Month: March 2014
The previous post was to say that I see the real division within the Dark Enlightenment as being between a strategy of converting the elite (neoreaction) and a strategy of replacing the elite (paleoreaction). In America, that might line up somewhat as neocameralism vs monarchy, but that isn’t really the dividing line. There are those supporting monarchism because they can accept nothing else, but there are also neoreactionary monarchists, such as myself, who choose monarchism as strategically preferable to other neoreactionary options.I concentrate on Britain, and I see monarchist rule as entirely feasible for Britain given any kind of large-scale visible failure of the existing regime. That doesn’t put me on the paleo side of the divide I described earlier. I could easily see myself being persuaded by the neocameralists if they can solve the corporate-governance problem more convincingly than Moldbug managed to do.
Moldbug’s method of guaranteeing shareholders’ rights is to have a computer system which can sabotage the management’s control if authorised to do so by a majority of shareholders voting via a secure automated cryptographic protocol. I never considered that practically workable. If you change the software, or even cause some change in the way the software operates, then you can modify who has rights over the state. I do not envision a system made so reliable and secure that that could not happen.
There may be other mechanisms that would work. Bitcoin is a promising example: as in Moldbuggian Neocameralism, the software says who has what rights under the system. However, the software is not running in a sealed untamperable box; it runs on my PC and yours, and it can be and has been changed. However, it is in the interests of everyone who uses the system that rights be protected and maintained according to the common understanding of the users of the system.
There’s a big gap from that principle to a working neocameralism, but I am able to hope it might be bridged.
In the meantime, I am looking at a different gap, between a situation in which British democracy has failed and the King has taken temporary control, and a situation where his authority is accepted as permanent. I think that is bridgeable, in certain plausible circumstances. I certainly don’t think that working on this puts me on the opposite side of any fission to Nick Land.
What makes my proposed monarchy neoreactionary is that the political formula supporting it is not primarily tradition or religion, but pragmatic and rational. The former democrats who will be part of the system will have have changed their view on a lot of practical, empirical questions, but not on the way they see the world
Up until this point, I’ve been careful to avoid arguing against old-style Throne-and Altar reaction. The main reason is that neoreaction and paleoreaction simply aren’t in competition as ideologies: their resemblance in conclusion is a kind of coincidence, as they are built on entirely different premises. Nobody who considers themselves even close to one of them has any possibility of agreeing with the other. Meanwhile, the similarity in conclusions means that neoreactionaries and paleoreactionaries are potential allies in spite of utterly different assumptions, and effort is better expended on creating critiques of one’s enemies than one’s allies.
The reason for addressing now the shortcomings of paleoreaction is not to isolate from paleoreactionaries, but to explain why neoreaction is important.
In a phrase, liberalism beats reaction. Reaction exists, and has existed for as long as liberalism has been upsetting the old order, but it has not stopped Cthulu swimming leftward, and, based on the premises of the old order, it never will.
Liberalism claims that it is right of the people to alter or to abolish a form of government, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Reactionaries have traditionally held that the people have no such right. The problem is that is a very difficult proposition to argue for, particularly once the opposite view has become well-established. There just aren’t arguments that will work against a “self-evident truth”.
Neoreactionaries might succeed where paleoreactionaries have failed because they do not need to dispute that self-evident truth. The neoreactionary response is not “you have no such right”, but “you may indeed have such a right, but having the right to do crazy shit like that doesn’t make it a good idea.”
That might not be very convincing either, but at least it’s a basis for an argument. Since neoreactionaries start out as liberals, even if heterodox liberals such as libertarians, we know it is possible to persuade liberals to a neoreactionary point of view. Whether this path can lead to victory is not certain, but there is not two hundred and fifty years of failure to demonstrate otherwise.
This vital difference expresses itself in strategy. Because paleoreactionaries cannot persuade liberals, their strategy is instead to fight or escape them. The priorities that result from that strategy are to organise and to grow in numbers.
For neoreactionaries who hope to subvert the existing elite from within their own culture, the priorities are completely different. Heading for the hills does not help to transform our own societies, and street-fighting does not separate us from the existing political sphere. The priority is to improve the arguments, build the theory, expand the intellectual community able to provide an alternative to politics.
Via @EsotericTrad , this utterly loopy piece by Brett Stevens. Apparently, the Dark Enlightenment is all about replacing the elite with people power. Really.
In the “Dark Enlightenment” lexicon, the opposite of the Cathedral is the bazaar. Where the Cathedral is based upon idealized collective issues forced into consensus and acted on by institutions, in other words a classic top-down arrangement, the bazaar is bottom-up and non-organized. It is what happens when people get together and do what makes sense to them without deference to the elites.
@EsotericTrad asked whether anyone had ever seen a DE writer mention the Bazaar in this sense, assuming not. I had thought not, and had said so earlier when esr asked whether the “Cathedral” concept derived from his famous essay on software development, “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”.
@nydwracu knew better, though, and pointed esr to Moldbug’s Open Letter part XIV.
The Cathedral is called the Cathedral for another reason: it’s not the Bazaar. Coding, frankly, is pretty easy. Reinterpreting reality is hard. Nonetheless, I think this thing will come down one of these days. And I would rather be outside it than under it.
Now, that’s an aside at the end of a 12,000-word “part XIV”, so it doesn’t seem a central concept. But it exists. What does it mean?
What Moldbug is criticising here is not the Cathedral’s centralizing of power, but its centralizing of truth.
In a democracy, mass opinion creates power. Power diverts funds to the manufacturers of opinion, who manufacture more, etc. Not a terribly complicated cycle.
This feedback loop generates a playing field on which the most competitive ideas are not those which best correspond to reality, but those which produce the strongest feedback.
What he is asking for is not “people power” but power divorced from opinion, so that there can be a diversity of opinion without a division of power (which, even more than most other DE/NRx writers, he is consistently and forcefully against).
Part of the confusion here stems from the overuse of the term “Cathedral”. Unlike many people who have written about his theories, Moldbug does not use the term to label the elite, or the powerful, or the state. It refers to the institutions that shape the beliefs and ideology of society (including the beliefs and ideology of the elite, the powerful, the state). Specifically, the elite universities and the respectable media.
Therefore when he criticizes the Cathedral in the piece quoted above, he is not directly attacking the structure of government (though he does plenty of that elsewhere), rather, he is criticizing the method of forming belief. When he implies it should be more bazaar-like, he is not saying government should be bazaar-like, he is saying the “information institutions” should be bazaar-like. A precondition for that is detaching them from the power-feedback loop he describes above.
The newspapers in Britain are full of something I mentioned as an aside in a post last year—the fact that 1970s consolidation of progressive power was the phase that included the dropping of legalised paedophilia as a progressive goal. The status of the Paedophile Information Exchange as an affiliate of the National Council of Civil Liberties was what I had in mind when I wrote that. It was never any secret.
The establishment line, coming from senior policiticans who shared platforms with paedophile campaigners forty years ago, is that their progressive movements were “infiltrated” by “evil” paedophiles, later driven out. Inasmuch as “infiltration” implies any degree of secrecy or misrepresentation at all, that is very obviously untrue. In the early 1970s, paedophilia was a progressive cause. Rock stars’ banging of underage groupies was seen as part of their general wildness and edginess. It might eventually end in tears, but the same goes for their other wild behaviour like dropping acid or driving sports cars at 100mph—sex with teenagers was seen as in the same moral category as these other excesses.
East Germany legalised homosexual sex in 1968, with an age of consent of 14. The NCCL, by campaigning a few years later for Britain to follow that example, was holding a perfectly respectable progressive position—and going even further. (NCCL supported reducing age of consent to 10 “in some circumstances”, which I think meant relationships between children).
The Guardian today quoted a letter from Patricia Hewitt, saying “Our proposal that the age of consent be reduced is based on the belief that neither the police nor the criminal courts should have the power to intervene in a consenting sexual activity between two young people.” That was the progressive position in 1976. There have been pictures of demonstrations against the PIE, but the placards brandished by the demonstrators carried the National Front logo—not a respectable organisation.
The question for historians to ask about the 1970s is not, “how could respectable people have supported paedophilia back then?”, rather, it is “how did they not succeed?” My original answer was that as the rebels became the establishment, they were forced to take some small measure of responsibility for keeping society together, and withdrew from a few of their most dangerous demands. That’s no more than a hypothesis really, since I have no particular evidence for it. The truth could possibly be even more interesting.
Update 16 March 2014
I just noticed on Wikipedia, that the Labour Party was proposing reducing the age of consent to 14 as late as 1998.