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
- American Conservative - also, but less credibly, listed as paleoconservative. Despite the association between this publication, which is sometimes identified as paleoconservative,8 and Patrick Buchanan,9 this journal reads much more like traditionalist conservatism than paleoconservatism. It seems entirely to lack the ethnic segregationist fervor of paleoconservatism.10 Perhaps most explicitly, Gene Callahan writes in this journal, “A healthy level of immigration is a positive good for a community or a nation: it keeps it open to new ideas and new ways of doing things, and helps prevent ossification.”11 That is something a paleoconservative would never say.
- 1. A biting critique of capitalist libertarianism, however, may be found in Paul Miller, “Reclaiming Conservatism from Libertarians,” Imaginative Conservative, September 16, 2014, http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2014/09/reclaiming-conservatism-libertarians.html
- 2. David Benfell, “The Quixotic Quest to Comprehend Conservatism, Part 1,” May 16, 2014, https://parts-unknown.org/drupal7/journal/2014/05/16/quixotic-quest-comprehend-conservatism-part-1
- 3. Jack Kerwick, “The neoconservative conundrum,” Modern Age 55, no. 1/2 (2013): 5-12.
- 4. Sonja K. Foss, Karen A. Foss, and Robert Trapp, Contemporary Perspectives on Rhetoric, 3rd ed. (Long Grove, IL: Waveland, 2002), 160.
- 5. Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, 7th ed. (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2001); Richard M. Weaver, Visions of Order: The Cultural Crisis of our Time (Louisiana State University, 1964; Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 1995).[/fn[ Richard Weaver contrasts function and ‘status’, with the latter referring not only to social valuation assigned an individual but apparently to form, and stresses that these need to be balanced. His critique of those he calls functionalists appears in part to refer to functionalist conservatives but more broadly refers to instrumentalism, a focus on utility, and to meritocracy,
Richard M. Weaver, Visions of Order: The Cultural Crisis of our Time (Louisiana State University, 1964; Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 1995).[/fn[ which the powerful (functionalist conservatives) in fact use to entrench their own positions. Christopher Hayes, Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy (New York: Crown, 2012).
- 6. Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, 7th ed. (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2001).[/fn[ although T. S. Eliot appears to accept that this should not be an exclusive path to power, that there should be some churn in the ruling class.
T. S. Eliot, Notes Toward the Definition of Culture (1948; repr., London: Faber and Faber, 1962).
- 7. See, for examples, Rod Dreher, “The Bush ‘Prophecy’,” American Conservative, September 10, 2014, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/the-absurd-bush-prophecy/; Jeffrey Hart, “Why I Am a Conservative,” First Principles, September 23, 2008, http://www.firstprinciplesjournal.com/articles.aspx?article=178
- 8. W. James Antle, III, “The Paleocon Dilemma,” American Conservative 7, no. 1 (2008): 17-19; Gerald J. Russello, “The Need for Self-Scrutiny,” review of The Paleoconservatives: New Voices of the Old Right, ed. by Joseph Scotchie, and Conservatism in America Since 1930, ed. by Gregory L. Schneider, Modern Age 47, no. 1 (2005): 68-72.
- 9. William F. King, “Neoconservatives and ‘Trotskyism’,” American Communist History 3, no. 2 (2004): 247-266, doi: 10.1080/147438904200030981; Susanne Klingenstein, “‘It’s Splendid When the Town Whore Gets Religion and Joins the Church’: The Rise of the Jewish Neoconservatives as Observed by the Paleoconservatives in the 1980s,” Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies 21, no. 3 (2003), 83-93; Timothy Stanley, “Buchanan’s Revolution,” American Conservative, February 8, 2012, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/buchanans-revolution/; and see, for examples, Patrick J. Buchanan, “Can One Nation Have Two Moralities?” American Conservative, March 29, 2013, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/can-one-nation-have-two-moralities/; Patrick J. Buchanan, “Nixon in Dixie: Our most maligned president was no racist,” American Conservative, August 27, 2014, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/nixon-in-dixie/
- 10. See especially Bonnie Kristian, “Seven Reasons Police Brutality Is Systemic, Not Anecdotal,” American Conservative, July 2, 2014, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/seven-reasons-police-brutality-is-systematic-not-anecdotal/; Brian Kaller, “Ferguson Falls Apart,” American Conservative, August 25, 2014, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/ferguson-falls-apart/; Daniel McCarthy, “Democracy isn’t the end of history, it’s a product of power,” American Conservative, July 16, 2014, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/why-liberalism-means-empire/
- 11. Gene Callahan, “Hayek’s Case Against Unlimited Immigration,” American Conservative, September 16, 2014, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/hayeks-case-against-unlimited-immigration/
- 12. Paul Rosenberg, “Christian right secession fantasy: Spooky neo-Confederate talk grows louder at the fringes,” Salon, July 1, 2014, http://www.salon.com/2014/07/01/christian_right_secession_fantasy_spooky_neo_confederate_talk_grows_louder_at_the_fringes/
- 13. Edward Ashbee, “Politics of Paleoconservatism,” Society 37, no. 3 (2000): 75-84; Gary Dorrien, “Interrogating Neoconservative Religion: Richard John Neuhaus, Rienhold Niebuhr, and the Politics of Moral Consensus,” Political Theology 14, no. 3 (2013): 397-405, doi: 10.1179/1462317X13Z.00000000031; Ross Douthat, “Social Conservatives and Social Science,” New York Times, December 18, 2013, http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/18/social-conservatives-and-social-science/; Alexandra Homolar-Riechmann, “The moral purpose of US power: neoconservatism in the age of Obama,” Contemporary Politics 15, no. 2 (2009): 179-196, doi: 10.1080/13569770902858111; Jacob Weisberg, “Hunter Gatherers,” New Republic 205, no. 10 (September 2, 1991), 14-16.