The Home of American Intellectual Conservatism — First Principles

November 12, 2018

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Kendall, Willmoore
George W. Carey - 07/05/11

Kendall was also unrelenting in his attacks on the “open society,” an idea that he believed embodied liberalism’s commitment to relativism (“all opinions are equal”) and virtually unlimited freedom of expression. No society, he maintained, could long survive without subscribing to fundamental values that it held to be true and beyond debate. But the professed “truth” of the open society—namely, that there are no truths—must sooner or later bring into question these fundamental values. In elevating the open society and freedom of expression to the summum bonum, liberals, according to Kendall, come to regard societies that are not totally “open” as “closed.” But such a dichotomy, he held, is dangerously misleading. No society, he insisted, could ever be completely open; in the real world, the choices come down to an infinite number of possibilities as to how open, or how closed, a society is to be.

Kendall focused on the American political tradition almost exclusively during the last years of his life because he believed that there was a distinctive American conservatism whose flavor and essence could not be adequately comprehended by reference to Burke or continental philosophers. Thus, he is of particular interest for students interested in exploring the roots of a specifically American conservatism.

Further Reading
  • Kendall, Willmoore. The Conservative Affirmation. Chicago: Regnery, 1963.
  • ———. Willmoore Kendall Contra Mundum. Edited by Nellie D. Kendall. New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 1971.
  • ———, and George W. Carey. The Basic Symbols of the American Political Tradition. Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1970.
  • Murley, John A., and John E. Alvis, eds. Willmoore Kendall: Maverick of American Conservatives. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2002.
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