Ideas belong to no one; they are what they are. ~ Charles Maurras, My Political Ideas
Tonight, I’m outlining the plan for translating a series of essays by Charles Maurras. This fulfills a promise and responds to a challenge. The promise was made in the comments section of Taki’s Magazine a few years ago when it used to be a conservative resource instead of the journal of choice for hip urban racists that it is today. The challenge is from Alain de Benoist to compare and contrast the ideas of Evola and Maurras. It appears no one has the will or the talent to accomplish that.
That still does not fully answer the question of “Why bother?” In his prime, Mauras was highly influential, not just in France, but also on the Iberian peninsula and across Latin America. Echoes of his thought still reverberate in Traditional Catholic circles through the SSPX and TFP, although they are far from the mainstream. Yet for the modern world, his ideas are not only irrelevant today, they are positively distasteful. Nevertheless, there may still be salvageable concepts if we leave aside the more contentious parts of his writings.
The French Republic prides itself on its secularism, but Maurras himself was a secularist. The difference is that Mauras includes the entire history of France in his vision, while the Republic looks is concerned with the moment. Like the liberals, he also claims to base his worldview on science. However, for the liberal, the individual is the atom, and family, culture, and nation are the results of his will which he may freely choose or reject. For Maurras, family, culture, and nation come first, they are the source of the individual’s identity and hence demand his allegiance. For the liberal, there is no fixed human nature since he creates his own identity. Maurras, on the other hand, based his understanding of a fixed human nature on the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas.
There is no compromise possible here. To the modern mind, Maurras’ ideas are necessarily restrictive, as they limit his freedom in the present, and they are reactionary since they tie him to the actual past whereas he wants to be liberated for the possible future. For them, this exercise can serve as a museum for discarded ideas, useful for pedagogy, but not much else. The real challenge, then, is for the so-called New Right. This will serve as a touchstone to evaluate its doctrines which hardly differ from liberalism considering its commitment to a functional polytheism and its tolerance for the aesthetically ugly and the unnatural. We hope there may still be those looking for ideas on the Right that derive from traditional sources rather than from foraging in the weeds of postmodern thought for imaginary gems as does the New Right.
Maurras was a poet and a member of the prestigious Académie française until his postwar conviction of collaborating with the enemy. Hence, his prose is written in beautifully expressive French so it is a shame to have to translate him as I will be unable to capture that.
Maurras was not often a systematic writer, so it is difficult to find a representative sample of his work despite his voluminous output. We considered two works. One was written late in his life, Order and Disorder, which fits into a theme we have been exploring recently. However, it is not broken up into sections so it is not so suitable for a blog. The other is My Political Ideas which does attempt to lay out his ideas somewhat systematically. Next Sunday, we will start with the chapter titled “Principles” and then decide if it is worthwhile to continue. These can and should be compared to some of the metaphysical principles we have been writing about. Like Abraham, I am hoping for ten good men to be able to provide insightful and relevant commentary on these essays, although in reality I would be satisfied with one. The forthcoming principles are:
- Right and Law
- Duty of Heritage