In political science, a reactionary or reactionist is a person who holds political views that favor a return to the status quo ante, the previous political state of society, which they believe possessed positive characteristics that are 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.[1]

In ideology, reactionarism is a tradition in right-wing politics.[2] In politics, the reactionary stance opposes policies for social transformation; whereas conservatives seek to preserve what exists in the present, reactionaries seek a return to a previous status quo.[3] In popular usage, reactionary refers to a strongly traditionalist political perspective of the person who is opposed to social, political, and economic change.[4][5]

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."[6] Despite this, the descriptor "political reactionary" has been adopted by writers such as the Austrian monarchist Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn,[7] the Scottish journalist Gerald Warner of Craigenmaddie,[8] the Colombian political theologian Nicolás Gómez Dávila, and the American historian John Lukacs.[9]