UCLA professor Phil Agre has been writing erudite and provocative essays and emailing them around for years, usually via his Red Rock Eater mailing list. His latest essay concerns the modern practice of conservatism and its history, and it’s a must read for, well, everyone. It’s wide ranging and as I read it, I felt the particles of thoughts I’ve had on politics for years coalescing into crystals. Agre’s thesis is, in short, that conservatism exists solely to perpetuate the aristocracy, and I’d advise you to read it and think about it before dismissing it.
Update: One thing that’s worth noting about Agre’s essay is that he has his own definitions of conservatism and liberalism. (He’s not talking about Republicans and Democrats, or, say, free marketeers and socialists, for example.) Given that, conservatism means exactly what he says it means. In fact, the more I think about the piece, the more I find myself disagreeing with it in places and finding it incomplete in places. It’s definitely a conversation starter rather than a conversation ender, but I think the conversation is one worth having. I think a similar piece on “liberalism” would be an interesting read as well.