Of Commoners And Kings: Steve Bannon’s New Traditionalism


CONSERVATIVE POLITICS in New Zealand is running out of puff. Both National and Act are struggling to offer voters much in the way of new political insights. The radical right-wing ideas that swept all before them in the 1980s and 90s have solidified into a pallid orthodoxy: one increasingly at odds with observable reality. The Churches’ political influence in New Zealand has been in steady decline since the 1970s. Robust though it may be in caucus, National’s right-wing Christian faction merely testifies to the growing distance between their party and the electoral mainstream.

When a political party is fortunate enough to possess a charismatic leader, such ideological frailty counts for much less. Absent such a leader, however, philosophical cluelessness constitutes a formidable barrier to electoral success. Unfortunately for their respective parties, Judith Collins and David Seymour cannot be included in the same company as Sir John Key and Jacinda Ardern. It remains to be seen whether Winston Peters still possesses the power to harness the political zeitgeist to NZ First’s battered chariot.

If Peters has spent the last few months scouring the conservative landscape for an ideology to match the temper of the times, then it is likely he will already have encountered the most radical right-wing movement since the rise of fascism, almost exactly a century ago. Although “Traditionalism” predates fascism by at least two decades, it shares the latter’s comprehensive rejection of Enlightenment values, liberal capitalism, scientific rationalism and democratic politics. When one considers that the leading promoters of Traditionalism in the world today are Steve Bannon – formerly Chief Strategist to President Donald Trump – and Aleksandr Dugin – long-time behind-the-scenes adviser to the Kremlin – any temptation to dismiss the movement as something wacky from the fringe should be resisted.

Like so many of the reactionary creeds emanating from fin-de-siècle Europe, Traditionalism fetishized what it considered to be the core values of the pre-modern era: hierarchy, spirituality and the (now very rare) ability to live honourably in the moment, unburdened by the weight of material concerns. The two individuals most closely associated with the early Traditionalist doctrine were the Frenchman, René Guénon, and the Italian proto-fascist, Julius Evola. Their Traditionalist utopia combined theocratic government with what amounted to a socio-economic caste-system. Cloaked in this antique guise, the doctrine’s prospects of political success in the Twentieth Century were slim. As modified by Bannon, however, Traditionalism has the capacity to act as an extremely powerful solvent of the electoral status-quo all over the Western World.

Bannon’s Traditionalism imputes to what New Zealanders would call the “ordinary Kiwi bloke” (or, in colloquial American, “the average working stiff”) the core definitive values of the nation’s character. It is in such folk: most particularly in their faith, generosity and resilience; that the nation’s ability to endure and triumph over all manner of adversities is located. They are the bedrock: the best; the people without whose support nothing of any lasting worth can be accomplished.

In the unanticipated triumph of Brexit and Trump, the world witnessed the extraordinary political resonance of Bannon’s version of Traditionalism. It had the power to mobilise electorally groups which had, for decades, been disengaging from their traditional electoral champions – Labour in the UK, the Democratic Party in the USA. It was Bannon’s strategic, and Trump’s performative, genius that caused these disillusioned and disgruntled citizens to reassess, at a personal level, the costs and benefits of political engagement. Hillary Clinton may have dismissed them as “deplorables”, but Trump transformed her insult into a badge of honour: convincing them that they were the only people who could make America great again.

To be politically effective, however, Traditionalism needs a special kind of enemy. In this regard, an elite layer of effete professionals and managers, who look down with disdain upon “ordinary people” and their beliefs, and who react with abject horror at the very thought of these usually biddable yobbos intervening decisively in the political process, is exactly what Traditionalists are looking for.

In the eyes of the elites, this ignorant lumpen element presents itself as an army of terrifying zombies. Civilly dead, but now, by the power of Bannon’s weird political voodoo, electorally re-animated, they represent the very deepest fears of the people in charge. Shuffling menacingly towards them, their arms outstretched for ballot papers, these possessed political corpses must be cut down where they stand. Under no circumstances can general elections be turned into re-runs of The Night of the Living Dead.

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A less tendentious presentation of Traditionalism may be found in the television series “Yellowstone”. In their sprawling Yellowstone ranch, set in the Republican stronghold of Montana, live the Duttons – a powerful family in whom the best constitutive elements of the American character are embodied.

On every side, however, a hostile world is pressing in upon them. From the adjoining Native American tribal reservation – in which an even older embodiment of America is stirring – to the avaricious development buccaneers poised to turn the Dutton patrimony into ski resorts and casinos. Interestingly, those “best constitutive elements” include a willingness to defend the family’s interests with deadly, and usually illegal, force. (Which is, at least, an honest admission of core American values!)

In the lead character, John Dutton (played by Kevin Costner) the viewer is frequently presented with something approximating that Zen-like ability to live in the spiritual moment which the original Traditionalists prized so highly. The series’ general contempt for the democratic process, and its clear preference for maintaining the established hierarchy of ‘natural’ leaders, similarly echoes the ideas of Guénon and Evola.

New Zealand political leaders as different as Rob Muldoon and John Key have secured lengthy stints of political power on the strength of elevating ordinariness into something very special. Muldoon pitted his “ordinary blokes” (aka “Rob’s Mob”) against the hapless “Citizens For Rowling” – whom he successfully portrayed as an ineffectual collection of over-educated snobs who thought they were better than everybody else. Key’s trick was to convince nearly half the electorate that they were already the ones in charge; and all they had to do to prove it was make an ordinary millionaire their Prime Minister.

Few conservatively-minded New Zealanders would admit to feeling in charge of very much at all at the moment. Quite the reverse, in fact. In Traditionalist terms, all the worst elements of modernism are in the saddle and riding New Zealand hard. Even worse, no political party of the Right is currently willing (or, seemingly, able) to swing the axe in defence of the values of “Real New Zealanders”, or even explain, in simple terms, what those “real” values are. While this remains the case, the conservative cause will continue to languish.

What Bannon and his Russian equivalent, Dugin, understand is how quickly Democracy exhausts the ordinary man and woman. How ready they are to put their faith in those they recognise as belonging to the natural hierarchies of wisdom, strength and power. And how angry they become when those they trust to lead them prove unequal to the task.

In order to restore the natural balance of society, the Traditionalists argue, it is necessary to look deep into the heart of the ordinary people whose daily labours keep society going. Only when guided by the simple but durable virtues of those at the bottom of society, they argue, will those positioned at the top re-discover the wisdom, strength and power required to restore their nation to greatness.

This is, indeed, a step backward into pre-modernity. What Bannon and Dugin are describing is the enduring political alchemy of leaders and followers: that allegedly sacred bond between sovereign and subject which owes nothing to the intervention of elite interests, or, at least, not to those elite interests who fail to make their first two priorities the protection of the leader and the welfare of the people. Bannon and Dugin may call this Traditionalism, but a better name for their system might be “Monarchical Socialism”.

Think, the King and the Commons, without the Barons and the Bishops: the doomed dream of the Peasants’ Revolt. Or, the Fuhrer and the Volk, without the Capitalists and the Jews: the murderous dream of Hitler’s stormtroopers.


  1. I think 2023’s general election could be feral ground for protest voting or abstention or just plain old,”we’ve had enough of this BS” and we want something else but we don’t know what that is!

    As that old saying goes in politics. It’s up to the incumbent to lose the election, than it is for the opposition to win.

  2. Dugin infuriates the West because he promotes the idea of the multi- polar world as opposed to the unipolar hegemony of the U.S.
    Time to learn more about Dugin. He said:
    ‘Phenomenology is perfectly suited to comprehend images of the world of different peoples and civilisations. Not only religions and myths depend on cultural environment. Every people has its own idea of the world, of matter, of time, of space, of man. A people carries the world within itself – as its cumulative giant intentional act. It is not for nothing that Martin Heidegger calls the very notion of ‘world’ part of the existential (Existential) – ‘being-in-the-world’, in-der-Welt-Sein.’
    ‘Phenomenology’s answer is: ‘turn your gaze inwards.’
    ‘We cannot deal with something outside just because we have no order inside. There is nothing inside at all except what we put there. Let’s put something there that is more decent, beautiful and sublime…’
    The Greeks had the same idea. ‘Know Thyself.’ A process as far from social engineering as is the Clear Crystal Fountain from the latrine.
    Dugin is not separate from The Eastern Orthodox Church. Essential to the Eastern Orthodox is the practice of Hesycham or stillness.
    Based on Christ’s injunction in the Gospel of Matthew to “go into your closet to pray”, Hesychasm in tradition has been the process of retiring inward by ceasing to register the senses, in order to achieve an experiential knowledge of God. We we might call this experience gnosis.
    Bannon came from a traditional Irish Catholic working class family. He saw the Tea Party movement as a populist reaction to the 2008 financial collapse. A good documentary about this collapse is ‘Inside Job.’
    Bannon tried to tell Trump that he (Trump) was a populist. ‘ Yes,’ replied Trump. ‘That’s me I’m a popularist.’
    Yearning for more traditional values is common in the age in which we live. All yearning and disatisfaction, all identity seeking is part of the road towards an understanding of a more profound reality than the materialistic and bleak scientific rationalism which by itself does no more than embed us in old Tom’s ‘Wasteland’ with it’s pathetic political hullabaloo and faux political parties.


    • Um,… I think what these politico/philosophers since ages past and Socrates onwards were angling at,… is the inexplicable ‘God vacuum’ inside each and every one of us as experienced through that which we call a ‘conscience’…it was just difficult for those great thinkers to get a handle on it pre Jesus Christ.

  3. You lost me at “Right Wing” Chris because there is no right wing here. Some mildly conservative Christians do not equate to a right wing (= fascist) political faction. I suppose there could be a handful of skinheads in Christchurch who might fit the bill but they could easily hold an AGM in a telephone booth.

    • The term “right wing” has lost all meaning these days in the same way that calling someone a nazi has.

      Right Wing/Nazi is used to describe anything or anyone from Combat 18 or the National Front through to a bunch old Christian pensioners holding placards outside an abortion clinic or even just someone guilty of using the wrong pro-nouns.

      John Key was right wing and so was Hitler yet they share very few similarities other than both being very charismatic leaders.

      Apparently Donald Trump was literally Hitler although I can’t see anything in common between the two

  4. Thanks Archonblatter, Tradionalism is an intriguing philosophy, some strong cross over with what Paul Kingsnorth (author, environmentalist and recent convert to orthodx Christianity) is saying.

    ” Spengler predicted that the failure of the Enlightenment would lead to a new search for that beyond-human truth. All of the theoretical edifices constructed by modern Western intellectuals to replace their old sacred order – liberalism, leftism in its myriad forms, conservatism, nationalism – had failed. Beginning in the 21st century, the grandchildren of the revolutionaries and the rationalists, adrift in a failing materialist culture, would enter what he called a ‘second religiousness’:

    The age of theory is drawing to its end. The great systems of Liberalism and Socialism all arose between about 1750 and 1850. That of Marx is already half a century old, and it has had no successor. Inwardly it means, with its materialist view of history, that Nationalism has reached its extreme logical conclusion: it is therefore an end-term … In its place is developing even now the seed of a new resigned piety, sprung from tortured conscience and spiritual hunger, whose task will be to found a new hither-side that looks for secrets instead of steel-bright concepts.

    When a sacred order collapses, despair can ensue, even amongst those who would not want its return, or who are not even aware what is missing. Day by day, more people are realising that our new sovereign, the Machine, is a false god, and we have no idea how to dethrone him. But the cycle of rise and fall is an inevitable part of the human historical pattern; and a necessary one. ‘The passage from one cycle to another’, wrote Guénon, ‘can take place only in darkness.’

    We are in that passage now; we live in a darkness between worlds. Macintyre concluded that the West was waiting for ‘a new – and doubtless very different – St Benedict.’ That was forty years ago, and we are still waiting, but it’s not a bad way to see the challenge we face. Modernity is not at all short on ideas, arguments, insults, ideologies, strategems, conflicts, world-saving machines or clever TED talks. But it is very short on saints; and how we need their love, wisdom, discipline and stillness amidst the roaring of the Machine. Maybe we had better start looking at how to embody a little of it ourselves”

    • The story of the decline of the West as it became a real democracy (votes for women and the working class man) in the early 20thC and then the rise of fascism and communism (the populist mob taking of power without consent). It’s based on the idea that when culture revolved around elites it was more advanced, and when culture became common it was in decline.

      But the fascists and communists lost, and with the victory of democracy over those alternatives, the West now defines itself as democratic civilisation.

      Sure we have a retelling of Spengler by the Bannon sort, in service to their white race nationalist politics – but only because of fear of demographic change in the USA and GOP capture by Christian dominionism (white race and its God religion heritage and culture, Jim Crow and John Birch) end time kingdom come extremism. The idea that Trump could fulfill the advent – Trump reich prophecy was just sad. Really sad.

      The idea of something sacred between a dictatorship and its people, divine right throne or conquerer’s puritan republic leads to a lot of uncivilised action by government. People tend to want a guarantee there will be no more authoritarian bullies in power afterward – Bill of Rights, someone nice who wants to redreess the legacy of a generation of inequality since RogerRuth economics.

      As for silent majorites, Nixon’s and Muldoon’s, more Brexit GOP nostalgia for those days when to the manor born white people had unchallenged rule of the democracy untroubled by assimilated powerless minorities?

  5. It is the human condition that desires the approval of those who hold power, to be seen as patriotic, subservient , even servile to win that approval,… it is the absence of a true and proper God perspective that drives the human race on….their inherent craving for approval and acceptance. It is seen in all cultures ,.. elevating the religious/ philosophically elite to God like proportions, their political lieutenants as being a mere extension of their power…

    From the Sumerians to Julius Caesar to the Mayan Kings and Queens…to modern day Darwinians who admit it is only a theory, and a theory shot full of holes at the very best….While denying Einstein , Tessla and the quantum physicist’s…who spoke of dimensions anywhere from 11 (Einstein ) to 22 ( quantum physicists ) beyond this plane of 3D existence.

    There is nothing new under the sun.
    Ecclesiastes 1:9
    New International Version

    What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun

    Human beings have always craved a power and authority that is perceived as greater than that of their own in all full wisdom and that is where the humanists draw their power thereof. They are base manipulators. You know this , Chris.

    In all its guises , in both eloquence and prose,… there is nothing new under the Son. Don’t believe me?… then listen to Larry Normans song:

    Larry Norman – The Great American Novel ~ [1972]

    ”And you learned to make a lie sound just like truth’…

  6. And continuing on from the Larry Norman theme extending into Jimi Hendrix we have , ‘ Hear my Train a -coming,:

    Jimi Hendrix – Hear My Train A Comin’

    Awesome blues song,…:

    To this: A misplaced song that Abraham Lincoln loved :

    Confederate Song – I Wish I Was In Dixie Land

    The latter is a joyful and lovely expression of patriotism and pride, something even Abe Lincoln recognized. And its catchy as fck.

    • C’mon , get honest, please post the prefacing blog I posted prior to the one above to give proper context. Don’t shrink from truth. I cant respect that. In fact I have nothing but contempt for political manipulators who do that. Maybe I’m a deplorable. I don’t know, but here’s a song that expresses my contempt’s fort political manipulators:

      Rebel Son – From A Mile Away

      PLAY IT LOUD !!!

  7. The radical left (now really just the left) have totally overplayed their revolutionary hand, and it will bite them badly. Once the horrific logical conclusions of their purely ideological progressivism are grasped (not just in the abstract but in concreto in their daily lives), by the many currently bewildered and seduced voters who got Ardern into power, we will see a sharp correction, and a reactionary Paleo Conservatism will gain ascendancy. It is as predictable and certain as night following day. For instance, the Gen Z kids in the US are increasingly socially conservative in huge numbers, are nationalistic and tradition-minded, with many converting to or embracing Catholicism. They have tired of the soul-sucking nihilism inherent in liberalism, and want meaning in their lives. It is a direct reaction to their contemporaries who spout the same degenerate liberal orthodoxy of the ruling elites in the US.

    • …”the Gen Z kids in the US are increasingly socially conservative in huge numbers, are nationalistic and tradition-minded, with many converting to or embracing Catholicism”…

      Is that necessarily a bad thing?

      Although I would prefer an amalgamation between the Protestant and Catholic churches united under the banner of Jesus Christ. So long as it doesn’t include iconism, idolatry, I’m all for the simple gospel of Jesus Christ and the uniting force it can be in the confused post modernistic world we live in. All He ever asked for was for us to love one another as we love ourselves. Its pretty basic. It covers all aspects.
      New International Version

      “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another
      And again :

      1 Corinthians 13:13
      …’Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love’…

      So there ya go.

  8. And here’s another one from my Irish brothers and sisters…despite me family being the Norse Scots Gunn clan who were a big part of the Galloglass, who were mercenary’s to the English in the campaigns against the Irish…again as they did , paying homage for personal reward and approval:

    Go On Home British Soldiers

    May the Clann Gunn ask for forgiveness for how they treated their kith and kin the Irish. I’m sure the two will do well and exceedingly well thereafter and already have done so. In fact I know they have. What a great model to follow.

    Now why cant all people do the same?

  9. Bravo David George. We are witnessing the stirrings of what Jacob Boehme called ‘the ungrund,’ nothingness perhaps or empty space or chaos.The rising up of something from beneath. A cthonic quivering.
    Politics has become vacant with parties which are sans ideology, sans intellect, sans honour, sans respect, sans everything. Spengler said that democracy came at the end of a civilisation and could ‘only ever be the political tool of money.’ The Roman Republic came to an inevitable end and was replaced by Caesarism. The relentless march of the dialectic will continue. Let’s get used it. Spengler said that only Caesarism could replace the dictat of money and thinking in terms of money. He said ‘The dictature of money marches on, tending to its material peak, in the Faustian Civilisation as in every other. And now something happens that is intelligible only to one who has penetrated to the essence of money. If it were anything tangible, then its existence would be forever – but, as it is a form of thought, it fades out as soon as it has thought its economic world to a finality, and has no more material upon which to feed
    He was curiously prophetic. On machines: ‘And these machines become in their forms less and ever less human,more ascetic, mystic, esoteric. They weave over the earth with an infinite web of subtle force, currents and tensions. Their bodies become ever more and more immaterial, ever less noisy. The wheels, rollers and levers are vocal no more. All that matters withdraws itself into the interior. Man has thought the machine to be devilish and rightly. It signifies in the eyes of the believer the deposition of God. It delivers sacred Causality over to man and by him with a sort of foreseeing omniscience is set in motion silent and irresistible.’
    No leader will arise spouting a new ideology or religious set of beliefs because we wait upon the spontaneous commune. Difficult because the majority want an authority and are terrified at the thought of liberation. We live in a chemical factory. We are a chemical factory before we are a political animal or anything else. I rather think the old alchemists knew something of this.

    • INSEED And while we cannot return to the hunter gatherer ways, the fact remains, people, in general want to be relieved of the major decisions because they feel they are too small to count politically. And yet the opposite is true. Especially in this time of relative peace and due process/ democracy.

      We have at our fingers, via the polling booth, the very mechanism that past generations that fought bloody wars of political evolution could only ever dream of. We are in an age of enlightenment like no other. It behooves us to learn the ever great and eternal forgiveness of God, and those values and apply them. Only then will all these past grievances and transgressions be resolved. A true and good heart.

      I keep repeating it, but here it is again. The respect towards God or at least those liberating principles.

      Sister Janet Mead ~ The Lord’s Prayer ~ 1973

  10. steve bannon gives me the fucking creeps. I don’t know what it is about the guy, other than the obvious, but steve is down right creepy. And I can’t define his creepiness. There’s just something about the bastard that makes my skin crawl. He’s more than just a bleary eyed psychopath.
    There was an older guy whom I used to know. He was a taller fellow, well dressed, very companionable sort. Nice to chat to, lived in a lovely house not far from as in Christchurch and his wife seemed a very nice sort too…but my pet sheep dog was scared witless of him and only him. When she saw him walking past she’d freak out and run about snarling and growling. If we were out walking and she saw him she’d come running flat out over while looking over her shoulder and try to hide in my clothing. Once she knew where he lived she’d sometimes wait at the mailbox squinting into the distance to see if she could catch a glimpse of him. If she did, she’d howl insults at him over about a 1 km distance.
    I tried to introduce her to him but she just couldn’t do it. She’d inch up to him, nervously reach out with her nose … but nope. She was off like a rocket to the car or the house.
    steve bannon makes me feel exactly like that. I truly understand how my dog felt about Mr Alien down the road. Does anyone know? Does steve bannon have a belly button or is there just a DIN plug?
    The older I get, the more I’m certain am that there are aliens among us. They look like us, more or less, they do their best, the poor dears, they live in Rolleston, Town of The Future etc and arrive in space ships that look exactly like ‘ just add water’ mini Mc Mansions in those awful subdivisions. Has anyone actually seen one of those houses being built? Or do they quietly land on their foundations in the dead of night and hatch the occupants?
    Here’s one for you @ WC.
    Warning! High ear worm risk.
    Malvina Reynolds – little boxes

    • Your reaction is not uncommon but is probably a product of our media’s (read elite’s) propaganda against him. He’s not what they say he is.
      Steel yourself and watch his full address and Q&A at the Oxford Union.

    • Hey ! – my Dad used to sing that song, I liked it too, yet it was years later I understood the meaning of it…the sausage factory… I cant imagine Dad thinking like that, being the conservative guy he was,… but I suppose in his youth he was thinking otherwise as he did exactly the same as in the song.

      Now this article of Mr Trotters led me on to the Holocaust and culminating in this guy…

      Arthur Nebe – Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Arthur_Nebe

      I just cant get my head around the prolific numbers of lurid perverts who came out of the woodwork during Hitler’s Germany, and who stand every chance of crawling out of the woodwork today if given half a chance. What makes these murderous perverts? Where do they all come from? WTF?!!?

      Did their mothers not give them lollie’s as a kid or something?!!?

      Are they aliens?

      Are ‘alien’s’ in them? What gives?….. actually I do know the answer… they call ’em demons. Dirty little unseen scumbuckets. They like to live in people and cause them to do all sorts of crazy things. Like World War one and two.

      Bannon may be the polite tip of the spearhead of the Nebes of this world, but I don’t think so. I think he’s the cover guy for something completely different, – and it aint sport. I do, however, believe Sleepy Joe and his entourage or his next in line is going to bring us all to the brink. Then again its a lottery, which one of these numbnuts is going to pull the trigger is anyone’s guess.

      Sometimes, I just wanna be left alone, close the doors on a winters night, light the fire and have a cup of tea of some wine…and forget all about these complex nutters…

      The Seekers – A World of our Own

      As a good deer culler mate once said to me, ” The bush teaches you no wrong”. And as the fictional ‘Uncle Hec once said ” they’re all going mad out there”…

  11. Very thought provoking Chris. This answers a lot of questions I had lurking in the back of my brain and it brings our future choices into stark relief.

  12. Dunno if it is democracy that exhausts ordinary people in 2021–it might actually be working too many underpaid precarious hours, or not getting enough hours, or being food and accomodation insecure, or having thumping great student loans and no chance of ever owning a house…

    The thing with arseholes like Bannon is they are skilled at getting attention from elements of the working class with their talking points, but as with Trump they never intend to challenge capital to ever deliver anything.

    New Traditionalists seem just old capitalists pimped up a little.

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