The Historicism of Conservativsm

It's striking that conservatism has a philosophy of history that is almost dialectical materialism, but dialectical materialism with some supernatural guiding light—although, the supernatural element is inconsistent here. Conservatism is rooted in Platonism, and therefore sees all "progress" as degradation and decay. Burke's philosophy of history, Santayana's, Henry Adam's—they're all basically dialectical materialist. And they seem to agree with Marx, liberalism (capitalism) is inevitably leading us towards socialism. Of course, unlike Marx, they view this as a bad thing. This weird philosophy of history is what Karl Popper called "historicism" which he argues is the common element in all totalitarian ideologies. Marx merely borrowed the religious historicism from Hegel and removed the supernatural element, which is why Marx is so close to Burke here.

While historicism is somewhat appealing and so is dialectical materialism in particular, philosophies of history are bunk. I must side with Karl Popper in his assessment that historical progress results from various causes and is so complex as to be impossible to predict. While historicism and historical materialism are interesting, they have no predictive value because they can only make sense of things after the fact—any time they have ever been used to make predictions, they got it wrong. And after the fact, you don't need historical materialism because it just amounts to saying such-and-such happened because of the things that caused it.

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