Paleoconservatism: A Eulogy
I enjoyed your old exchange in 2004 on the paleoconservatives. I think when Sam Francis was alive, paleoconservatism was a much more important and useful perspective, primarily because he tackled racial and demographic issues head on while simultaneously managing to retain some ties to the “semi-respectable” right:
Conservative Chronicles syndicated his column, Chronicles carried his essays, the American Conservative ran his essays, etc. While thin gruel, it was still something, and it was hoped by race realists he might lead other paleos over to his thinking on race and demographics. Francis was, to me at least, “Mr. Paleoconservative.”
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His comrade, Paul Gottfried, still retains some of the boldness Francis had on race and immigration (I note he spoke at the most recent AR conference again). But his views on the subject aren’t nearly quite as articulated as the views of Francis were, nor does he write about them as much.
In any event, the paleos in general offered some additional viewpoints which were useful to the right, and indeed were not considered “paleo” in any sense until the last few decades: more humanism, less social science; sympathy towards Southern Agrarian viewpoints; greater emphasis on Constitutionalism and state’s rights; sympathy towards Kirkian traditionalism; sympathy towards “Old Right” thinkers and writers such as Garret Garrett, Robert McCormick, Frank Chodorov, Albert Jay Nock, Rose Wilder Lane, etc.; also a strong emphasis on “America First” nationalism in foreign policy and economics. It was the latter, which lead paleos towards greater criticism of American foreign intervention, and criticism of Israel (“we should stay out of the region, not support anyone there, etc.”).
Today, much of what’s left of the paleos is basically a heavy emphasis on America First foreign policy and—in my opinion—overly excessive criticism of Israel, and America’s support for Israel. And stripped of the Francis views on race and demographics, journals like Chronicles make for very turgid and dry reading. Chronicles seems focused now on navel-gazing, and a monastic-like emphasis on the past (I think they’ve indicated this “monastic-like” attitude is their new tactic in the face of Western Civilizational collapse). Serge Trifkovic’s analysis of Islam offered a breath of fresh air for the paleos, and is the one interesting spark left at Chronicles. The civilizational issues he raises regarding Islam seem largely ignored by the rest of the paleos, however.
It’s also clear that the editor of Chronicles, Thomas Fleming, becomes very squeamish when it comes to any discussion of race and demographics, certainly in the post-Francis world, and even while he was alive. The other interesting aspects of the paleos (Old Right analysis; Southern Agrarian perspectives; Kirkian traditionalism, etc.), are still worth reading about, but lack relevance when stripped of the pressing civilizational issues of the day. And paleos write about them less these days, focused as they are on quixotic Ron Paul-like crusades against overseas involvement and criticism of Israel’s policies.
In sum: Francis made the paleos interesting and relevant, because his focus went beyond the standard paleo menu. Without him, they are much less interesting and relevant. Thankfully, his writings are still with us, so when it comes to paleoconservatism we can always go back to the genuine article.
Jim N. writes:
Bob Vandervoort writes: “The other interesting aspects of the paleos (Old Right analysis; Southern Agrarian perspectives; Kirkian traditionalism, etc.), are still worth reading about, but lack relevance when stripped of the pressing civilizational issues of the day.”
Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 01, 2008 09:18 PM | Send
Says who? Those things are more relevant now than ever. That others can’t see how necessary they are isn’t so much a reflection of the truth as a failure on the part of said prominent paleos to actually grasp and articulate it themselves. I, as in some sense a paleo, never elected Fleming and Gottfried to speak for me, and it kind of rankles to see them held out as Solons and official mouthpieces, when in my opinion their own understanding is deficient in significant ways.