Why right-wing Europeans are flocking to an English thinker

From The Economist:

Customers at the Scruton cafe in Budapest don’t turn up for its chicken and buttered cauliflower. Nor for its decor. Instead they come for the peculiar contents on show. Scattered around the room are a writing table, a blue-and-white china tea set and a collection of vinyl records (classical) all shipped from England. Odd goods are also on sale. Spend 4,900 forints (about £11) and you can pick up a T-shirt emblazoned with “Conservatism is more an instinct than an idea”. A plaster bust of a tousle-haired, middle-aged man costs twice that. The figure depicted was a political thinker, Roger Scruton.

It’s peculiar to see a cafe in Budapest devoted to Scruton, a conservative Englishman who died in 2020. Stranger yet, two more such cafes exist in the Hungarian capital. In each are scattered “Scrutopia”: various items donated by his widow from his flat in London and farm in Wiltshire. Most striking is the sight of a saddle and riding crop. Scruton was not born to hunt, but took it up with enthusiasm in middle age, perhaps because the hobby chimed with his political philosophy and love of tradition. The author of over 50 books, he wrote about values of community, reciprocal obligations, courtliness and kingship, and more. These all, he believed, were embodied in the hunt.

In Britain, Scruton’s ideas have gained some traction. As prime minister, Theresa May appointed him to lead official efforts to rewrite planning rules to ensure new constructions went up along traditionalist lines—a process dubbed “building beautiful”. (It fell apart.) A summer school for avid Scruton disciples in Britain takes place each June. And his ideas still have a strong pull on the New Right of the Conservative Party, which tends to avoid taking detailed policy positions other than being in favour of tradition. Whereas Thatcherism involved ideas of borderless free-market capitalism, which went together with smashing up old ways of doing things, for Scrutonites there is much to be said for harking back to old ways. Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, who was a senior figure in government until recently, and Suella Braverman, the home secretary, are two Scruton-enthusiasts.

Where Scruton really stirs up strongest interest, however, is among those on the right fringe of continental European politics—the most notable adherent is Hungary’s authoritarian leader, Viktor Orban. Scruton’s ideas of the home and his talk of the rituals of a nation seem to resonate especially strongly. Mr Orban can employ such ideas to try to justify his hostility to immigrants and to international institutions such as the European Union (even as it simultaneously subsidises his country’s economic growth). Some right-leaning Swedes are fond of Scruton, too. Italy’s prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, is another fan. She likes to quote one saying of his: “it is always right to keep things as they are, in case worse things are proposed”.

Link to the rest at The Economist

PG had never heard of Scruton, but he is sometimes drawn to authors who collect a lot of negative attention, especially if they write non-fiction.

4 thoughts on “Why right-wing Europeans are flocking to an English thinker”

  1. The comment attributed to Roger Scruton, that “it is always right to keep things as they are, in case worse things are proposed,” is an echo of Edmund Burke’s admonition: “If it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.”

  2. I strongly recommend reading any or all of his books. He is an intelligent writer of cultural breadth who resonates strongly with people immersed deeply in their cultures.

  3. Pew tracks political ideology over time. In their last comparision of US Democrats and Republicans (taken within the past two years), the average Democrat was seated firmly on the far left of the spectrum, not even close to the center. The average Republican, however, was seated just to the right of center, so close as to make Republicans the middle position.

    Yet, most people on the political left think anyone to the right of them (anyone at all!) must be a “right-wing extremist.”

    I am skeptical when someone uses the term “right-wing” nowadays, as its more likely to be a heavily biased pejorative than an objective truth.

    • It’s akin to what Republicans did in the 60’s-70’s where Barry Goldberg went from unelectable for being too far to the right to not right enough for the small government post-Reagan party.

      The unspoken reality is that both parties are coalitions of single issue interests (unions, business, defense, isolationists, populists, civism, evangelicals, fiscal conservatives,etc) and every 50 years or so the parties’ alignments shift with a different camp taking over as the base constituency.

      We are in the middle of such a shift with the Dems under sway of the “social democrats” declared or not, the Republicans under the sway of the populists, and everybody else stuck in the middle, as swing voters, forced to choose the least offensive extreme.

      Two years ago, Pew Research ran a detailed survey and typology of the underlying camps:


      By their definition, the Dems are subservient to the 6% extreme left and the Reps to the 11% populist right.

      By their definition 37% is in flux and left out by both parties.
      By all lights, the first party to break from their ideologue firebrands stands a good chance of capturing a generational majority.

      Asimov termed the time when a society faced simultaneous internal and external crises a “SELDON CRISIS” that was usually settled by the “dead hand” of impersonal economic and (geo)political necessity.

      Philip Bobbit defined the conflicts of such times as Epocal Wars (SHIELD OF ACHILLES) and Howe and Strauss (GENERATIONS, FOURTH TURNING) calculated the timing for the internal reshufflings which they termed FOURTH TURNING.

      Such are our times.

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