Retroculture

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. favicon

166 thoughts on “Retroculture”

  1. Seems Bill is over a hundred years late to the party. The Amish were retroculture earlier and earlier than anyone, in the states or Europe for that matter.

  2. I think the idea on technology converges with the modern “Maker” movement. I would like a car I could fix and that would just run – even without the computer (which might just tune emissions or something). Modern clothing is neither beautiful nor comfortable. Also note “The Roaring ’20s” might not be a time we wish to return to, nor others. Technology includes safe drinking water, medicine, and a lot of other things. Going back to horses has a different problem with pollution.

    But all that is superficial. Sometimes acting will end up pulling the spirit up, but usually the reverse has to happen.

    Once you are reformed spiritually – say you decide you hate the waste, impersonal society, complications, beholden to mega-corporations – you then want to do something about it. If you see your language suffers, your English improves and sounds “old”, but it really is proper and correct. Your dress corresponds to say what you want. Your manners reflect your spirit. Spirit is far more independent – libertarians would be envious because you cannot be free unless you aren’t a slave to your sin, passions, or things like fashion or pride. But it also (again, contrary to most libertarian) is outward facing – how can I help my fellow, not how can I make myself safer. The thing is that government is more repressive and tyrannical to someone who is spiritually mature than to someone who wants to simply be left alone. That is why the States could fight Britain for a decade, and succeeding, consolidate their gains, and finally create a proper framework in the constitution. The “enlightenment” ended in the quicker “French Revolution” and the reign of terror. The latter destroyed their spiritual foundation.

  3. Excellent. I’ve met quite a few people into Retroculture, including the men and women in the Chap movement in the UK and the 1950s Rockabilly couple I know in my neighbourhood. Everyone is ‘LARP-y’ to one degree or another, from the eccentric attendees at the local Steampunk convention, to the young Catholic playing paterfamilas, to earnest young Alt-Right men posing as serious pundits and intellectuals. One almost has to, just to survive in this cesspool of a society.

  4. “The layman, along with 80% of the rest of his civilizational cohorts, lives in Medieval villages with agrarian and artisanal economies.”

    Didn’t the hippies already try this?

  5. The problem with modernity is not the advanced technology or the convenience it brings, we have become an individualistic society. It takes us away from the social contacts we all need as humans to thrive. Online social networking does not get you strong ties nor a sense of belonging. We have become a weak society where social media controls you, how can you tell me “I cannot be on Facebook because I spent to much time on it” do you not have self control? No discipline? No will power? The solution simply is not to reject the modernity but to rise above and have control over it. Have values, morals and self discipline that our ancestors passed on to us. Then there won’t be a need to isolate your self from the world.
    What we need is a village effect. There was a blog on NPR by Diane Cole.
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/10/14/351254666/forget-facebook-abandon-instagram-move-to-a-village

  6. Well, my observation is that people have widely varying levels of needs for social interaction. Your formulation is fine as far as it goes, but how do you apply compulsion to those who depart from the consensus? Another of my observations is that the really telling differences between governmental systems is how outlaws are treated. Shunned, nonviolently disciplined, ejected into the jungle, crucified, or eaten? If community degenerates into Communism, industrial policy into Fascism, and liberty into license/oligarchy, how do we apply control mechanisms?

    The Amish have a pressure relief valve: they send out the young for a wanderjahr to make sure that they accept the community standards with an adult responsibility. They get to make up their own minds about how long a spoon it takes to sup with the Devil.

    Other intensional communities get it all in writing. I have long advocated that model for the US: before getting your voting franchise, you should have to show intent by putting your own signature on the Constitution. I don’t know how much that would actually help, but it might make people think before acting.

  7. “Traditionalism builds upon the thede. Actions are performed for the
    prosperity of the group. 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.”

    Replace “thede” with “commune” and this is 100% hippy bullshit.

    Renaissance fair for the KKK crowd is hilarious, but it doesn’t suggest anything good about the new right that you are so bankrupt of radical ideas that you had to steal them from hippies.

    If you want to go back to the middle ages, why don’t you just get Islam and join the Taliban or the Islamic State? The Deobandis and Naqshbandis are Sufi orders who practicing the “wet path” against modernity like nobody’s business.

  8. Hippies don’t transcend anything. Traditionalists seek to be gods. I also fail to see how drawing inspiration from the Middle Ages is in any way “hippy”. Way to contribute, though.

  9. I am an initiated Naqshbandi, and I don’t reject technology out of hand; I spent more than 30 years as a professional technical writer in California’s Silicon Valley. My own Shaykh had a degree in chemical engineering. Other Naqshbandis I know are well known psychologists, dream researchers, and internationally known astrophysicists. A Shaykh in another Sufi order is the head of a local university.

    My Shaykh’s deputy went to the DoJ in the mid-1990s to warn that a large number of Mosques in the United States were being infiltrated and taken over by radical elements advocating violence and intolerance. He exposed CAIR, for example, which is the largest “nice Muslim” organization, as a front for radicals, just as you would find on Pamela Geller’s blog or World Net Daily.

    There are also a number of deranged “bring back the Khalifat” types, though I don’t know any terrorist types (yes, I had a DoJ interview after 9/11). You can find all kinds of Sufi and sufi groups of every stripe all over the world. For some members, it’s like the Masons, for others, an affirmation of family, clan, regional, or national identity; for others, a means of developing the self.

    For what it’s worth, my Shaykh recommended (if anybody asked) that one’s work be divided between mental and physical, decentralization of production of goods and services, eating locally grown food and especially honey (for helping the immune and allergic systems against local threats). And community, not commune.

  10. “Traditionalists seek to be gods”? I find it hard to attribute this to Mr. Lind or Mr. Kirk. Why, I suspect they are satisfied with the traditional “imitation of Christ”.

    But I do agree strongly with your placing a transcendental philosophy as part of a Traditionalist stance. Transcendental Paganism? I suspect Mr. Lewis would not agree. Perhaps “imitation of Wotan”, then…

    As I consider it, I can’t think of a Transcendental tradition, even non-theistic ones like Taoism and Buddhism, that does not have a linkage between the transcendent and man. A “bridge”, if you will – even Nietzsche wrote, “I love him who does not hold back one drop of spirit for himself, but wants to be entirely the spirit of his virtue: thus he strides over the bridge as spirit.”

  11. Yes, what I meant was “Traditionalists seek to be LIKE gods.”

    Regarding Kirk and Lind, I see conservatives as something distinct from Traditionalism.

  12. The New Age movement and most of the popular interest in Buddhism, Hinduism, yoga, etc, and can be traced directly to the 60s counterculture. Hippies tried to transcend, and failed horribly. (The white nationalist inbreds the new right is using as its social base will fail even worse, BTW.)

    If you want to see hippies drawing inspiration from the Middle Ages, just go to a Renaissance faire, or read this:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=0LZeLqj4tF0C

    Or this:

    http://www.diggers.org/overview.htm

    >Regarding Kirk and Lind, I see conservatives as something distinct from Traditionalism.

    Maybe it would be a good idea to call it “integral traditionalism”, or something, so as to be less confusing when we are actually talking about Evola and Geunon vs simply people who are old school or conservative.

  13. I didn’t mean to suggest that all Sufis were anti-modern.

    Do you have any idea what is going on with IS and the Naqshbandis in Iraq? Have they gone over to salafism?

  14. No, but I too would like to know. It’s likely that such Sufis who are getting drawn into the drama are ones who belong through tribal affiliations of some sort or another. I do know that the serious (in my view – meaning the groups dedicated to spiritual development) Sufi orders moved their centers to, or established collateral centers in, the West after WWII. The Naqshbandis moved out of Afghanistan about the time Idries Shah was writing his books, and they are now all over, particularly in Indonesia and Southeastern Asia. The Naqshbandis, Halveti-Jerrahi, Qadiri, Nimatullahi, Chisti, and Mevlevi groups have public organizations in the SF Bay Area that I know of, and others could be flying under the radar, given the times.

  15. Someone who has a lot of interest in aspects of both integral traditionalism and the new right, but also a great deal of suspicion of the old white supremacist crowd and the idiocies of Klu-kluxery. In terms of conservatism I am most influenced by H L Mencken and John N Gray.

  16. Not ever, actually. I did actually read Mencken however, and share his views of klu-kluxery.

    I also have to wonder if someone who says “I don’t take Islam too seriously. Muslims are a bunch of savages” has even bothered to read Evola, or knows anything about integral traditionalism.

    Did you even read the Wikipedia entry before you signed up?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditionalist_School

  17. Are you saying Islam has produced a civilization worthy of admiration? Anything else you want to tell us regarding the Klan? It sounds like you have a fascination with them.

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