Renowned conservative philosopher and author of more than 50 books, Sir Roger Scruton, has passed away aged 75.
Given his significant influence on Central Europe’s struggle against communism and his role in developing conservative thought on a Europe-wide scale, dignitaries and public figures in a number of countries paid their respects to Scruton.
Hungarian government spokesman Zoltán Kovács was one of the first to do so in a tweet after the death of Scruton, with a quote from his work.
“‘Coming close to death you begin to know what life means, and what it means is gratitude.’ — Sir Roger Scruton. RIP, oh, noble knight.”, Kovács wrote.
From 1982 to 2001 Scruton was the editor of The Salisbury Review, a conservative political journal. He wrote over 50 books on philosophy, art, music, politics, literature, culture, sexuality, and religion. In addition, he also wrote novels and two operas.
Scruton embraced conservatism after witnessing the May 1968 student protests in France. From 1971 to 1992 he was a lecturer and professor of aesthetics at Birkbeck College, London, after which he held several part-time academic positions, including in the United States.
In the 1980s he helped to establish underground academic networks in Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe, for which he was awarded the Czech Republic’s Medal of Merit by President Václav Havel in 1998.
His activities in Czechoslovakia included smuggling in books, supporting banned artists and offering courses on subjects that were banned or suppressed by communist authorities. For his efforts, he was detained in Brno in 1985 and expelled from the country.
Scruton was knighted in the 2016 Birthday Honors for “services to philosophy, teaching and public education”.
Scruton, a defender of Hungary, called Orbán’s his friend
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán handed Scruton the Order of Merit of Hungary (Middle Cross) on December 3, 2019, at a ceremony at the Hungarian Embassy in London.
“(He had) foreseen the threats of illegal migration and defended Hungary from unjust criticism,” Orbán said at the event. “We have learned from our beloved professor that conservatism is anything but an ideology; in fact, it is the antidote to ideology.”
Scruton and Orbán formed a long-term friendship after meeting in Budapest in 1987.
Scruton found in Orbán a standard-bearer for conservatism in the heart of Europe and a leader that manifested many of the qualities he believed a successful conservative movement needed. As a result, Scruton offered his support for Orbán during an interview with the New Statesmen, an interview that would later be mischaracterized.
During the interview, while discussing immigration into Hungary, Scruton said that he and many citizens of that country are “particularly alarmed by the sudden invasion of huge tribes of Muslims from the Middle East” – and said that Orban’s response to close the borders and advocate Europe to do the same was justified.
In the same interview, Scruton emphasized that George Soros’ activities in Hungary and the region were a real effort to remove conservatives from power.
“Anybody who doesn’t think that there’s a Soros empire in Hungary has not observed the facts,” Scruton said in an interview with the New Statesman. The article did not include his full statement, which said that “it’s not necessarily an empire of Jews; that’s such nonsense”, an oversight which the magazine later apologized for, saying it mischaracterized Scruton’s statement.
Scruton was dismissed from his position as an unpaid government housing advisor for the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission.for his remarks about Soros and Muslims.
After obtaining the tapes of the actual New Statesmen interview and clearing his name, he wrote in an article in the Spectator, “By that time the damage has been done. I have been dismissed from the Commission, by a party which seems entirely unacquainted with the many thousands of quite well-argued words that I have offered in support of it, and the architects queue up to pour their ritual denunciations on my head.”
Scruton was reinstated to his advisor position but the event remained troubling to him. At the time, Scruton said conservatives were apt to abandon those who speak their minds when the media ramped up its attacks.
Scruton did not bow to political correctness during his career and voiced his belief that there was a “witch-hunt” against figures and thinkers on the political right.
During an interview with the BBC, he said “there has been throughout this country and throughout Europe, in my view, an attempt to silence the conservative voice. We get identified, caricatured and demonized and made to look like we are some kind of sinister fascist, racist kind of people.”
Following Scruton’s death, Boris Johnson lionized Scruton, a decidedly different tack from the approach the Conservative Party took under David Cameron’s leadership.
Scruton’s most notable publications include The Meaning of Conservatism (1980), Sexual Desire (1986), The Aesthetics of Music (1997), and How to Be a Conservative (2014).
He was a regular contributor to the popular media, including The Times, The Spectator, and the New Statesman.
Title image: Sir Roger Scruton (L) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (R) in London on December 3, 2019 (MTI/Zsolt Szigetváry)