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Far from yielding a knee-jerk and unreflexive de fense of an unchanging old regime or a staid but thoughtful traditionalism, the reactionary imperative presses conservatism in two rather different directions: first, to a critique and reconfiguration of the old regime; second, to an absorption of the ideas and tactics of the very revolution or reform it opposes…

The old regime… is beautiful, static, and weak; the revolution is ugly, dynamic, and strong…

The conservative… learns from the revolution he opposes. This is one of the most interesting and least understood aspects of conservative ideology. While conservatives are hostile to the goals of the Left, particularly the empowerment of society’s lower castes and classes, they often are its best students… Even without directly engaging the progressive argument, the conservative may absorb, by some elusive osmosis yet to be identified, the deeper categories and idioms of the Left, even when those idioms run directly counter to his official stance…

Populist currents can help us make sense of a final element of conservatism. From the beginning, conservatism has appealed to and relied upon outsiders… Conservatism has not only depended upon outsiders; it also has seen itself as the voice of the outsider…

People on the Left often fail to realize this, but conservatism really does speak to and for people who have lost something… “All conservatism begins with loss,” Andrew Sullivan rightly notes, which makes conservatism not the Party of Order, as Mill and others have claimed, but the party of the loser… The chief aim of the loser is not—and indeed cannot be—preservation or protection. It is recovery and restoration. And that, it seems to me, is the secret of conservatism’s success…

Where the Left’s program of redistribution raises the question of whether its beneficiaries are truly prepared to wield the powers they seek, the conservative project of restoration suffers from no such challenge.  Unlike the reformer or the revolutionary, moreover, who faces the nearly impossible task of empowering the powerless—that is, of turning people from what they are into what they are not—the conservative merely asks his followers to do more of what they always have done (albeit better). As a result, his counterrevolution will not require the same disruption that the revolution has visited upon the country.

via leiterreports.typepad.com/files/raritan-essay.pdf.

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