The Social Tradition

Aleksandr Shchipkov

Moscow, 2017

I saw Russia shaken, unschooled,
inexperienced and unskillful,
dedicated to insidious evil teachings,
and yet thriving!

N.S. Leskov, At Daggers Drawn

"Tradition is not a sign of an epoch, it is not a rite, it is not a daily habit. Tradition is an ethical and cultural agreement between generations . Tradition is a method of transferring to the future of a certain way of thinking, of certain models of social behavior. Tradition is the greatest social capital of a people, which insures the preservation and integrity of its historic destiny."

Alexander Shchipkov

A Note on The Social Tradition

Aleksandr Shchipkov is a famous Russian political philosopher. His book The Social Tradition brings us a deep, vivid and colorful review of the modern society, that the general public will be able to understand. The author mentions the emerging world tendency to ‘turn back to tradition’ as the role of tradition in the life of modern people is reevaluated. Aleksandr Shchipkov is the adherent of systemic traditionalism, which professes tradition to be a mechanism of social and cultural relay and continuity as opposed to a set of social institutes or ideals of the past. In the author’s opinion, the future of Russia, and the part of the world that would choose social traditionalism over its more common ethno-cultural variety, will necessarily be connected to a new model of society based on social justice and traditional values. The author’s ideological compendium includes ideas of the Evangelical tradition of Social Christianity, John Chrysostom and his school, manifestos and practices of the underground historic Russian Social-Christian movement as well as a wide range of modern philosophic and political ideas from the Radical Orthodoxy movement to the world-systems school.




The Mirror Stage. – Humanitarian Monetarism. – The Dominant Identity. – Ideology and the Spirit of Modernity. – Liberal Messianism Collapsing. – Loss of Moral Legitimacy. – Meat of History. – Collapse of the Multinational Empire.


A Window to a New Methodology. – In the Bermuda Triangle of Theories. – The World Economy and the World Empire. – Liberalism and Colonialism. – The Globalization Riddle. – The Great Narration. – The Second Scholasticism. – The Society Machine and the Cult of Rationality. – Historical Agnosticism. – Law versus Morality. – Juridizm. – Expertocracy. – Denationalization of Law. – The Breaking of Westphal. – Liberalism and Communism. – The Sacred Economy of a New Type. – The Liberation Marketing. – The Creative Class and Tradition. – Countermodernity Returns. – The Archaic Shift in the System and the New Savagery.


A Colonialist Project. – Eternal Colonialism? – Orientalism as a Syndrome. – The Colonial Boomerang. – The Bill for Colonization.


Binary Totalitarianism. – Criticism and Sunset of the Theory. – Racism or Fascism? – Nazism Genealogy. – Links in the Chain of Mainstream Ideology. – How to Rewrite History. – A Racial War. – A Yellow Star and a Blue Ribbon. – Nazism and the Intelligentsia. – The Archaic Shift in the System and Neo-Nazism. – Liberalism and Nazism: Common Moral Grounds. – Late Modernity Eschatology.


Exception Excluded. – Christianity and State. – Christianity and Economics. – Religious Splitting and New Forms of the Sacred. – The Secondary Reformation. – A New Perspective on Secularism. – Secular Religiosity. – The Issue of Postsecularism. – Humanity and Humanism. – The Fate of Humanist Utopia. – Human Rights. – Why Do Western Elite Not Love Russia. – Alternative Europe. – Christian Repatriation.


Faces of Socialism. – The Logic of De-Sovietization. – The Fate of True Socialism. – The Fate of Conservatism. – Conservative Socialism.


Power of the Fundamental Modernity. – Modernity: Incompleteness or Disintegration? – The Fight for Tradition. – Traditionalism: the Right and the Left. – The Axiological Axis of Traditionalism. – Neoliberalism and the Right Traditionalism. – The Social Tradition Phenomenon. – How to Understand the Social Tradition. – The Social Tradition and Christianity. – The Origins of Community-based Communitarianism. – Tradition and Fascism. – Overcoming Evolutionism. – The Concept of Tradition. – Tradition and Modernization. – The Mythic Ritual Aspect of Modernization. – Progress or Innovation? – Systemic Traditionalism. – Social Traditionalism. – Solidarity, Unity and Soteria. – Ethics and Law: Revision of Borders. – The Fate of Democracy. – Civil Society and the Majority Factor. – Inversion of the Political Scale. – A Large Society. – The Covenant of Generations. – Knowledge of Tradition. – To the Future of Traditiology.


In the Captivity of Stereotypes. – A Dependent Metropolis. – Europeanism, Westerners, National Loyalists. – The Profitable Barrel. – Internal Colonization. – The Breaking of the Civilization Model. – Marx about the Community and Socialism. – Communitarianism. The Community. – Government Liberalism. Historic Breaks of Tradition. – The Split. – The St. Petersburg Project. – Asian Influence. – A Revolution from Above. – Communitarianism and Tradition. – The Second Serfdom. – The Russian Ideological Matrix. – Orthodox Ethics and the Spirit of Solidarity. – ‘A Reflection of Heaven on Earth.’ – The Mythic and Ritual Complex of Russian Policy. – The Reformism Cult. – Reformism and Dictatorship. – Political Cycles. – The Soviet and the Anti-Soviet. – Collective Guilt or Collective Infantilism? – The Russian Tradition and World-system. – The Right to Direct Statement. – The Vacuum of Identity. – The Russian-Byzantine Tradition. – Unique does Not Mean Exclusive. – Chersonesos, Constantinople and the Child-Parent Complex of Russian Culture. – Looking up to the West instead of Byzantium. – Tradition Codes: the Assemblage Point. – The Convergence Utopia. – Creative Class and Information Workers. – The Ukrainian Challenge. Mirror Trap for Russian Identity. – Rusocide as a Historical Phenomenon: Invitation to an Execution. – The Russian World and the Problem of Dissent. – Future Scenarios.


The Bronze Age. – Silver and Bronze: the War of Discourses. – Axiomodern or a New Barbarism?



The Social Tradition is the result of four years of reflection. I started writing it at a very troubled time. The year 2012 had seen the last of the so-called oil surplus era, which had lulled Russia into a temporary anaesthesia.

Now the narcosis was wearing out – and the mangled and scorched insides were beginning to hurt. This was the time when the pressure on people significantly increased.

Any idea that appeared to correlate with national or even non-market values got plucked out of people’s minds and the media agenda. There were ongoing provocations. An ultra-right coup was attempted at the Bolotnaya Square. The nation was being skilfully pried apart as collective guilt for both the Soviet past and totalitarianism was inflamed, and war veterans became accused of Fascism and serving in anti-retreat forces. A group called Modern Artists kept striking at the Church, to alienate it from the secular part of the nation. The hand-shaking-terms approach was spreading among the intelligentsia as a form of discriminating against dissidents. The kind of ideological pressing that we have been actually living under for so many years, was becoming particularly noticeable. Though article 13 of the Russian Constitution may solemnly declare the absence in the country of any form of state ideology, a rigid neo-liberal mode of thinking was actually driven hard into the minds of the nation.

It has become clear that total reconsideration of both the history of Russia and the language that our society speaks is in order. It is equally imperative to let go of myths concerning unlimited ‘natural’ rights and to replace the mythical abstraction of a non-existent ‘general person’ with plain Christian truths and people made of soul, blood and sinew. The kind of people who were charred in burning tanks, who sent up their prayers in churches, wrote beautiful music and had kept our country and our nation intact. The thought was about the people. Yet, the people are made of a multitude sharing a unique tradition. And neither progress and reforms, nor real (unlike imitation procedure) democracy are ever possible without a functioning tradition and shared social and cultural experience.

Why are the concepts of Equality and Fraternity so important for the Russian tradition, while in the former ‘West’ the two had been long effaced from the banner of Liberal revolution, leaving a lonely Liberty that had regressed into an empty badge?

Why was the Russian national tradition so often interrupted, with the experience of the people nullified? How did the Russian nation come to be divided and dispossessed of pieces of its territory? Why are the instances of genocide, with the exception of those committed by the Communists, kept from being exposed to open discussion and public censure? Why is the country bereft of the right for unlimited emission of national currency and issuing large loans in roubles? Why do we feel obliged to justify national feelings? Why do 15% of the population view the other 85 % as polloi, and who instructs them to behave like that?

To answer these questions, I had to examine the historic system of colonial relations using several analytical approaches – from the world-systems perspective to civilisation theory.

Gradually I arrived at the conclusion that the Russian history of the twentieth-century had been artificially divided into two unequal time periods: the larger part covering the time from 1914 to 2014, and the smaller one from 1917 to 1991, with the smaller period not only overshadowing, but almost completely supplanting the larger one. It was, in fact, the year 1914 that had specifically laid the ground for the rupture of the national tradition as the Ruthenian extermination had launched the genocide of people bearing Russian national identity. This was a massacre with a quarter of a million victims. So, are today’s schoolchildren aware of the history of the Thalerhof and Theresienstadt concentration camps the same way they are all aware of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, and if they are not, what is the reason of their ignorance?

Another good question is why Nazism, seemingly conquered in 1945, was openly resurrected in 2014. These questions became especially challenging after the Russian nationalist movement in Ukraine was drowned in blood, and the Odessa Khatyn ashes sent the former liberal intelligentsia into a celebration. I use the correction ‘the former’, because since that moment, the word combination ‘liberal intelligentsia’ has become an oxymoron for anyone endowed with principles and a conscience.

Months flew by as I kept writing, and my perception of my own text was changing. It had seemed to me, in 2012, that the text I was writing had little to do with the immediate future, but would provide a subject for reflection that would be relevant in ten years’ time. Then in 2014, it became clear that time had dramatically outdistanced both myself and like-minded Social Traditionalists. Time had started racing and some passages got outdated as it flew. I was not going to get a ten-year window. I felt that I was running late.

By the year 2015, the rickety balance both in Russia and the world was threatening to collapse. For some people, a new political spring had come, in our case, the Russian spring in the Crimea. Some people were not recognised as true Russians, with their will for national emancipation and opposing Fascism ignored. There came the time for a deeper analysis and wider analogies. The race was over: my work and the outer events were moving almost in parallel.

What is the effect that I hope to achieve with my book? First and foremost, to rid my countrymen of several harmful illusions.

We all agree that the prospect of ‘living at an interesting time’ bodes no good. This is the result of all the historic gaps that are part of Russian history, and especially of the two latest ones dated 1917 and 1991. Both events wrought irreparable losses upon the Russian people. Centuries, and decades, long collective experience was becoming naught, and people felt exposed to an icy wind: time was taking a sharp turn.

There is still a probability of another such catastrophe happening. However, there can be no predetermined outcome. And the objective price is quite different. Not only that of Russia, but the fate of the world is at stake. We are all standing at a crossroads. In the event that the experience of many generations gets crushed and swept away, the masses will no longer rise, as in the twentieth-century, but will regress and crawl away to caves. There is also a possibility that humanity will resume the right historic path, from which it had been forcibly diverted several hundred years ago.

What is going on now in the world is called a crisis. We also know that crisis is the Greek for judgement. The moment of truth, as the purpose of time is uncovered, is a great gift whose true value will only be revealed to future generations. This is the primary subject of this book.


It is starting to dawn on the intelligent part of society that modernity and the era of colonial dependence and loan interest are at a dead end. They represent a flight from history and a departure from the mainstream of human development and from the Christian way.

We don’t know the form which our return to the mainstream route will take. Will history allow us to make a shortcut and resume the straight road, or will humanity have to regress and double back like the people of Israel roaming the sands? This might be the most important contemporary riddle.

We are standing at the crossroads of history. We are either facing a return to the Biblical values, or decades of new paganism and new savagery. The future depends on what choice the world elite will make or what choice society will force them to make.

The present worldwide crisis indicates that the modern cultural paradigm is extremely worn out. That is the reason of religious and secular fundamentalism, corporate and mediacracy tyranny and false identities sprouting on the background of ruthless social experiments and Christian phobia. Yet the desire for social justice and the yearning for a tradition ‘with a human face’ are becoming increasingly loud. They are voiced by whole nations.

The return to tradition in the public mind is now evident even for a man in the street. How will this tradition be interpreted, who will manage to activate its symbolic resources and what will the common rules of the game look like? We have no way to guess.

A likely scenario will be the synthesis of the left-wing social justice idea and the right-wing traditional values. This kind of synthesis engenders a phenomenon called the social tradition.

In modern Russia, the social tradition unites the national experience and all its different patterns, from the new Byzantium ideal to the late Soviet social state. This variety is still too raw and too discrete. The reason for it lies in the many instances of national tradition interrupted and collective experience nullified, as well as in social dissent and obliterated national identity. These instances include the rejection of the Third Rome idea and the no less tragic disintegration of the former USSR, which had led to social collapse and the existential crisis. Multiple attempts to form a neoliberal constructionist matrix in the Russian cultural space are still being made. This suppresses the sense of collective self-identity and destroys the national identity continuity.

The life of the people is a process that can be entered into through either of the two systems: the national tradition or the global dependence system. The first road calls for true modernisation instead of ‘catch-up development’ that neoliberalism adherents are talking about. In a healthy society, modernisation and tradition are not mutually exclusive, but represent the two parts of a single whole.

The Russian history paradoxes never stem from the ‘mysterious Russian character’ or ‘age-old backwardness’, but from the contradiction between the deep ideas of the national tradition and the country’s semi-periphery status in the capitalist world economy system. In the tradition of the former ‘bread oligarchy’, today’s representatives of financial and natural resources groups are pushing Russia onto the path of de-sovereignisation and recourse.

There is a way out of this situation that is based on social traditionalism, democratic centralism and Christianisation of the society.

In case these opportunities are realised, Russia will find herself in the driver’s seat of new European Christianisation. And this is not a question of personal will or individual desire. New Christianisation logically follows the disintegration of the neoliberal social model, whose start we are all now beginning to witness.