Month: October 2014

The Trichotomy Explained

Since Spandrell’s
celebrated blog post
of April 2013, neoreaction has been seen as a trinity, or “trichotomy”
of three principles: the Ethno-Nationalist principle, the
Techno-Commercial principle, and the Religious-Traditionalist
At a shallow level, neoreaction might appear nothing more than a
fragile aggregation of advocates of the three very distinct
principles—a coalition of rejectionists of the modern consensus. Most
outsiders, and some insiders, have seen it that way, leading to an
undercurrent of “fissionism”, of splitting up into three factions.
In spite of that there has always been at the core a dim awareness
that the three principles make up one whole, that neoreaction is more
than the aggregation of its parts. For all that, it has been unclear
whether that is meant as one agenda that embraces the three
principles, or rather one movement that encompasses three factions.
We talk about three, but in Spandrell’s original statement, the
Religious–traditional element is only grudgingly mentioned as a
possible third stream, and not examined. He is eloquent in his account
of being torn between the two other principles:
“If I had to say where I am, is the nationalist branch. But I used to
be more on the capitalist camp. The capitalist argument is quite
powerful: ethnic kinship is cool but the necessary corollary of it is
National-socialism. Or socialism itself. We used to have more
asabiyyah than now, but we also had no economic growth. For all the
nostalgia for the Victorian age, who wants to go back there? Who
prefers ethnic solidarity and purpose to modern medicine and
technology? Reaction is based on a fear of where we are headed,
certainly not on a dislike of how life is right now. Yes the proles
have become barbarians, but they never were that pleasant
anyway. Ethnic solidarity by itself is not necessarily conducing of
scientific progress and economic growth. And those I agree are good
“But the capitalism argument is to allow the market to do its
bidding. But what is its bidding right now? In the last decades it has
been towards a re-concentration of wealth. Plutocracy is coming back
with force. And yeah the plutocrats have made a lot of good stuff. The
argument goes that they might do even better stuff if the government
wasn’t messing with their ambitions through socialistic
regulations. Imagine all the economic growth they might unleash if
they were allowed to employ the proles for peanuts! What’s wrong with
slave camps if you get cheap cotton, huh?”

This argument is really the heart of neoreaction. In more recent
months we have employed the language of Gnon—the God of Nature or
Nature, reality which cannot be defied. In terms of Gnon, Spandrell’s
conflict is vivid.
Gnon requires creative destruction. There are more effective ways of
manipulating the physical world than those we currently employ. The
future belongs to those who find and employ those more effective
ways. Anything that ties us to the current ways, that prevents us from
trying new ways and using them if they are better, will incur the
wrath of Gnon.
The Techno-Commercial principle of Neoreaction is aligment with
creative destruction, with bankruptcy and the elimination of the
failed and the false.
That political identification with creative destruction—markets,
competition, freedom to innovate is where Moldbug came from, where I
came from, where, according to the extract above, Spandrell came
from. But it is not adequate. Gnon is not satisfied with creative
destruction alone. Gnon requires power.
A system can be designed, by libertarians or anarcho-capitalists, to
maximise creative destruction. But it cannot live. The society which
creates it might eschew power, leaving the forces of competition to
find the optimum solutions to problems. Others, however, will defect
from this view, and occupy the power vacuum. They might come from
outside, or from within, but they will come, and they will either
succeed, and reshape the society according to their particular group
interests, or the attacked will organise themselves to resist, forming
their own power centre, which will itself reshape society according to
its particular group interests. The potential of loyalty to a
succesful group is in human nature, it is given by Gnon. A society of
those who deny it will come to be ruled by those who do not.
If Creative Destruction is made concrete in technology and commerce,
group loyalty is made concrete in ethnic solidarity and
nationalism. They are not the only group loyalties possible, indeed
they are not the dominant ones in today’s West, but they are probably
in the long run the most stable and reliable. The neoreactionary study
of thedes is the science of this principle of Gnon.
The true neoreactionary, following Spandrell, attempts to balance the
creativity of techno-commercialism with the stability of
ethno-nationalism. Really, that is the whole problem. It being the
whole problem, nobody should expect it to be easy, and it is not. In
practical application, embodied in the culture of a society,
Techno-commercialism is in deadly conflict with
Ethno-nationalism. Markets undermine stable positions of power, blur
boundaries between in-group and out-group, invite cosmopolitanism and
compete away loyalty. National loyalties obstruct trade, splinter
markets, paralyse innovation, preserve the unfit in defiance of
Gnon. There is no equilibrium to be reached between the two, no
dividing line between where each one can act. In a thousand decisions,
the choice must be made again and again between the right
techno-commercial answer and the right ethno-nationalist answer.
This unstable mix can, when the proportions are right, survive and
prosper. But the long-run danger is always that one will overpower the
other completely, collapsing the society into unproductive socialist
nationalism or into hostile memetic capture by an acquisitive
thede. It could even be argued, that in today’s West, the principle of
balance has survived, but we have the worst of both worlds: a society
ruled by a minority thede, in which the point of compromise is to
suppress creative destruction. The ruling thede is not a nation or an
ethnicity, but a fluid ideologically-based club whose members must
endlessly and destructively compete against each other to retain their
membership. Competition in the ruling thede, stagnation in the market.
What then is the neoreactionary solution to the hard problem of
getting the benefit of both techno-commercialism and thede loyalty at
the same time in the same society? There must be an active management
of the competing needs. That management cannot be built on either
principle, or there can be no balance. It must come from outside
both. But, since both have the force of Gnon between them, it must
have some power of its own, some authority independent of both
commerce and thede, which can impose on either or both as the
situation required.
What can fill this role is, frankly, still an open question for
me. The most promising possibilities so far suggested are the
authority of tradition and the authority of religion. Either one can,
in the right cultural setting, empower a judge to rule for competition
or for loyalty as necessary for the long-term good of the
society. This is the role of the third principle of the neoreactionary
trichotomy: to be the respected arbiter between the first two.
The trichotomy therefore in its most general form consists of creative
destruction, thede loyalty, and authority, but makes most immediate
sense as techno-commercialism, ethno-nationalism and
On this framework, a huge amount of very productive earth becomes
available for working. What have the effects been of thede alignments
divorced from ethnicity? (I only touched on that above in the barest
sense). How, and how effectively, have present and past societies
achieved balance between the competitive and stabilising forces? Has
such success as they have achieved been accidental, or is it
repeatable? How have conflicts within each of the three elements
affected the overall balance: church and state, nation and region,
corporation and entrepreneur? The value in my analysis lies in the
degree to which these questions can be answered usefully.