Right Thinkers #1: G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
George Bernard Shaw, Hilaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton
A major figure in early twentieth-century British literature, G.K. Chesterton originated an often-imitated style of Christian/Catholic apologetics. He and his friend and literary compatriot Hilaire Belloc were known together as “the Chesterbelloc,” and they promoted a radically anti-modern worldview in a time when modernity seemed triumphant, even creating an outline for a new economic system based on Catholic social teaching, called Distributism.
Chesterton argued for the existence of “orthodoxy,” or a set of unchanging and eternal values embodied in Christianity. He opposed the conservatism of Edmund Burke, since the values Chesterton adhered to were supposedly valid in all times and places, while Burke’s conservatism was linked to an organic, evolutionary conception of value (Chesterton 179). The conflict between the orthodoxy of Chesterton and the traditionalism of Burke points to two important and unreconciled streams in rightist thinking and Right Scholarship.
Quick fact: G.K. Chesterton’s second cousin was A.K. Chesterton, the British fascist and founder of the National Front party in England. A.K.’s book, The New Unhappy Lords, takes its title from a poem by G.K.
Further reading: The conclusion of Chesterton’s What’s Wrong with the World (1910), which is, IMHO, Chesterton in a nutshell. Warning: may cause tears of indignation and/or an interest in Distributism.
Chesterton, G.K. What’s Wrong with the World. 1910. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1994.