Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rod Dreher's Crunchy Cons, part II

Here's the continuation of my thoughts on Rod Dreher's Crunchy Cons.

  • I like Dreher's chapter on "Home" quite a lot. I'm an aspiring homeowner and have read a pile of books on architecture and design (especially Susanka's Not-So-Big books and other Taunton titles), and the chapter resonated with me. There's a neighborhood in our town with spectacular, well maintained early twentieth century homes where we might buy a house. I do wonder about lead paint, bad wiring, upkeep and the future of the neighborhood, though.
  • Dreher talks about his conservative intellectual forebears (Chesterton and Tolkien) and his subtitle is "The New Conservative Counterculture and Its Return to Roots." I think that at least in that subtitle, he's overselling the newness of the phenomena he's describing. I'd argue that some crunchiness has always been almost unavoidable if you have limited means and a large family. You'd have to be ridiculously wealthy to raise a family of six kids in the style of the people on TV. Unsurprisingly, my first introduction to such perennial crunchy topics as breastfeeding, attachment parenting, homebirths, and midwives came via a Natural Family Planning newsletter and various Catholic publications. Amy Dacyczyn is yet another example of the nexus between crunchiness and large families. She's the mother of a bunch of kids and the author of The Complete Tightwad Gazette (1998), which is 900+ pages of advice for frugal living, much of it extremely crunchy.
  • I haven't yet read many Amazon reviews of Crunchy Cons, but I believe some people doubt the existence of the phenomenon. I had the good luck to go hang out with some moms from my neighborhood while I was reading the book, and witnessed a conversation that ranged effortlessly between a comparison of different chastity education programs and the difficulties of obtaining affordable grass-fed beef. Yes, Virginia, there are crunchy conservatives.
  • I'm sure a hundred people have made this observation already, but while Dreher mentions the evils of materialism fairly regularly, materialism isn't just triple cheese burgers, SUVs, and exurban McMansions. Speaking as a person with two dozen architecture and design books on my shelf, I'm pretty sure that materialism can take other forms. I think there is a large grey area. On the one hand, it's perfectly right and good to love and rejoice in the beautiful, whether food, drink, or house. On the other hand, at some point this enjoyment of the beautiful crosses over into acquisitiveness, gluttony, and selfishness, just as a Chestertonian embrace of simple pleasures can easily cross over into gross excess. I don't think Dreher ever discusses that dark side in Crunchy Cons, although I bet he's thought of it.


Anonymous said...

What is Crunch Cons?

Is that something about a breakfast cereal convention?

Or is it about how the snack food industry has totally con Americans into eating their junk?

Xantippe said...

It's a book by Rod Dreher about crunchy conservatives. I think real crunchy conservatism is more widespread than his book suggests, but I think that it's also less trendy, less cool. And that's not such a bad thing, since all too often, being trendy means running out and buying new stuff whenever you're told to, rather than trying to make do with what you've got. A real live example of crunchy conservatives (although I don't know if they would describe themselves as such) would be the family that blogs at

Anonymous said...

Can you be more specific?

Is a crunchy con a liberal with a hard candy shell like an M&M?

Are there soggy libs?

MH said...

Your first troll. You blog must be taking-off.