In political science, a reactionary or a reactionist is a person who holds political views that favour a return to the status quo ante, the previous political state of society, which that person believes possessed positive characteristics absent from contemporary society. As a descriptor term, reactionary derives from the ideological context of the left–right political spectrum. As an adjective, the word reactionary describes points of view and policies meant to restore a past status quo ante.
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In ideology, reactionism is a tradition in right-wing politics; the reactionary stance opposes policies for the social transformation of society, whereas conservatives seek to preserve the socio-economic structure and order that exists in the present. In popular usage, reactionary refers to a strong traditionalist conservative political perspective of the person who is opposed to social, political, and economic change.
Reactionary ideologies can be radical in the sense of political extremism in service to re-establishing past conditions. In political discourse, being a reactionary is generally regarded as negative; Peter King observed that it is "an unsought-for label, used as a torment rather than a badge of honor." Despite this, the descriptor "political reactionary" has been adopted by writers such as the Austrian monarchist Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, the Scottish journalist Gerald Warner of Craigenmaddie, the Colombian political theologian Nicolás Gómez Dávila, and the American historian John Lukacs.