Link to research article mentioned in the video: https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?do…Reference: Kjærvik, S. L., & Bushman, B. J. (2021). The link between narcissism and aggression: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin. Advance online publication.
In The Conservative Soul, he attributes his change of heart to a belated return to rigorous Oakeshottian skepticism, and as he expounds Oakeshott, gracefully and in satisfying detail, one is almost won over. Certainly Oakeshott’s strictures on the dangers of overweening government power, harnessed to Rationalist dreams and visions, apply very well to the high-handed, high-spending near tyranny of the Bush administration before the midterm elections checked its progress, and Sullivan deserves thanks for bringing Oakeshott into the argument.
But his journalism belies his vaunted skepticism. There is in Sullivan’s makeup a most un-Oakeshottian quickness to take passionate sides, a schoolboy tendency to hero-worship (Thatcher… Reagan…Oakeshott…Bush…and now it seems he may be warming up fast to Barack Obama), and an Oxford debater’s ready access to the rhetoric of condescending scorn. Where Oakeshott stood self-consciously aloof from practical politics, Sullivan splashes excitedly about in them like a dog in a mud puddle, snarling ferociously at any other dog who challenges his position du jour. He’s less a skeptic than a mercurial, and somewhat flirtatious, born believer.
So it is unsurprisingly on matters of religion that he’s at his most persuasive. The book is grounded in Sullivan’s tenacious Catholicism, and, as a staunch atheist, I’m impressed by his ability to write plainly, unmawkishly, even movingly, of the intermittent presence of Jesus Christ in his life.
I take a few, and largely deserved, whacks at my solar plexus for various hyperbolic blog posts over the years. But I’m grateful that Raban treated the book in its own right as well. I have to say, however, that I don’t believe Oakeshottian political conservatism necessarily requires an even temper in the rest of life, a lack of passion, or disdain for the to and fro of political argument. In fact, the point of being a conservative in politics is precisely to allow for a passionate, energetic, envelope-pushing, un-conservative culture that doesn’t infect sensible, limited governance. In some ways, I am a conservative in politics so I may have the right to be a radical in every other human activity. This is not a contradiction, or even much of a paradox. Oakeshott himself was a very lively, mischievous, bohemian soul – who nonetheless didn’t want his rulers to be like him.