Friday, 23 May 2014

Reacting to Neoreaction

Recently I have been taking an interest in an internet-based political movement called the "neoreactionary" movement- in practice, consisting of little more than a handful of bloggers who have used the medium of the internet very successfully to generate interest in their activities and philosophy. More pompously referred to as the "Dark Enlightenment," this fledgling ideology has been surprisingly well developed. The founder goes by the name Mencius Moldbug, who coined the term "Dark Enlightenment" and may or may not be a rejected Marvel villain. His thoughts can be found over at his blog Unqualified Reservations. Mr Moldbug is not very good at being succinct, and his posts are horrendously long and tedious- and this is coming from someone who managed to wade through The Communist Manifesto. As such I must confess that I have managed to conquer very little of Mr Moldbug's writings myself, but have relied principally on secondary sources for my understanding of neoreaction and the "Dark Enlightenment."

Edward, the Black Prince, kneels before his father
King Edward III; a vision of a world neoreactionaries
would like to see back, perhaps.
Other neoreactionary blogs, or blogs associated to some degree with Moldbug and his views, include More Right, run by a small group of neoreactionary thinkers ; The Anti-Democracy Activist, an anti-democratic, traditionalist blogger who has occasionally spoke of Moldbug with praise; Occam's Razor, who provides us with "reactionary musings from the Dark Enlightenment"; Foseti, who is mentioned everywhere and therefore must be important; and Outside In, another neoreactionary blog. Of course, there are others. These are just the ones I've come across and managed to read a little bit of. It's a very diverse group of people, with links to various other blogger communities that I had no idea existed, such as the "Manosphere". Which is about men, I'm sort of guessing. My interest in these bloggers was sparked by the revelation that at least a sizable proportion of them are monarchists, advocating for the return of hereditary monarchy and aristocracy (they are largely American, of course; here in the UK we still have hereditary monarchy and aristocracy, thank heavens, though they're somewhat watered down these days). The neoreactionary I have read the most, Michael Anissimov who is one of several contributors over at More Right, is particularly keen on monarchy, aristocracy and tradition. He is also a member of the "techno-commercialist" faction within the neoreactionary caucus, more on which later.

Apart from a common (though apparently not universal) desire to revive Europe's hereditary elites, there are a number of other canons of neoreactionary thought. Foremost among these is the idea of "The Cathedral," which neoreactionaries stridently oppose. "The Cathedral" is the neoreactionary name for the informal consensus between governments, the media and educators that supports Progressive ideology and works to silence any competing theory by branding any opposition as "evil" and "regressive" or "backwards." This is a great conspiracy that, like Goldman Sachs, can be imagined as a giant vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, sucking it dry. The Cathedral likes democracy and equality. Neoreactionaries therefore oppose both, and instead believe in strict social hierarchies. I'm a fan of hierarchies myself. However, beyond this there is a large degree of disagreement between competing factions of neoreactionaries. Some neoreactionaries have invented a system that classifies them into three distinct, but overlapping, groups; techno-commercialists, theonomists/religious traditionalists, and racists ethnicists/nationalists.

From the blog Habitable Worlds, a more complex
breakdown of the "Dark Enlightenment"
The techno-commercialists appear to have largely arrived at neoreaction via right-wing libertarianism. They are defiant free marketeers, sharing with other ultra-capitalists such as Randian Objectivists a preoccupation with "efficiency," a blind trust in the power of the free market, private property, globalism and the onward march of technology. However, they are also believers in the ideal of small states, free movement and absolute or feudal monarchies with no form of democracy. The idea of "exit," predominantly a techno-commercialist viewpoint but found among other neoreactionaries too, essentially comes down to the idea that people should be able to freely exit their native country if they are unsatisfied with its governance- essentially an application of market economics and consumer action to statehood. Indeed, countries are often described in corporate terms, with the King being the CEO and the aristocracy shareholders.

The "theonomists" place more emphasis on the religious dimension of neoreaction. They emphasise tradition, divine law, religion rather than race as the defining characteristic of "tribes" of peoples and traditional, patriarchal families. They are the closest group in terms of ideology to "classical" or, if you will, "palaeo-reactionaries" such as the High Tories, the Carlists and French Ultra-royalists. Often Catholic and often ultramontanist. Finally, there's the "ethnicist" lot, who believe in racial segregation and have developed a new form of racial ideology called "Human Biodiversity" (HBD) which says people of African heritage are naturally less intelligent than people of Caucasian and east Asian heritage. Of course, the scientific community considers the idea that there are any genetic differences between human races beyond melanin levels in the skin and other cosmetic factors to be utterly false, but presumably this is because they are controlled by "The Cathedral." They like "tribal solidarity," tribes being defined by shared ethnicity, and distrust outsiders.

Overlap between these groups is considerable, but there are also vast differences not just between them but within them. What binds them together is common opposition to "The Cathedral" and to "progressive" ideology. Some of their criticisms of democracy and modern society are well-founded, and some of them make good points in defence of the monarchical system. However, I don't much like them, and I doubt they'd much like me.

Louis XVIII, le Désiré, of France,
 first King of France and Navarre
after the Bourbon Restoration.
Whereas neoreactionaries are keen on the free market and praise capitalism, unregulated capitalism is something I am wary of. Capitalism saw the collapse of traditional monarchies in Europe in the 19th century, and the first revolutions were by capitalists seeking to establish democratic, capitalist republics where the bourgeoisie replaced the aristocratic elite as the ruling class; setting an example revolutionary socialists would later follow. Capitalism, when unregulated, leads to monopolies, exploitation of the working class, unsustainable practices in pursuit of increased short-term profits, globalisation and materialism. Personally, I prefer distributist economics, which embrace private property rights but emphasise widespread ownership of wealth, small partnerships and cooperatives replacing private corporations as the basic units of the nation's economy. And although critical of democracy, the idea that any form of elected representation for the lower classes is anathaema is not consistent with my viewpoint; my ideal government would not be absolute or feudal monarchy, but executive constitutional monarchy with a strong monarch exercising executive powers and the legislative role being at least partially controlled by an elected parliament- more like the Bourbon Restoration than the Ancien Régime, though I occasionally say "Vive l'Ancien Régime!" on forums or in comments to annoy progressive types. Finally, I don't believe in racialism in any form. I tend to attribute preoccupations with racial superiority to deep insecurity which people find the need to suppress by convincing themselves that they are "racially superior" to others, in absence of any actual talent or especial ability to take pride in. The 20th century has shown us where dividing people up based on their genetics leads us, and it is not somewhere I care to return to.

In conclusion, neoreactionaries would probably consider me to have been influenced by "The Cathedral," with my conciliatory view towards democracy, my rejection of racial differences and my criticisms of free market capitalism. God only knows what they'd make of my decidedly progressive views on environmental and animal rights issues. In future, in addition to more discussion of the fast-approaching Scottish independence referendum and Scottish/British monarchical history, I would like to delve more into my own ideological viewpoints and draw a picture of a traditionalist, monarchist, even reactionary world quite different to that presented by the neoreactionary movement. Still, I welcome debate, I welcome new support for the international reactionary cause, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss with neoreactionaries our mutual beliefs and interests- and perhaps even win some over to my side of the fence, and learn a little myself.

Not too much, though. An open mind is like a fortress with its gates unbarred and unguarded.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think all neoractionaries are necessarily enamored of free market capitalism. More Right has been critical of it and of libertarianism. I find the movement of interest as well.