As we stumble out of the centuries of mental fog brought on by egalitarianism, some are awakening to the possibility of a world after liberal democracy and the bureaucratic society it creates.
One of these, Thierry Baudet, is a politician in The Netherlands who seems familiar with Old Right ideas. In a recent interview, he opined on several classic ideas:
After the elections, you said you won a battle. What does it mean for you to win the war?
I believe that aesthetically, for example, we’ve chosen the entirely wrong direction in the West. We’ve left tonal music behind. We’ve left realist or mimetic painting behind. We’ve left traditional architecture behind. I’m deeply opposed to the fundamental philosophical principles of modern architecture. I think it’s fundamentally wrong.
When did this train fall off the rail?
I think one has to go back to the principles of the French Revolution which are equality, liberty, and fraternity. They have led to the two major emancipation movements — socialism and liberalism — and both are fundamentally flawed. The derailment, in turn, has come in waves. Modernism, a renewal of the radical elements in the French Revolution, which kicked in right after the First World War, set in motion yet another wave of mistakes. And then came the ’60s.
Socialism, liberalism… Where do you see conservatism in play?
It’s the philosophy that starts from the understanding that we are paradoxical beings. We want to be free and, at the same time, we want to be embedded. We want to be individuals, but we also want to be members of a group. In a proper society, there’s an equilibrium there, a delicate balance that has culminated in what we might call “the individual properly understood.” This reached its apex, I believe, in the eighteenth century, and was venerated in that great “swan song of aristocracy”, the nineteenth century. But now the individual has, of course, been “liberated” to an extent that we feel deeply atomized and unhappy. We don’t know how to get back to the community anymore.
But what are the pillars of civilization?
I think ultimately the aesthetic is the highest criterion. Our movement, like every political movement, is therefore also an aesthetic one. And true beauty, in my view, recognizes both the uniqueness of the individual, of every single individual in his or her individual life story, yet it also offers a language, a musical language or a grammatical language, or indeed a visual language, that implies a common frame of reference. So the problem of embeddedness, the problem of the modern world, you could say, is implied in the approach one takes to the arts.
The point of the several arts and crafts movements that arose in response to the industrialization in the second part of the 19th century, was that despite mass-production, and mass-society, and urbanization, and so on, we still need to feel embedded. That is why ornaments and facades, as well as the use of natural materials, were considered so important: they helped engender a proper sense of home for the spiritually homeless. The problem with modern architecture is that it emphasizes the ordinariness in such a way that it completely atomizes people. You can’t tell the difference between the modernist buildings in Brussels from those in Kuala Lumpur and Pyongyang. Nor can you spot a difference between the individual apartments or offices in each of those buildings: they are all completely interchangeable and that makes people very unhappy, I believe, because they become completely interchangeable individuals in their mass apartment blocks. People want to have a house that is theirs. Even though such a house may not be very specific, or very grand, it is still their house, their place on earth, ideally with a little piece of land around it, with a neighbourhood they connect with — in short, something that makes them feel that they belong somewhere, that they have a certain place of origin and are part of a certain destiny.
The whole thing is worth reading, but the excerpts above give you the general idea.