Displaced Persons

In an age of anti-elite anger, it might seem otiose to publish an academic analysis of aristocratic ideas in Western thought.  But as the post-1945 order rattles itself to pieces, it is time to look past its bankrupted beliefs and discredited leaders for other guiding principles—principles based on history instead of ill-defined and naive hopes, and reality rather than sentiment.  Elites will always be with us, because people differ by inclination as well as inheritance, while a greater familiarity with aristocratic experience may afford object lessons for today’s experiments with democracy.  Traditionalists often eschew academia, but the editors of this volume have somehow raised a small regiment to launch a hussar charge against today’s pieties, offering all kinds of insights into now almost-forgotten episodes, and almost-unimaginable ideas.

Aristocracy is obviously incompatible with what René Guénon (omitted from this collection, perhaps wisely) called The Reign of Quantity—our ostentatious equality, novelty, relativity, and restlessness.  But today’s social superiors protest their social consciences too much; we also suspect they are not really superior.  Resentments always ate at aristocratic orders, but were often defanged by habit, praxis, and religion, and by virtuous nobles.  Aristocrats, Aristotle had opined, should be “great-souled,”...

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