Tomorrow: Quotes from Oakeshott. I’ve also been posting about some UpWing stuff in a private fb group, so I might compile some of that together if it’s not too absolutely boring and trite. We’ll see.
The other day I was tinkering around in my garage and I decided to build a new ideology.
-Mencius Moldbug, A Formalist Manifesto
A Summary of the Neoreaction
Someone else [several others, really] has done an excellent job reviewing and summarizing Moldbug and the Internet Reactionaries. I won’t take Scott Alexander (a pseudonym, btw) as the final word since I enjoy Moldbug’s writing for the rhetoric of it anyway, but it was a great overview:
Reactionary Philosophy in an Enormous Planet-Sized Nutshell is an act by Alexander to pass the Ideological Turing Test with regard to reactionary thought. As Alexander notes:
I think Reactionaries are correct that some liberal ideas have managed to make their way into an echo chamber that makes them hard to examine.
And that’s really when Moldbug is at his best. Scott Alexander follows up with The Anti-Reactionary FAQ, a step-by-step refutation (and counter-responses here if you’re interested in the discourse). Interestingly, I think the summary (Planet-Sized Nutshell) was necessary in order for the FAQ to be built, since the most visible reactionaries don’t often have clean-cut summaries of their positions, and instead have a cloud of articles pointing at these same beliefs. It’s a great way to introduce a concept that might not sound as convincing if taken head-on and all at once. This makes sense- in describing the effect of his introductory posts, Moldbug uses an intense surgical metaphor, and other times he compares his posts to a particularly fiery “red pill”, a large and uncomfortable one with an apparently painful-tasting filling. There is a sort of pride that some of these posts take in their extremeness. Still, to engage with these ideas effectively, they need to be pinned down, given some shape and mass.
Historians of the Neoreaction
The above map came from “Habitable Worlds“, in a post where he also observed how neoreactionaries identify/separate themselves. It’s a short post, so I will not reproduce it here although it’s interesting.
But what are these underlying characteristics?
Here are some:
– A rejection of sociological universalism, and a preference for particularism.
– An acceptance of human biodiversity.
– An acceptance of science and futurism as a means to improve at least some peoples’ lives while not rejecting one’s ancestral folkways (i.e. archeofuturism). And a recognition that ‘progress’ will be available only to some, and not the entire human population.
– The recognition that there is no single best political order. As Aristotle notes in the Politics, some ethnies are better suited for monarchy; others, for aristocracy; others, for a limited form of politea.
– A realization that liberty is incompatible with democracy, and that democracy leads to mediocrity.
– A realization that terms like ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ and ‘feminist’ are beyond their expiration date.
– A concern with bio-politics, oriented to a particular people’s biological and demographic imperatives.
– A rejection of egalitarianism.
More Right (get it?) is also a great resource. Here is their October roundup, where I found a lot of great perspectives. Like Andrew Sullivan’s blog does for his Oakeshottian conservatism, More Right gives a sense of a neoreactionary historian, selecting and framing the conversation around them through the neoreactionary frame and building a canon out of a network of fellow bloggers. (Moldbug is the rarely-disputed Champion of the Neoreaction- he did not found it but he made this wave palatable).
A couple of interesting notes from that October roundup:
Why now? is tackled by the blogger Foseti. His explanation for the novelty of Neoreaction is that one of the key realizations of the intellectual movement : “is that progressivism has been beating its opponents for centuries. This concept is difficult to grasp because 1) none of us have lived through centuries and 2) since progressives always win, they always get to write the history. One of the necessary conditions for a Dark-Enlightenment-style movement was something like this or this.”
Sillicon Valley’s Ultimate Exit, a speech at Startup School 2013 by Balaji Srinivasan. He claims America is the Microsoft of nations, goes into an interesting discussion on Voice, Exit and good governence and continues with the wonderful observation that:“There’s four cities that used to run the United States in the postwar era: Boston with higher ed; New York City with Madison Avenue, books, Wall Street, and newspapers; Los Angeles with movies, music, Hollywood; and, of course, DC with laws and regulations, formally running it.” He names this the Paper Belt, and states the Valley has been unintentionally dumping horse heads in all of their beds for the past 20 years. I would name it The Cathedral and note the NYT does not approve of this kind of talk: “First the slave South, now this.” No seriously, that is the very first line.
Nick Land’s The Dark Enlightenment has created a lot of waves in his address of the neoreaction, its proponents and its beliefs. Jordan Peacock has excerpted some key passages in this series of Google+ posts, which I recommend because arbitrarily copy+pasting all of it here wouldn’t make sense.
[Michael] Lind and the ‘neo-reactionaries’ seem to be in broad agreement that democracy is not only (or even) a system , but rather a vector , with an unmistakable direction. Democracy and ‘progressive democracy’ are synonymous, and indistinguishable from the expansion of the state. Whilst ‘extreme right wing’ governments have, on rare occasions, momentarily arrested this process, its reversal lies beyond the bounds of democratic possibility.
If the state cannot be eliminated, Moldbug argues, at least it can be cured of democracy (or systematic and degenerative bad government), and the way to do that is to formalize it. This is an approach he calls ‘neo-cameralism’. […] The point of neo-cameralism is to buy out the real stakeholders in sovereign power, not to perpetuate sentimental lies about mass enfranchisement. Unless ownership of the state is formally transferred into the hands of its actual rulers, the neo-cameral transition will simply not take place, power will remain in the shadows, and the democratic farce will continue.
[…] the ruling class must be plausibly identified. It should be noted immediately, in contradistinction to Marxist principles of social analysis, that this is not the ‘capitalist bourgeoisie’. Logically, it cannot be. The power of the business class is already clearly formalized, in monetary terms, so the identification of capital with political power is perfectly redundant. It is necessary to ask, rather, who do capitalists pay for political favors , how much these favors are potentially worth, and how the authority to grant them is distributed. […] The conclusion of this exercise is the mapping of a ruling entity that is the truly dominant instance of the democratic polity. Moldbug calls it the Cathedral.
Gov-corp would concentrate upon running an efficient, attractive, vital, clean, and secure country, of a kind that is able to draw customers. No voice, free exit.