What Is Reactionarism – Short Reactionary FAQ

1. What is Reactionarism?

Reactionarism is a set of ideas based on rejection of modernist, progressive philosophy. In the essence, reactionarism is anti-progressivism just as progressivism is anti-reactionarism. The term itself has origins in the French Revolution, describing those who opposed it and wished to return to previous state of affairs.

Foundation of reactionary philosophy is the importance of tradition and rejection of anything that destroys it, because destruction of tradition means destruction of human soul and humanity itself. Progressivism believes that technological progress should be followed by the social progress, and that social progress automatically leads to a better society. Needless to say, reactionarism rejects these arguments. As a result, it is a fundamental antithesis to progressivism and progressive ideologies such as Marxism. Progressives look to the future and upwards; reactionaries look to the past and downwards. Progressives want to build a Tower of Babel; reactionaries want to build a low-lying fortress with solid foundations. And all the while, conservatives are happily tending to their own garden, preserving what they know but not looking towards anything lying in the distance.

2. Are Reactionaries Conservatives?

Reactionarism can be seen as a subset of conservativism, as both want to preserve the society. Difference is that conservatism goes only as back as living memory – at best, conservatives will look to the society their grandparents have lived in to see the goal they want to preserve. At worst, conservatism is nothing but an attempt at preserving the status quo, regardless of what that might be.

Reactionaries meanwhile do not look at their own childhood for inspiration, but rather to history of society itself. They look towards the point where the rot had begun to set in, identify this point, and then try to bring society back to it. Consequence of this is that differences between reactionaries can be much greater than differences between conservatives – one group of reactionaries will support absolute monarchy, another will support federal monarchy, yet other groups will support feudal monarchy, republic, direct democracy and so on. In Europe however, reactionarism usually means support for monarchy.

Because of the factors described in point 1, reactionarism has some common themes distinct from conservativism. These are scepticism towards democracy, a suspicion towards “equality” and respect for order, tradition and often hierarchy as well.

3. Does Reactionarism Support Absolute Monarchy?

Some reactionaries will support the absolute monarchy, but one does not need to support an absolute monarchy to be a reactionary. In fact, some reactionaries – author of this FAQ included – feel uncomforable with the absolute monarchy because they see it as the first manifestation of political modernism, a first step on the road to destruction. In this view, absolute monarchy is manifestation of intrusive state, an early form of socialism, and thus undesireable. It was the absolute monarchy which made a bad name for monarchy, and it too easily falls into the dictatorship.

Idea that reactionaries absolutely do support the absolute monarchy is rooted, I believe, in progressivism. It is essentially an example of a “straw man” logical fallacy, where an idea held by some reactionaries is ascribed to all of them, simply because it is distasteful to modern audience.

4. Reactionary Beliefs on Economy?

While reactionaries can differ widely in terms of their economic beliefs, the economic concept I see as closest to reactionarism is distributism. Distributism is based around belief in inalienable right to property as a fundamental human right. Therefore, distributism advocates widespread property ownership and ownership of means of production. In simplest terms, where laissez-faire capitalism supports large corporations and socialism supports state control of the economy, distributism supports small producers and traders.

In fact, distributists often argue that socialism (be it state capitalism or state socialism, both of which are forms of socialism) is the logical conclusion of capitalism. Either large capitalists capture the state and introduce economic regulation to benefit themselves, or else state attempts to counter the large capitalists – by introducing economic regulation. Eventually, the economic regulation will turn economy into a complete command economy.

Thus, it can be seen that concept of subsidiarity is one of key concepts of reactionarism, at least in its economic aspect. In practical terms, this can be anything: agrarian economy without a national bank or any sort of central banking, or a system of financially independent local cooperatives and small family businesses. Important point is to avoid concentration of power, be it in hands of the state or in hands of a small number of large business owners.

While distributism is difficult to understand for socialists (economic authoritharians) – Wikipedia calls the position of distributists “paradoxical and complicated” – it is really not. The foundational idea of distributism is avoidance of economic authoritharianism, no matter what its type. Because of this, it has a lot in common with anarchism, as seen in this overview of Tolkien’s beliefs.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s