Traditionalists often assert that our belief system is non-ideological. I would say that is true. At the same time, I say that Conservatism is ideological. For those who do not quite understand the difference between Traditionalism and Conservatism, this claim will be ridiculous. As this thought of what constitutes the innate differences between the two similar, yet quite different, belief systems struck me, I had to reevaluate some of my own beliefs.
Rather than an ideology Traditionalism, and those who attached themselves strongly to it, i.e. Traditionalists are those who seek to preserve specific customs and values of a particular society.
Traditionalism, in the philosophical application, is the desire to protect, preserve, and transmit to the posterity the values, customs, and rituals of a particular people, at a particular time, in a particular place. It is nothing more, nor less, than that. However, it does not mean everything has to remain in stasis. Tradition is the antithesis of Progress not because it opposes all change, but because it opposes a particular form of change. Namely, Tradition opposes progress as in ‘progressing away/past’ something. Instead of moving away/past some value, custom, or ritual, Traditionalism is the advocacy of development or, building upon what already exists.
Conservatism is not the same as Traditionalism because it is ideological, not philosophical. How can you tell the difference, though? What makes Conservatism ideological but Traditionalism not? It is a fine line but anyone with a grasp of philosophical theories shall be able to easily discern these distinctions.
- Conservatism does not entirely depend upon specific cultures but, like any ideology, must adjust itself to the local environment. Traditionalism is entirely dependent upon the specific culture.
- Conservatism can be, and in large part was, created through active study. In other words, it can be created as a stand-alone system. Traditionalism, on the other hand, can only grow out of a culture, not be created by any one person or group of persons.
- Certain aspects of Conservatism neglect the inherent differences of cultures. It seeks to apply its theories universally, allowing only minor divergence due to local customs. Traditionalism is inherently local and could never be applied universally without ceasing to exist.
- Conservatism, through its innate universalism, seeks to force all cultures, directly or indirectly, submit to its theories. For example, American Conservatism will claim it is better that Iraq have democracy and capitalism. Traditionalists, however, believe their system to be the best one for themselves. Capitalism and democracy may work for Americans, but not for Iraqis.
- Conservatism has a fairly uniform set of beliefs which, if one differs greatly from, may result in their being deemed not correctly Conservative. Traditionalism has a similar feature but applies it differently. The question is not whether one supports or opposes some abstract concept like liberty or democracy, it is whether one supports or opposes the traditions and customs of the culture from which that person derives their identity.
What does it really come down to? Traditionalism is not universal, but Conservatism is. “But that is not real Conservatism that is Classical Liberalism dressed as Conservatism!” Good point, but you are misunderstanding it. Conservatism was an ideological construct created as a “sophisticated” system with which the Right could combat Social Liberalism (henceforth, Liberalism). Traditionalists allowed these Conservatives into our camp because they assumed Conservatives were our allies, since we agreed on most things or, specifically, we agreed on what we disliked.
Conservatives were Classical Liberals and bourgeois Traditionalists who were brought into the Conservative system. Traditionalists can come from any socio-economic group but will bring with them the particular characteristics and sentiments of said group. A peasant Traditionalist is no less a Traditionalist than a bourgeois or aristocratic Traditionalist simply because they listen to different music, live in different neighborhoods, and have different mannerisms. The core element of Traditionalism, ironically, is its incredible diversity.
British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli recognized this quite early. He expounded the idea that the Nobles had a responsibility to protect the Peasants against the abuses of the Middle Class. Why would Disraeli try to create a political system based along the lines of the most privileged allied with the least privileged? And, more importantly, why would those two groups ever consider themselves allies? Disraeli called this ‘One Nation Conservatism’. The United Kingdom had to remain united through its traditional hierarchical and duty based arrangement which the rising bourgeois was fracturing. Britain’s original system was developed organically, slowly evolving over time as it shaped a system which represented the best interests of all Britons.
The middle class knew this arrangement meant they could succeed but there would always be limits upon their success. Liberalism, both Classical and Modern/Social, were bourgeois constructs meant to better position their class. Conservatism was the bourgeois accepting what would best help them, primarily limited government (Classical Liberalism), and appeal to the more socially conservative side of the populace. Liberalism was also the bourgeois trying to maintain or build upon their power through enlarged government, since this is primarily the bureaucratic class, and appeals more to the socially radical side of the populace.
There is one major defect that accompanied the bourgeois claim to power. It brought an accompanying sense of universalism. The middle class saw itself as breaking out of the socio-economic system of old. Classical Liberals, and the later Conservatives, broke from the Medieval Age to create the Industrial Age where meritocracy was the rallying cry. Any man could be what he wanted to be so long as he worked hard enough, unless he had certain disadvantages. Modern Liberals, today simply called Liberals or Socialists, broke from the Industrial Age to create the Bureaucratic Age where equality was the rallying cry. With the help of Sociology claiming all sex, race, and predetermined qualities are social constructs, the Liberals advocate for every person or “lifestyle” that is offensive to the Medieval Age and, primarily, the Industrial Age.
Whereas Classical Liberals believed, as Conservatives do now (to varying degrees), that all reward should be based upon achievement only, Modern Liberals claim achievement is not the only standard since the system is “rigged”. Only those on the in-team can win and the in-team designates what constitutes the standards of said team. Therefore, to abolish this idea, the Liberal did away with all concepts of in-team and out-team based upon inherent qualities. They do not even like the concept of in-team since exclusiveness is condemned. This is why Liberals tend to congregate in fields where competition is low, and then condemn that competition, because it creates an exclusive group.
Think of it this way: Liberals often failed to make it into the in-team. So they condemned the in-team for creating arbitrary rules for admission, and set up their own team in bureaucracies or state-sponsored organizations, which are not based upon merit, therefore, are inclusive. Instead of accepting that they failed to succeed in the Industrial Age because of inherent inability or incompetence, they established a system wherein the only grounds for not being able to gain status is through having the wrong thoughts or being part of the group which had previously excluded them.
Have you ever wondered why under the Liberal Bill Clinton’s Presidency government had seemingly been reduced? The previous war on the rich, which lasted from the early 1900s through the 1970s halted. Why is that? Could it be that, Liberals wormed their way into the positions of high power in big business, which they previously despised? I suspect that is the case. Through excessive regulations, ridiculous HR policies, high tax rates, and demonization combined with their power bestowed upon them through government favoritism, the Liberals seized control of both the government and business. Now we have limousine Liberals who have enormous wealth yet still attack ‘the man’ (which is really themselves), such as Michael Moore and George Soros.
We have all heard the term “Neoliberalism”, right? Neoliberalism is simply the consolidation of big business into the Liberal column. Now that Wall Street works alongside Hollywood and the social workers, they have no need to truly attack the wealthy, because that would be attacking themselves. All they want is to extend their ideology globally and the Conservatives have done little, if anything, to stop them. Why is that? Because Conservatives have, behind that neat little mask they wear, accepted almost all the core Liberal concepts. Except Conservatives have lost control of everything now, since big business was their last power base. G. K. Chesterton once said quite eloquently,
“The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.”
Modern politics is simply Liberals leading the way and Conservatives establishing their standards relative to that of their ‘enemies’. Liberals say all abortions should be legal, so the Conservative says only some abortions should be legal. Liberals say we should legalize gay marriage, Conservative say the government should get out of the business of marriage. Do you notice the reoccurring theme? If a Liberal says 10, the Conservative says 3. What if the Liberal then says 20? The Conservative says 13 and calls it sound principles.
Does this not disqualify my previous assertion that Conservatism is ideological since it is at heart, today, conformist? Not at all since Conservatism still holds certain principles which it refuses to abandon. Instead they are like Liberals in that their understanding of said principles ‘evolves’ regularly. Those same principles are still their rallying cry; they only change how those principles apply.
So what of Traditionalists? How is Traditionalism different? For starters we do not try to establish our society upon a set of principles, but establish a set of principles from our society. For example, if a person says they love America because it is a Republic, are they saying they would stop loving America if it ceased being a Republic? If so, then they are not Traditionalists. They may be upset if America ceased being a Republic but even then, it is only because they saw the Republic as beautiful because it was American.
This is a fundamental difference between Conservatives and Traditionalists. Conservatives believe America will live on even when the natives are replaced because our nation is founded upon certain ideas. Traditionalists believe America will die, as will the true American ideas, because the natives are America, not the ideas. Germany exists insofar as it is German. France exists insofar as it is French. America exists insofar as it is American. Western natives are kept silent through intimidation and propaganda. Make these assertions, as I have, and risk being labeled a Nazi racist. America, to Liberals and Conservatives, is not exclusive because ideas are not exclusive. America, to a Traditionalist, is exclusive because people are exclusive.
Why do American Traditionalists disagree on so many things from the start date of the nation’s downturn to what is the best form of governance? American Traditionalists disagree quite a bit, and understandably so, because they differ on when America ceased to develop organically and started to become managed or, progress. Some say it was during the Peace of Westphalia (before we even became a country), others the American Revolution (the triumph of Enlightenment and Liberal ideas), some Civil War (the Federal Government gaining unassigned powers), many the New Deal (the beginning of the Bureaucratic Age), and perhaps most the 1960s (the rise of the counter-culture).
A Traditionalist who says the New Deal or Civil War is probably more of a Southern or White Nationalist. A Traditionalist who says the Peace of Westphalia or American Revolution is most likely a Monarchist/Jacobite. And a Traditionalist who says the 1960s likely assumes the entire structure to have long been rotten and in need of a complete replacement, with what they are not entirely sure.
In the end, though, what we may say unequivocally is that we love and honor our faith, family, and culture.