The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







The term paleoconservative (sometimes shortened to paleo or paleocon when the context is clear) refers to an American branch of conservative Old Right thought that stands against both the mainstream tradition of the National Review magazine and the neoconservatives. Many paleoconservatives readily identify themselves as "classical conservatives," because the former term carries a rather sterile sound in political discourse. They trace themselves to the Old Right Republicans of the interwar period who successfully kept America out of the League of Nations and cut down non-European immigration in 1924, and not so successfully opposed the New Deal.

Some historians, such as Paul V. Murphy and Isaiah Berlin, see the paleoconservatives' intellectual ancestors as those anti-modern writers who defended hierarchy, localism, ultramontanism, monarchy, and aristocracy. European precursors to paleoconservatives include Joseph de Maistre and Pope Pius X. Likewise, the continental conservative Jacques Barzun has a mode of thought and criticism esteemed by paleoconservatives. In America, the Southern Agrarians, Charles Lindbergh, Albert Jay Nock, and Russell Kirk, among others, articulated positions that proved influential among paleoconservatives. The southern conservative thread of paleoconservatism embodying the statesmanship of nineteenth-century figures such as John Randolph of Roanoke, John Taylor of Caroline and John C. Calhoun has influenced many modern paleoconservatives.

Paleoconservatives esteem the principles of subsidiarity and localism in recognizing that one must surely be an Ohioan, Texan or Virginian as they are an American. They embrace federalism within a framework of nationalism and are typically staunch supporters of states' rights. They are also more critical of the welfare state than the neoconservatives tend to be. They tend to be more critical of overreaching national power usurping state and local authority. They are more willing to question free trade, harshly critical of further immigration and tend to embrace an isolationist foreign policy. Paleoconservatives often esteem their America First principles as being commensurate with those of the Founding Fathers as embodied in the Neutrality Act. John Quincy Adams avowed, "America does not go abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own."

The phraseology "paleoconservative" ("old conservatism") was a rejoinder issued in the 1980s to differentiate itself from "neoconservatism". The rift is often traced back to a dispute over the director of the National Endowment for the Humanities by the incoming Reagan Administration. The preferred candidate was professor Mel Bradford and he was replaced after an effective media and lobbying effort (focussing on his dislike of Abraham Lincoln) by William Bennett. The trends preceding that pronounced schism go back as far as the 1950s.

The paleoconservatives view the neoconservatives as interlopers. Their view of the mainstream conservative movement is that of a self interested movement lacking the self confidence to defend its old ideas.

Paleoconservatives specialise in breaking what they regard as liberal taboos. Three particular targets of their ire are Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln and the Frankfurt School. The Council of Conservative Citizens has been very strong in its attacks. Some paleo-conservative figures, especially Samuel Francis, have been accused of having links to allegedly racist groups such as American Renaissance and the journal Occidental Quarterly . Paleoconservatism has recently become the principal operating philosophy of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). In its publications and conferences it often champions pre-WWII ideas, such as isolationism, cultural homogeneity while recognizing the limitations of capitalism.

The best known contemporary paleoconservative is probably the commentator Patrick Buchanan, whose culture war speech is probably the most widely known paleoconservative critique. The main paleoconservative magazine is Chronicles Magazine. There are many followers of Murray Rothbard who embrace paleolibertarianism, and being culturally conservative, they are sympathetic to many of the same themes of paleoconservatives.

Since the end of the Cold War, a rift has developed within the conservative movement between neoconservatives and paleoconservatives. Although the demarcation line is often indistinct and shifting, harsh words have of late been exchanged between David Frum of National Review and Patrick Buchanan of The American Conservative. Frum charged that paleocons, in their sometimes harsh criticism of President George W. Bush and the war on , have become unpatriotic supporters of America's enemies and, at times, anti-Semitic. Buchanan and others have retorted that "neocons" run the U.S. government in pursuit of global empire and for the benefit of Israel and corporations with whom they have close ties; in doing so, paleoconservatives charged, they violate conservative principles of sovereignty while creating new enemies and fomenting Anti-Americanism abroad.

Prominent Paleoconservatives

Paleoconservative organizations

External Links

  • The American Cause
  • The American Conservative
  • Chronicles Magazine
  • CounterRevolution
  • Modern Age
  • The Occidental Quarterly
  • The University Bookman
  • Council of Conservative Citizens

Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01