncover the depths of our civilizational crisis, smash the idols of our time, and reflect on the possible ways out of the malaise.
Claes Ryn
Michael Vlahos