A World After Liberalism: the Radical Right and the dream of tradition

A new book by Yale scholar Matthew Rose is a rare detailed study of the intellectual roots of today’s conservative nationalist movements.

Julius Evola’s world of Tradition

I was particularly intrigued by Evola and de Benoist, whose work is startlingly different from mainstream political literature, offering a worldview that both disturbs and fascinates. For Rose, Evola had ‘a remarkable imaginative capacity to think about the world beyond the boundaries liberalism has assigned it’. During his life the Italian writer won a narrow but devoted audience, notably through his 1934 book Revolt Against the Modern World, an essential outline of his thought which ‘dreamed of a world of absolutely fixed and certain meanings, where human identities, in all their forms, bore the indelible chrism of sacred destiny.’ His influence has grown in the half century since his death.

Alain de Benoist and Identarianism

Evola’s exotic but undeniably compelling thought world surfaces through the work of the influential French writer Alain de Benoist, the principal architect of ‘identarianism’, the alt-right political philosophy that seeks to protect national cultures from ideologies and patterns of immigration taken to be corroding native communal identities. de Benoist, still writing today, was deeply influenced by the 1968 uprisings, admiring the New Left’s concern to respect the specific identities of minority groups. But he took different lessons from the progressives, rejecting their faith in the possibility of multicultural societies in which different groups can live peaceably side-by-side.

The Christian rupture

The book concludes with an outstanding essay in which Rose, a conservative-inclined Catholic, considers the Radical Right’s profound hostility to Christianity. He credits its thinkers with a surer grasp of Christian orthodoxy than Christian nationalists, whose faith cloaks a prior and deeper loyalty to ethnic or cultural identity. For Rose the ‘theological marks of a false nationalism include: the idea that an individual is Christian in virtue of being born into a particular ethnicity or nation; the idea that a people is innately Christian in virtue of its history or culture; the idea that Christianity is an inheritance a people possesses as its own, rather than a gift they share with others; the idea that a Christian community is closed to those outside its ethnocultural boundaries. All these ideas understand Christianity as something that originates from within a people, as an expression of their identity, rather than something that comes to it from without.’

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A London-based business writer and essayist. See justinreynoldswriter.com and @_justinwriter.

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