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Dystopia and the Traditionalist Conservative Mind

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posted on 2024-04-15, 02:45 authored by Luke Frank Torrisi

This dissertation is designed to add to the understanding of Traditionalist Conservatism (“Tradcon”) a distinct worldview within the school of Conservative thought. The aim is to go beyond policy positions to an understanding of some of the fundamental philosophical beliefs that form the Tradcon worldview.

I do this through the lens of dystopia. The dissertation first establishes what I mean by “dystopia” which is now itself a contested term. The dissertation considers dystopia as a tradition; as a cultural artefact. By looking at Tradcon through the lens of the dystopian tradition (a series of specified traits), one not only sees that dystopia and Tradcon have always been connected, but one gains insight into the fundamentals of the Tradcon worldview.

The traits are aptly summarised as: the transcendental, the imaginative and the anti-utopian. I begin by orienting the reader as to the place of Tradcon within the development of conservatism. This introduces the reader to Russell Kirk, not just a pivotal figure in conservatism but the central figure in the Traditionalist school and with whom it is most often associated. The reader is given an understanding of how Tradcons and Kirk became increasingly marginalised figures in the second half of the twentieth century, despite the latter being so fundamental to the renaissance of conservatism generally and widely known and respect throughout his life. To this extent consideration is given to Tradcons now existing in what could be regarded as “dystopian” conditions.

The Tradcons are then considered in the light of the key traits of dystopia which they share. The manner in which the Tradcons exhibit the transcendental, the imaginative and the anti-utopian is considered and also contrasted against other schools of conservatism with whom they are often conflated or confused. The nuances of difference are highlighted here.

The next three chapters then focus on each of these traits in a particular way. The transcendental is considered in light of the Tradcon’s attitude to time and history; the Imaginative with respect to the concept of the Moral Imagination and their approach to utopia from their treatment of dystopia in practice and the theological premise they hold when approaching the topic. Each instance is illustrated with close readings, of key sections, of what are considered classic Tradcon texts.

The final chapter draws the traits together and shows their inter-relationship in a consideration of the Tradcon’s attitude to millennialism - a key concept in the development of dystopia as tradition.

The dissertation closes with a consideration of how the understanding of the deeper philosophy of Tradcons might explain their ongoing existence and seeming relevance, despite being a very marginalised school - even within conservatism.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Dystopia as Tradition -- Chapter 3. Traditionalist Conservatism Within Conservatism -- Chapter 4. Traditionalist Conservatism - Its Nature and Neighbours -- Chapter 5. Conservatives and Time and History -- Chapter 6. Tradcons and Moral Imagination -- Chapter 7. Traditionalist Conservatism and Dystopia -- Chapter 8. Millennialism -- Chapter 9. Conclusion Bibliography

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Doctor of Philosophy

Department, Centre or School

School of Social Sciences

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Ian Tregenza

Additional Supervisor 1

Aleksandar Pavkovic


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




362 pages

Former Identifiers

AMIS ID: 291630

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