‘I agree there is a paucity of conservative thought. It is partly the effect of the dominance of the left. If you come out as a conservative in a university context, you will find yourself very much on the margins. But my main explanation of this is that conservative thought is difficult. It doesn’t consist of providing fashionable slogans or messages of hope and marching into the future with clenched fists and all the things that automatically get a following. It consists in careful, sceptical rumination on the near-impossibility of human existence in the first place.’
In Fools, Frauds and Firebrands Scruton attacks the left idea of thought for a cause, ‘politics with a GOAL’. By contrast, he tells me, ‘Conservatives are by their nature people who are trying to defend and maintain existence without a cause’. Simply to keep things as they are? ‘We obviously all want to change things, but recognising that human life is an end in itself and not a means to replace itself with something else. And defending institutions and compromises is a very difficult and unexciting thing. But nevertheless it’s the truth.’
For Scruton, the left intellectuals’ apparent attachment to a higher cause only disguises what they really stand for: ‘Nothing.’ He writes that ‘when, in the works of Lacan, Deleuze and Althusser, the nonsense machine began to crank out its impenetrable sentences, of which nothing could be understood except that they all had “capitalism” as their target, it looked as though Nothing had at last found its voice’. More recently, ‘the windbaggery of Zizek and the nonsemes of Badiou’ exist only ‘to espouse a single and absolute cause’, which ‘admits of no compromise’ and ‘offers redemption to all who espouse it’. The name of that cause? ‘The answer is there on every page of these fatuous writings: Nothing.’
Robert Scruton on the left’s destruction of intellectual thought.