Tips on being a good reactionary

Perhaps some of you are new reactionaries?  Like anything worth doing, Reaction is worth doing well.  But where can you get guidance?  Chances are, none of your friends or family would want anything to do with your “extremist” beliefs.  Well, I’m no expert, but I’ve been at this for a while, and I have some tips for you.

1) How to not be a sellout

Conservatives are all obsessed with “sellouts”.  These are people who used to be conservatives but switched sides, thereby acquiring an enormous boost in social prestige.  Now they make their livings attacking us with spectacularly ignorant and simplistic accusations which they say should be taken seriously because of their insider expertise.  You know, dirtbags like Frank Schaeffer, who’s making a career out of shitting on his father’s memory.   Or Christopher Buckley, who’s doing basically the same thing, but whose filial impiety is a bit less egregious.  Or Damon Linker, who found a perfect career path in getting a start with First Things and then stabbing Father Neuhaus in the back to become a lackey for the establishment.  We conservatives hate sellouts, and we are prone to imputing low motives–cowardice, a desire for status or money–to their defection.  Liberals listening in would think us oddly fixated on what goes on at “cocktail parties” and “faculty lounges”.

So, how do you avoid selling out?  Of course, only the God Who sees the hearts of men knows what caused the above cases, but I can tell you what I think is a common path.  You don’t do it by avoiding all contact with liberal arguments for fear of being converted.  Don’t worry–there’s no danger of that happening.  Not following liberal ideas just makes you an ineffectual reactionary.  No, what usually leads people to sell out, assuming they were ever true reactionaries to begin with, is the attitude you take to your fellow conservatives.

At some point, you will be surrounded by intelligent liberals whose esteem you crave, and they will start talking about some idiotic thing a television personality on Fox News said.  You may think to yourself, “These people say they hate conservatives, but maybe it’s just that they’ve only been exposed to Fox ignoramuses.  They don’t really hate me.  I’m not like that.  If I could just show them that there are thoughtful, articulate reactionaries like me…”  Don’t kid yourself.  The liberals really do hate you.  They may hate Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, but they hate you–a principled patriarchist and monarchist–far, far more.  They have no respect for what you consider to be your sophistication.  Being able to invoke Aquinas and Hegel won’t impress them.  To a liberal, you are as ignorant as Beck and the rest.

(Liberals, if you haven’t noticed, use the word “ignorance” in a funny way.  Ignorance means disagreeing with liberalism, regardless of how knowledgeable one is.  So, for example, if a person believes that women should stay home with their young children, that means he is “ignorant”, although the one making this accusation doesn’t have to point to any particular fact that the person with the objectionable opinion doesn’t know.  Glenn Beck may be “ignorant”, but Pope Benedict is super-ignorant, etc.)

Anyway, the moment you start separating yourself from other non-liberals in the hope of winning the esteem of liberals is the moment you start on the road to selloutdom.  Sometimes the people liberals hate really are boorish morons.  Certainly you shouldn’t defend every idiot who calls himself a conservative; they’re mostly classical liberals and libertarians anyway.  Just don’t ever let yourself think that it’s just “those people” that the liberals hate, and that you could get a hearing from them if you could prove how different you are.  No, what the liberals hate is you and what you cherish.  Don’t ever forget that.

2) Humility

You are a convert to Reaction; we all are.  Let this experience be a source of humility for you, rather than pride.  Until the day before yesterday, you were spouting nonsense thinking it was self-evident truth.  The modern world has gotten into you deeply, as it has gotten into us all.  Your theoretical rejection of liberalism is the beginning of an intellectual journey, not its termination.  Most likely you, and for that matter I, still have many opinions that are shaped by pernicious liberal prejudices.  In fact, all of your opinions about the world that you haven’t rigorously examined are probably of this sort.  That doesn’t mean they’re wrong.  Liberals believe that the sun rises in the East, and it just so happens that it does.  On the other hand, you now know that the media and schools are committed to a false view of the world, and these have been your only source of information outside your immediate experience.

Suddenly, you realize that you don’t know nearly as much as you thought you did.  For example, is the Taliban really evil?  A week ago, you might have thought to yourself “Well, everybody knows that the Taliban is evil.  If both sides are forced to condemn something, than it must be bad in a pretty unambiguous way.  In this case, MSNBC and Fox both agree on the verdict, so it must be true.”  Now you know not to think of the different factions of liberals as “both sides”.

Well, but what about the accusations?  The Taliban are religious fundamentalists.  They’re intolerant.  They hate women and want to keep them in the home.  They’re against education.  Wait a minute!  Those are the exact same things they say about us!  Imagine for a second that you were a middle class Afghan reading his morning newspaper about this horrible faction of Americans called “the Orthosphere”.  They hate women!  They hate learning and freedom!  “What an awful group of people,” you would think to yourself.  So, if the Taliban were exactly like us–the good guys, I hope you’ll agree–we would be hearing exactly the same sorts of accusations from the liberal media that we actually hear.

So, does that mean that the Taliban is good?  Should we send an ambassador to work out an alliance?  No, they might be every bit as rotten as the media says they are.  Unless you have been to Afghanistan or have serious scholarly knowledge about that country, you have no idea.  When the newspapers report isolated facts:  such-and-such number of Afghani civilians were killed in such-and-such a way, this is usually true.  It’s the metanarratives that the media use to situate these facts that we know is untrustworthy, is in fact malignant.  So, if the newspapers report a Taliban atrocity (funny that I can’t remember much of that), we can chalk it up against them.  On the other hand, we should keep scanning the papers to see if our Afghan allies are doing things just as bad.  If the papers regard one sides atrocities as regrettable lapses and another’s as an indication of intrinsic wickedness, we are to discard this interpretation unless it matches our own.

Liberalism has infused a number of bigotries regarding various cultures and various historical epochs.  You must now test them all.  Reject Whiggery.  The fact that side A ended up winning out over side B is no guarantee that side A was right.  Is civilization always better than tribalism?  Should we prefer Athens or Sparta?  Who was right–the barons or King John?  Was replacing feudalism with capitalism a good thing?  Did the American colonists have just reason to rebel?  Did the Confederates?  Was the Risorgimento laudable progress or inexcusable Piedmontese aggression?  You no longer know.  You must reevaluate each case on the basis of your new principles.

Your conversion to Reaction is imperfect, as is mine.  We have turned our intellects against liberalism, but it will take a lifetime to acquire the sensibility of a man informed by tradition.  Therefore, your ancestors, who didn’t suffer from this mental handicap, should receive a benefit of doubt.  If you agree with your generation on some matter against all past generations, suspect–suspect strongly–that you are wrong.  If you think that the belief of all prior generations across many cultures is silly or crazy, you can be certain that you have misunderstood it.

3) What you need to learn about liberals

You must understand liberalism, but you needn’t subject yourself to all their vulgar editorials, television harangues, blog posts, and  protest signs.  There, you won’t find your views challenged, just insulted.  You should rather seek out academic presentations of the liberal position and read the classics of the liberal tradition (Locke, Mill, etc.).  In addition to giving you the highest and most coherent presentation of liberalism, these works are markedly less polemical and insulting than what you’ll find at the lower levels.  You don’t have to put up with your enemies speculating about your mental illness or sexual frustration.

4) A proper pessimism

If you think there is a silent majority of conservative Americans or orthodox Christians, you are setting yourself up for a painful disillusionment.  Let me give it to you now:  the atheist Left has won the allegiance of the vast, the overwhelming, majority of people in the Western world.  The group that rejects liberalism in any principled way is probably less than one percent.  Not only is there no silent majority, I doubt there is even a “hard core” of appreciable size that isn’t crumbling before the liberal onslaught.  We are headed to battle, but not to victory.  We will not be remembered with gratitude and respect by future generations.  There will be no statues to honor conservative heroes.  We will be cursed by our grandchildren–the fate of all vanquished.

We must fight, although victory is humanly impossible.  At best, we will preserve our integrity.  At best, God will through our faithfulness save our children and a few strangers.  Even if not, truth and duty need not offer us any motive but themselves.

73 thoughts on “Tips on being a good reactionary

  1. That seems like an accurate, un-sensational description of what it is like to be a Christian Reactionary.

    In some ways it is easy – since it is based on common sense, personal experience and the consensus of the past. But it is very difficult to regard all the knowledge being fed to us as having *zero* intrinsic validity – although this is true.

    In practice it just has to be rejected en bloc, because there is no possibility of developing alternative views on the thousands of ‘issues’ which are pre-decided for us by the mass media and the bureaucracy.

    This does seem like a rather ‘dumb’ thing to do – the wholesale rejection; but I find that ‘keeping my head clear’ – especially in relation to prayer, which ought to be going on much of the time – there isn’t really much alternative. There must be a primary strategy of detachment – rather than engagement, argument, debate.

    Indeed, it looks to me that the groups who are most effectively defeating secular Leftism are precisely those who have the least to do with it, who do not try to win arguments but simply get on with *doing* the primary things in life (e.g. religion, family).

    • To build on Dr. Charlton’s observation, the modern era may be understood in terms of a set of interpenetrating dominant societal structures, whether bureaucratic, economic, journalistic or the like, but more fundamentally, what defines modernity are its various interlocking ideologies, or structures of the mind. In this sense, modernity is the condition that the contemporary individual finds himself within, but more essentially, it is the condition he finds within himself. This is both a curse and blessing, the latter insofar as it is possible to be in the modern world, but not of it.

    • Indeed, it looks to me that the groups who are most effectively defeating secular Leftism are precisely those who have the least to do with it, who do not try to win arguments but simply get on with *doing* the primary things in life

      Right. Lifeboats, not soapboxes.

  2. I’m a new reactionary, completely alone at my university. It’s a sad situation, but I’m determined to make a couple of converts from pseudo-conservatism.

    • Bonald may have his own answer, but I would say that nineteenth-century Protestant culture is one of the grandfathers of modern liberalism. I’d exempt some of the fundamentalists from this, but the main thrust of nineteenth-century Protestant culture was toward social reform and some variant of the Quaker doctrine of the inner light. Guilt became social guilt for social iniquities, and individuals who denounced these social iniquities gave evidence of election.

      As Bonald’s post indicates, a Reactionary is anyone who has stopped believing that liberalism is true. A young Reactionary normally recognizes one rather limited fallacy. But after a while he’ll notice more and more. Although it has positive content, Reaction is primarily a negative doctrine.

      • Jonathan — and anyone else who might be interested:

        Please don’t overlook the efforts of Confessional Lutherans in the 19th and 20th centuries. I wish I could give all interested persons a copy of Charles Porterfield Krauth’s The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology (1871 and reprinted multiple times). What a rich, catholic heritage. I use “catholic” advisedly. For example, one of the great Confessional Lutheran classics, Martin Chemnitz’s On the Two Natures in Christ, is a theological feast that was used as a textbook for an Eastern Orthodox course. There is a late revival of Confessional Lutheranism going on right now. That it is no mere paper church, I know from my own current experience and knowledge.

      • … I didn’t make clear: we are seeing a great deal of translation of superb Lutheran theological works from the 16th and 17th centuries. They are being read and they are affecting what happens on Sunday mornings.

      • “Reaction is primarily a negative doctrine”

        But the reactionaries must have a positive vision of the Good. A purely negative vision would not attract a lot of people.

        So what is the positive vision of Reaction?
        Catholicism offers a positive vision and it never accepted liberalism. Almost alone among Christian denominations, it has opposed almost all of modern innovations.
        But what is the relation between Reaction and Catholicism and how do Orthosphere views Catholicism?

      • There is a curious, if perfectly understandable, inversion of perspective reflected in the conjoined comments above: “‘Reaction is primarily a negative doctrine.’ But the reactionaries must have a positive vision of the Good.”

        Having been born into modernity, we are inescapably modern by formation. ‘Reaction’ is a necessarily subsequent rejection of this predominating condition; in this immediate sense, it has the appearance of a “negative doctrine”. Yet this modern condition is one which is, at root, secular, materialist and implicitly nihilist, and is thereby itself, by its intrinsic impetus, a rejection of the Good. ‘Reaction’, as a ‘metanoia’, a repentance from modernity, is, conversely, intrinsically positive, a turning toward the Good.

        It is not reaction that is a negative doctrine, but modernity itself. To think otherwise is analogous to considering the prodigal starving among the swine or the prisoners chained facing the wall of shadows to be a good and proper condition of man. ‘Reaction’ is the resolve to return to the father’s house or the ascent out of the cave toward the light of the intelligible sun.

      • ‘Reaction’ is the resolve to return to the father’s house or the ascent out of the cave toward the light of the intelligible sun.

        Besides the re-solve to re-turn, it is also the re-collection of things that have been forgotten and a re-covery after a long illness. By re-acquainting us with the Origin of all things, it re-stores, re-freshes and re-news us.

        No, not a negative doctrine, not at all.

      • When I wrote that Reaction is primarily a negative doctrine, I meant that Reaction begins with a feeling of revulsion for the falsehoods of the secular-liberal worldview. Once the reactionary has repudiated the secular-liberal worldview, he will be attracted to any number of true goods, but the initial sentiment is disgust, revulsion, reaction. I’d suggest that this parallels the sequence of events in orthodox Christian repentance and conversion. The first gift of grace is negative: to see one’s self through God’s eyes, and so to feel revulsion for the life one is living. The second gift of grace is positive: to feel God’s love and forgiveness. The second gift of grace is more important, of course, but the first gift comes first and is necessary.

        For what it’s worth, I tend to think of a conservative as a man who is trying (probably without much success) to defend an embattled yet existing traditional way of life. The enemy is pressing in from all sides, but the conservative still controls some territory. A reactionary, on the other hand, lives in a country wholly under enemy occupation. In many cases the reactionary has a shameful history of collaboration with the enemy. But then one day he felt The Revulsion.

      • It’s interesting, Jonathan Smith, how well your description of Reaction would fit the case of Luther and other Lutheran Reformers, who did not found a new denomination but rather desired to see orthodoxy and orthopraxis returned to the Western Church. As I indicated in another comment today, I’m not trying to provoke or to participate in a polemical discussion of theological and ecclesiastical merits vis-a-vis the Christian traditions, but I would invite, at least, interested persons who perceive difficulties with Rome and Constantinople to investigate Confessional Lutheranism, which I would hesitate to label as Protestant.

        Reformation was a needed reaction to current departures from a divine norm in earlier instances, e.g. the reformation of Israel under Nehemiah, or that of St. Athanasius in his day. Surely it is non-controversial that, in these instances at least, reformation was needed and was not a movement towards proto-modernity!

      • Without intending to be polemical, one should recall that, while Luther and the other Reformers had legitimate grievances toward Rome, grievances that Catholicism invited upon itself, nevertheless, the Reformation proved in practice a decisive move, not so much toward a purified Christianity as toward secular modernity. In this sense, the Reformation was one of the primary midwives of the modern world. Peter Berger discusses this in some detail in his “The Sacred Canopy”; Oz Guinness carries this forward in his “The Last Christian on Earth”; Craig M. Gay also treats this in his “The Way of the (Modern) World”.

      • This is certainly the received wisdom about the Protestant Reformation(s). I have to question, first of all, the appropriateness of referring to “the Reformation” at all, given the radical differences between the Lutherans and others, such as Zwingli. I hold no brief for the others. Too much is often made of “Table Talk” remarks attributed to Luther, remarks that would not have been widely known in his day, and too little is made of what the Lutheran or conservative reformers said and asked for. For every non-Lutheran who has actually studied the Augsburg Confession, for example, there must be hundreds who remember some dubious remark by Luther that was never part of the Confessions.

        I certainly think people would be better off studying the Lutheran Confessions or the writings of Martin Chemnitz (e.g. his Examination of the Council of Trent) than poring over the “Traditionalists” such as Schuon & co.

      • DJN@ I must confess that Lutheranism is the branch of American Christianity with which I am least familiar. I was raised a Protestant with no definite denominational affiliation, and converted to Catholicism as an adult, but I don’t believe I’ve ever attended a Lutheran service. I’ve been heartened by some of the recent rapprochement between the Lutheran Church and Rome, but also discouraged by what appear to be growing schisms within Lutheranism itself. To an outsider, these seem to parallel the schisms in the Anglican Church. In my comment at the head of this thread, I didn’t mean to tar all Protestants with the same brush. There was a good deal of anti-modern orthodoxy in the Presbyterian Church, for instance. The key, as you say, is abiding by a settled confession. Without this any Church will simply follow the zeitgeist.

      • “Lutheranism” refers to any body that has “Lutheran” in its name, but that is not important. What matters is whether the church adheres to the Lutheran Confessions or not. It would be unfortunate if people who could benefit by investigating those Confessions were dissuaded from doing to because of the behavior of “Lutheran” bodies that trundle along in the wake of the Zeitgeist….

    • @Gian, It would be unfair to say that we reactionaries have no positive vision of society. It *might* be fair to say that that positive vision is distinct from our reaction — i.e., that we are antimodern reactionaries *and* Christian monarchists and that it’s meaningful to talk about these things as distinct phenomena. There’s some more meat to this in that the former doesn’t necessarily entail the latter; the Nazis were antimodern, too, after all, but would have hated and murdered us. I suppose it depends on how Jonathan meant that remark.

      At any rate, our positive vision includes, among other things, respect and reverence for the sacred (including God, the order of being generally, and our participation therein, for instance by sex roles), and a vision of society that generally models that sacral order (e.g., monarchism and confessionalism).

      Several of us are practicing Catholics and I think most of us are at least sympathetic to the Church. The only Protestant reactionaries I can think of are Alan Roebuck and Larry Auster, and the latter might object to being called a reactionary. Dr. Charlton is Anglo-Catholic but is more sympathetic to the Orthodox tradition.

      • Thanks for the considered answer. Now I would ask
        1) Is reaction then the political wing of a Catholicism that is purged of the Left tendencyor that seeks to purge Catholic Church of its Left tendency?
        2) Isn’t subsidiarity more significant than monarchy? If one seeks the social order of medieval Christendom, it is this feature that is most prominent–the small scale of the political authority and its dispersal. It is remarkable that the European princes did not have a standing armies, in contrast to Oriental and Muslim despots that were essentially military dictatorships.
        2) Isn’

      • I used the term “Confessional Lutherans” earlier, and this posting gives me an opportunity to explain what I should have explained already. Confessional Lutherans adhere seriously to the Lutherans Confessions, which include the Augsburg Confession and less well-known symbols of the Faith. It has to be recognized that the largest US Lutheran denomination (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), is a mainline Protestant denomination and should not be regarded as a Confessional Lutheran church; unlike Confessional Lutherans, the ELCA has reciprocal pulpit and altar fellowship with non-Lutheran bodies such as the Episcopal Church; it ordains women and persons in homosexual relationships, etc. Confessional Lutheranism in the US is represented by the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and some smaller bodies. The LCMS continues to be renewed by an ad fontes movement including classic Lutheran theology and also patristic literature and to be recovering a sacramental piety that is sometimes eclipsed thanks to the influence of non-Lutheran protestantism etc.

        I don’t suppose this blog is the place to engage in debates about the theological merits of various Christian traditions; I, at least, don’t intend to do so. However, I would encourage fellow reactionaries who are seeking the Church, but who perceive obstacles to an embrace of Rome or Constantinople, to consider Confessional Lutheranism. Pastor David Webber’s Lutheran Theology page is a good source.

      • I probably should have used “establishmentarianism” instead of confessionalism, although the latter is proper. I mean we support the establishment of some Church, on the part of the state, as representing the fullest moral and theological truths.

        Gian, if you’re asking me if a reactionary must be a Catholic, the answer is no. Several of us are non-Catholics. I do think Catholicism/Orthodoxy is most naturally compatible with reaction, though.

        As far as subsidiarity is concerned, there seems to be room for disagreement with respect to it. I think Bonald is substantially more absolutist than I am, for instance, while Dr. Charlton probably splits the difference between us.

  3. Liberalism has infused a number of bigotries regarding various cultures and various historical epochs. You must now test them all. Reject Whiggery. The fact that side A ended up winning out over side B is no guarantee that side A was right.

    OK, I’ll touch the third rail here, even though it might get me banned.

    Among the historical narratives that must be tested is the one that tells us that Hitler and the Nazis were thoroughly, unredeemably and insanely evil. As with the Confederacy and the Taliban, there might be some truth in what we’ve told, but also some distortions and outright lies. Or maybe it’s all true. I honestly don’t know anymore. The whole WW2 period is shrouded in so many taboos that it’s almost impossible to get to the truth of things.

    But you don’t need to go all the way to full-blown Holocaust denial (or even skepticism) in order to recognize that Hitler might have been right, for instance, about degenerate art. Not to mention the twin threats of Bolshevism and Americanism.

    Use discernment here, as you should in all things. But on this topic, perhaps more than any other, it’s usually best to keep your thoughts to yourself. If the owners of this site want to delete this comment in order to avoid any further discussion that might provide ammo for our opponents, I won’t object.

    • If industrialized mass murder doesn’t make an ideology “thoroughly, unredeemably and insanely evil” — well, what would?

      I admit I’m a right-liberal by the standards of this site, but seriously, if you’re flirting with holocaust denial you’re pretty much denying the possibility of historical knowledge.

  4. We must fight, although victory is humanly impossible.

    Yes, this is our duty. But we must not despair: we must not be so prideful as to think that because we don’t see a path to victory, there cannot be one.

    Be content to let God be our general, and leave grand strategy to Him.

  5. You are a convert to Reaction; we all are.

    I don’t think I’ve submitted myself to baptism and confirmation yet, but I suppose I’m inquiring, or maybe I’m even in catechesis. You may have addressed this already, either here or elsewhere, but could you please direct me to a list of essential Reactionary reading? I’ve recently discovered the network of Orthosphere blogs (Ms Wood —> AltRight —> Mr Sellanraa —> Bonald —> Proph —> Orthosphere), and it’s like crack it’s so good.

    By the way, I find the anti-Christian neo-paganism and obsession with Nietzsche of a lot of the AltRight crowd really disturbing, and it almost turned me off to the radical traditionalist movement (if it can be called that). I’m glad I found you guys.

    • Andrew,

      The first post on this site actually was “basic readings on the web.” That should give you a place to start.

      If you’re looking for books, and if you’re a Christian with a little background in intellectual history, I would strongly suggest starting with Robert Kraynak’s Christian Faith and Modern Democracy. I would not call Kraynak an outright reactionary, but what he does in this book is dispel the misconception that Christianity and democracy are perfectly compatible. Kraynak’s style is also very readable and, given the delicate questions he is addressing, remarkably serene and non-polemic. I read the book in college and it made a huge impression on me–I rarely mark books up, but my copy of this book is full of underlines and marginal comments.

    • Begin with Jim Kalb’s “The Tyranny of Liberalism” and Bruce Charlton’s “Thought Prison” for a description of the inadequacy and evil of modern thought. Then read Edward Feser’s “The Last Superstition” for the antidote. After that, if you feel the need to go deeper, check out the book reviews at Bonald’s site and see what interests you there. My favorites are those books in the “what you thought you knew about X was wrong,” because “what you thought you knew about X” is pretty much always some meritless leftist narrative.

  6. I am a social liberal. You are absolutely right that merely differentiating yourself from the blowhards on Fox News will not win you the love or respect of liberals. I do not think that support for patriarchy, no matter how prettily expressed, is something upon which reasonable people can disagree. The social reactionary position is one of fundamental disrespect for half of the human race. You can’t tell women that they should gracefully accept a role of subordination to male leadership and then expect a respectful dialogue in return. There are some propositions that are so outrageous or ridiculous or both that the only proper response is ridicule and scorn. We can have a respectful disagreement on economic policy, the war in Afghanistan, the merits of different kinds of art and a host of other topics but my right to full participation in our society is simply not up for debate.

    Would I still be friendly with a colleague or relative ho expressed support for patriarchy? In my case, I am friends with such an individual, whom I frequently engage on these issues in a friendly way, despite the fact that his views do not merit such discussion. But I can’t fully love or trust him in the way I used to now that I know how he truly views my proper role in society.

    • An opinion held by the vast majority of humans, male and female, throughout almost all of human history, cannot be a “ridiculous” opinion. It may be wrong, but it cannot be ridiculous. A ridiculous opinion is an opinion whose absurdity is obvious to most people, an opinion most people would laugh at. You may feel that most people ought to laugh at anyone who does not endorse absolute gender equality, but the truth is that most people do not.

      The nub of our disagreement is, I’d say, the meaning of what you describe as “full participation in our society.” I’d say that most (not all) career women are not fully participating because they are doing one thing (e.g. drafting memos) rather poorly when they might be doing another thing (e.g. raising children) rather well. Please take this in an irenic spirt and ask yourself if the form of this proposition is obviously ridiculous. It seems to me clear that full participation does not mean freedom to do what one likes, but rather duty to do needful tasks to which one is suited. Would you agree with me this far?

      • Yes, I certainly agree that patriarchy has been the norm throughout human history, although perhaps less as a matter of principle than of inevitability in eras when women in their prime were constantly or frequently pregnant. However, once various technologies leveled the playing field, it appears that people in the most technologically advanced societies have overwhelmingly and quickly accepted relative social equality between the sexes.

        That said, my more fundamental purpose in commenting here was to try to explain the antipathy liberals, and especially women, are likely to feel and express towards those who espouse patriarchy. In part precisely because of the fact that our era of history is a mere blip following on the heels of millenia of patriarchy, some of us perceive social conservatives to pose an existential threat. Further down there is a comment to the effect that liberals hate you and what you cherish, but the reverse is very much true as well.

        You ask: “It seems to me clear that full participation does not mean freedom to do what one likes, but rather duty to do needful tasks to which one is suited. Would you agree with me this far?”

        Not exactly. I don’t believe it’s either/or. Full participation in society includes both duty and freedom. Yes, we must strive for a life of purpose and service, but I also believe in the freedom of the individual to determine for herself (or himself) what form that should take (within the bounds of circumstance, of course). Other important values are having a voice in the affairs of one’s society and community, authority within one’s own household, and sovereignty over one’s own body and life choices. None of these things is merely “freedom to do what one likes,” but rather they prerequisites to living a life of the highest purpose one can identify for oneself.

        (It goes without saying that I do not agree that the majority of career women are performing their tasks poorly, or that their tasks are as mundane as merely “drafting memoes.” While I certainly write lots of memoes, these are merely means to the larger ends I accomplish in the service of those my work benefits.)

      • Margaret@ Thanks for your prompt and thoughtful response. I think you are right to focus on antipathy and existential threat, since the reactionary critique of feminism is undoubtedly radical. In the unlikely event that we should convert you to our way of seeing things, your present identity would dissolve. In the even more unlikely event that we should come to power and set social standards, you would find life less agreeable than it is at present. Reactionaries are, in principle, an existential threat to the liberal personality, male or female, and it would be dishonest of them to disguise their lupine form with a sheep’s fleece. We do not wish to see every woman “barefoot and pregnant,” but our preferred world would be substantially different than this one.

        I’m sure you see, though, that feminism is much more of an existential threat to patriarchy than patriarchy is to feminism. People with power agree with you, not me.

        Patriarchy does not deny women a voice in the community, authority in the home, or even sovereignty over their own bodies. It circumscribes or qualifies all of these things, making them a distinctly woman’s voice, authority, and sovereignty, but it does not deny or devalue them. In some ways a woman (women) may be said to have more power under patriarchy, since within her “sphere” (bad word, I know) her rule is absolute.

      • “You can’t tell women that they should gracefully accept a role of subordination to male leadership and then expect a respectful dialogue in return”

        Margaret, have you no boss at work? If you have, then you are under his/her authority. I have been under the authority of bosses and I have been (and am) under the authority of my husband, and I will tell you that I have more “freedom to liv(e) a life of the highest purpose (I) can identify for (my)self” under the authority of a man who loves me than a boss who ultimately cares very little about me.

      • In 1927, G.K. Chesterton wrote:

        “The fact is, I think, that I am in revolt against the conditions of industrial capitalism and the advocates of Birth Control are in revolt against the conditions of human life. What their spokesmen can possibly mean by saying that I wage a ‘class war against mothers’ must remain a matter of speculation. If they mean that I do the unpardonable wrong to mothers of thinking they will wish to continue to be mothers, even in a society of greater economic justice and civic equality, then I think they are perfectly right. I doubt whether mothers could escape from motherhood into Socialism. But the advocates of Birth Control seem to want some of them to escape from it into capitalism.

        They seem to express a sympathy with those who prefer ‘the right to earn outside the home’ or (in other words) the right to be a wage-slave and work under the orders of a total stranger because he happens to be a richer man.
        By what conceivable contortions of twisted thought this ever came to be considered a freer condition than that of companionship with the man she has herself freely accepted, I never could for the life of me make out. The only sense I can make of it is that the proletarian work, though obviously more senile and subordinate than the parental, is so far safer and more irresponsible because it is not parental.

        I can easily believe that there are some people who do prefer working in a factory to working in a family; for there are always some people who prefer slavery to freedom, and who especially prefer being governed to governing someone else. But I think their quarrel with motherhood is not like mine, a quarrel with inhuman conditions, but simply a quarrel with life. Given an attempt to escape from the nature of things, and I can well believe that it might lead at last to something like ‘the nursery school for our children staffed by other mothers and single women of expert training.’

        I will add nothing to that ghastly picture, beyond speculating pleasantly about the world in which women cannot manage their own children but can manage each other’s. But I think it indicates an abyss between natural and unnatural arrangements which would have to be bridged before we approached what is supposed to be the subject of discussion.”

    • “I do not think that support for patriarchy, no matter how prettily expressed, is something upon which reasonable people can disagree.”

      But this is precisely what is under discussion. As Jonathan points out, the evidence suggests that patriarchy is the historically normative stance for the vast majority of human societies. That alone is evidence that it’s worth talking about. (In fact, it’s evidence that it ought to be advantaged in any discussion about its merits).

      As far as “disrespect” is concerned, I think your understanding of patriarchy as we support and defend it may be inadequate. I recommend reading Bonald’s essay on the topic here: Disrespect from women is far from consistent with the patriarchal order of things.

      • I have to write a memo right no (no, really!), but I will check out the link you provide and respond further when time permits.

    • Re: Margaret,

      Let me suggest that, contrary to you claim, social conservatism – far from having “fundamental disrespect for half of the human race” – is, in fact, the best shot women have at an honored position in a functioning society. Western societies have spent the last half-century and more progressively dismantling social conservatism, elevating women and denigrating men. The claimed objective was to transform society for the better into one more equal. How has it worked out? By nearly every societal measure one could claim, Western societies are far more dysfunctional than before the dreaded patriarchy was dismantled. Much of this dysfunction, particularly the weakening of marriage and rise of bastardy, can be laid largely at the feet of feminists. Further, the equalist rhetoric of feminism – a quite nakedly supremacist movement – has been exposed as a complete lie.

      If I were to put the matter more bluntly, I would say that the last half-century of gender dynamics in the West has been a case of women behaving remarkably badly, men enabling them and society unraveling around them both in consequence. When basic social ties, economic activity and public safety become progressively undermined with the further disenfranchisement of men, do you think that the elevation of women in the midst of a dysfunctional society will serve them better than a traditional social conservative arrangement? Put more pointedly yet, a nation full of excluded men, single mothers and bastard children cannot possibly thrive for any significant length of time – the beginning of this outcome is already well in sight.

      Should you wish further documentation – “I could a tale unfold whose lightest word would harrow up thy soul…” – I might suggest Daniel Amneus (cf., F. Roger Devlin, Stephen Baskerville and Warren Farrell, among others. Jim Kalb’s “Anti-Feminist Page” is a good resource as well :

      • Margaret is probably an educated, high-achieving woman with a high IQ. She doesn’t have to internalize the externalities of the decline of patriarchy, while the re-establishment of patriarchy — as improbable as that would be — would impose costs on her. Naturally, we orthos would argue that these costs would be outweighed by various tangible and intangible benefits.

        But taking a broader view, sexual anarchy imposes enormous overall costs on society. Children from single-parent homes suffer from much higher rates of crime, sexual abuse, poverty, and (probably) atheism, even after adjusting for household income. Sexual chaos is, of course, much more widespread among the poor and among minorities than it is among high-income, highly-educated professionals like me and, no doubt, Margaret, among whom divorce and illegitimacy rates remain in the single digits.

        Even on its own terms, social liberalism has failed, because it has worsened the problems it claimed it would solve. (As Moldbug is fond of pointing out, many social indicators are actually worse now than they were 100 years ago, despite our society’s vast technological progress and increase in material wealth.) Far from producing a well-ordered, rational society in which eleutheria leads to eudaimonia, social liberty has given us a society composed of a nervous crust of technocrats over a collapsing middle class and a lower class in complete free fall.

      • Re: bbtb,

        I suspect that you read the situation correctly. Regarding children, social dysfunction and single parenting – whether through bastardy or divorce – a recent comprehensive study, “The Effect of Divorce on Children” (2012) ( covers the latter case and confirms in detail all of your worst suspicions. I imagine the story would be similar for children born out of wedlock and raised by single mothers. Regarding general tracking of societal breakdown, one of the more useful summaries I have found, particularly for its very helpful summary charts, is “The Marriage Index: A Proposal to Establish Leading Marriage Indicators” (2010) ( As for rates of illegitimacy in the United States and Europe, “Changing Patterns of Nonmarital Childbearing in the United States” (2009) ( can be recommended; figure 6 is particularly chilling.

        I suspect that most feminists have no idea, and would be shocked if their noses were rubbed in it, that they, and the two generations or so of feminists before them, have a very large hand of responsibility for the societal catastrophe unfolding around us.

      • There is a terrible irony at work in that an absolutely central agenda item for characteristic contemporary feminism has been “abortion rights” and the establishment in law of the premise of a woman’s ‘right to her own reproductivity” — and now, in places such as England, women are terminating their pregnancies to avoid bearing female children. See coverage in the Telegraph crica 24 Feb. 2012.

  7. “I doubt there is even a “hard core” of appreciable size that isn’t crumbling before the liberal onslaught.”

    What about the Amish? At 250,000 strong, they might not look like too much, but their fertility rate of 6-8 children/woman is gigantic. That, combined with their lack of participation in public education seems to make them a reasonable, if not great, candidate.

  8. Meh. Corky isn’t saying much of anything, Hitler may have been a monster who would have killed me for no reason, and who in fact did kill members of my family who live on in the memories of my oldest relatives. But he was likely right about some things. I am sure he knew that the sun rises in the east and that dogs make wonderful companions.

    He was certainly wrong about so called degenerate art. Have you ever looked at Nazi approved art? Mawkish, sentimental and propagandistic dreck!

    • The problem with evaluating whether Hitler was “right” is that Hitler was not a great intellectual figure or even a particularly learned man. To the extent the Nazi’s were right about anything it is where they inherited the remnants of the European old right. To the extent they were wrong, it is where they rejected this tradition or uncritically excepted principles of liberalism and Bolshevism which were already dominant in Europe before the rise of the Nazis.

      • I agree with Josh.

        I hope no one misreads me so badly as to think I rank the Hitler and the Nazis among the greatest thinkers that have ever lived, or that I would deny or excuse any of their crimes. Hardly!

        As for their art, well, it doesn’t strike me as any more mawkish, sentimental or propagandistic than most of the stuff the Soviets were making — or, for that matter, what government-sponsored artists here in the US were producing during the New Deal.

        But despite everything I’ve heard and read from the (usually leftwing) lovers of modern art, I still believe that there is something unhealthy if not downright diabolical about many of the pieces that the Nazis called “degenerate.” I feel the same way about rap, hip-hop, heavy metal and many other kinds of pop music.

      • CorkyAgain: The campaign against “degenerate art” (Entartete Kunst) was adopted from German conservatives. The Weimar Republic was the most modernist regime in the world in terms of art and architecture (Bauhaus, Mies van der Rohe). Some leading Nazis, like Hermann Göring, actually favored modernism or futurism in architecture, but the anti-modernist cause was more popular. Of course it is true that modern art was and is degenerate: it mainly serves subversion.

  9. I feel the point about humility bears repeating, and your specific example strikes home with me.

    I believe the Taliban really are evil. But are they evil in context?

    Certainly, atrocities, per capita: Taliban > Progressivism.
    However, I’m also fairly confident that per annum, Progressivism >> Taliban, simply because so many more are under the power of Progressives.

    But compared to the other realistic options faced by arabs, are the Taliban particularly bad? I have no idea.

    Not to mention that the tone you’ve written the post in is itself humbling for me to witness.

    Similarly, it bears repeating that in early communist Russia, many of us would be dead. In contemporary China, many of us would be facing criminal charges.
    Of course, this may be because Progressives have no fear of us, the way the Chinese still must fear their dissidents.

  10. Bonald, I think we need to add some lightheartedness and wit to our lives as well. Otherwise the isolation experience will consume us. Be all things to all people. I live in the heart of the beast, NYC, and most of my friends are infected by liberalism. So, I do crave for their esteem even when I hardly agree with them about anything. With my friends the rhetoric is de-escalated thanks to the only philosopher liberals seem to understand nowadays: George Lucas. Darth Vader just wanted to end the war, end the Emperor’s tyranny and bring order to the Galaxy. Just take a look at the dark side of the force, Luke. You won’t undertand what the order of the Sith means unless you study it. We reactionaries are so obscure an unthreatening to the current liberal order, that a lot of them are willing to hear us out of curiosity. We are Sith.
    Our current liberals have very little to do with Mill and Locke, even though they are their natural evolution, but more with Rawls. To this effect, I think that the best way to evangelize counter-revolutionaries is to start with Nozick.

    • If NYC is the heart of the beast, the left coast (Seattle) where I live must be its groin.

      My impression is that NYC leftists tend to be more intellectual and more influenced by trends like postmodernism than the leftists out here. Perhaps it’s because the big stage brings out the poseur in all of them?

      Our leftists tend more toward homosexual activism and radical environmentalism. I don’t have anything in common with them on the first issue, but in response to the second issue I’ve found it useful to refer to Tolkien and Wendell Berry.

      There are also lots of Buddhists and faux-Buddhists out here. To quote Alan Watts’s famous essay “Beat Zen, Square Zen and Zen” Seattle absolutely stinks of Zen. They’re more open to discussion of spiritual things, but have a distressing tendency toward a do-your-own-thing, it’s-all-just-opinion kind of relativism.

  11. I would add: “A Relish for a Good Streetfight.” A reactionary has to enjoy the fight, otherwise it’s just too grim.

    • This is true, but one has to be careful. “Grizzled intellectual street fighter” can very easily turn into “bearded intellectual terrorist look-alike everyone avoids.”

      • From the womb I’ve hated Marxism-Leftism. I am a natural reactionary. I am no convert, the age has finally aligned with me.

  12. One of the best posts I’ve read in a long time. No, what the liberals hate is you and what you cherish. Don’t ever forget that.

    Forgetting this is a continual temptation: “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”

  13. I was actually working on a post very similar to this one, though mine’s specifically about how a reactionary can live well in the modern world. My main point was that we should try not to become terminally embittered and angry. (I honestly nearly wrote “to not become” there, then thought about Larry Auster and corrected myself.) I don’t think I’ll need to finish it now, as this covers a lot of the same ground and does a better job of it, so I’ll just throw out this sentence from my unfinished post, as it’s one I’m especially happy with:

    “I often think I would find it impossible to remember that we’re not doing this because we like being frustrated and pessimistic, were I not constantly reminded by family, romance, friendship, worship, and aesthetic experience that we’re not just fighting against something evil, but for something immeasurably good.”

    • Wouldn’t it be wonderful if split infinitives were the biggest problem we had to deal with?

      I will cheerfully admit that my own prose is often inept and ungrammatical. For example, I often say “that” when I ought to use “which” or “who”. I also sometimes put the comma or the period after the closing quote, rather than before. My sins are numerous, and although I repent, I am a frequent backslider. I can only hope that Auster and my other readers will find it in their hearts to forgive me.

      • Off-topic: Being a foreigner, I try not to use split infinitives (because I am afraid of doing it wrong) but there’s nothing incorrect in using them, only the misguided opinions of some dead grammarians who tried to shape English grammar out of Latin grammar.

      • CorkyAgain,

        One Our Father and 2 Hail Marys… Now make a good act of contrition.

        Regarding the NYC liberal “intellectuals”, I really find hard to find anything remotely like that anymore, as their world view can be summarized in a bumper sticker: “If I can do it, and I harm no one, it is my right to do it.”

        On the Seattle liberals, they sound like Occupy Wall Street to me. However, since I am striving to become part of the 1%, I really don’t mix with their kind.

    • Your sentence reminded me much of a quote within the banner of The Mad Monarchist which reads:

      “They cannot understand as yet that we are not fighting a political party but a sect of murderers of all contemporary spiritual culture”

      Each of us has a particular reason as to why we are engaged in what appears to be a war without victory. Many do not actually consider that accepting such views as we have is to virtually isolate ourselves from society at-large. Man is naturally a social and political animal; by clinging to these views we are rebelling against this social order, but we do so only to re-establish a prior social order from which our natural flourishing may occur.

      If anything our motivation is far from pessimism but actually, a selfless devotion to love for our neighbor and God. Why else would we sacrifice all that is intrinsically tied to a demand for acceptance among our peers, which is a natural part of human existence?

  14. Imnobody: True, it’s not an ironclad rule, but I still think unsplit infinitives generally sound tidier than split ones. Same thing with not putting prepositions at the end of sentences — it’s not strictly necessary, and there are exceptions to the rule, but it’s usually a good idea.

  15. “I do not think that support for patriarchy, no matter how prettily expressed, is something upon which reasonable people can disagree.”

    What should be added to point 3, above, is that liberals are not interested in reasoned argument. You can converse with someone who is moderately traditionalist and can open their minds a little, even convert a few of them to a historically-grounded understanding of the world. But lefties, liberals, hardcore feminists, etc., no way. They are not intested in truth. They seek only power and will do anything to get it. Because they lacking humility and truth, the power they achieve is never enough, and they keep coming for more. They are obsessed with taking and destroying. They seek Xaos, the total freedom from all boundaries, i.e., nothingness.

  16. The reason for patriarchy is simple: it is based on hypergamy and the desire of the woman to submit to a powerful dominant man(despite all their protestations) as is their instinct hence the success of “game” that exploits that hypergamous instinct.

    Of course that is not the only reason for patriarchy.

  17. I understand the early Church fathers got into trouble for their secret stashes of Latin an Greek works, or at least for their love of them. Are these studies guilty pleasures still? (Not that I would give them up!)

    • Yes, a man whose magnum opus was titled “Revolt Against the Modern World” (‘Rivolta contro il mondo moderno’) may be safely categorized as reactionary.

  18. “Yes, a man whose magnum opus was titled “Revolt Against the Modern World” (‘Rivolta contro il mondo moderno’) may be safely categorized as reactionary.”

    So then a reactionary doesn’t have to have all the answers. Id est, it is enough to recognize and reject modernity to be considered a reactionary. Evola did urge a reconnection with the past but he was sketchy on how. Nor did he have any plan or concern for (that I am aware of) the propagation of future reactionaries. Perhaps because it was so obvious to him he thought it obvious to his readers, I don’t know.

    But if recognition and rejection is all it takes to be a reactionary, then I can understand the impression some might have that reaction is mostly negative.

  19. Pingback: Randoms of the past week « Foseti

  20. “You are a convert to Reaction; we all are.”

    Speak for yourself.
    I’ve been a reactionary since the day I first saw sunlight.

  21. Me, I “converted” to Reaction gradually, and I actually think that half the work was done when I started having almost a living relationship with the traditionalist authors I read, and the other half thanks to the theology of Holy Tradition (I was theologically as well going liberal) of the Orthodox Church.


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