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Traditionalist Conservatism

What is conservatism? Is it simply keeping things the same, so that Brezhnev was “conservative?” Or is there a more principled basis for it, one that can support enduring positions that deepen rather than collapse when attacked, and on occasion even call for radical change?

Traditionalist conservatism takes its stand on principle. It opposes philosophical modernity, and its expressions such as liberalism, on fundamental grounds. The issue that distinguishes it from modernity is very basic indeed: whether you start with what there is, or with what you know. The first is the way of traditional faith, the second of modern science. Modernity chooses the second quite singlemindedly. It wants to replace God and tradition by man and science. Starting with Descartes’ cogito ergo sum, it demands in effect that all things be cut to the pattern of our investigations. Conservatism, in contrast, holds that what there is is more important than what we know. It therefore starts with inherited understandings and God’s I am that I am, and emphasizes common sense and faith over formal reason and ideology.

The opposition between the two is thus a matter of fundamental principle. The basic issue in contemporary politics is which has the better grasp of reality. Our politics is thus at bottom metaphysical.



Murray Rothbard wrote,

“The word ‘conservative’ is unsatisfactory. The original right never used the term ‘conservative’: we called ourselves individualists, or ‘true liberals,’ or rightists. The word ‘conservative’ only swept the board (…) in 1953 (…). There are two major problems with the word ‘conservative.’ First, that it indeed connotes conserving the status quo; (thus) the Brezhnevites were called ‘conservatives’ (…). Perhaps there was a case for calling us ‘conservatives’ in 1910 (…But now) we want to uproot the status quo, not conserve it. And secondly, the word conservative harks back to struggles in nineteenth-century Europe, and in America conditions and institutions have been so different that the term is seriously misleading. (…)”

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Rothbard feels one of the following would be better than “conservatives”: “radical reactionaries,” “radical rightists,” or “the Hard Right.”

I agree one thousand percent that the word “Conservative” for our side HAS GOT TO BE REPLACED. I’ve never felt “conservative” in my life and still don’t know what it’s supposed to mean, at bottom. All I’ve ever felt is normal. “Conservative” is not only wrong for our side (wrong in other ways than the Breshnev case above, ways that include theoretical ones) but has zero propaganda value — in fact, has negative propaganda value: who wants to be a stodgy “Conservative” when he could be something called “a Progressive”? Who wants to NOT be on that side whose name sounds like it makes all the social “progress” in the world?

My personal preference is to replace “Conservative” with “Normal” (and “Liberal” with “Degenerate”) but that’ll never fly in the wider world of course. How about replacing Conservative with Progressive then? Liberalism is wrong. Wrongness can never engender progress — can never be progressive or constructive, only regressive and destructive. Conservatism is right. Rightness not only engenders progress and constructiveness but is the ONLY thing that does. (What builds a bridge better, one people are willing to drive across — wrongness or rightness? Can wrongness ever build a bridge it would be safe to drive across?) Why aren’t WE called Progressives? This seems like a a no-brainer. The left doesn’t wait for other people’s permission. They just start doing things. Let’s not await anyone’s permission to call ourselves what we are, and what the other side aren’t and never will be: Progressives.


I’d agree that the Right is the party of humanity, hope and realism, so “progressive” does make some sense. If you simply call yourself what your opponents call themselves though it’s confusing and not likely to catch on.

Dunno what to recommend instead. I usually say “traditionalist” or “antimodernist.” Those confuse people too but then that makes them ask questions. Maybe it’s good if people use different names that bring out different aspects of the thing. Whichever one catches on in the end will be the right one.

BTW, weren’t a lot of party names originally terms of abuse? Probably the most important thing is to get our own act in order and develop the ideas. The words will follow. In fact, I’ll put that in my signature.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

I consider myself to be a Catholic Christian—no more— no less. It goes against every principle our Lord Jesus taught us. He only ask us to love God and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Yes it is still valid to follow the Ten Commandments and the Great Commandments our Lord gave us. He ask us to take up our cross and follow him. God has revealed to us through out the ages that we are our “Brothers Keeper”. Remember Cain ask that question of God and heard the answer God gave him.

Labels are used to control things we don’t like or understand in an Anthropological sense. What more do you need than to pick up your own cross daily and follow our Lord.

Let’s stop being liberals and conservatives and be followers of the Lord. We humans have a great knack for making things complex when they are laid out so simply in the Gospel for us.

Sam G

Ciao Mr. Kalb.

Wonderful Blog, thank you for your many thoughts. I’m a bit of a naif, low-budget thinker, but I’ll try my best.

On this issue of “Conservativism,” I would stray away from politics and go “real-igious.”

What better philosopher in the world is there than the Blessed Virgin? To non-Catholics, just consider the most enlightened mother possible. First of all she cares. She’s at the bottom things.

Allow me to illustrate. In many liberal, trendy, advanced and hip societies of today’s world, prostitution is considered a profession like any other. In Berlin during the World Cup there was a whole lateral facade of a building, advertising a bordello. Why not? It’s not hypocritical, it’s monitored and it pays taxes.

I’ll tell you why not… because the spectacularly beauitiful girl in the mega-poster has a mother, who delivered her in great pain, fed her, fussed over her, made sure that she was neat and did her homework, scolded and cajoled her, praised her and consoled her… and now there she is debasing herself, giving herself to 10-20 different men a day. Society, the glossy magazines, the new ethicists, the free-thinkers and compagnia bella will all talk about her and her colleagues in terms of freedom… but mama will see her as the slave to money that she really has become. Mama will not be fooled. They can spin it any way they want, but that’s her girl, for whom she dreamed the best: a happy marriage, a family, beautiful children, abundance.

The same goes for homosexuality and gay marriages. The day homosexuality will be considered yawningly equal to heterosexuality is the day that Bruce comes home announcing: “Hi mom, I’m gay” or “Hi mom, I’m gay and I want to marry Jack” and mamma just naturally smiles in the first nano-second.

For obvious reasons, it won’t ever happen… so all the hype, the talk, the nonsense disappears when the measure is mama, or the Blessed Virgin (to non-Catholics, an idealized mama).

She is naturally conservative as she is naturally a progressive. She is unafraid to be a reactionary or a revolutionary, a utilitarian or idealist, a rationalist or a dreamer. She is all philosophical categories and more in one.

She is the common denominator. Even the pagan world can understand her. She is what proves the madness of Islam, famous for their mothers who ululate with joy upon news of their son’s murderous suicide.

The Blessed Virgin is the bottom line of sanity, no one better than she is capable of leading others to understand paradox (the real casualty of the rational-scientific-theoretical-expertism that is killing culture and shattering communities). She is logical and illogical, she scolds and praises, fusses and is yet capable of turning a blind, but ever-loving eye, she gives her all, only for the purpose of releasing and letting go.

The way to creating a better society, out of the madness of encroaching atheist/rationalist/barbarity is the Mother of Jesus Christ. She is the starting point, both for ease of comprehension AND desirable richness of thought and complexity.

Where she is venerated there is life, a greater richness of humanity, culture; where she is ignored, soullessness, efficiency, a great poverty of wealth.

She teaches that to have wine (everything good, heady and pleasurable), one must dedicate time to the vine.