What would be necessary for the rebirth of traditional society?
Traditional society is society oriented toward transcendent good. To say a good—the good life, say—has a transcendent element is to say we can’t make what it is altogether explicit or know it sufficiently on our own. If that is so, however, we must rely on something beyond ourselves when we pursue it. Unless we have some special inspiration, which is unlikely, the best we can do is rely on understandings that have grown out of accumulation of the inspiration, experience and reflection of many times and places. And since the knowledge we need cannot be rationalized or even fully stated, it must take the form of attitudes, practices, formulae and symbols passed on by those who themselves received them—in other words, of tradition.
To accept the transcendent is therefore to be a traditionalist. Conversely, acceptance of the authority of tradition is irrational unless tradition tells us some truth that goes beyond our own knowledge and desire—something transcendent. Otherwise it becomes either a matter of taste, which we can take or leave as we choose, or a source of suggestions to be evaluated by standards external to tradition.
Modern society is anti-traditional and anti-transcendent. It tries to define and control everything. Part of the cause is how it is organized. Tradition involves habit, loyalty, attitude and sensibility, so that it cannot be stated and formalized completely but has an irreducibly personal element. Impersonal rational organization, which tries to formalize everything, is therefore intrinsically anti-traditional. In the form of markets and bureaucracy, such organization pervades all aspects of modern society. Unless it can be cut back in favor of other less rationalized forms of organization, for example family life and ethnic and religious community, there is no hope for a restoration of tradition and the transcendent.
How that can be done is the key practical issue for any serious conservatism, the issue by reference to which all others must be judged. Big government, education, welfare, foreign trade, immigration, “diversity” and the “culture war” all fall into place when considered from this perspective. In all cases the liberal view favors enforcing and extending rationalized formal organization, the conservative or traditionalist view opposes it and attempts to give the informal, local and non-rationalized institutions that are necessary for human well-being space to revive. The more clearly conservatives understand those basic principles the better they will understand and carry on the struggle they are in.