The left-right spectrum put in its proper meaning and context

We’re talking about left versus right? Is there anything more to really add to this subject?

I think so, and the basic problem was stated by the poet Robert M. Beum — whom you might recognize as the compiler of an English bibliography on French ultra-royalism — back in a 1972 essay for the Georgia Review entitled “Modernity and the Left: An Equivalence”:
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Old and new conservatism (1852)

Having spoken before about the domestic and foreign policy push factors that tilted high Prussian conservatives into allying with plebeian German nationalists, as well as of the ever-shrinking “enlightened absolutist” centre, one of the most unambiguous contemporary espousals of a kleindeutsch German nationalist evangelizing high conservatives to abandon their dated ways, is without a doubt a pamphlet by the lawyer Wilhelm von Merckel (1803-1861) entitled “Alter und neuer Konservatismus” (1852). The title alone gives it away: there is an “old conservatism” out of touch with the prevailing facts that must be supplanted by a “new conservatism,” the nature of which is… we’ll get to that in a moment.

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Despotism ain’t a bad place to be

Simon-Nicolas-Henri (S.N.H.) Linguet (1736-1794) was a lawyer and man of letters who attracted a great deal of attention from the 1760s to the 1780s before falling into obscurity by the following century, in a fate analogous to Herbert Spencer in his own time (with the apparent exception of Japan). His modern reception is as contradictory and confused as it was by his contemporaries. He is chiefly remembered for his supposed defense of Asiatic monarchies as a superior form of governance to both European absolutisms and liberalisms (an oversimplification of what was his chief work, a multifaceted counter-Enlightenment treatise attacking ideas of “natural liberty”), which was something that irked him when he was still alive. Dubbed the “advocate of Neros, sultans and viziers” by his detractors, he was at the same time admired by Gracchus Babeuf, and was positively received as an early critic of bourgeois economy by Karl Marx in his Theories of Surplus Value. Marx particularly loved Linguet’s phrase that “the spirit of the laws is property.” A book by Norman Levine entitled Marx’s Rebellion Against Lenin cites Linguet as a member of the “Enlightenment Left,” which may have been news to him.

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Hats off to Marianne

It is time this tired accusation that “conservatives haven’t conserved anything” be dropped once and for all.

I stumbled upon an article by a certain Frank Moeller on the German revolutions of 1848-9 and I nearly choked when I uncovered this gem:

In May 1848, a so-called “Hat Emancipation Club” was founded in the Bavarian city of Augsburg as well as in other cities at the time. The announced goal of the club was to “eliminate the annoying taking-off of one’s hat in greeting, in favor of the more contemporary, simple military salute”. Each participant could purchase a badge that was attached to their hat or bonnet, signaling that its owner waived the tipping of the hat when being greeted. Within a very short time, the Augsburg club reached the enormous number of 1200 members. Clearly, the expectation was that the abolition of the hat-tip would also lead to a leveling or at least toning down of social hierarchies that stood behind the custom.

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Schmalz and loyalist particularism

Theodor Schmalz (1760-1831) was one of the last representatives of an 18th-century cameralistic enlightened absolutism, which already by the 19th had become deprecated as the fault lines radicalized into full-on liberalism versus full-on restorationism, with most of the compromise positions in between generally carrying a liberal bias (sign of the linearly progressing times, after all). This meant that he was stuck in an awkward center, loyal to the princely states he served and not to a then-hypothetical national state — raising the ire of liberals, with Heinrich von Treitschke memorably quipping that “the modern state and its legal unit, he regarded as an empty abstraction.” At the same time, he was very much a reformist within these small states, in favor of abolition of serfdom and patrimonial courts, of liberalizing trade, of permitting bourgeois army officers, etc. which naturally opposed him to purer conservatives.

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Put ultramontanists in body bags

The canard of the papist with the divided loyalties — or, increasingly, any Christian as a matter of fact — is an old but persistent one, manifesting itself in the partisans of enlightened absolutism, the anticlericalism of the Risorgimento and the Kulturkampf, in American nativism, laicite, general secularist and republican opposition to “religious interference” in politics, the latter extending to the present and reaching its apex in the fedora-tipping antics of New Atheism, which at the same time is a movement that has its origins and greatest strength in countries that are historically quite anticlerical anyway.

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“Reform, therefore, means rule of the mob.”

In 1858, John Bright, the radical MP whose name is associated with free trade and advocacy for the repeal of the corn laws alongside Richard Cobden, embarked on a speaking tour across Northern England and Scotland to clamor for parliamentary reform, working class enfranchisement, the secret ballot and other measures associated with his milieu. In his speeches, he railed against the lords and peers of the realm (whose strength was “derived from an unholy participation in the fruits of the industry of the people”), and he went as far as to abrogate the role of the monarchy in the British constitution. It is this that prompted Henry Drummond to forcefully rebuke him in a 40-page letter.

Although conflicted in some places owing to the influence of topical issues like the corn laws and to its physiocratic take on the economy, the letter displays a distinctive High Tory temperament.

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