Where We Are Now: The State of Britain Today (Scruton)

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Puritanboard Clerk
Scruton, Sir Roger. Where We Are: The State of Britain Now.

Brexit was more than a rejection of Eurocratic globalism. It was a coming home and a defense of home. Sir Roger Scruton’s goal is not some crude caricature of nationalism. Rather, he demonstrates the organic way in which the nation arises from the longing for home. As noted in the opening sentence, the book is a minor defense of Brexit and an elegant rebuke to a myopic globalism.

Scruton, as was common with all thinkers before the rise of fascism, actually undertakes to discuss what a nation is. A nation is allegiance to a homeland. That is a good definition, but it is still abstract. A nation arises when men live as neighbors with each other. Because of this proximity, territorial, even only at the local level, courts arise to adjudicate matters. That is a nation.

Missing from Scruton’s definition is any discussion of race. Scruton mentions racial and ethnic issues, to be sure, but they are not constitutive of nationhood. Home is. This allows Scruton to contrast home with other identities. The nation, despite its bad press in the 20th century, is superior to other pre-political identities, such as tribe and creed. Postmodern elites, of course, deny any of the above options, leaving us only with life dictated by international treaties.

When men live as neighbors, they need a structure to adjudicate. This is where law is attached to land. This is the nation.

Internationalism, Immigration, and Human Rights

Is globalism inevitable? Tony Blair said so, implying that you, a free patriot, are foolish to resist it. Scruton, however, made an interesting comparison with the industrial revolution. Assuming that something like the industrial revolution was inevitable, should society have sat back and let it run its course? In other words, given that it was inevitable, should politicians have allowed employers to force children to work 16 hour days? Why not? Progress is inevitable. Of course, that is absurd. Why then do we ignore the same thing with globalism? Maybe the rural village will disappear in a cloud of digits and files, but maybe we should find some way to channel these energies and preserve the bonds of society.

In a similar vein, Scruton’s comments on immigration might mislead some. When the European Union began, it did so to organize and streamline manufacturing and energy production between the various countries. Whether that was good or not, it did make some sense. That is no longer the case. Europe cannot compete with Asia in industrial potential. Europe, rather, should focus on the capital it does have: intellectual, technological, and legal.

Internationalism has also called into question the practicality of human rights. Human rights are real. They are real only because they are not international. Someone’s “right” means I have a duty to that person, and that duty is usually seen in day to day interactions. People do not have their freedom in the abstract. Rather, it is embodied “in the act of moving outwards in shared relations.” It receives a real and objective form in community–this or that community. In less technical language we can illustrate the problem this way: I believe that Tibetans have the right to x. It is not clear, though, what I can do about it. I have no–indeed, I cannot have–embodied social relations with them.

These embodied relations partly explain the Meltdown crisis. In chapters 1 and 2 of Das Kapital, Karl Marx complained that capital has an illusive character. Indeed, it disappears in a quasi-alchemical process through various exchanges. Since capital in Marx’s time was largely manufactured goods, his claim was pure nonsense. On the other hand, when applied to modern digital currency, there might be something to it. Scruton frames the problem thus: from where do the digits that determine our currency come? True, there is a man at a desk entering the numbers, but the digits themselves come from Nowhere. This is also where your Facebook friends reside.

The answer to all of this is a reinvigorating of “home.” Scruton writes with a poignant style. Indeed, we meet nostalgia in its original sense, a journey to home.
It seems we need to recover a sense of subsidiarity and understanding that even the national is not a solution to our problems.

The problem that Great Britain is facing, however, is a sense by many that they are losing what it means to be English, Welsh, or Scottish combined with the fact that they don't want to have children. That, combined with the idea of a social welfare system, means that they can't have their cake and eat it. The problem is not unique to Great Britain obviously. There is a general antihumanism trend and managerial thinking about all problems across industrialized economies.
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