Mark Sedgwick visited UnHerd to discuss the ideology beloved by the European Right
Traditionalism is an ancient philosophy, a mystical doctrine said to have a growing influence on the Right. Long associated with fascism, in recent years it has been said to inspire the likes of Steve Bannon, Brazil’s Olavo de Carvalho and — most notoriously — Russian philosopher Aleksandr Dugin, otherwise known as “Putin’s brain”.
But what is Traditionalism, and why is it considered so dangerous? Professor Mark Sedgwick, author of Traditionalism: The Radical Project for Restoring Sacred Order, visited the UnHerd Club — making the trip from Denmark, where he teaches at Aarhus University — to explain.
The primary insight of Traditionalism, according to Sedgwick, is that there is a sacred order, a primordial tradition beneath organised religion which should dictate the way society is structured. He stated:
Traditionalism, unsurprisingly, abhors modernity, which has deviated drastically from this primordial order. There is, in Sedgwick’s view, “a theoretical welcoming of the apocalypse as the start of the new age.” Following the apocalypse, Traditionalists believe that the old order will make a triumphant return, after what they would consider a centuries-long decline:
If Enlightenment and modern values are the antithesis of the Traditionalist understanding of how a good society should operate, followers of the latter movement “envisaged a very stratified social system, which took from the Hindu caste system and then mixed together with the pre-revolutionary French system of estates”.
Sedgwick went on:
What should a Traditionalist living in the present day do in the face of progress? Sedgwick explained that Traditionalist thinkers have been divided on this, setting out various different paths. One can choose asceticism and isolation in the wilderness, hoping that the world self-immolates as it pursues modern values. Alternatively, there is the “warrior path”, also known as the path of action. As Sedgwick describes it in his book, “the follower of the path of action evokes in himself the transcendent power of destruction. He takes it on, becomes transfigured in it and free, thus breaking loose from all human bonds.”