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.
In ideology, reactionarism is a tradition in right-wing politics. 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. In popular usage, reactionary refers to a strongly traditionalist 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.