When you get down to the brass tacks of the Counterrevolution, virtually all the political and social thought revolves around one question: “How do I combat modernity?” Our own William S. Lind has attempted to answer this question in a few of his works, including The Next Conservatism and the short story that eventually became Victoria, with something called Retroculture.
As Lind describes it, Retroculture is (or would be) a movement in which people pick a time in history prior to the 1960s (because that is when the major cultural upheaval began in the open) and build their lives around the norms of the day, complete with period clothes and technology. For instance, in Victoria, the character Bill Kraft drives a 1948 Buick Roadmaster and “was dressed in about the year 1945: well-cut brown double-breasted suit, wide tie, holding a brown fedora.” The story’s narrator later describes walking into Bill Kraft’s home like walking through a time lock. Everything from the appliances on the kitchen counter to the family’s manners were straight out of the late 1940s.
To me, the Retroculture idea has always seemed more than a little LARP-y. Will driving old cars, wearing fedoras, and speaking with archaic diction stoke the fires of a powerful new sociopolitical movement? Probably not, but it will get you laughed out of serious conversation.
Lind does not mean it to be quite as superficial as it is presented, however. It just takes more explaining to get to the core of the idea. The picture he paints of a happy, respectable family from the 1940s becomes a ray of light that starkly contrasts against the cold, degenerate reality of modernity. It’s meant to be a vision of what could be if we consciously changed our ways. A common refrain from Lind goes like this: “If you know you’ve gone down the wrong road, what do you do? You don’t keep driving. You turn back.” Retroculture uses the past as a guide and a benchmark. It calls for reshaping our lives to resemble, on a broad scale, the lives our ancestors led.
Retroculture addresses most of the important aspects of the modern world. Notably, technology and the ways in which it interferes with human lives and relationships is a major consideration for the movement. Microeconomics, a focus on local concerns over global abstractions, agrarianism, and even New Urbanism are a few more components of the remedy laid out to affect a return to normality. However, an examination of Retroculture’s motivations displays where Lind’s Boomer conservatism and our own Millennial Traditionalism diverge.
Lind’s vision of a Retroculture movement hits on all the visible flaws in modernity, but fails to acknowledge the rotting superstructure underneath. Two crucial aspects are missing. First is a clear definition of the people that are to make up this social movement. “Values” and a vague memory of how life used to be is simply not enough to be a binding social force. The second is the central role spiritual matters play in a healthy life. “Comfort”, “normal”, and “ordered” are all descriptors for the conservative’s good life. Traditionalists answer that those are not good enough. Traditionalism builds upon the thede. Actions are performed to glorify God and to build the civilization. The individual strives to transcend himself, becoming a shining example of greatness–of godliness–to others and putting duty to the tribe before his own corporeal needs and desires.
The best vision of a Traditionalist sociopolitical movement looks a lot like Archeofuturism. The layman, along with 80% of the rest of his civilizational cohorts, lives in Medieval villages with agrarian and artisanal economies. Indeed, he lives a comfortable, normal, and ordered–yet still transcendant–life, which for him is much more than good enough. Certain roles in society require stepping out of the village life and into cities where properly evaluated technology plays important roles in advancing human lives.
Retroculture’s main benefit might be that it acts as an entry point into Traditionalism. Modern man simply needs to look to how his ancestors lived if he is ever to recover some semblance of a normal life, let alone a rewarding one. Retroculture has all the right prescriptions for the societal dieases it addresses. It only needs a shot of Traditionalism.