Professor of Philosophy and Religion Nathan Schlueter will be speaking at a conference which he helped organize to discuss the relationship between conservatism and classical liberalism.
The event, titled “The Future of Liberalism: A Conversation Among Conservatives,” will take place from April 11 – 13, hosted by the Center for the Study for Liberal Democracy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and will bring respected conservative thinkers from across the country to the center to discuss how liberalism interacts with America, religion, culture, politics, and markets.
“We are living in a very pivotal time, years in the making, when the West is experiencing a profound identity crisis, not just here in America but also abroad,” Schlueter said in an email. “Many of the things we take for granted and hold dear are being questioned. How we understand who we are will determine our future.”
The goal of the conference, according to Richard Avramenko, co-director of the CSLD, is “to put serious defenders of the classical liberal tradition in conversation with the best voices representing American conservatism.”
The idea for the conference began last summer as the result of an ongoing conversation between Schlueter and Mark Mitchell, professor and chairman of the Department of Government at Patrick Henry College, about Patrick Deneen’s book “Why Liberalism Failed,” Schlueter said Deneen’s book represents “an unfortunate and even dangerous turn against politics and America by many conservatives.”
Schlueter and Mitchell continued to discuss Deneen’s book and liberalism in general, and their conversations culminated in the two proposing to Avramenko an event which would convene bastions of conservatism and classical liberalism, with Deneen as the keynote speaker. Avramenko agreed, and Schlueter and Mitchell organized the conference. It will consist of five panels, each focusing on one dimension of the liberalism-conservatism relationship and featuring two distinguished speakers with opposing viewpoints.
The CSLD has hosted similar conferences before, including conversations about the First and Second Amendments. Each year it also hosts a “Disinvited Dinner” for a prominent speaker who has been disinvited from a speaking engagement due to protest. One of its stated missions is to “advance intellectual diversity at the University of Wisconsin-Madison by taking ideas seriously that we believe have not always enjoyed sufficient respect on campus,” according to its website.
Although the event’s speakers will be almost exclusively conservative, not all speakers agree on the place of liberalism in America.
D.C. Schindler, associate professor of metaphysics and anthropology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute, will be on a panel to discuss liberalism, conservatism, and religion.
“Liberalism,” he said, “is a co-opting of the virtues of Christianity in abstraction from the theological substance of Christianity. It gives the illusion of protecting Christianity, but in a profound way really undermines it.”
Schlueter hopes the conference, despite the difference in opinion, will ultimately be unifying rather than divisive.
“We are not interested in a polemical debate where each side tries to score points with its followers,” Schlueter said. “There is too much of that today and it’s not very productive. Rather, we are interested in a serious conversation in which we really try to understand points of convergence and difference, with the hope of moving ahead in united way.”