This essay by Julius Evola was published under the title Significato e funzione della monarchia. It was included in “La monarchia nello Stato modern” by Karl Loewenstein, 1969. This translation will appear in 4 or 5 parts.
K. Loewenstein’s essay has provided the reader with an overview of all the various forms of monarchy and the possibilities that, in his opinion, remain for a monarchical regime in the present age. Monarchy, as we have seen, is not taken in the literal sense of the term (government of one man, power concentrated in one man) but, correctly, in its traditional and most current sense, i.e., with reference to a King.
Loewenstein’s conclusions are rather pessimistic. In order to exist in our day, monarchy should resign itself to being a shadow of what it had been. It could be conceived only within a democratic framework and, properly speaking, in the form of a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. Apart from England, which would be a special case, the model offered by the monarchies of the small states of northern and western Europe — Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg — is what should possibly be kept in mind.
In the analysis of the range of the various arguments adopted in favor of monarchy, Loewenstein tried to be objective, but was unable always to be so. The precise aversion to every principle of true authority is quite visible in him, while an insufficient emphasis is given to the factors of an ethical and immaterial character. Now we believe that if you were forced to conceive of a monarchy only in an empty and democratized form, besides only being possible because it concerns marginal small states, not yet involved in the dynamism of the great forces of the era, we undoubtedly might as well end the discussion in the negative.
It must be recognized, however, that pessimistic conclusions regarding monarchy appear largely justified only if you hypostatize the situation of the current world and believe that it is irreversible and destined to continue itself indefinitely. This situation is defined by a general materialism, the prevalence of base interests, the egalitarian error, the government of the masses, technocracy, and the so-called “consumer society.” Except that we are beginning to multiply the signs of a profound crisis of this world of affluence and counterfeit order. Various forms of revolt are already noticeable, for which it is not impossible that it could reach a state of tension and a breaking point, and that, especially in the face of possible liminal situations, tomorrow different forms of sensitivity may be reawakened, reactions occurring similar to those an organism is capable of when it is mortally threatened in its deepest being.
The supplanting, or to a lesser extent, of this new climate is the decisive element also for the problem of monarchy. In our opinion, it should be placed in the following terms: What meaning could monarchy have in the case that such a change in climate should take place, and in what form could it be a center for the reconstitution of a “normal” order — normal in a higher sense? Certainly, the presence of a true monarchy in a nation would have a rectifying power, but this is a vicious circle: without the premise that we mentioned, any restoration would have a contingent, not organic and, in a sense, unnatural character.
The disorder present in the political field, everything that it shows of instability, dangerously open to subversion — to Marxism and communism — substantially derives from the deficiency of a superior principle of authority and from an almost hysterical impatience for such a principle, through which certain political experiences of recent times serve at most as a convenient alibi. Speaking of a superior principle of authority, we refer to an authority that has an actual legitimacy and, in a certain way, a “transcendent” character, because without this, authority would lack any basis, it would be contingent and revocable. A truly stable center would be missing.
It is important to clearly fix this essential point, in order to differentiate the type of monarchy, which this essay deals with, from monarchy in the broad sense of power or government of one man. In fact, spurious counterfeit forms of authority are conceivable, and are even realized. Communist regimes are also based on a de facto authoritarianism that can disguise the crudest and even tyrannical forms which are the justifications that they mendaciously give. One can put the dictatorial phenomenon along the same lines if it is conceived otherwise than in relation to emergency situations as originally occurred in ancient Rome.
On the other hand, the antithesis, so often advanced between dictatorship and democracy, is relative, except that you examine the existential foundation of these two political phenomena, that is, a “state of the masses”. If the dictatorship has not purely functional and technical characteristics (an example is offered currently by the Salazar regime in Portugal), if it is based on pathos as in some recent plebiscitary and populist forms, galvanizing it is the same element activated by every democratic demagoguery. The dictator makes a bad surrogate to the monarch with the appeal to forces that confusingly seek a foothold, a center, whatever it is, just to come to the head of chaos, disorder, situations that have become unbearable. This also explains, however, the phenomenon of possible, abrupt changes in polarity as a result of some trauma that has suspended the cohesive and driving force of the system, as in a magnetic field when the power goes out. The most perspicuous case is perhaps provided, in this respect, by the astonishing change in the collective political climate occurring in present-day Germany, after the almost frantic mass enthusiasm that had characterized the previous dictatorial period. It is significant that, on the contrary, a similar phenomenon of inversion was not produced in Germany after the First World War, because its antecedent was not a dictatorship but a traditional monarchy.
Through the “transcendence” of the principle of authority characteristic of regality, the monarchical regime constitutes the only real antithesis both to dictatorship as well as absolute democracy. We must indicate the basis of its superior right for that reason. The various forms that it may take and the ideas or symbols that can legitimize this transcendence according to the times, do not touch the essential: the essential thing is the principle. Loewenstein is right when he says that in a world desacralized by the natural sciences, in which religion itself is undermined, there can no longer be a question of the mystique of the monarchy that in other times was supported on certain theological conceptions and a certain liturgy. But if you take a look at the world of the holders of the crown at all times and in all places, the recognition of the need for a stable center can be seen as a common and constant theme, a pole, something that to be truly stable must have, in a certain way, its own principle in itself or from above, which must not have a derived character. In this respect one can take a look, for example, at F. Wolff-Windegg’s excellent work, Die Gekrönten. Someone rightly wrote: “A purely political royalty — it can certainly be said —has never existed.” Not so long ago, the sovereignty of divine right “by the grace of God,” did not imply, in its subjects, specific theological considerations; its value, so to speak, in existential terms, corresponded precisely to the need for a higher point of reference that absolutely does not happen when the king is such only through the “will of the nation” or “the people.” On the other hand, only under that assumption could those dispositions, those forms of behavior and customs of a higher ethical value develop, in the subjects, in the sign of loyalty, which we will discuss shortly.
So we cannot share Loewenstein’s opinion that the ideal argument in favor of monarchy is now invalidated. What he says is true, of course, namely that the decline of monarchy is due not so much to democracy as to the coming of cars and aircraft, authe tomobile, television — you can say, in general, the technological industrial civilization. But here we have to wonder if, in fact, we are entitled to hypostatize this civilization, we must ask ourselves to what extent man wants to accord to everything a value different from that of a set of simple, mundane means, which in “consumer society” leaves an absolute inner emptiness. Let us repeat: it is primarily a question of the “dignity” of monarchy, an esteem and a right that always and everywhere drew from a supra-individual and spiritual sphere: sacred investiture, divine right, mystical or legendary filiations and genealogies, and so on, were only imagined forms in order to express an always recognized substantial fact, namely that a political order, a truly organic and living collective unity is only made possible where there is a stable center and an elevated principle in respect to any particular interest and the purely “physical” aspect of society, a principle independently having a corresponding intangible and legitimate authority. Therefore, in principle what Hans Bliiher wrote is absolutely correct: “A king who lets his sovereign function be confirmed by the people, admitting thereby that he is accountable to the people — instead of being responsible for the people before God — such a king renounced his kingship. No infamy committed by a king — and God knows if they were not committed — destroys the mystical objective sanction of the sovereign. But a democratic election destroys it immediately.”