Most forms of political action, whether they acknowledge the fact or not, are about affecting change and so progress can be seen as the main purpose of politics. It may appear to be obvious that we wish to create a better society and so we can see that calls for progress have a ready appeal. It might even seem absurd to oppose progress: why would anyone not want a better society? This leaves the antimodernist with two alternatives. First, we can state that instead of looking to the future we look to the past and try to re-create this better society. The rhetoric here will be of returning to traditional values and institutions; of restoring a society to its former glory. But, we have to acknowledge, that time does not move backwards and we would still be creating something new. The same problems of unpredictability and lack of control would appear as exist with modernist change. And we cannot unlearn all we know about the present.
Second, we can argue that the present society we have, which after all is the accumulation of all past knowledge is the best society we can possibly hope for. We cannot hope to create anything better without the serious risk of destroying all we have. There may well be parts of our society that would like to disown and we can point these out. But there will be other parts that we can emphasise that show the best that has been thought, said and done and which properly link us to our ancestors and the traditions that they helped to form slowly over time. In pointing to these traditions we can point to what appears to be a way forward, but which is actually a way of staying still, or sustaining ourselves properly. And in doing so we can use these institutions, values and ways of acting to slowly pull down those parts of our society we see as failing us. But we recognise as we do this that all we need is currently here with us.
I would suggest that this second option is the only tenable one for an antimodernist to take. The problem is that it does not have the same instant appeal as the call for progress. It can make no claims about the better life we can expect in the future and so we might struggle to convince others to join us. But, and her is the beauty of this option, we do not have to struggle or fight. We merely have to live well and in doing so demonstrate what is still so good about what we have here with us here today.
Read the whole thing. I’m reviewing his recent book The Antimodern Condition: An Argument Against Progress, and will have more to say about King’s thought shortly. One rarely comes across a work of political philosophy that states such profound ideas with utter clarity. I cannot imagine why the publisher is charging such an outrageous sum for this little book. I have not yet finished it, so I will withhold final judgment, but so far, it seems clear that King’s book has the potential to be a traditionalist conservative classic.