Tribalism, Nationalism, and Imperialism

Today I present to my readers yet another terrifying troika: the theory of the tribe, the nation, and the imperium. However, it is my intention to present a fairly simple thesis, at least as compared with what will eventually follow. Consider this to be a kind of prolegomenon if you will, with which the reader might better appreciate the remainder of Metternichian Theory to come. If what I have to say comes across as patronising or unnecessary to anyone, then they must accept my sincerest apologies.

I am going to make a distinction between three nouns: tribe, nation, imperium; and three ‘-isms’: tribalism, nationalism and imperialism, the purpose of this being to lay the groundwork for a proper application of a classical imperialist mindset. The nouns which I mention appear on the face of things to be nothing more than historical facts: tribes existed, nations existed, and imperia existed, and whilst the question of whether or not the second of the three still exist (at least in the West) is a matter which is up for debate, tribes and imperia (in their natural forms, anyway) cannot be considered to formally exist anymore. In order to demonstrate a classical distinction between the three nouns, I shall use two historical examples: Israel, and perhaps the more obvious choice, Rome. To conclude, I shall identify what is perceived to be the problems with each of the nouns’ respective ‘-isms’, and present a preliminary case for redefinition.

Tribe: a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader. The Oxford English dictionary’s definition of “tribe” demonstrates a dual influence: one from what we might call the “classical” theory of the tribe, and one from the Roman model of tribus, traditional familial tribes bound (at least in theory) by blood, but politically serving no purpose besides indicating a certain precedence of honour. Let us set aside the Roman system for a moment. Consider instead the Jewish patriarch Abraham wandering the desert with his family. Some Biblical scholars consider the story of Abraham to have derived from similar sources to the Greek Iliad, in an oral tradition concerning the founding ‘mythology’ of Near Eastern peoples. Abraham might be considered an ancient tribal leader, who worshipped some primitive form of the deity which later Jews also revered. Abraham’s tribe split apart in a kind of early dispute concerning partible inheritance, with Ishmael’s expulsion leading to the creation of the first Arab tribes, whilst the sons of Isaac represent the patriarchs of the first tribes of what would become Israel, with (at least a perceived) common heritage, but separate dialects and geographical locations. For whilst tribes, at least insofar as we popularly perceive them, are by nature usually nomadic, they are generally confined to a certain location, which, upon the expansion of the tribe itself, becomes permanent. Consider God’s instruction to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-2:

Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing.

In this, we see the idea of a nation being created from a fairly primitive origin. Indeed, it is not until quite some time after the sons of Abraham have passed on that the Nation of Israel itself actually takes shape. What is perhaps most relevant here, is the idea that from various tribes, association into a nation is inevitable, or, since in the Bible it is intimately connected to the work of God, we might also say, such association is natural. The choice of Abraham as the patriarch figure of this “unification,” only serves to reinforce the idea of the leadership of such a nation being a quasi-kingly ideal.

Nation: a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular territory. Once again the Oxford dictionary helps us here. The nation is effectively characterised as a large tribe, or as a group of tribes which set aside the minor dialectical and regional differences which they may have in order to embrace a set of characteristics which are considered common enough to all to warrant similarity. The study of early Hebrew and Syriac languages popularly spoken in ancient Palestine indicate a series of minor dialects of an early Semitic language, the Biblical variant of which that we have representing an attempt by redactors to formalise a usage of Hebrew common to all for religious and political usage. If we look at the extensive set of rules and regulations set out in the Covenant of Exodus (vid. Ex. 20-23), we might be forgiven for seeing the sheer number of stipulations as more akin to a legal constitution than a set of religious practices. Indeed, this is precisely what the so-called “Book of the Covenant” would appear to be: a constitution for a new nation. Whilst very clearly theocratic in composition, the appointment of a prophet as the de facto leader of the Israelites is soon augmented in the Book of Samuel by the need for a king to rule concurrently with the priesthood. We see a similar phenomenon in Rome. A loose association of tribes on each of the Seven Hills is united by natural association, and bound by the kingship of a strongman. The Romans, of course, threw out their king, but needing some sort of binding institution to prevent civil war between the traditional tribes of the Romans, institutions such as the Senate and the annual consulship were developed. Phenomena such as the Twelve Tables can be seen as the Roman equivalent of the Israelites’ ‘binding’ of their unique system of government with an essentially infallible constitutional document. We see therefore how an association of tribes may organise its own rules and constitutional development.

Imperium: absolute power, i.e. that which (to a certain degree) is necessary to be held by the governor of an Empire: an extensive group of states or countries ruled over by a single monarch, an oligarchy, or a sovereign state. So an empire (or as we, by extension, have termed it, imperium) is a collection of nations, in a similar fashion to the nation being a collection of tribe. There is one major difference, however, which is that within the imperium, unlike tribes within in the nation, the constituent nations are not necessarily expected to make their own culture subservient to the common culture, or at least to the culture of the one(s) who exercise imperium, the imperator. Consider this diagram:

Model of the Imperium
Figure: Model showing the nature of nations within an imperium 

If the reader will forgive the rather crude representation which I have devised, he will see that, whilst the imperium contains the nations which are a part of it, it does not penetrate them in the same way that the nation penetrates the tribe. Israel is a prime example of a nation which has been subsumed within several imperia over its lifetime. The Roman imperium began as a series of clients and protectorates of the Roman nation, dependent on Rome for matters of foreign policy, but otherwise essentially “autocephalous” to appropriate the ecclesiastical term. An equally good example would be Achaemenid Persia. The curious nature of such empires tends to be that, over time, nations within empires often come to be governed by representatives of the emperor’s nation, such as in the Roman proconsular system. Even still the cultural makeup of empires, whilst free to the concept of exchange (itself a natural part of internal trade), tended to remain regionally homogeneous. Hence, whilst the language of say, France, is distinctly Romance, the ethnic makeup of the French people has been judged to be for the most part derived from the ancient Celtic tribes of the region, with a healthy mix of Frankish (Germanic) blood for good measure. The southern French tend to be of either Italic or Greek origin (again, in keeping with ancient ethnic realities).

Sometimes nations are destroyed by imperia. Take Israel. If an imperium relies upon the concept of absolute power for its existence, then an existential threat to its authority must be taken seriously. The ancient Israelites’ reluctance to pay their taxes to Caesar, coupled with a religious faith which imbued the concept of moral (if not practical) superiority, made national martyrdom in the face of overwhelming odds far superior to submission in 70 AD. So much for dissent. Yet, the fate of ancient Israel allows us to draw something important from history: absolute power, whilst it may be accommodating to difference, cannot be accommodating to the idea that one nation is superior to the others within the imperium, certainly not the imperator‘s nation. And now, we see why we are coming onto the detailed reasons why our philosophy significantly diverges from that of those who we oppose.

“Weren’t the Romans xenophobic though? That’s why the empire worked, surely?” Such is the lilting refrain of the ethnonationalist. It is indeed true that the Roman culture demonstrated some muscle-flexing, and when your nation has become the centre of an organised empire covering the known world, that is not surprising. But the praxis of empire is very different to the private sense of superiority which “the average Roman” (itself a terrible, cringe-worthy historical usage) may or may not have held. In reality, whilst the Roman emperor was very much the ‘Head of the Church’ as far as politics went, he was also an arbiter between the provinces. The emperor Marcus Philippus is suspected to even have been an Arab! By the latter stages of the empire, the bloodline of certain emperors and major families had become so diluted that it would difficult to characterise the traditional epitomes of “Rome” as being Roman at all, at least in any “pure” sense.  So the Roman people cannot have been too worried about the Romanità, to use Machiavelli’s term, of their emperors, as compared with genuinely important things, such as the maintenance of social order—the breakdown of which (partly stoked by mass-migratory invasions) was the principal factor in the demise of Rome.

So we have seen that the imperium is a natural answer to the confederation of nations and tribes. But does this make us “imperialists”? In one sense, yes it does, but in order for us to become imperialists, we must first eschew the liberal usage of the “-ism”. I am naturally suspicious of -isms; they tend to be invented with the pretense of describing a natural phenomenon, when in fact they represent nothing more than the artificial desires of an ideological movement (ahem, liberalism). The modern left is vociferously anti-nationalist and anti-imperialist, or at least, it is paradoxically opposed to the liberal conceptions of these ideas. Nationalism, tempered in the fires of 1789-1848, connected the “interests of the nation” to political policy. The nation, rather than being treated as an organic entity, became a democratic excuse to exercise the tyranny of a (most likely) non-existent majority. Now that the aims and values of ’89 have triumphed, there is no need for nationalism any more, hence the left’s hatred of it, but it was never a particularly useful idea anyway. Imperialism on the other hand, as the left understands it, is equally liberal: being merely the other side of the national liberal coin. Liberal imperialism, essentially a racialist and Godless ideology seeking to remake the world in accordance with a Nietzschean “will to power” or “x-culture’s burden to improve y-culture”, only serves the same aims of liberal teleology: a march towards increased personal autonomy and the abolition of the moral point of reference. Under the system of the classical imperium, where a certain submission to power, and the healthy competition of nations for influence upon that power keeps order in balance, such a teleology is not merely undesirable, but incompatible with the imperial system.

It is for these reasons that I also remain sceptical of attempts to revive tribalism. To turn the natural development of human peoples into a kind of politically normative telos appears rather too similar to the liberal -isms described above. I could be incorrect, but it seems fairly certain, from what I have described, that the imperium is vastly superior as a system which allows for the interests of all nations to be treated with a degree of sound justice.

In short: imperialism must be redefined. It is not the supremacy of one over the other, but the agreement of many to be have an arbiter of their security. To quote Moldbug, who seemed to be unknowingly paraphrasing Hobbes:

The basic idea of formalism is just that the main problem in human affairs is violence. The goal is to design a way for humans to interact, on a planet of remarkably limited size, without violence.

Especially organized violence. Next to organized human-on-human violence, a good formalist believes, all other problems – Poverty, Global Warming, Moral Decay, etc, etc, etc – are basically insignificant. Perhaps once we get rid of violence we can worry a little about Moral Decay, but given that organized violence killed a couple of hundred million people in the last century, whereas Moral Decay gave us “American Idol,” I think the priorities are pretty clear.

The key is to look at this not as a moral problem, but as an engineering problem. Any solution that solves the problem is acceptable. Any solution that does not solve the problem is not acceptable.

And if we think we know that liberal nationalism can only lead to endless foreign war, interventionism, and undue centralisation, why, then a naturally decentralised group of nations, with a universally-respected absolute arbiter would appear to be a perfect solution to the problem of nationalist violence.

 

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The Gauge of Metternich

I did not realise, when first beginning this project, quite how much debate it would provoke within the first month of its existence; this can nevertheless only be a positive development, since the army of theorists, commentators, and other species of NRx acolytes exist for the primary purpose of debate, in much a similar fashion to the philosophes of French Enlightenment, albeit with quite the opposite purpose in mind. If there ever was to be a compendium of Dark Enlightenment or “dissident right” thought, to have but a few pages in this anti-Diderot’s Encyclopédie devoted to them would be the aim of every blog.

Returning to the matter at hand, a brief exchange a few weeks ago with Hapsburg Restorationist seems to have prompted a deal of reflexion on behalf of all, and for all. Even Calrsbad has intervened. Seeing as it would appear that I have been the unfortunate First Cause of all the trouble, this entry is a concise attempt to tie together some of the loose ends: to provide a historical judgement for Metternich and the Conservative Order, and perhaps also a quasi-rationale behind the choice of Metternich as the namesake of this humble undertaking.

I shall present this discussion in three brief parts: 1.) Metternich’s Philosophy; 2.) Some Objections and Answers; 3.) Why Metternich?

Metternich’s Philosophy

Metternich’s political position is best presented by two major texts: the more well-known Profession of Faith, which is in fact an extract from the Memoirs and Collected Writings published by his son, Richard Metternich, after the Prince’s death; and the other, a brief essay Of a Necessity of a Censorship of the Press, extracted from a letter to fellow Austrian noble and his predecessor as Foreign Minister, Johann Philipp Stadion (Count von Warthausen). On a prima facie level Metternich expresses the classical conservative scepticism of human goodwill, and liberal concepts of “reason” and “tolerance.” His views on human nature represent a more distinctly Hobbesian streak:

The nature of man is immutable. . .On the other hand, the same thing happens to institutions as to [humans]. Uncertain in their origin, they go through periods of development and perfection, only to fall into decay, and conforming to the same laws which govern the nature of man, they have, like him, their infancy, their youth, their reasoned maturity and their old age.

Two elements remain at the height of their strength. . .These are the precepts of morality, both religious and social, and the local needs of man. Once men begin to move away from these bases and to rebel against these sovereign arbiters of their destiny, society is in a state of unrest, which sooner or later will cause an upheaval.

Metternich’s philosophy of history is not dissimilar to what one would hear from a classical conservative today:

History only embraces a very restricted lapse of time.

It only begins to deserve this name long after the fall of great empires. Where it appears to bring us to the cradle of civilisation, it leads us only to ruins.

We see republics come to birth and develop, fight and then suffer the rule of a fortunate soldier.

We see one of these republics pass through all the phases common to society and end in a monarchy that was almost universal, that is to say it conquered all the scattered parts of the then-civilised world.

We see this monarchy suffer the fate of every body politic: we see the original elasticity grow weak and bring about its own decay.

&c. &c.

But his diagnosis of the crisis of his own day is perhaps most striking in its vehemence, structured as an invective against the “presumptuous man.”

[Presumptuous man] interprets [morality] according to his own fancy and allows everyone else to do the same thing, provided that the other man neither kills nor robs him.

By sketching the character of the presumptuous man in this way, we think that we have drawn a picture of the society of today which is composed of similar elements if the name of society can be applied to an order of things which only tends in principle to individualise all the elements which compose society, and to make each man the head of his own dogma, the arbiter of laws by which he can deign to govern himself, or allow others to govern him and his fellows, in a word, the only judge of his faith, of his actions, and the principles according to which he means to regulate them.

Do we need to prove this last truth? We think we furnish the proof by calling to attention the fact that one of the most natural sentiments in man—nationality—has been erased from the Liberal catechism, and where the word continues to be used at all, it serves only as a pretext for the leaders of the party to fetter governments, or else as a lever to encourage upheavals. The true aims of the idealists of the party is religious and political fusion and, in the last analysis, is no other than to create in favour of each individual an existence which is entirely independent of authority and all will, except his own—an absurd idea, which is contrary to the spirit of man and incompatible with the requirements of society!

Here Metternich offers a twofold critique, one of liberal individualism, and one of liberal nationalism. So Metternich’s opposition to causes such as German nationalism came not from a hated of the German nation, or indeed his own German-ness, but from his objection to liberalism. Similar expressions of the concept of nationality, and critiques of liberal individualism, are still seen today, most prominently by the likes of this English pariah. (NB: Scruton’s conservatism is fluid. It is at times deeply indebted to Enlightenment liberalism, and at times critical of it. Nevertheless, the language he employs when critiquing most projects of the modern left is refreshingly similar to that of the 18th and 19th century Old Guard.)

Nevertheless, Metternich’s traditionalism is not so much a matter in dispute. The most contentious aspect of his philosophy is his perceived censoriousness. The letter to J. P. Stadion opens like this:

There is a most urgent necessity to exercise some influence over newspapers in general, and particularly over these two, which never cease spreading lies, often of the most ridiculous nature, about us. It is from these that most of the articles are extracted which are found in the French journals. Why should not correct news be communicated to the different newspapers? Why do they not control their correspondents at Vienna, and why should they not refute these lies in the places where they are published?

So Metternich’s objection to a free press was the prevalence of fake news? How amusing. Censorship of journalism was not a new concept which Metternich deigned to introduce, rather, he objected to the fear which struck many governments in the aftermath of the Revolution about using it.

It is also important to note that Metternich’s philosophy was characterised at the height of its power by two promises: 1.) Burkean gradualism and 2.) ephemerality. It is clear that Metternich considered the measures which he had introduced to be only temporary adjustments to what he perceived to be a dangerous geopolitical situation. He was, after all, a diplomat by trade, and his Profession of Faith exhorts allies to be “only more cautious in troubled times.” It is clear that he viewed his own times as troubled; whilst we never see Metternich guiding the Austrian Empire through untroubled times, his “anti-bourgeois” position would apparently suggest a similar approach to the Tory radicals of Britain. ‘Reform,’ insofar as the likes of Metternich were concerned, was a concern only for liberal intellectuals who subscribed to a false philosophy of nature; true progress and gradual reform would involve the aristocracy and the proletariat.

Some Objections and Answers

I have thus far encountered three ‘fatal objections’ concerning Metternich and his politics. I shall attempt to address each of them.

Objection I: Metternich’s use of oppression is lifted from the Left.

AnswerIt is, I think, a fallacy to suggest that the use of certain tactics are definitive of one political theory or another. No historian worth his salt would suggest that the Metternich system was totalitarian, which would indeed have a leftist flavour, but rather, Metternich’s authoritarianism is merely a species of what he would have considered self-preservation against what Carlsbad has referred to as “revolutionary madmen with ideas calculated to create geopolitical instability.” Metternich’s policies come across as heavy-handed a great deal of the time, but it is important to remember that Metternich himself remained deeply uncomfortable with much of them, and decried what he considered to be oversteps of the mark by other rulers.

In today’s age, an important lesson we can learn from him has been expressed in multiple outlets: the bottom line being that the political Right cannot begin to pretend that it is pro-free speech, as many seem to pretend. Such a claim is exactly characteristic of Metternich’s presumptuous man. The Right, as much as the Left, will want to protect its values. Even until ten years ago, England retained its common law tradition which outlawed public blasphemy. People were prosecuted (or threatened prosecution) under it as recently as the early 2000s until its abolition in 2008.

Objection II: Metternich was not a real legitimist; his response to Revolution was purely reactionary, purely political, and not philosophical. 

AnswerWhen Hapsburg Restorationist offered his critique of Metternich, he said:

“Legitimism is not about feudalism, nor even necessarily monarchism, but the primacy of law, Divine, Natural, and Human, about eternal principles and not necessarily their particular forms in changing historical situations.”

He is of course, precisely right, and Metternich was not especially devoted to these things out of deep understanding, but rather out of a kind of a priori sense of principle. The second strongest critique of the Metternichian position (we shall come to the first in a moment) that can be offered is Metternich’s (probably unintentional) obsession with being the epitome of the counter-Enlightenment reactionary curmudgeon.

Yet, one cannot compare the likes of Metternich to say, Chateaubriand or even more eminently political figures such as Vaublanc and Maistre. Metternich was two things: 1.) a diplomat; 2.) a German. The first characteristic made him a weak politician but an effective negotiator.  He was by no means the Napoléon of the Ancien Régime. The second characteristic made him detached from Revolution, and being a mere observer, tempered him in the fire of Patriotism, and a desire to protect the German ‘way of things’ from what would have been a terribly destructive influence from the revolutionary camps of France. He succeeded in this matter in some ways, and failed in others.

What we can learn from this is that sometimes, particularly in response to crises abroad, reactions are effective, but must be tempered by practical politics as well as macro-diplomacy.

Objection III: Metternich failed; the later Revolutions in France and in ’48 Germany prove this to be the case—his policies kept the lid on a boiling pot without turning down the heat.

AnswerThis is probably the strongest argument against Metternich, and the sum of most historians’ analyses. Very few people seem to like to dwell upon the thirty-years-or-so of peace that was achieved before these revolutions, which arose in contexts quite separate from the French Revolutionary movement. The legacy of the Jacobins was more or less crushed by Metternich, and whilst just as undesirable, the demands of the nationalists of ’48 was by no means the same as the French Revolutionary movement, which like all revolutionary movements, had attempted to undermine the order which Metternich represented: something which Metternich succeeded in preventing, and something which the revolutions of ’48 also failed to undermine. Whilst the later conservatism of Bismarck was stained by the nationalism of ’48, one still sees the face of Metternich floating like a ghost above the new German Empire.

As above, Metternich’s legitimate failings stemmed from his position as diplomat rather than a political theorist. For modern Americans, one of Metternich’s pre-eminent admirers includes Henry Kissinger. Metternich’s main failure was the adoption of the localist, traditional rhetoric of the old HRE as principles, but in so doing he created something which did not resemble the HRE at all: a centralised state in control of individual elements of public policy, rather than a decentralised and genuinely localist state with a central government which represented a culmination of those principles. Let that be a lesson.

Conclusion: Why Metternich?

Metternich represents the epitomised ‘paternalistic conservative’, and it is hard not to admire his spirit: the image of the impassioned statesman vigorously trying to keep a feared influence out of the lives and borders of a people he genuinely cared for.

There is a fundamental difference between the Age of Metternich and our own time, and it is really upon this fundamental difference that Metternichian Theory hangs. When Metternich was organising his response to the Revolutionary period, he and his principles, of (if not always the) Old Conservative Right, were in power; today we live in a world defined by leftism, but the Old Conservative Right is not in power. There are elements of it present of course, and there are ghosts of it in the minds of some people, but we cannot say that we have anyone like Metternich in our midst. Our approach, therefore, could never be the same as his, but that is not reason to dismiss him.

When founding anything named for Prince Metternich, there arises three camps of people: the “why would you choose him?” camp; the “I can understand why but I don’t like him” camp; and the “for the glory of the empire!” types. I don’t really wish to be associated with anything but the second of these three. Metternich was a deliberately provocative statesman (within reason), and Metternichian Theory is a deliberately provocative project (within reason), there seemed to me, therefore, no alternative. At least my friends, that is to say you, reader, are willing to engage, to keep MetTh on its toes. So long as it keeps up the good work of provoking a little more discussion around the events of and responses to this particular time period, and the lessons we can learn from it, then I have, as far as I can tell, nothing shameful to answer for.

Metternich
“Murder is a terrible weapon; blood cries out for blood, and it is its nature to corrupt everything it touches, and not to cleanse. God help poor Mankind!” — M.

Ethnonationalist Angst

Two weeks of travelling has recently delayed scheduled posts as well as my own reading of my favourite outlets. Thankfully, I’m now able to write a short commentary on something I’ve been itching about for quite some time. It is a happy coincidence that Thermidor magazine published a salty but satisfying polemic against the alt-right a few days ago, written by none other than dear Carlsbad. Please forgive the conciseness, but much of what you are about to read speaks for itself in the mind of any educated layman.

A few minor details should probably be made clear first: is ethnonationalism or, the “alt-right” position a valid political theory? Yes, or at least, it can be argued so. I, myself, and people like me disagree with it, but that’s pretty much by the by. The problem with ethnonationalists is precisely this: very few of them can actually present their ideas validly. “Peacocking” in the form of references to Evola, Benoist, and the apparent God of the Alt-Right, Nietzsche often has very little to do with their position, and serves no purpose besides adding a pseudo-intellectual stamp on what is otherwise a half-stated opinion.

I will not keep you for too long, reader, instead, I wish only to embellish a few points made by Carlsbad in the above article. I don’t like making unprovoked attacks, so consider this instead an attempt to prompt any alt-right disciples who read this to do a little more thinking, and maybe to encourage them to “sharpen their tools,” as it were.

[1] The only true statement in Alamariu’s essay is the following:

[Matthew Rose] engages Oswald Spengler, Evola, and Benoist, but even were he able to definitively prove them wrong in a couple of pages, it would mean nothing. None of these thinkers—especially not Evola or a nonentity like Benoist—have anything to do with the revolt against liberal authorities in our time.

See above. It is a truly puzzling phenomenon that Evola of all people has come to be venerated as an ethnonationalist idol. Evolean mysticism is very much the lovechild of Italian futurism and the metaphysical perennialism of Guénon, and the linking of decontextualised soundbites such as “ride the tiger” to white nationalism appears really to be a case of clutching at straws. Evola, as his publisher in English points out, was not overtly political, and never joined the Italian Fascist Party. His politics exists only by implication, and his somewhat deviant views on sexual morality go some ways to contradicting the alt-right’s supposed adoration of moral purity.

Benoist is a very good writer, and his extended essay Vu de Droite (1978) was recognised for its quality. Benoist’s own views are hard to pin down, and he himself states in the introduction to the book (emphases original):

. . .knowing whether I am of the right or not is completely irrelevant to me. For the time being, the ideas supported in this work are to the right; they are not necessarily of the right. I can still quite easily imagine some situations where they could be to the left.

Even today Benoist, who is a blood-relation to the Ancien Régime aristocracy, refuses to accept any particular political label. His position is a strange mix of neopagan LARPing and old French legitimism. He has also pointed out some IQ differences between white Europeans and non-whites; to which we say—so what? Anyroad, he is not explicitly an ally to anyone, and it is curious that he should be selected to be among the philosophical influences of the alt-right.

As for Spengler, who presents an interesting yet in many ways flawed philosophy of history, we have a man whose bitter polemics captivated the minds of a bitter interwar Europe. Spengler was not an ethnonationalist either, and despite some hints of anti-Semitism, he and Hitler shared a mutual dislike of one another—he, for Hitler’s obsession with race; Hitler, for Spengler’s obsession with monarchy.

[2] In general, the attitude to Christianity ranges from polite indifference to hostility and unequivocal rejection [. . .]

First things first: the VDARE/Amren wing of conservadad identitarians do tend to lean on the “polite indifference” side of the question. Christianity is relevant only when it’s a proxy for whiteness, but otherwise, it’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell [. . .]

The Spencer-Johnson wing of the alt-right — Radix, AltRight.com, Counter-Currents, etc. — ranges from indifference at best to weird Nietzschean and neopagan attacks on Christianity.

Indeed, most detailed treatments of Nietzsche’s philosophy seem to show a man far more sympathetic to the values of the Christianity he rejects than a first reading would demonstrate. An understanding of the historical development of Christian theology shows that Nietzsche’s “Will to Power” and verbal rambles concerning the overcoming of the self had been devised by Christian mystics well back in the early-to-high middle ages. Whether Nietzsche was consciously regurgitating their ideas or not, history proves that whilst it is easy for neo-Nazis to read into Nietzsche what they like about the power of the strong over the weak (cue Darwin &c. &c.) it is just as easy to read into Nietzsche that we are all morally obliged to save puppies from house fires. At best, the alt-right has a shallow understanding of Nietzsche; at worst, they use him to justify the return of (quasi-)slavery.

[3] Andrew Joyce, one of their staple writers, is an agnostic who writes that he generally doesn’t talk about religion with his Christian wife “for the sake of domestic harmony.” He credits Christianity and the various evangelical churches as agents of pathological altruism and race suicide. Toward the end of his essay, Joyce quite unambiguously declares:

Rather than encourage ethnocentrism like Judaism does, Christianity achieves the opposite.

Some Kierkegaard-level angst here. The alt-right effectively wants a Zionist Israel-inspired state for all nations (or at least, white ones), but at the same time are forced into embarrassing contractions over the fact that for many ethnonats Zio- = malefic.

For the time being, take English paleolibertarian Dr Sean Gabb’s take on ‘the Jewish question.’

The problem with anti-semitic conspiracy theories is that they involve continuous selection. Therefore, you take the fact that Karl Marx was a socialist, and overlook that he was a racist and cultural conservative. You take the fact that Mahler was a musical revolutionary, and overlook that he was a German nationalist. You wholly overlook people like Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises, or Paul Gottfried and Meyer Schiller. You also overlook how many poisonous lefties there seem to be in Israel, calling for open borders and the demotion of Jewish symbols.

Jews tend to be opinionated and vociferous. There are Jews arguing fluently on each side of every argument. You can put together a very convincing theory of Jewish subversion by selecting certain opinions of certain Jews, and ascribing these to all or most Jews. You are left with a composite Jew that may exist in a few instances, but is not representative of the Jews we meet in our everyday lives.

You could, by using the same method, but applying a different principle of selection, prove that Jews were sexually-repressed white nationalists with a tendency to convert to Roman Catholicism. You will also find examples of the resulting composite. Again, it will be unrepresentative.

The truth is that we’ve messed our own civilisation up by ourselves, and would have got where we now are even if every Jew in the world had fallen dead c.1870.

Dr Gabb’s “truth” may well be wrong, but it is presented a whole side more coherently than by alt-right goyboys whose accusations are borne more out of genuine prejudice rather than collected evidence. There are highly suspect Jews; there are highly suspect goys; many of the latter are in the alt-right.

[4] Someone on Twitter quoted Locke and Hume => The rebellious alt-right youth are all going through the Enlightenment from A to Z. They’ll be getting to d’Holbach any moment now.

The alt-right is very much a product of Enlightenment. There is no agreement within the movement concerning questions of government: many reject democracy, many do not. Some have even suggested that if all Western countries utilised Swiss-style direct democracy, we “wouldn’t be in this mess.” In fact, there is a great deal of Helvetophilia in such circles. On a related note:

[5] Actually, Alamariu is probably quite right about American political thought from Lincoln to Truman being “alt-right” by today’s standards. This should be an argument for the glaring insufficiency of the alt-right. When neo-Confederate snowflakes proudly write about “the progressive forebearers of the alt-right,” you just know someone is starved of healthy social interaction.

In [4] and [5] we see a particular glaring fallacy, a species of argumentum ad antiquitatem without any Latin to back them up in their understanding. The same goes for appeals to Plato and Aristotle, and other philosophers who end up being name-dropped in such debates. In a similar vein also to [2], peacocking extends to the inclusion of thinkers who are either completely unrelated, or ideologically the complete antithesis of ethnonationalism. Person X may have read Locke, but can he tell me anything about the context in which Locke was writing? Can they tell me the reasons why, despite the fact that Locke’s Essay on Tolerance is in fact relatively intolerant, it became a cornerstone text of liberal philosophy? Probably not.

[6] Finally, regarding the so-called “youth revolt” thesis that Alamariu’s article tries to advance.

The whole “Generation Zyklon” thing (a term Alamariu doesn’t use, but was surely thinking about) reminds me of that ’80s sitcom Family Ties with Michael J. Fox playing the Reaganite son of hippie boomer parents. All that hype about Gen X’ers and the Reagan Revolution smashing the administrative state and bringing in a restoration of locofocoism. So much for that. . .

[…]

Another issue is that contrarians being contrarians, what passes for the alt-right is intellectually balkanized into monomaniacal factions, each of them advancing various monocausal diagnoses and zany solutions to social issues, and each of them refusing to work with people who are not as devoted to their pet issue as they are.

Here’s a fact: working out, criticising Hollywood, going to church, and studying philosophy is not a particularly alt-right phenomenon. In fact, a lot of people on the left do that—I’ve met quite a few of them. Mr Almariu, in a final flourish of feathers, restates the Nietzschean mantra:

Nietzsche helps us understand the resentment that drives much of the modern so-called elite’s “globalism.” The origin of the modern Left’s as well as the neoconservatives’ vindictiveness in a feeling of resentment against a civilization they sense to be superior, but which they would like to appropriate or redefine, at times to exploit, at times to replace, whose very existence and history humiliates them, is central to understanding our condition and why the “alt-right” exists. The resentment against health and every form of natural excellence or distinction, together with the assault on Christianity, has gone a great way to forcing this most vital part of the youth into a virtuous reaction.

And as we have already proven over points [1]-[6], the reader does not need my help to realise that what they have just read is a load of —

Bottom line: Nietzsche doesn’t do any of these things.

If what Mr Almariu says happens to be true, then whither, O whither Christianity?!

The alt-right, in fairness, has a great deal of facts on its side, and there are a number of figures within it who are worthy of respect. Nevertheless, there are problems, and the reality is that the alt-right does not exist beyond the mainstream media itself; whether there is an alt-right movement or not is irrelevant. I will leave a certain gentleman (who isn’t a great deal better, but is closer still to the truth) to say the rest.

MetTh

 

 

Fourth Political Theories

I suspect that many of the sorts of people interested in Metternichian Theory will at least be vaguely familiar with the work of the Russian writer Alexander Dugin, not least because one of the contemporary New Right’s most important publishers, Arktos Media, seems to treat him with a godlike reverence. I can’t say I blame them, since finding a theorist in today’s age willing to offer an alternative to that deceptively trichotomous political choice: between Liberalism, Marxism, and Fascism, can only ever be a jewel worth polishing for further inspection. But as interesting as Dugin is, despite the insights he offers, and the perennial truths which he rightly identifies, I do not believe him to be our sole saviour from the sins of modernity as some would have us believe. That is not to say that his Fourth Political Theory cannot be useful in further development of yet another alternative, but for now at least, it seems to me to be a (well-intentioned) hodge-podge of the political trichotomy, rather than a coherent alternative to it; at least, as far as continental Europe is concerned. Here are my reasons why I believe the Fourth Political Theory warrants a degree of re-orientation.

Allow me to present the political trichotomy in the following way: imagine, if you will, a large mountain surmounted by a relatively flat plateau. Anyone who is anyone wishes to climb the mountain and enjoy the benefits of the prosperous community which had been founded upon the plateau. Sadly for these optimistic pilgrims, what they find at the top of the mountain is liberal democracy. The democracy contains its token disgruntled conservatives, but being perceived as a minority, they remain fairly silent and as such hold little sway over elections to the Senate which the people vote for every four or five years. There is freedom for all on the mountain, but only so long as those who wish to buy into their piece of freedom accept the words of the Prophet—a strange, nameless figure—who some say founded the first Enterprise. The Enterprise being the corporation for which every citizen of the mountain works. You may practice whatever religion you like, identify as whatever sort of person you wish to be, so long as you pay the head of the Enterprise due respect, for the mountain itself is named for him. As for the newcomers to Mount Moloch (for that is what we shall call it), they must submit, or be denied the “freedoms” of the Molochites.

There are some who have founded alternative societies for themselves, though neither possess the same safety as the Molochites on their mountain. On the right of the Mount is Ethno-Crags, home to an alternative community offering equality for all who are of the same race, nominally free of Moloch-worship, but still a slave to Enlightenment. To the left of the Mount lies Cracked Prole Ridge, home to the anarchists, who offer equality for all people, still free of the Molochites, but free also from sense, as its citizens tear at one another’s flesh. Some intrepid Molochites high on the summit, have grown disillusion with their decision to embrace a life of enslavement to the Enterprise. So they pitch their tents outside the city of the Molochites on the plateau, making a living on the slopes of Mount Moloch. But sooner or later, those who pitch their tents on the left or right slopes of the Mount slip down—the rocks loosened by the inhabitants of the city above, forcing these unhappy dissidents to their doom on the rocks of the ethnos or proles on either side. Any attempt to escape the constraints of Mount Moloch without formally descending the plateau is mercilessly cast down anyway. Such is the nature of liberal democracy and its rejected alternatives: fascism and communism. In reality, we must ask ourselves, through all their veneers of various sorts of freedom, are any of these three choices truly any better than the other? All are ultimately spawned from the same rhetoric.

Dugin’s characterisation of the inadequacy of the political trichotomy is much like this, but, like the inhabitants of the summit and slopes of Mount Moloch, Dugin is concerned with outperforming the inhabitants of the various settlements by playing them at their own game. Dugin’s initial programme in 4PT is immensely promising:

In order to approach the development of this fourth political theory, it is necessary:

  • To rethink the political history of the last centuries from new positions, beyond the frameworks of the ideological clichés of the old ideologies;
  • To become aware of the deep structure of the global society appearing before our eyes;
  • To decipher correctly the paradigm of post-modernity;
  • To learn to oppose oneself not to political ideas, programmes, or strategies but to the objective situation of things, to the most social aspect of the apolitical, fractured (post-)society;
  • Finally, to build up an autonomous political model, which offers a way and a project in a world of blind alleys and the endlessly recycled “same-old” (post-history; as in Baudrillard).

But soon enough, the cracks begin to appear. There is a general aesthetic sentiment within Dugin’s work which does not move beyond the trichotomy which he critiques. For instance, Dugin seems to promote traditional values precisely because they are in opposition to liberal values, rather than because they have value in themselves. His political history, also, is some ways sown upon the rocky soil.

The first political theory is liberalism.  It appeared first (back in the 18th century) and turned out to be the most stable and successful, having beaten its opponents in the historical battle at last.  By means of this victory it proved along the way its claim to the full inheritance of the Enlightenment.  Today it is clear: precisely liberalism more exactly than any another political theory conforms to the epoch of modernity.  Although, earlier, this was contested (for that matter, dramatically, actively, and sometimes convincingly) – by communism.

It is fair to call communism (together with socialism in all its variations) the second political theory.  It appeared after liberalism, as a critical reaction to the establishment of the bourgeois-capitalist system, the ideological expression of which was liberalism.

And, finally, fascism is the third political theory.  Laying claim to its interpretation of the soul of modernity (many researchers, in particular Hannah Arendt, rightly see totalitarianism as one of the political forms of modernity) fascism turned together also to the ideas and symbols of traditional society.  In some instances this resulted in eclecticism; in others, in the striving of conservatives to head a revolution rather than resisting it and bringing society into the opposite direction (Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, D. Merezhkovsky, etc.).

Fascism appeared after the other major political theories and disappeared before them.  The alliance of the first political theory and the second political theory and the suicidal geopolitical calculations of Hitler defeated it at take-off.  The third political theory died a violent death, not having seen old age and natural decomposition (in contrast to the USSR).  That’s why this bloody, vampirical spectre, shaded with the aura of “world evil”, is so magnetically appealing for the decadent tastes of post-modernity and why it is still so scary to humanity.

Fascism, having disappeared, freed up space for a battle of the first political theory with the second.  This took place in the form of the “Cold War” and threw up the strategic geometry of the “bi-polar world”, which lasted almost half a century.  In 1991 the first political theory (liberalism) defeated the second (socialism).  That was the decline of world communism.

And so, at the end of the 20th century, of the three political theories capable of mobilizing many millions of masses in all areas of the planet, only one remained – liberalism.

Dugin appears to consider historical conservative forces to have been defeated by liberalism by the time that communism and fascism arose as its principal opponents. In some ways he is not wrong: the Conservative Order of Metternich and the Vienna Congress had been long-rejected by the revolutions of the 1830s and ’40s, and yet, this still does not seem to do traditional conservatism justice. Whether in decline from 1830 onwards or not, traditionalism remained influential in the form of several last-ditch death-shrieks, as seen in attempts to revive ‘traditional’ models of government which rejected the liberalism of its time, such as Disraeli’s “one nation” or Bismarck’s Blut und Eisen “conservative revolution.” Admittedly these projects did not retain power for too long after the 19th century, but their historical importance remains firmly at the heart of what is now called the European tradition.

The Fourth Political Theory is conceived of as an alternative to Post-Liberalism; not like an ideological attitude in relation to another ideological attitude, but like an idea set against material, like the possible, coming into conflict with the actual, like a not yet existing or being undertaken assault against the already existing.

[…]

The Fourth Political Theory is a concentration in a common project and common impulse of everything that turned out to have been thrown away, toppled and degraded on the way to the erection of the “spectacle-society” (Post-Modernity).  “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Mark 12:10).  The philosopher Alexander Sekatsky rightly points out the importance of “marginalia” for the formation of a new philosophical zone, offering as a metaphor the expression “the metaphysics of garbage”.

Dugin at once broadens 4PT by effectively amalgamating all of Neoreaction and dissident ideologies into the 4PT—which, he makes clear, is not a firmly grounded ideology, but a hodge-podge of various pieces of post-liberal ‘junk’; the ideological baggage which modernity threw out in the back yard—but by making 4PT a hodge-podge, Dugin also puts himself at great risk, a terrifying risk, a risk that 4PT may end up being as much a product of post-liberalism as modern ‘capitalist’ society is today; by building his new community on the slopes of the Mountain. Indeed, Dugin resurrects an idea born in the fires of early liberalism (but now rejected by it) to aid him in his struggle: the spectre of nationalism.

Speaking of nationalism, it was also disappointing to see Dugin not approach President Trump with a little more caution. The reader is referred to 13:10-14:02 of this documentary. One would have expected better, given the academic’s usual caution to endorse anything outside of Eurasia, and Mr Trump’s recent track record (whilst still indomitably better than a Clinton nightmare) has shown him hardly to be the traditionalist’s wet dream that many had hoped for.

Anyhow, as mentioned above, Dugin’s approach has demonstrated a vulnerability within the 4PT. Russia is better suited to political nationalism than most other countries, due to its overwhelming size, and status as a federation of largely homogenous regions composed of differing ethnicities which for the most part do not interfere with one another on the local level. In Russia, for various reasons, the word “nationalism” has very different connotations to the same word in Europe. Whilst for Russia, nationalism is a perfect amalgam of Soviet-era universality and reactionary-revivalist tradition, meanwhile Europa, suffering from the late-stages of the liberal-multicultural virus, and the asthma of political stagnation, fears the concept of “nation” out of repressed Nazi-guilt. Duginite mantras of “God, family and country” do not ring will in the ears of the politically disillusioned, who would just as easily turn to the radical left for their opposition as much as they would the radical right. Yet, Dugin has thrown us a bone: 4PT is fluid, it is not tied down to a single log floating in the political river; as mentioned above, Dugin appears familiar with NRx, and as such, we have freedom within 4PT to use ideas which Dugin himself does not directly mention. Change can be made, and subtle changes are all that may well be required.

For many, adopting nationalistic language will do nothing to solve the monopoly of Mount Moloch. If we can reject the residual post-liberalism within 4PT, we can reject the trichotomy of the Summit, Ethno-Crags, and Cracked Prole Ridge altogether. Some have attempted to move towards this goal. Until very recently, a project was begun called The Fifth Political Theory (5PT) now unfortunately deleted by its author, which attempted to find a non-nationalist approach to the European model of reaction. 5PT was essentially tribalist, and some residual précis of it remain here and here. It has been difficult to research 5PT properly since the disappearance of its blog, but what struck Metternich at first face was scepticism about the tribalist response to nationalism. Whilst 5PT was correct to identify the nation as, in essence, a large tribe, the solution in this large-scale civilisation world does not appear to me to be to fracture and nomadise nations in a “Great Migration” style ethnic upheaval, but rather, to do the opposite.

The introduction to 5PT concluded:

5PT says our choices are as such: We become that immigrant community living in a strange land, or we go to the mall and never come back. There are forces which cannot be fought, but only ridden. The Atlanticist order will not allow itself to be voted out of existence, and if we are to be pushed from the world stage as nations, we will simply have to find another abode as a people.

Most people would never wish to leave their “abode as people.” So why not link these abodes together? Once again, we are led back to Dugin and Russian nationalism. We must change how we understand nationalism, or rather, we must rediscover nationalism, whilst at the same time ending our nostalgic connexion with the idea of nationhood. The largest empires of history: Rome, HRE, Byzantium, Arabia, Russia, and so on, represent what Metternichian Theory considers to be the solution: the Imperium. More on that in the next entry in the development of MetTh.

“If only they would look beyond the Mountain and its escarpments, down to the rich plains below, perhaps those Molochites would know true prosperity; but as the philosopher said, it is hard to free the ignorant from the chains which they revere.”

Anglo-Utilitarian Angst

Amongst academics of the Western world, it has become overwhelmingly popular to subscribe to Marxism, but of course, we knew that. There is one other option, which itself is becoming something of the reserve of academic fossils, yet remains popular with some of the youthful generation of College teachers, that curious force: New Liberalism. As a movement, New Liberalism is something of a spent force, having been subsumed within the liberal neo-Marxist Zeitgeist, but it remains alive in its purer form in the spirit of those vestiges of Rawlsian liberals who remember taking their undergraduate exams in moral philosophy in the 1980s, and in turn, in the students of these ’80s ‘justice-mongerers.’ Rawls himself was not a utilitarian, but he did write in the preface to the utilitarian philosopher, Henry Sidgwick’s work, The Methods of Ethics, of a healthy respect for the “classical utilitarian doctrine.”

My own experience of the study of utilitarianism has always led back to a variety of liberalism, whether radical like Bentham or more conservative like Sidgwick, Mill’s inescapable adage that “stupid people are generally Conservative” haunts every page of utilitarian thought. Perhaps then, it is not so surprising that utilitarianism has come to be described as one of the most widely-appreciated schools of thought in the Anglophone world. Like all moral philosophy, however, utilitarianism is doomed to bleed into politics and economics, being as it is, fundamentally concerned with “maximising utility and minimising pain.” There have been attempts to separate politics from utility, but to little avail. Consider Sidgwick’s offering in Methods:

I provisionally distinguish the study of Ethics from that of Politics, which seeks to determine the proper constitution and the right public conduct of governed societies. . .it seems clear that an attempt to ascertain the general laws or uniformities by which the varieties of human conduct, and of men’s sentiments and judgements respecting conduct, may be explained, is essentially different from an attempt to determine which among these varieties of conduct is right, and which of these divergent conducts is valid. It is then, the systematic consideration of these latter questions which constitutes, in my view, the special and distinct aim of Ethics and Politcs.

A valiant effort perhaps, but no more than valiant. Sidgwick falls foul of a fallacy which seems to be something of a common theme throughout all utilitarian philosophy: he does not accept the normativity of utilitarianism, rather he seems to treat utilitarianism as though it is self-evident, as though everyone is utilitarian by natural disposition, to use his words, he is not trying to persuade the reader that utilitarianism is “right,” or that they “ought to be” utilitarian, but that utilitarianism is an aspect of “human conduct” which needs to be “explained.”

In Chapter IV of John Stuart Mill’s book Utilitarianism he famously declares:

No reason can be given why the general happiness is desirable, except that each person, so far as he believes it to be attainable, desires his own happiness. This, however, being a fact we have not only all the proof which the case admits of, but all which it is possible to require, that happiness is a good: that each person’s happiness is a good to that person, and the general happiness therefore, a good to the aggregate of all persons.

Of course, the principle of utility fails once that which a utilitarian counts as “happiness” (generally being concerned with material, or hedonistic, pleasure) is not used by the individual as a means to their happiness; for example the ascetic hermit who derives more happiness from self-denial than from indulgence, or the sadist who derives happiness from the denial of happiness and infliction of pain upon others. Jeremy Bentham also angered many moralists of his time by arguing that the term “moral right” itself referred to “maximising utility,” and thus argued that anyone who argued for the nature of moral right to be anything else was nonsensical. In sum: utilitarians live under a dangerous self-delusion, a delusion which reassures them of their righteousness in the face of opposition, despite the glaring fallacies of their own philosophy which led even John Stuart Mill to a mental breakdown in the early years of his life. Utilitarians fool themselves into believing that their theory is practice when in reality, utilitarianism is pure theory, separated from practice by a wide margin. Mill knew this, but embraced the above delusion to remedy his depression.

What is the legacy of utilitarianism? Being concerned with utility and hedonism of all kinds, it has most famously been used as a justification for various modes of capitalism throughout the ages, from laissez-faire to managed oligopoly. Mill’s utilitarianism was used as a justification for various legislative reforms, and Mill himself was an early champion of the “emancipation of women” (itself a strange turn of phrase) who proposed a complete re-write of the contract of marriage. Meanwhile Bentham’s maxim of moral intent: “[that there ought to be] the greatest happiness to the greatest number” was at once leapt upon by social welfarists, and venture capitalists, who were otherwise unable to reconcile their affinity with the unsavoury egoism of industrial capitalism with obvious economic quagmire of welfarism. John Mills in his Critical History of Economics (2002) quotes Bentham as being “on the whole the most influential of the immediate successors to Adam Smith.”

Adam Smith himself is not contemptible in all scenarios, but his optimism in the face of the sort of economic system he envisaged was perhaps the most glaring flaw in the so-called “classical” system of economics. Ultimately, despite attempts to separate Smith from the New Liberal breed of left-utilitarians and utilitarian socialists (a term which Mill used to describe himself towards the end of his life) for the sake of the libertarian deification of laissez-faire economists, he is inescapably implicated in the Western world’s economic and social train wreck. The problems with Smithian economics, and the fears surrounding his “English model” were recognised by the old conservatives of the European continent. To the end of understanding the early objections to this Anglo-worldview, and the reasons why we still suffer from it, I shall leave the reader with a quote from the work of that favourite of mine, Adam Müller’s Elements of Statecraft.

A note: that Müller extensively critiques the economic model of physiocracy, a term which he seems to use synonymously with ‘classical economics,’ but strictly refers to an Enlightenment school originating in France, developed from but distinct in many ways from mercantilism, emphasising the concept of ‘national wealth’ derived from land and property on a utilitarian basis, rather than the wealth of the ruler: a feature of mercantilism, which Müller equally criticises for its obsession with physical gold. These schools of thought form the direct ancestors of Smith’s classical system, and as such, our own. Emphases added:

State economics has been a study of its own for less than a hundred years: the more that the concept of absolute private property took hold in all areas of life, and as a consequence, the idol-worship of materialism took hold, were people paid less both in person and in word (for that is real money); the possession of metal money seemed to become more important, as it seemed to guarantee the strict demarcation of private property, by giving its external justification to the spirit of Roman Law, and operating under the delusion that there are still centralised states, at least for a time. The World was built upon the possession of things: so first she strove for gold, and when the Indians were unwilling to indulge her, Man in his arrogance dared to try and force gold out of metal via alchemy—a distraction which captured even the most intelligent minds of Europe. The governments of the people did not realise that they had lost their hearts, for they themselves were preoccupied with this general enchantment; they instinctively felt that, in order to maintain their rule, they must first enthrone a new ruler of the world, metal money. Whereas before the call of one’s lord had sufficed, now the knights of gold came to the rescue, should the call of said lord not be answered. Military and civilian service was to be acquired in no better manner than a simple purchase, tenancy, or salaried labourer: in short, by ordinary rather than honourable obligation.

[…]

The first person to develop this ‘mercantile system’ as he called it, at least to the fullest extent, was Colbert—if one wishes to descend to his level, a ‘virtuoso’—a product of his time, and even unto the age of the physiocrats, an idol and exemplar for all European financiers. His system fit all too well with the spirit of the century, and like all such spirits, disappeared before the circumstances it produced could be altered.

The physiocrats and Adam Smith, it must be conceded, through philosophy and rich experience, have brought to light many eternal and living truths, and yet they have not been able to weave them practically into the fabric of reality. . .When Adam Smith calls for freedom from the hated mercantile barriers, all intelligent folk defer to him. . .this is due to our constant separation of theory from practice: the redeeming factor of the Government of Circumstance, which was Colbert’s system, was that it was still able to maintain a high degree of certainty, but this has been taken from our hands; hence, these intelligent do-gooders in reality play a sad role in economy.

Before you can free men’s hearts, will you not free their industry?

[…]

Whereas, according to the model of the family, liberty is divided between the liberty of the aged and the liberty of the youth, into the liberty of man and the liberty of woman, in this economic model is liberty shared equally between the aged and the youth, the man and the woman—do not be put off by this obvious paradox; this paradox is not my own, but of the one-sided views which we learn from this very young field of study which I have called national economics. This study only came into existence when, as I have shown, metal money was already governing the minds of Men; therefore, just like metal money, this philosophy is merely related to the happiness of material things; we do not see the significance of persons, no, they are left out of this philosophy. But I have shown that we have been subjected to raise our reverence of money higher and higher through time, since common money is no longer sufficient to mediate and conciliate the difference of needs—so with this trend comes the need to refer to material things and personal property. Under this system, labour must be conceived as an idea and enforced upon all individuals within the state, all persons and things. So let us transform the old into spiritual guides; the youthful into strong workmen; men into reproducers; women into those who minister to the desires of men. . .

Every citizen is both an enthusiast and a producer, a buyer and a seller—apparently he seeks his own happiness through this cycle of production and consumption of material things. So this philosophy considers there to be no more characteristics to the citizen than those of buyer and seller.

This is the result of the philosophy of material happiness:

Does the State have anything to do with production?

Should the State leave leave it up to nature to direct want and consumption?

No, no! 1.) The State should permeate the whole; in the mind of the State, the citizen should be free to treat his fellow citizens as competitors, not as brothers.

2.) In the mind of the State, citizens should only desire, and consume.

Not one ounce of nature is to be tolerated in this State, for this is the new Nature of Statesmanship.

Punching Right in Britain

In my post about the Liberal-Conservative dichotomy I briefly mentioned the example of John Reeves, a High Tory activist put on trial with the support of the Tory government of his day for being too Tory for the Tories, (in)famously declaring that if the Commons and Lords were cut away, the English constitution would remain intact so long as the monarchy remained firm.

Nothing as truly conservative as Reeves’ sedition has occurred in our own time, what with the strange death of High Tories, alter Konservatismus and all, but as a little auxiliary to the aforementioned post, consider the examples of Martin Sellner, Brittany Pettibone, and Lauren Southern being detained and banned from the UK, the latter under the Terrorism Act in particular, which has come to the fore in the last few days.

The following response in Brussels from Jill Seymour, a UKIP MEP, may be of interest here. Caveat: I do not endorse her (very liberal) critique. It is nevertheless worth the time to watch and evaluate. In reality, this has little to do with Islamic moral panics and “blasphemy laws.” Many British Muslims don’t care about such things. The matter here is a question of acceptable discourse, and for the liberal breed of modern English Tories, any kind of flirtation with too far right-of-centre politics is unacceptable discourse. They punch much harder to the right than they do to the left even today.

Still, if there was any proof needed of the topsy-turvy world in which we live, the example of British Tories persecuting classical liberal nationalists like Lauren Southern for being the wrong sort of liberal must surely fit the bill.

world-turn-upside-down

Conservatism vs. Liberalism — False Dichotomies

It is easy, once politically ‘active,’ to become consumed by the yearning desires of one of the many-sided sides of modern political theory. Most history textbooks will teach you that all developments within European polities since at least the classical age have been defined by an antagonistic relationship between two forces: be it the optimates and populares in Rome, Whigs and Tories in England, Jacobins and Royalists in France, Junker and Bürger in Germany—I could go on. The pattern is always the same, caught between the reformists and populists versus the doomed and obstinate curmudgeons who pledge loyalty to the old order. The same is true of modern political discourse. The dominance of the ‘broad churchers’, especially in nations such as the United States and United Kingdom has distilled acceptable political discourse into two camps: the quasi-socialist-New Liberal spectrum vocally championing the cause of social justice, and the quasi-classical liberal-moderate conservative spectrum garnering votes on the false premise that the liberals would destroy our precious capitalism if they got their hands on it. Venture too far to the left of the former, and you soon reach the level of an anarcho-communist, who cannot be taken seriously; too far right of the neocons and, well, you are indeed “far right” and you are afforded the same level of respect as the anarchist by the populace, whilst at the same time drawing the ire of the censors who would rather that this Church of Neopolitics remained safely unblasphemed. If one stops to think seriously about the real nature of political organisation, however, one will see the truth staring them in the face: spectra don’t lend themselves well to dichotomies. Saying that politics can be simply divided into liberal and conservative is about as stupid as trying to argue that the visible colour spectrum can only be expressed as black and white.

When appealing to the political thought of the Old Right, therefore, it is cogent to seek ways to reject this noxious description of political movement—Bewegung, to use the term of one great German essayist. Of course, Bewegung can mean many things, but here, we can use it as a means to explore our topic further. When we talk of political movement, we mean its adaptation to new situations, not merely historical, but internal. It is if you like a way of understanding the meta-State, how the State views itself. “Who calls the State a machine, and its members merely cogs?” So asked Müller in 1809. The reality is of course that this is how we have come to view the State, a concept so complex and unmouldable that attempts to make it mouldable seem to be doomed to spiral into self-confusion. The truth of course is that healthy political movement requires a freedom from the constraints of modern normative ideology, which alas is something seen on every street corner today, and is a natural result of the parliamentarisation of most states of the Western world. There is always some partisan at the door persuading the half-disillusioned voter that his method is the best path forward, the problem being that the partisan will only be able to offer said path for four-to-five years, after which there may be a different path in the works. Ideology does not only fail because democratic perception is fickle, however, but also because strict ideology does not truly exist.

Consider these examples of historical counterrevolutionary writers, and try to work out whether they can be categorised as “ideologically x.” Consider the thoughts of the ubiquitous Edmund Burke expressed in a letter of 1789 upon the outbreak of the French Revolution:

[I am astonished] at the wonderful spectacle exhibited in a neighbouring and rival country…the spirit is impossible not to admire, but the old Parisian ferocity has broken out in a shocking manner.

A temperate response, not overtly supportive, but with hints of admiration, in any case fairly removed from his more polemical offering after the events of ’89 had passed:

The French have shown themselves the ablest architects of ruin that have hitherto existed in the world. In this very short space of time they have completely pulled down to the ground, their monarchy; their church; their nobility; their law; their revenue; their army; their navy; their commerce; their arts; and their manufactures…

It is important to note that Burke’s critique represents the epitome of the Enlightened politician’s response to a little too much Enlightenment. Whilst it is a telling sign of the Counter-Enlightenment which will follow him that he begins his list of sins with “monarchy”, he cannot help but include law, revenue and the military in there, as though these things exist as though independent entities from the monarch and Church. Burke is at once the Enlightenment saviour of liberty and the father of an anti-liberal reaction. I shall use another example, this time from the continent.

To think of the Counter-Enlightenment is to think of an overwhelmingly “old conservative” affair, but there was as much a liberal-radical reaction against Revolution as there was a conservative one. Consider the case of Karl von Rotteck, an early German ‘national liberal,’ whose work Allgemeine Geschichte (Universal History) fully pledges its support to the thesis of Whig history. Yet Rotteck, who began like Burke initially sympathetic to the French, was no friend to the Revolutionaries:

Karl von Rotteck alone placed ethics over power…An enthusiastic supporter of the French Revolution, Rotteck nevertheless dedicated his Universal History, of which the first volume appeared in 1812, to the struggle […] against Napoleon, a struggle which Rotteck continued against post-Napoleonic reaction…The invasion of his Rhenish homelands by the French and the legal implications of their occupation outraged Rotteck, whose sense of justice was closely linked to his political nationalism.

— G. G. Iggers, The German Conception of History (1983)

It is well-known fact that contemporary “compassionate conservatism” is deferent to liberalism, and whilst many of Rotteck’s ideas, had they been proposed by a modern historian, would be considered (hopelessly) right-wing. Yet nationalism, which formed the basis of Rotteck’s political ethics, is not a conservative phenomenon; Napoleon was (publically at least) an arch-nationalist, and it was when French republican nationalism encroached upon German integrity that Rotteck’s ire was drawn. As a matter of fact, the anti-nationalist and legitimist right of the Revolutionary era was not treated with a great deal more respect in countries which opposed the Revolution than in Republican France itself, as detailed in the case of John Reeves, a Tory provocateur and strangely enough, victim of persecution from the same people who one would think would be ‘on his side.’

The Conservative-Liberal dichotomy is a symptom of parliamentarism, but more importantly, where parliaments exist, only the acceptable forms of conservatism and liberalism are permitted to flourish. Contemporary conservatism has grown away from the Counter-Enlightenment as a result of the acceptance of ‘classical liberalism’ as some kind of bedrock of tradition itself! Consider John Stuart Mill’s assault upon Toryism:

I did not mean that Conservatives are generally stupid; I meant that stupid persons are generally Conservative. I believe that to be so obvious and undeniable that I hardly think any honourable gentleman will question it.

Mill wasn’t especially wrong. It took a degree of foolery to be a supporter of the 19th century British Conservative Party, insofar as that the last expression of genuine High Toryism, which did perceive the House of Commons and House of Lords as mere accessories to monarchical government, died in the 1830s with Catholic Emancipation and a series of parliamentary reforms. With the High Tories died the Divine Right of Kings, a concept already weak on the continent as a result of various revolutions, but quite widely appreciated in Britain up until the 1820s (vide: J. C. D. Clark, English Society 1688-1832, 1985), and there have been few expressions of this worldview, besides the odd nostalgic tribute act, such as Disraeli’s ‘Tory democracy,’ since.

I would argue, however, that these expressions of what are now considered “ultra-conservative” opinions are not especially “conservative.” Modern conservatism, if you want to call it that, sprung from the liberalism of the likes of Burke in the Anglo world and Rotteck on the continent. Even Chateaubriand, one of history’s most famous royalists, expressed initial sympathy with the Revolution, maintaining unto the end of his life this creed: “I am a Bourbonist out of honour, a monarchist out of reason, and a republican out of taste and temperament.” On that basis, the only mainstream political options of the modern age are the children of moderate liberalism on one hand and radical liberalism on the other. When faced with a disjunctive choice between liberalism or liberalism, there is clearly a problem. The present paradigm is thus worthy of rejection.

Genuine political movement requires a freedom from such ideological constraints. I do not mean by this a strange “freedom of speech” style solution where ideology has freedom to mob every long-suffering soul in the public square. What I mean is: it is not especially “conservative” to wish to maintain a society which values monarchy, the customs and traditions of an old family, and the relationship between various states which makes up a whole—rather, it is eminently sensible, being an expression of loyalty and stability. Rather than placing “reason” or “tradition” on a high throne as the liberal or the conservative does, it seems far more practical to have a legitimate ruler upon said throne, answerable to that transcendental force which sits above the comprehension of all Men.