Heart of Darkness uncovers the rotten core of the Eurocentric myth of imperialism as a way of bringing enlightenment to ‘native peoples’ – lessons which are relevant once more as the Iraq debacle has undermined the claims of liberal democracy to universal significance.
The result can hardly be called a political programme, but Conrad’s work is clearly suggestive of a sceptical conservatism of the sort described by the author in his 2005 book After Blair: Conservatism Beyond Thatcher. The difficult part of a Conradian philosophy is the profundity of his pessimism – far greater than Oakeshott, with whom Conrad does share some similarities (though closer to a conservative politician like Salisbury). Conrad’s work poses the question of how far we as a society are prepared to face the consequences of our ignorance.
Keywords: Joseph Conrad, novelist, scepticism, pessimism, Heart of Darkness, imperialism, liberal democracy, conservatism, Conradian philosophy, Oakeshott, Salisbury, terrorism, racism, guilt, globalisation, globalization, pity