|image of book cover and information just below is from here|
The Women's Press
June 1, 1983
I'm not sure I've ever seen, in hand, the British edition of Right-wing Women. If anyone has a copy, hold tightly onto it! I am fairly certain it is no longer in print.
What follows is an excerpt from Andrea Dworkin's "Preface to the British edition of Right-wing Women (1983). It was reprinted for U.S. readers in Dworkin's collection of reviews, essays, speeches, and other writings titled Letters from a War Zone, pp. 185-194.
The political concepts of "Right" and "Left" could not have originated in England or the United States; they come out of the specificity of the French experience. They were born in the chaos of the first fully modern revolution, the French Revolution, in reaction to which all Europe subsequently redefined itself. As a direct result of the French Revolution, the political face of Europe changed and so did the political discourse of Europeans. One fundamental change was the formal division of values, parties, and programs into "Right" and "Left"--modern alliances and allegiances emerged, heralded by new, modern categories of organized political thought. What had started in France's National Assembly as perhaps an expedient seating arrangement from right to left became a nearly metaphysical political construction that swept Western political consciousness and practice.
In part this astonishing development was accomplished through the extreme reaction against the French Revolution embodied especially in vitriolic denunciations of it by politicians in England and elsewhere committed to monarchy, the class system, and the values implicit in feudalism. Their arguments against the French Revolution and in behalf of monarchy form the basis for modern right-wing politics, or conservatism. The principles of organized conservatism, in social, economic, and moral values, were enunciated in a great body of reactionary polemic, most instrumentally in the English Whig Edmund Burke's http://www.constitution.org/eb/rev_fran.htm">Reflections on the Revolution in France. Written in 1789 before the ascendancy of the Jacobins--and therefore not in response to the Terror or to Jacobin ideological absolutism--Burke's Reflections is suffused with fury at the audacity of the Revolution itself because this revolution uniquely insisted that political freedom required some measure of civil, economic, and social equality. The linking of freedom with equality philosophically or programmatically remains anathema to conservatives today. Freedom, according to Burke, required hierarchy and order. That was his enduring theme.
"I flatter myself," Burke wrote, "that I love a manly, moral, regulated liberty." "Manly" liberty is bold, not effeminate or timorous (following a dictionary definition of the adjective "manly"). "Manly" liberty (following Burke) has a king. "Manly" liberty is authoritarian: the authority of the king--his sovereignty--presumably guarantees the liberty of everyone else by arcane analogy. "Moral" liberty is the worship of God and property, especially as they merge in the institutional church. "Moral" liberty means respect for the authority of God and king, especially as it manifests in feudal hierarchy. "Regulated" liberty is limited liberty: whatever is left over once the king is obeyed, God is worshipped, property is respected, hierarchy is honored, and the taxes or tributes that support all these institutions are paid. The liberty Burke loved particularly depended on the willingness of persons not just to accept but to love the social circumstances into which they were born: "To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country and mankind." The French rabble had noticeably violated this first principle of public affections.
To Burke, history showed that monarchy and the rights of Englishmen were completely intertwined so that the one required the other. Because certain rights had been exercised under monarchy, Burke held that monarchy was essential to the exercise of those rights. England had no proof, according to Burke, that rights could exist and be exercised without monarchy. Burke indicted political theorists who claimed that there were natural rights of men that superseded in importance the rights of existing governments. These theorists "have wrought under-ground a mine that will blow up, at one grand explosion, all examples of antiquity, all precedents, charters, and acts of parliament. They have 'rights of men.' Against these there can be no prescription... I have nothing to say to the clumsy subtility of their political metaphysicks." In Burke's more agile metaphysics, hereditary rights were transmitted through a hereditary crown because they had been before and so would continue to be. Burke provided no basis for evaluating the quality or fairness of the rights of "the little platoon we belong to in society" as opposed to the rights of other little platoons: to admit such a necessity would not be loving our little platoon enough. The hereditary crown, Burke suggests, restrains dictatorship because it gives the king obeisance without making him fight for it. It also inhibits civil conflict over who the ruler will be. This is as close as Burke gets to a substantive explanation of why rights and monarchy are inextricably linked.
--Andrea Dworkin (1983), "Preface to the British Edition of Right-wing Women", reprinted in Letters from a War Zone, pp. 187-189.See also *here* from Rad Geek's blog.
For more on the contents of Letters From a War Zone, please see *here*.