Russell Kirk, on page 474 of The Conservative Mind, defines conservatism as the “negation of ideology,” with there being “no simple set of formulas by which all the ills to which flesh is heir may be swept away.”
To delineate this concept, it is prudent to clarify what the “negation of ideology” does not entail. It does not deny there are superior ways of ordering society which can be procured from a careful analysis of history, prejudice and experience. As Kirk puts it, there exist “general principles of morals and of politics to which thinking men may turn.”
However, conservatism is the negation of ideology to the extent that it rejects ideology–be it communism, progressivism, white nationalism, or pro-vaccination fanaticism–as an enduring political solution or feasible cure to societal ills.
Why conservatives reject ideology
As to why conservatives reject ideology, there are various good points in support. These include but are not limited to:
1. The impermanence of things:
On page 10 of the White Nationalist Manifesto, Greg Johnson notes that 99.9 % of all recorded animal species have gone extinct. Taking this statistic, Johnson warns:
Simply by virtue of existing, there is a 99.9 % chance that our (white) race will become extinct. If we want to be among the long-term survivors, we certainly can’t just depend upon luck (my emphasis).
There is a significant problem with this hope of being “long-term survivors,” a goal later used by Johnson to justify his vision for ‘whitopia’. Which is, no matter the action or precautionary measures taken, the white race–along with all other races, countries and cultures–will ultimately go extinct.
This is because, to paraphrase St. Thomas Aquinas, everything which is contingent and comes into being must also go out of existence. If something can go out of existence and enough time is allowed for, it assuredly will go out of existence. There is no reason to believe that a contingent being can defy the fulfillment of its inherent potential for non-existence; as such, the European people cannot and will not persist forever.
To be clear, the preceding remarks are not to dismiss the importance of racial identity or even the novel achievements, inventions and ideas of men. It is to say, however, that as all things are transient, no political ideology or system can be a permanent solution to anything.
2. The limitations of temporal glory:
Ideologues tend to imagine that in the event of attaining their political objectives, they will acquire corresponding feelings of glory and happiness.
Irrespective of the specific ideology, the problem with this expectation is that temporal glory is always fleeting: no matter the greatness of the victory obtained, humans always return back to an ordinary, basal level of happiness.
In the Jewish Revolutionary Spirit, E. Michael Jones refers to these inherent limitations on natural human happiness, as became apparent from the emotional hangovers of anti-Vietnam war activists:
By the time the revolutionary Jew got what he wanted it, he no longer wanted it. The Vietnam War was a classic case. In the spring of 1975, Radosh and his new wife attended a victory celebration for the Vietcong in Central Park, where they listened to Joan Baez, “the diva of the antiwar movement,” as well as “the artist who stood alongside the young Bob Dylan and epitomised the union of art and politics,” and Phil Ochs, as they sang Ochs’ anti-war anthem “I declare war is over.” A few months later, Ochs, an alcoholic wreck, committed suicide when Bob Dylan did not include him in the Rolling Thunder revue. Radosh and his wife experienced a milder form of letdown. Instead of a moment of triumph, “the end of the war,” Radosh says, “produced a great void.” It was “an occasion of deep melancholy” because the war and the draft had been “the issue that had given meaning to our lives” and now that issue was “beginning to evaporate,” and when Nixon abolished the draft, it evaporated.
3. Life is always the same:
Closely related to the above point, political circumstances, whether contributing to a moral as well as cohesive society, or an immoral and divided society–do not alter the fundamental nature of human life.
Life always follows the same essential pattern: there are happy times and sad times; there are triumphs and failures; we physically and intellectually blossom in youth, before being afflicted by old age, infirmities and ultimately, death.
For this reason, excessive stock should not be placed in ideology, or for that matter, political outcomes.
4. The true motives of ideologues:
It is well to be sceptical of ideologues, given what truly actuates their political advocacy. On page 382 of The Conservative Mind, Russell Kirk captures their frequent underlying motivations, as exampled by a former marxist revolutionary from the late-19th century:
The boy who wrote Workers in the Dawn (1880), brimming with Ruskinian socialism, aspired to be “the mouthpiece of the advanced Radical party.” But social reform went the way of positivism, as Gissing came to maturity and saw the denizens of mean streets for what they were: four years later, Waymark in the The Unclassed dissects Gissing’s own youthful socialism, compounded of sentimentality and egotism. “I often amuse myself with taking to pieces my former self. I was not a conscious hypocrite in those days of violent radicalism, workingman’s-club lecturing, and the like; the fault was that I understood myself as yet so imperfectly. That zeal on behalf of the suffering masses was nothing more nor less than disguised zeal on behalf of my own starved passions. I was poor and desperate, life had no pleasures, the future seemed hopeless, yet I was overflowing with vehement desires, every nerve in me was a hunger which cried out to be appeased. I identified myself with the poor and ignorant; I did not make their cause my own, but my own cause theirs. I raved for freedom because I was myself in the bondage of unsatisfiable longing” (my emphasis).
When someone is in a state of sexual restlessness, they will commonly promote utopian politics. As such people are driven by an insatiable appetite and lack satisfaction at the individual level; at the collective level and in lieu of addressing their personal flaws, they often resort to ideology as a purported (and contrived) solution to social problems. In essence, ideologues seek to control others because they cannot control themselves.
Given this, support for ideology does not so much derive from or depend on its actual merits–again, be it communism, progressivism, white nationalism, or pro-vaccination fanaticism. Rather, the attraction to ideology more draws from the disordered psychological state of its adherents.
5. Our fallen nature:
Clearly, our fallen nature has many implications which are utterly inconsistent with the foundation and maintenance of utopias.
To give one such example, our fallen nature means that even when we understand what is right, we will in many cases choose to do evil–for reasons of convenience, selfishness, excitement, pleasure, etc. When we freely choose evil, this necessarily comes at the expense of others and the common good; an outcome which arises regardless of poverty, wealth inequality, political systems, and educational opportunities.
Because humans choose evil of their own volition, no political system can ever incubate itself against these decisions and their ramifications.
6. The human need for disruption and upheaval:
Strongly agitating against societies based on a peaceful (but purposeless) material prosperity, is the human impulse towards disruption and upheaval. Frequently, this impulse expresses itself against societies that have grown mundane and predictable, as martial values and transcendentalism cannot be indefinitely neglected. On page 79 of The True and only Heaven: Progress and its Critics, Christopher Lasch sets out how this impulse shored up popular support for the Third Reich:
In 1940, George Orwell made the same point about fascism. The Western democracies, he observed, had come to think that “human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security and avoidance of pain.” Whatever else could be said about it, fascism was “psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life.” Hitler knew that men and women wanted more than “comfort, safety, short-working hours, hygiene, birth control.” “Whereas socialism, and even capitalism … have said to people, ‘I offer you a good time,’ Hitler has said to them, ‘I offer you struggle, danger and death,’ and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet.”
Religion, conservatism and the negation of ideology
In closing, there are many good arguments in favour of rejecting ideology, which contain persuasive value of themselves. Notwithstanding this, in practical terms, mere unaided reason is an insufficient justification for the conservative negation of ideology. This is because a belief in the Divine is also essential: conservatism cannot (beyond a few exceptions) be sustained in the absence of religious faith.
There are, in the main, three practical reasons for conservatism requiring this added sustenance of religious faith.
In the first place, if understood that we are directed towards a knowledge of and relationship with God–the Divine is our ultimate end–there is no potential for ideology to emerge and displace the primacy of faith.
In the second place, absent religious belief and an understanding of there being an eternal import to our actions, people are incapable of mustering the requisite moral discipline for maintaining a conservative society.
Finally, a belief in the Divine is necessary to avoid the omnipresent temptation of being drawn into utopian politics, which at its root, stems from a rejection of God. Support for utopian politics proceeds from disbelief in God, because there is only one true heaven. And, when people do not believe in and cannot aim for this true heaven, as a means of averting psychological anguish, they attempt to institute their own heaven on earth.