Traditionalist Conservatism

  • Posted on: 28 July 2017
  • By: benfell

Traditionalist conservatives typically believe that government should be local and not democratic. Their utopia seems to be rural, with a squire (a sort of landlord) as patriarch, protecting his tenants. They align with social conservatives on religion, tending to oppose divorce, contraception and abortion. Government derives its legitimacy from religion, and they insist that religion is necessary to social order. They are conscious of the the downside of capitalism, but are nonetheless usually allied with capitalist libertarians.1 Their notion of diversity entails a strictly vertical hierarchy and they are historically sympathetic with slavery and segregation, tending to side with the South. Traditionalists are also frequently confounded with paleoconservatives.2

Traditionalist epistemology privileges the knowledge of ‘prejudice’, ‘habit’, and ‘passed-down skill’ (“practical” or “traditional” knowledge) as a foundation for all “technical” knowledge. “Technical” knowledge is here understood as the sort that can be written down, as in a cook book.3 Further, traditionalism ranks “specific ideas about things . . . the thoughts that individuals employ in the activity of daily living or facts about existing physical entities” beneath “beliefs, convictions, theories, laws, generalizations, or concepts that order the world of facts” beneath “the metaphysical dream, which is ‘an intuitive feeling about the immanent nature of reality.’”4 Thus empirical experience, as derived via the correspondence theory of truth, is inferior to theory, which in turn is inferior to the “metaphysical dream.”

Traditionalists are extremely skeptical of a notion of “progress,” that is, a notion that the world can be made a better or more just place, especially through technological advance or through “social engineering.” The world is the way it is because of the god of Abraham’s plan and to seek to improve it is to interfere with that plan. In addition, despite their alliance with capitalist libertarians, they are suspicious of an excessive focus on money.5 This leads traditionalists to somewhat favor inheritance as a path to power, because it is within a ruling family that the appropriate habits of ruling may be handed down,6

Along with paleoconservatives and capitalist libertarians, traditionalists often oppose war, placing them in conflict with neoconservatives.7


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