Welcome to the end of modernity. After a century of warnings from various conservatives, reactionaries, and other enemies of Progress, the apostles of Progress themselves are now declaring a civilizational crisis. Now that all the authoritative institutions are in the hands of liberals who believe only in Progress, instead of triumph there is catastrophe.
The liberal redefinition of politics has recently been followed by the redefinition of babies, men, women, marriage, and faith. The sure knowledge of our own mortality has been taken from us in the process. Progress indeed promised to redefine our very existence and bring about the End of History. The police power of the therapeutic state as much as the influence of commercial fantasies that delude our children and the technologies that underpin it all encourage an endless quest for meaning, identities, and a solution to the only liberal mystery, choice. And yet the avant-garde of the liberal revolutionary army, the Progressive activists, far from being the happiest people in this new world, are the most miserable and shameless.
The self-destructive character of Progress, now obvious everywhere and to everyone, is a terrible political crisis and a moment of great danger in our ongoing spiritual warfare. We critics of Progress cannot become slaves of Progress. But the man who has no ideas but the Progressive ideas he rejects and no activity but a slavish fixation on Progressive histrionics that drive him mad cannot claim any dignity.
We are critics of Progress only accidentally, because of the influence Progress still has on education and public opinion. We are primarily dedicated to the proposition that politics is essentially education, the education for civilization, or for the combination of political freedom and scientific study that is our unique possession. We have seen the freedom of savages in primeval forests. We see now the sophistication of tyrants and slaves who wield terrible technological powers. We prefer civilization to these alternatives and we will offer you the necessary education for civilization — conversation, friendship, and insight.
It is possible now to tell the ugly truth, since we have a counter-poison to the sickness of soul of our times — an inability to believe in, be moved by, and accomplish the works of human greatness. It is also necessary to tell the ugly truth, because our times are defined by political decadence, an inability to do the required public deeds, and by philistinism, since culture has decayed into worthless fashions, and we are too baffled to admit that it has become impossible to attract talent to the domains of the muses. Every name that once astonished — philosopher, poet, artist — has been debased by flatterers and opportunists.
Thus, it becomes obvious what it means to be conservative. It is not to be a slave to liberals, but to know and thus to love the greatest things accomplished in our history, and to preserve everything that can be good to us now. Conservatism has been liberated from its ideology, if admittedly by complete political defeat. It is possible to return it to its original meaning.
The political crisis we are in teaches us that neither enthusiasm for Progress nor a slavish opposition to it achieves anything good. A new way of thinking about politics is required, a willingness to see our situation as it is rather than as we wish it to be, and therefore to pursue those things that can now be done. We will do what all journals of opinion should do: offer the knowledge and encourage others to do the practical work required for political health. And we will remind everyone of the need for piety, since even atheists have to learn how limited our powers are, lest more mad attempts at overcoming nature lead us into further catastrophes.
We will also aim to offer an example of moderation. Elegance is our guide in writing — not enthusiasm, rancor, or populism. We will encourage sobriety rather than arrogance or madness. We will encourage friendship among our writers and readers, a conspiracy of decency in a very indecent situation. Love of nobility and love of wisdom will be our answers to these trying times. You’re invited to come along for the ride.