I was reminded of this in the discussion to my post "Hostility in the manosphere". One commenter, calling himself "Nah," claimed that hostility to traditionalists is justified by the fact that traditionalists have already been around a long time but had lost:
In one form or another, "traditionalism" has been around for over 60 years, and has an unbroken record of total and unmitigated defeat.To me, that's a puzzling claim. I wrote a comment in response pointing out that by the 1970s society was dominated not just by liberalism but more specifically by a left-liberalism, which dominated the schools, the universities, the mainstream churches and the media. There were no institutions (in Australia, anyway) which you could call traditionalist.
Nah accepted that society after the 1970s was dominated by liberalism. But he didn't accept my claim that there were no significant non-liberal institutions earlier in the 1900s (with the partial exception of the Catholic Church) to oppose the advance of liberalism. He wrote:
Are you kidding? ALL the institutions were non-liberal at the beginning of the 20th century. Over time the liberals infiltrated them, hollowed them out, and generally turned them into a mockery of their former selves. Conservatism (like the British Empire) went from penthouse to outhouse over the course of the century. You are deluded if you think you can get back into the penthouse when you couldn't even defend it back in the day you actually owned it.It's true that liberalism did move to rule more exclusively on liberal principles alone during the course of the 1900s. But that doesn't mean that in the year 1900 you had a situation in which a traditionalist ruling class governed society via traditionalist dominated institutions. That very much misunderstands what was happening at that time.
In Australia, for instance, politics was dominated by a contest between a group of Deakinite liberals who favoured protection and another group of free trade liberals. The Labor Party had just become a significant third force in politics. Was there an organised traditionalist party in Australia in 1900, representing a powerful section of the ruling elite? The answer is no.
Remember too that the 1800s were the heyday of classical liberalism and that the first wave of feminism began from the mid-1800s and reached a peak of radicalism in the early decades of the twentieth century.
Artistic and political modernism had already developed a long way by the year 1900. For instance, Nietzsche had declared the death of God in the 1880s; Freud effectively did likewise in his very influential works which he began publishing in the 1890s; a movement of nihilists and anarchists assassinated various heads of state from the 1880s; and Munch painted "The Scream" in the 1890s.
The full force of modernism in the arts was therefore ready to hit very soon after the year 1900. Picasso's "The women of Avignon" was painted in 1907; Duchamp's "Fountain" (a urinal) dates from 1917; Schoenberg's influential atonal work Pierrot Lunaire was composed in 1912; and James Joyce began work on Ulysses in 1914.
So it was modernism, and not traditionalism, that was in full flight in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
In his final response Nah accepts that classical liberalism was strong in the 1800s, but he goes on to make this objection:
As for the "classical liberalism" of the 1800s... that is exactly what is known today as conservatism or traditionalism. Is this really what you oppose? If you are against "1800s liberalism", exactly what are you in favor of? What kind of "traditionalism" are you talking about if you exclude everything that happened in the English-speaking world in the 1800s?So we finally get to the real basis of the misunderstanding. Nah believes that traditionalism is just another name for classical liberalism. He wonders if we don't believe in contemporary liberalism, nor in classical liberalism, exactly what is left for us to believe in. He finds it difficult to see the alternative.
This post would become horrendously long if I tried to make a detailed reply right now. But the basic point I will make is that in rejecting both forms of liberalism we are not "excluding everything that happened in the English-speaking world in the 1800s". Until recent decades liberalism did not seek to rule exclusively by its own principles. The family, for instance, was nearly entirely untouched by liberalism until about the 1850s. Christianity remained strong within the Anglo elite up to about the 1880s and the aristocratic values are evident within Anglo culture right up to the 1920s. Traditional forms of nationalism, whilst somewhat undermined by liberalism, held on until the 1930s in most Anglo countries.
So there was still an ongoing tradition, with many things to admire within it, in the 1800s and later, despite the fact that liberals were strong within the political class and pushed society over time in the direction they favoured.