Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Modern Monarchist Experience

Writing in TakiMag about the diverse anti-modern faction in American politics known loosely as "paleos," Charles Coulombe makes a provocative observation relevant to monarchists such as himself: "I am, myself, a Catholic Monarchist at base; Robespierre was not. Yet he was more a man of the Ancien Regime than I could ever be, just I am much more a man of the Revolution. The reason, of course, lies in the periods of our upbringing, and the influences of the culture around us."

This is a problem I have thought about but had never seen summarized so succinctly and brutally. It is frankly difficult for 21st-century monarchists, especially those of us living in a country which lacks not only a monarch but any post-independence monarchical tradition of its own, to achieve the authenticity of, say, a French royalist in the 19th century when the question of "Monarchy versus Republic" was still very much part of mainstream public discourse, kings still reigned or had reigned within living memory, and society's prevailing values were still essentially conservative. And our lives are in many ways more "modern," more thoroughly shaped by the legacies of the anti-monarchist Revolutions than those of the original advocates of those Revolutions--just as many contemporary "conservative Christians" routinely dress in ways that would have seemed indecent to secular progressives of a hundred or even fifty years ago and listen to "music" the latter would have dismissed as noise. That is the nature of the Revolution; it ultimately influences even those who believe themselves opposed to it. To a certain extent we have to accept this--no monarchist today can actually live, consistently, as if it were still 1788--but I'm sure my friend Mr. Coulombe would agree that that is no reason to give up!


Jim714 said...

I'm not sure how this comment will be taken, but I've wanted to make this point for some time, and this seems like the moment. I believe that contemporary monarchism is too strongly linked to peripheral issues and causes that are, at best, obscure to most people. When monarchism is linked to specific religious views, ones that most people find difficulty comprehending, it makes presenting the case for monarchism more difficult, in some cases almost impossible.

It is for this reason that I believe the case for monarchism should be contemporary; specifically I mean the case would make more sense, I believe, if it was presented in a completely secular context. Secular Monarchism already has some traction in the world; think of the Japanese Monarchy, the oldest continuous monarchy in the world. I believe the Thai Monarchy is also a primarily secular institution. I suspect that the Danish and Netherland Monarchies are similarly supported.

What I'm arguing for is single issue approach to Monarchism. It has been my experience that single issue approaches are more comprehensible, easier to communicate, more clearly reasoned, and have a higher rate of success, than issues that have many facets and components.

I realize those committed to Monarchy for religious reasons may find this offensive, which is why I've hesitated to make this point. If some take this comment this way, please accept my apology, as no offense was meant.



Theodore Harvey said...

Don't worry; I completely understand. In fact I suppose that one reason I became an Anglican and not a Traditionalist Roman Catholic (with all the attendant baggage) is that as an Anglican I arguably have more freedom to be a "single-issue monarchist."

May said...

Jim714 makes an interesting point. I think it is perfectly possible to support monarchism on two levels, a purely political/non-confessional one and, for those to whom it is applicable, a religious one. I agree that presenting mainly faith-based arguments for monarchy may obscure the cause in a largely secular world, and I think it is important to have clearly articulated arguments that are based simply on reason as well.

But, on the other hand, especially in certain countries (France, Russia, the Habsburg areas) the monarchist tradition is so intimately linked with religious tradition that I think the relationship cannot be ignored.

Jim714 said...

Regarding Matterhorn's comment; it does depend, to some extent, on the audience, the culture, and the heritage of a particular nation. I think there are several levels of justification that could be put forward for monarchism: 1) The biological argument, 2) the historical argument, 3) the psychological argument, 4) the moral argument, 5) the sociological argument.

Only 5 requires one to bring in a specifically religious context, and then only when it applies to a particular culture. I believe the other arguments could be framed most effectively in an academic form that does not depend on transcendental associations.

Thanks for your comment,