Art reflects a culture’s values and sometimes even drives them. This is why conservatives often find contemporary art so off-putting. It’s not that conservatives are philistines–though some are, as are some progressives. Rather, it’s that they understand that the values our current art express are mostly inimical to their own–especially the pointless insistence on ugliness and transgression for transgression’s sake. (At some point, transgression become simply cliched; and we have long since passed that point). In fact, some of the most thoughtful conservative commentators today recognize that giving up the arts to progressives was a major mistake. In a conservative reformation of society, art may prove a lot more important than law or politics.
Anyway, a new book from Encounter, The Fiery Angel: Art, Culture, Sex, Politics and the Struggle for the Soul of the West, by critic Michael Walsh, looks interesting. Here is the description from the publisher’s website:
In Western Civilization, the arts embody the eternal battle between good and evil, and through understanding the arts, we can address the political issues that plague us. Far from being museum pieces, simple recreation, or tales and artifacts from the past, the arts should be seen at the wellspring of our politics, and in particular in public policy debates. They are actually the reason we have public and foreign policy in the first place. In an age that prizes specialization, it’s a mistake to think of public/foreign policy as a discipline onto itself. The Fiery Angel is a historical survey showing significant ways the arts both reflect and affect the course of history, and outlines the way forward, arguing for the restoration of the Heroic Narrative which forms the basis of all Western cultural and religious traditions.