Assessing Richard Hanania’s Conservatism

by Robert Gressis

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In this episode, Robert Gressis (philosophy, California State University, Northridge) and David Leitch (political science, California State University, Northridge) discuss the work of aspiring conservative public intellectual, Richard Hanania.

01:01 – Let’s talk about sex, baby! 04:44 – Hanania’s master idea—give the right a policy program. 15:57 – Wokeness and civil rights law. 27:05 – Who is Hanania’s audience? 32:46 – Are HR departments progressive? 40:51 – What Hanania does and doesn’t try to explain 56:29 – Hanania and Caesarism: will they or won’t they? 1:13:32 – Two more criticisms of Hanania: children and churches. 1:20:58 – Hanania’s weaknesses and strengths as a public intellectual.

6 comments

  1. Hi, thanks for the podcast. Just a few comments:
    1) You critiqued that he doesn’t have many posts trying to convince people of his goals who aren’t already sympathetic to his positions. I would say that this isn’t unusual. Aren’t most political writers mainly addressing their own side and try to reorient it’s goals closer to their own ideals?
    He might say that at this point it’s more important to reform the right and give it an actual goal than trying to get any converts. You will have a hard time getting many converts anyway if the current Republican party is full of idiots, grifters and doesn’t have any ideas beyond making the libs cry.

    2) You said he was in favor of a Strongman. Could you link me to a source on that? I’ve read some of his articles and listened to some of his podcasts, but I didn’t have that impression. He probably has more sympathy to them than the average person, but does he actually favor that model for the US?

    1. Hi,

      Re: the strongman, both of our considered views is that we don’t know that he is in favor of a strongman, but we speculate that he is, on the basis of tweets like this:

      https://twitter.com/richardhanania/status/1372666925428338689

      https://twitter.com/RichardHanania/status/1422955649772576769

      https://twitter.com/RichardHanania/status/1456595627471605770

      As well as Hanania’s comment in this thread:

      https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/highlights-from-the-comments-on-orban/comment/3581358

      Now, of course, Hanania may be right! It could be that what we call a strongman is simply a conservative who tries to get his way in the only way a conservative could plausibly get his way. Personally, I think there was a case that FDR was a strong man (not a dictator — I think there’s a difference) but it doesn’t follow from that that it wasn’t worth it!

      1. @rgressis in addition, I think a more comprehensive article about his anti-liberal democracy political theory is in his article criticizing Freedom House (https://richardhanania.substack.com/p/freedom-house-woke-imperialists/). He thinks its metrics for liberal democracy are undemocratic, and that human rights NGOs like Freedom House are stigmatizing conservative regimes like Orban’s Hungary or Poland as “authoritarian”. I agree with y’all, based on what he’s opposed to and who he comes to the defence of, I think he is a Caesarist (to put it kindly).

  2. WRT to a lack of philosophically rigorous/convincing arguments, isn’t that essentially what William Buckley did in the 20th century? He was not a philosopher but rather a rich guy with lots of opinions who funded actual intellectuals who in turn provided a framework of arguments for his ideas. I’m not terribly familiar with Richard Hanania but the impulse to outline a set of concrete, affective opinions could be quite defensible if better conservative philosophers are able to come in behind him and make actual arguments.

  3. Interesting conversation! I appreciate the focus on a figure like Hanania, who, according to my impression is a thinker whose influence is felt mostly online and on social media (pop intellectual culture?) as that’s where a lot of action is nowadays.

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