Cameron’s “house philosopher”

Another article in the April LRB reviews a book by Phillip Blond, who is described as Cameron’s “house philosopher.” I’d not heard of this guy before, but since the election maybe his stock is on the rise and he’ll become more influential?

Blond apparently has a “Archers” like view of the ideal Britain; rural, de-centralized, and heavily influenced by “Distributists” like G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc:

The moral society, as imagined by the Distributists, was a verdant quilt of small farms, artists’ and writers’ rose-trellised cottages, shops, workshops, churches and pubs (‘When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England,’ Belloc wrote in The Four Men). Everyone would be the mortgage-free owner of his property. There’s room in the picture for ancient market towns and cathedral cities, but places like London, Birmingham, Sheffield are hard to find in the Distributists’ fair field full of folk, and there appears to be little or no intervening history between Langland’s 14th-century Worcestershire and Belloc and Chesterton’s Sussex and Buckinghamshire.

So writes Jonathan Raban, the LRB reviewer.

All this is reminiscent of the infamous “Morgenthau Plan” of the Second World War, proposed for a new ruralised Germany, in what the New York Times at the time called a “return to a nation of small farms.”

Henry Morgenthau was Secretary of the Treasury in the Roosevelt government. Morgenthau’s vision of Germany was squarely at odds with the idea of revitalizing Germany. He wanted the factories closed, the mines destroyed, and the people involved in those industries forcibly removed. Nothing less, he thought, would be appropriate or would stop Germany from rising up again as a power. It was both punishment, and represented a particular vision.

This vision crops up in a number of places even today–Blond included–in a valorization of the natural, the non-industrial, the small and rural (rural or country values are often touted as opposed to the corrupt city). Politicians often encapsulate this in the US by speaking derisively of “inside the Beltway” or “Washington DC” venality.

Ironically, Morgenthau’s vision would have been much approved of by a certain German philosopher at the time: Martin Heidegger, who had similar return to nature views (eg see “The Question Concerning Technology”).


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