The Intellectual Heritage of Radical Cultural Conservatism

Official page at the University of Jyväskylä

The aim of the project is to critically examine the historical roots and the intellectual heritage of radical cultural conservatism.

Radical cultural conservatism can be regarded as a radicalized version of classical conservatism, born as an aristocratic-clerical counteraction to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Unlike classical conservatives, modern radical cultural conservatives no longer believed that the traditional conservative means – such as the defense of the status quo, moderation, and piecemeal change – could sustain and promote conservative goals in politics and society. In their view, Western culture could be saved from the “plague” of liberalism, socialism, and materialism only by radical and revolutionary means.  19th century conservatives conceived themselves as anti-radicals, but these new conservatives – such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Oswald Spengler, Edgar Julius Jung, Ernst Jünger, Carl Schmitt, Martin Heidegger, Mircea Eliade, and Julius Evola, to name a few – were conservatives only in terms of their goals.

Radical cultural conservatism has been one of the main intellectual trends in the Western political thought since the French Revolution, though the interwar period was clearly its golden age. Despite going through a crisis in the aftermath of the WWII, it did not perish from the ideological map of Europe, but continued to flourish: first in the European academic community, then in the European political life. One of the main purposes of the project is to focus on the post-WWII development of radical conservatism by studying the ways in which radical conservative ideas were preserved, affirmed, re-appropriated, transformed, and sometimes incorporated into the mainstream European intellectual and political discourses.

Another aim of the project is to develop methodological tools for the study of political ideas and concepts. Rather than attempting to create an entirely new method, the purpose is to combine several methodological orientations employed in the field of intellectual history, including conceptual history, structural discourse analysis, metaphorology, and the tropological analysis of the structures of thought.

Research team

Mika Ojakangas (Professor, Responsible leader of the project)

Jussi Backman (University Lecturer)

Markku Koivusalo (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Timo Pankakoski (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Tuomas Parsio (Doctoral Student)