What Happened in the Sixties?

Point 5 of Nydwracu’s Priority Research Areas for Neoreaction is: “What happened in the ‘60s?”

My guess would be: the death of conservatism. Except that that probably happened in the 1950s, and the sixties were a delayed reaction to the fact that progressivism no longer had any organised opposition.

The familiar neoreactionary story is that progressives have long had the upper hand, certainly since the death of Queen Anne in England, and from the very beginning in the American colonies. Modern leftism is simply descended from the whigs.

However, though they were dominant throughout the period 1714 – 1960, they were never entirely unchallenged. There were still Tories in positions of influence who maintained a coherent traditionalist political philosophy, and who (in the later period) accomodated with the age of democracy without ever accepting its assumptions.

That political force was dying in England by 1945. It was routed and destroyed by 1957. After two hundred years of advance by overcoming conservative opposition, progressivism was left completely unconstrained. Scattered discontents remained, but, without a living conservative movement or philosophy to draw from, they were not able to make arguments that would satisfy anyone.

Progressives responded by driving out potential rebels — first from academia, always a centre of progressivism but soon owned by them exclusively, and then from organised religion.

What we think of as “the sixties” was the gradual realisation by progressives that they could get away with anything. Every door they pushed on swung open, and there was a decade of exuberant pillage.

The end came as they gradually adapted to the fact that they were now the establishment, and needed to produce some measure of moderation from within. They started to address their contradictions among themselves: many of today’s basic political and cultural assumptions were decided somewhat arbitrarily in that 1970s settlement. (That, for instance, is where paedophiles failed to make the cut as a protected victim group). The recessions of the 1970s injected a note of realism into economic policy, and the enfeebled Conservative Party reenergised itelf, but basing its new opposing philosophy on classical liberalism rather than conservatism.

It was hard for me to understand the process, because, being born after the sixties, an actual conservative movement is something I have never seen. It was on its last legs in the first half of the century, but it really existed. This biography of Anthony Eden gives some clues as to what it looked like: patrician, honourable, suspicious of America, and doomed. There were presumably others like Eden, but today there are none.

This has obviously been a very anglocentric account. I would guess that the story for France would be fairly similar, though I don’t know, but that America was a bit different. The outcome seems to have been much the same in all three.