Absent the authority of legitimacy, conservatism has nothing to conserve. It floats anchorless. In so far as its habits, rituals, and formalities persist, they contract into increasingly antiquarian gestures, detached from the vital pulse of lived experience. In such situations, conservatism degenerates into a largely rhetorical exercise. It mouths the same pieties that once rallied the troops, but it does so nervously, either without conviction or with that brittle belligerence that substitutes for conviction in decadent times.