Tradition in politics: theory and axiology

Aleksandr Shchipkov, Moscow, 2015

Against the background of social crisis, tradition is associated not only with antiquated forms described in school textbooks but also with a dynamic link between the past and the future. It is a part of a self-protection mechanism of Western society such as the Christian and post-Christian civilization. As a result, tradition is increasingly becoming the basis of social innovations.

Society needs a new moral consensus to survive and develop. Consequently, the role of some aspects of tradition (which involve the elements of ethical reflection) increases in social life. This peculiarity is typical for many traditional and especially monotheistic religions Apostolic Christianity, classical Islam, etc. Moreover, it is typical for socialist and social-democratic concepts to the extent that the latter are still claimed by history.

In Apostolic Christianity, for example, the evangelic "moral consciousness" gains momentum and reveals itself in the patristic heritage. A similar mechanism exists in Islam and other religious systems. However, it is characteristic that the so-called "Soviet experience" could not avoid its structuring in accordance with a similar, traditional model. The Soviet (as well as the Western) version of socialism, and Marxism above all, implied the existence of precursors, primary carriers of knowledge – i.e. some kind of "Apostles". It also suggested "canonical" and "non-canonical" interpretations. In this context, the idea of noted philosopher Bertrand Russell is quite remarkable:

"Yahweh = Dialectical Materialism

The Messiah = Marx

The Elect = The Proletariat

The Church = The Communist Party

The Second Coming = The Revolution

Hell = Punishment of the Capitalists

The Millennium = The Communist Commonwealth

The terms on the left give the emotional content of the terms on the right, and it is this emotional content, familiar to those who have had a Christian or a Jewish upbringing, that makes Marx's eschatology credible."[1]

Only with this integrating approach is tradition able to satisfy the request for a new moral consensus.

It must be admitted that due to a certain inertia, the heritage of European "New Right" and in broader terms – the "rightist" view of tradition are still much regarded today. Figuratively speaking, this descends from the works of R. Guénon, J. Evola, A. de Benoist, G. Faye, M. Sedgwick and other theorists. It involves a view of the tradition with the dominance of an ethno-cultural aspect.

To summarize the ideas of René Guénon, one of the main pillars of right-wing traditionalism, one can quite accurately determine his ideological basis. This research was conducted in the PhD dissertation of A. Makarov. [13] Even from the title of the research, it ascertains that right-wing traditionalism tends to perceive tradition as a static and not dynamic whole, as well as seeks to remove tradition from the stream of history and to oppose historical changes against certain unchangeable archetypes.

It is particularly remarkable that right-wing traditionalism resembles liberal thinking style even beyond the sphere of ethical values. This style, in turn, tends to separate various social factors, oppose "tradition" against "modernization", "past" against "modernity," and to seal them off from one another. As for the "left-wing" view of tradition, it comes from the backward dialectic arrangement: to trace back history as a part of tradition and tradition as a part of history (the principle of holism). It is interesting that this approach was highlighted by some Soviet researchers, in particular E.S. Markarian [14], in their traditiologist studies. However, let us turn to the rightist view of tradition in the form set out by René Guénon. According to A.I. Makarov, "R. Guénon specifies the following interpretations of traditionalism: 1) traditionalism as a simple psychological tendency to the status quo retention ("standpartism","traditionism","flexibility"); 2) traditionalism as a feature of archaic mythological consciousness associated with the attempts of traditional societies to stand against any changes in any sphere of life support system ("pre-flexional traditionalism", "primitive traditionalism", "naive conservatism", "integral traditionalism"); 3) traditionalism as an ideological trend evolving as a result of the confrontation between anti-traditionalism and atraditionalism. In this interpretation, tradition is separated in order to "create" an ideologically "pure" tradition rather than identified with heritage ("reflective traditionalism", "ideological traditionalism")."[2]

Russian philosopher Aleksandr Dugin agrees with Guénon's right-wing traditionalism. He explicitly identifies himself as Guénon's follower but thinks of traditionalism as the "antithesis of the modern language" located inside of this language. According to A. Dugin, when inside of Tradition, a researcher is out of traditionalism (and vice versa).[3] Despite a number of rather subtle observations, Dugin's interpretation of tradition explicitly claims to be universal and provokes serious objections. The crucial thing – the locality of "modern traditionalism" as liberal traditionalism remains beyond Dugin's considerations. Conservatism is commonly declared by Aleksandr Dugin and appears in elementary antithesis: the past (Tradition) is labeled positively when compared with the present. However, the model of tradition itself is almost identical to the liberal model. The only difference is the change of the sign. Let us call this traditiologist phenomenon a "separation model".

The fact is that this model assumes the separation between history and historical thinking on the one hand and tradition as a set of unchangeable archetypes on the other hand. However, in our view, it is wrong to oppose "modernity" (according to Dugin traditionalism) against the "past" (Tradition). This axis of distinction is, without a doubt, a product of the liberal humanitarian sphere.

We must understand that collective representations of the past and the future and the very perception of "modernity" are undergoing major changes today. Therefore, it is necessary to go beyond the previous model. Today, the difference between tradition and modernity becomes, at first, ever more conditional. Secondly, it is reasonable to adjust it with another axis – the axis of historical values. Within the model of historical values (the transhistorical model of tradition), two concepts of tradition and two types of traditionalism should be compared with each other: ethnocultural, metaphysical, ahistorical right-wing traditionalism separating tradition and history, the past and the present, and sociocultural, dialectical, transhistorical left-wing traditionalism. That is why the concept of transhistorism should accompany any future research in the context of traditiology.

It is interesting to compare the rightist and the leftist views of tradition. One of the most influential left-wing theorists, historian and economist Immanuel Wallerstein, criticizes the myth that the scientific culture of historical capitalism was "created by noble knights at struggle with vigorous opposition of "traditional non-scientific culture" ("Galileo against the Church" "modernizer against mullahs", "entrepreneur against landlord"). Wallerstein points out that this cultural meme represents a "hidden background associated with temporality. It was assumed that "modernity" is new in temporal relation, whereas "tradition" is old and precedes "modernity"... This background is historically false and, therefore, is an absolutely wrong belief. Numerous cultures, numerous "traditions" which flourished in the spatiotemporal framework of historical capitalism, were no more premordial or archaic than numerous institutional structures. Originally, they are the product of the modern world, a part of ideological forests planted by it."[4]

As will readily be observed, according to Wallerstein, transhistorical relations should be considered within the research of tradition. Not only for the benefit of "pure science", but also because the transhistorical view of tradition "plays an important role in uniting of the groups in their political and economic struggle against the background of historical capitalism". Therefore, "we should not perceive the cultural forms of tradition as a givenness..."

Wallerstein's two important thoughts should be pointed out. Firstly, he actually appeals to abandon the liberal ("modern") interpretation of tradition, that is, to stop making a museum piece of the past. Secondly, he would like to consider tradition inside of history (in the transhistorical way) rather than in isolation from the history. It is characteristic that he is a left-wing theorist stating all that. Moreover, he speaks from the standpoint of the protection of tradition and refers to it much more carefully and soberly than followers of liberal stereotypes do. The latter constantly run to one of two extremes: either to militant anti-traditionalism, which leads to denial of traditional values from the standpoint of the sacred attitude to modernity, or to apologetics of ancient, tribalistic traditionalism, which is an equally extreme paleoconservative view.

A sober attitude to tradition should, figuratively speaking, lie in the middle. However, this center should be understood not arithmetically, but dialectically in the spirit of tradition and modernity mutual penetration.

It must be admitted that the traditiologist line is, unfortunately, not one of the most essential in today's left-wing social and scientific discourse. Therefore, a view of tradition cannot be considered completely pre-programmed. Nevertheless, it may happen that in the near future, the phenomenon of tradition will play one of the main roles in the left-wing intellectual field, and traditiology itself will develop at the junction of the socialist (socially oriented) and conservative schools of thought, while maintaining the freedom from old stereotypes of the rightist view of the problem.

References

[1] B. Rassel. History of Western Philosophy [Electronic Resource]. URL: http://www.read.newlibrary.ru/read/rassel_bertran/page0 (date: ...).

[2] A.I. Makarov. The Ideas of "History" and "Tradition" in the Philosophy of the European Traditionalism (René Guénon and Mircea Eliade): Synopsis of Thesis ... Candidate of Philosophical Sciences: 09.00.03 / A.I. Makarov. Volgograd, 1999. 26 p.

[3] . Dugin. The Philosophy of Traditionalism / . Dugin. oscow: Arctogaia Center, 2002. 624 p.

[4] I. Wallerstein. Historical Capitalism. Capitalist Civilization / I. Wallerstein. Moscow: Association of Scientific Publications (), 2008. 176 p.