The Home of American Intellectual Conservatism — First Principles

December 18, 2017

REFERENCE DESK
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Fleming, Thomas
Thomas F. Bertonneau - 12/06/12
Lifespan: (1945– )

For twenty-five years, Thomas Fleming, editor of Chronicles, has been the intellectual leader of American paleoconservatism. Fleming earned a doctorate in classics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and he spices his essays on culture and politics with the pepper of Aristotelian and Stoical insight. Not exactly Spenglerian in his view, Fleming nevertheless understands that analogy is not illegitimate in historical analysis and sees that the effects of empire—Diadochic, Roman, Soviet, or American—manifest themselves with a certain grim inevitability. When the imperial center gets used to policing the marches, it regularly starts policing the metropolis, and constitutional protections of the republic fall by the wayside. The whole point of imperium is that the rulers get to exercise their libido dominandi.

Like the classics-oriented poet William Carlos Williams, Fleming advocates the local. A Ninth and Tenth Amendment man, he sees in encroachments of federal over state sovereignty both a cause and a symptom of American civilization’s moral decline. The uprooted, amoral professionals and the welfare class alike come to regard the state as a god who “solves” all problems; the state rains down the manna of redistribution to underscore its appearance as a divinity. The procedure is as mendacious as it is entropic.

Chronicles, published by the Rockford Institute, consistently reflects Fleming’s determination to spur individuals, communities, and states into a defense of their self-determination against the Gnostic prescriptions of the new therapeutic totalitarianism. This means a defense of voluntary religion against mandatory profanation and of communal against imperial judgments. Fleming opposed both the Gulf War against Iraq and the Balkan Campaign against Serbia as examples of power-mongering by a new multinational clique hostile to all traditional forms of civilization, especially to Christianity.

Fleming is the author or coauthor of three books, including The Morality of Everyday Life: Rediscovering an Ancient Alternative to the Liberal Tradition (2004). His Politics of Human Nature (1988) is a Thomistic treatise on the distortions of modern life. For many of his readers, Fleming is the preeminent spokesman for unalloyed conservatism.

Further Reading
  • Gottfried, Paul, and Thomas Fleming. The Conservative Movement. Boston: Twayne, 1988.
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