Progress and Reaction

I have heard people speak of reactionary thought or reactionary politics as inherently contradictory or incoherent, and I can understand the reasons for thinking so.

The idea here is that reactionary views, qua reactionary, are no longer identical with the original thinking that they purport to defend.

The most striking example that I can think of is the creationists who adopt the language and strategies and insights of modern science for the purpose of defending a more premodern account of the world and its history.

Still, the phenomenon is by no means limited to creationists. To some degree, it is true everywhere and always when there is reaction against some sort of novelty.

Is there ever such a thing as a non-reactionary traditionalism? Can we hold to an older idea without needing to think through how it opposes or overcomes newer alternatives?

I think that is a possibility. I think there is a less bellicose traditionalism that can exist, which simply enjoys itself and is unthreatened by, perhaps largely uninterested by, its contemporary challengers.

But perhaps sometimes the new thing that is born through a desire to hold onto the older reality may even be better in some ways, richer, if we are wise. If we can take the new challenge seriously and incorporate it into our response in a way that illuminates some aspects of the tradition that were previously invisible, we may be able to have the best of both worlds. Maybe sometimes, reaction is its own kind of progress toward something better.

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