This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

The Liberal and the Traditionalist

It is sometimes helpful, when discussing democracy, to use monarchy as a counterpoint, on the condition that this is done didactically, in order to help explain our ideas, and not with superficial intention, as if we were arguing for the implementation of a monarchical form of government here and now. Here and elsewhere in this manual we will adopt the term traditionalist with a similar aim, and with similar reservations.

That is to say, if we take up this ‘label’ for ourselves, if we call ourselves traditionalists, it is for the sake of clarifying our position and because it makes for an excellent contrast to the modern mentality, since until this point we’ve given the impression that everyone is a Liberal.

It is true, of course: nearly everyone today is a Liberal. Yet there have been characters who rejected the modern consensus. Some of the more notable figures in this group are: Nicolás Gómez Dávila, whom we have just quoted. Also Bertrand de Jouvenel, Joseph de Maistre, Julius Evola, Rene Guénon, Ivan Illich, and various popes of the Catholic Church. To describe these types, I will use the term Traditionalist.

All such labels are admittedly imprecise and have numerous drawbacks. First and foremost, the near universal incomprehension regarding the true nature of tradition in the modern world. This would lead our readers to imagine that the traditionalist argues for a rigid set of forms long-dead, wishing to reincarnate these dead forms and force them upon the living. We have already dealt with this confusion, but it cannot be eliminated.

Second, there is baggage attached to the term due to its being used in a relative sense by various groups. For example, within the Catholic Church itself there are ‘traditionalist Catholics’ who pit themselves against the modernist Catholics, but this does not necessarily make them our allies since their understanding of the concept of tradition usually only extends as far as certain liturgical forms. Beyond this secondary context, there are economic traditionalists, legal traditionalists, and so on. Anyone who hearkens back to a previous value, or previous iterations of a current value, as opposed to the latest and greatest, is liable to adopt for themselves the title of ‘traditionalist’ even though they might be defending some idea that is only a few decades old. Thus, we find many traditionalists who are merely upholding earlier versions of modernist doctrine.

Having considered these difficulties, we adopt the label anyway, not because it is perfect but because it provides us with a device of contrast. It allows us to make distinctions, and we will pause to outline many of the distinguishing characteristics that separate the traditionalist from the Liberal in the table below.

 

The LiberalThe Traditionalist
EqualityHierarchy
RightDuty
PatriotismFides
UniformityUnity
DemocracyMonarchy and aristocracy
AccumulationSubsistence
CompetitionCooperation
Economic sexVernacular gender
CorporationGuild
AnonymityPersonality
RevolutionRebellion
ConflictOrder, peace
LegalismCustom, tradition
Popular sovereigntyDivine sovereignty
Materialism, vague “spirituality”Religious life
Worship of scientists, doctorsWorship of saints
SubjectivityObjectivity
Majority opinionNatural law
AgitationContemplation
Clinging to youthVeneration for old age
SpeedProcrastination
Fear of mortalityAwareness of immortality
EducationWisdom
Technical know-howArt
EscapismConfrontation
Novelty, “originality”Beauty, truth
Worship of health, fitnessIndifference to fitness
DeterminismFree will
Security, safetyAdventure
Nationalism, internationalismEmpire, Supranationalism
The soldier, militarismThe knight, samurai, warrior
Industrial productionCraftsmanship
Individualism and collectivismPersonalism
The apartment, skyscraper, hotelThe castle, farm, hut
AnthropocentrismTheocentrism
Homogeneity and the massesMosaic of families and villages
MonotonyHarmony
Cowardice, timidityCourage
CentralismFederalism
Horizontal orderVertical order
Contractual societyService, patriarchal authority
The city, the megalopolisThe village, rural community

 

We hope that these considerations have permitted the reader to at least question the soundness of Liberal philosophy, while also hinting at an alternative human type—the traditionalist—which we will have reason to refer to, although we will use such labels as little as possible due to all the problems that accompany them.

For now, we can conclude by observing that the American Right and the Left fight endlessly for the controls of a hideous machine which the traditionalist would not degrade himself by operating even if the controls were placed in his hands, nor would he degrade his fellows by participating in its control over them. Contemporary political involvement urges man to fight over a prize that the traditionalist sees as a poison. It teaches him to yearn for a victory that the traditionalist senses to be a suicide.

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