[The mainstream fringe]
Are there, in fact, any substantive differences between paleoconservatism
and social conservatism?
A proposed definition that embraces both includes those outlooks
upholding and valorizing traditional nation, family, and religion,
as well as a strong work ethic and strict approach to law and order.
It could be argued that differences between the groups are matters
of degree rather than of substance.
One of the main elements of paleoconservatism is its robust emphasis
on nationhood. This emphasis is akin to most Canadian social conservatives’ criticism
of multiculturalism, excessive Aboriginal claims (a major issue in
Canada), and uncontrolled immigration. The paleoconservatives are usually
more willing to say and write openly what most social conservatives
A second element of paleoconservatism is its pointed critique of
the so-called “managerial-therapeutic regime” in contemporary
Western societies. One could look to Paul Edward Gottfried’s
After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial
University Press, 1999), or any recent issues of the eclectic scholarly
journal Telos (New York) for analyses of the situation. A constant
preempting of discourse against social conservatives in the mass media
and mass-education systems, the state bureaucracies and social services,
and the courts is perceptible. Social conservatives are well aware
of the various powerful structures arrayed against them.
Some “ultra-moderate” centrists maintain that the belief
that government serves the interests of the chosen few is some kind
of crypto-Marxism. Nevertheless, many books and articles written by
Canadian commentators across the political spectrum describe Canada’s
perennially ruling Liberals as a highly arrogant and self-serving elite.
Many theorists argue that the existence of elites in any society
is inevitable and that it is the quality of the formal or informal
elites that determines much of the tone of society as a whole. While
social conservatives pay homage to “the common sense of the common
people,” they are also somewhat aware of the iron law of oligarchy.
A naive populism is rarely fully embraced by any party or political
Thirdly, although some paleoconservatives may tend to define themselves
in terms of culture and politics rather than religion, this does not
mean that they are hostile to religion. One can uphold religion very
strongly for cultural and political reasons. Among the most prominent
Canadian social conservatives who are also highly religious are Ted
Byfield, Link Byfield, Ted Morton, Michael Coren, Paul Tuns, Rory Leishman,
and Peter Stockland. The Byfields were for many decades the owners
of Alberta Report, (published in British Columbia under the name B.C.
Report and in Saskatchewan and Manitoba as Western Report).
This was Canada’s main conservative newsmagazine, which at
its height had over 80,000 subscribers, most of them in Alberta. Ted
Morton is an Alberta professor highly critical of what he has called “the
court party” (the activist judiciary). Michael Coren is a famous
conservative media personality. Paul Tuns is the editor of The
Interim: Canada’s Life and Family Newspaper. Rory Leishman is a prominent
conservative columnist, who has been especially critical of judicial
activism. Peter Stockland is a conservative-leaning editor (formerly
of such major newspapers as The Calgary Herald).
Paleoconservatives are probably more sharply in opposition to globalization
than social conservatives. However, the exaltation of globalization
has grown increasingly prominent among the “broader Right” as
a result of the ascendancy of the neoconservatives. Surely, social
conservatives are also aware of many negative aspects of capitalism.
Most of the mass media cultural industries often criticized by social
conservatives (for example, Hollywood, television, advertising, rock
and rap music, pornography) operate on a strictly free-market, for-profit
basis. The huge, bureaucratic, transnational corporations can simply
be seen as part of the “managerial-therapeutic regime,” which
are also at war with what social conservatives esteem. There is today
the unfortunate tendency to label the most carefully-voiced criticisms
of out-of-control technology, capitalism, and globalization as “Marxist,” “fascist,” or “neo-Luddite.”
A careful look at paleoconservative and social conservative outlooks,
especially in the Canadian context, shows that they do indeed hold
much in common. Unfortunately, these outlooks exist in a form of “internal
exile” in Canadian society today.
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Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based writer, social critic, and historical
researcher and is published in major Canadian newspapers, as well as
in U.S. scholarly journals such as Humanitas,
Review of Metaphysics, and Telos, and in U.S. magazines such as Chronicles
and The World & I. His writing has also appeared in Polish, British, and German publications.
See author's bio and other articles.
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