Epistemological underpinnings of political theory

The underpinning of political theory is epistemology. On first blush, this would seem to make no sense, as the link is not obvious, but the link is there.

Good examples of this link are found when examining the genesis of attempts at rejection of the current dominate paradigm of empiricism backed/ infused progressivism. The roots of this progressivism are intertwined with empiricism, which is derived from protestant roots. I have covered this before, and made the case that Liberalism/ progressivism/ empricism/positivism is one great web of anti-thought that is the negative impression left by the high-low mechanism. An anti-tradition that has no defining or logical coherence except as an anti-everything not central power approved. A web of ideas and concepts constantly promoted by power with no other explanation for this zeitgeist.

The first good example is provided by Fascism, which was premised on an epistemology crisis and rejection of empiricism. It is a really fascinating avenue of investigation, especially when you go to the primary sources and read what the fascist intellectuals wrote. Take for example the essay by Corrada Gini of the Gini co-efficient fame titled “The Scientific Basis of Fascism” in which he states:

“…Fascism, which had at the outset presented a program essentially liberal in character, came to adopt, little by little, the program of the Nationalist party…”

This adoption of nationalist theory would result in “irreconcilability”  with liberals because:

“The liberal theory assumes that society consists of an aggregate of individuals who must look after their own interests and it regards the state as an emanation of the individual wills intended to eliminate the conflicts the conflicts between the interests of individuals.The nationalistic theory on the contrary, views society as a true and distinct organism of a rank superior to that of the individuals who compose it, an organism endowed with a life of its own and with interests of its own.”

further:

“This concept has also points of contact with the Socialist concept in that both assume the ideal of a collectivity superior to the interest if the individuals composing it…the essential difference between Fascism and Socialistic current of thought…[is that] The Fascists perceive this unity in the nation, while the Socialist recognize it, at least theoretically – even at the cost of sacrificing their native land – in the larger human society.”

The clear recognition that Liberalism is the main current from which all has reacted from in modernity is observed with:

“The very nucleus, of the Fascist movement has been built of ex-Socialists” many of whom had “rallied to the Socialist party not so much because of its positive economic programe, as because of its negative program of protest against the aimless individualism of the Liberal regime.”

Political organisation as such is rejected as being the sum of the underlying empirically divined will of the population (like democracy.) The fact/ value distinction is rejected.

This rejection of positivism (I will just stick to calling this beast “positivism” from now on) by Fascists, most notably by Gentile, was central as noted in this interesting essay:

“Gentilean Actualism was premised on a radical rejection of one of the central elements of methodological positivism, the separation of the act of knowledge from the object known.”

Gregor has written extensively on the intellectual ferment behind Italian Fascism, and has noted the very same trajectory using the example of Mussolini himself, who started as a positivist:

“Mussolini cited, as having supplied the evidence of the nonexistence of God, the “objective methods” of the “experimental science” of Bacon, Galileo, and Descartes. That evidence supported the conviction that the universe was a product of “matter-unique, eternal and indestructible- that never required a first mover nor will ever end.”

Only to subsequently alter his position under the influence of Gentile’s philosophy, as did many intellectuals as part of a rejection of positivism:

“By the first decade of the twentieth century, Mussolini, himself, had rejected the positivism that had dominated Italian intellectual life for almost the entire latter halt of the nineteenth century. Before the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, Mussolini was convinced that positivism, with its objective law-like determinism, and perfectly predictable historic change, had rendered moral outrage, sacrifice, commitment and duty irrelevant – and made revolutionary commitment superfluous””

This lends support to my suspicion that Marxism and Liberalism alike share the same deterministic bedrock, as Gentile is noted as observing:

“Marxism, and Marxism Leninism were seen as a peculiar form of positivism – the scientism that characterized the nineteenth century.”

and as Gregor himself observes fascinatingly:

“In Italy, by the end of the nineteenth century, Marxism had bifurcated into two main trends, an evolutionary Marxism that understood itself to be the consequence of determinate social and economic process – and a revolutionary Marxism that saw itself a function of the will and determination of a select number of conscious revolutionaries. The first was a Marxism that saw itself the heir of “ineluctable” trends within industrial capitalism itself. The second was the product of French syndicalism, inspired by the voluntarism and moralism of Georges Sorel.

The first accommodated itself to the parliamentarianism of Italian liberalism, and the second advocated revolution whatever the social, political, and economic circumstances might be at any given time. In a clear sense, the evolutionary socialism of the first was the embodiment of some form of philosophical positivism; the revolutionary syndicalism of the second, that found its philosophical rationale in the writing of Sorel, was anti-positivistic and increasingly idealistic.”

Positivism, empiricism, pragmatism, or whatever name masks deterministic epistemology goes under is inseparable from degenerate leftism, and has been constantly promoted despite it utter incoherence. It is immune from reasoning, because the criteria for its selection is not correctness, as I have argued here and here.

So the real question is, if you are still working on deterministic metaphysics and the epistemology which underpins Liberalism and Marxism, are you really Reactionary? It seems to me the introduction of human agency and rejection of determinism and Liberal epistemology is pretty much the defining character of non-Liberalism, and it is notable that Moldbug is exactly this as well.

Yet all following him in Nrx and Reaction promote Positivism. So is Nrx and internet Reaction really just crypto-Liberalism?

The trends within Reaction

I see that Ross Douthat’s article on reaction has given exposure to reactionary thought in the centre of the Liberal media aparatus, but in doing so he has increased the confusion around the concept. There was already too much bullshit around Neoreaction, let alone Reaction.

As it currently stands, there are half a dozen or so trends within Reaction/Neoreaction which render the names useless slogans as a result of the failure to establish clarification.

The first, and most obscene trend, is to use the terms as a means to bootload “Classical Liberalism·” This is pretty funny, given the claimed influence from Moldbug by Neoreaction. This trend consists of adopting the position of those directly renounced by Moldbug, such as Hanson, or Freidman, or the Cathedrals’ Lionel Curtis. Read this link (http://www.mailstar.net/curtis1.html) for a summary of Curtis’ neoreactionary aproved writing. The empistemological underpinning of Universalism/Progressivism has a knack for worming its way into everything.

The second trend overlaps with the first, and involves deeming everything old as reactionary in an indescriminate way.

The third trend is to bring bog standard (older) Conservatism into the fray, which is clearly just Progressivism.

The fourth trend (which again overlaps with others) is to try to claim “realism” as reaction. Realism being a piss poor version of Empiricism/ Positivism (back to the epistemological underpinning.)

The fifth trend is clearly White Nationalism.

The sixth trend is (what I am trying to encourage) maintaining the De Jouvenel/Carlyle/Filmer/Moldbug link which is built around the core of rejection of imperium in imperio, as well as the heavy critique/rejection of progressive epistemology.

This last trend, you may notice, is quite specific, and very unpopular, yet it is the only one which can lay claim to be different from anything in circulation, and which can lay claim to being very old, and very alien. All the rest are nothing new at all.

Slogan Wars

Political discourse is really bad. Catastrophically bad on all points. The first point of its appalling uselessness can be seen in the usage of statements divorced from context rendering them meaningless and utterly useless for significant discussion. Terms such as liberty, equality, capitalism, communism, freedom, the list goes on.

Liberty for example is often bandied around without specifying what this liberty is from, what it is of, what it is for etc. No context, because to do so would require actual thought when in fact political discourse is a battle of slogans. It is a result of the political adage that voters can only process slogans that fit on a placard.

Unfortunately though, you have to go a long way to find anyone who will, or can, discuss such concepts from the very start, at which point these concepts disappear as meaningful pieces of language for analysis. So from a purely political analysis direction, any usage of such terms should really come with a vast array of qualifiers, context and explanation.

So, for example, communism is pretty meaningless from an analysis position, but it obviously has rhetorical value because the self labeled liberal world has been painting it as an evil threat to liberty. However, from a clear analysis of the general current of thought behind communism in the form of the likes of Marx and Lenin we see a clear line from all of the thought that liberals agree is their heritage (Smith for example) to Marx, who does not really alter course at all, he just tweaks it.  Something Moldbug was getting at with AIACC. Our political language is so deformed however, that we cannot really see this.

Capitalism is the same. No one can explain it as a thing, and when they do try they put forward a conception that no one agrees on at all. So some will declare it to be free trade which does not threaten nations states as it is subservient to laws and norms of the state, whilst others will declare unfettered free trade is capitalism which begs the question of the sovereignty of the state, at which point it is usually claimed capitalism is akin to a natural force, and the state does not have control over natural forces…this is all very slippery. But capitalism being part and parcel of the coldwar/ communist rhetoric gives brownie points on the right in the slogan wars.

So obviously the right should be pro-capitalist, anti-communist, pro-liberty, pro-freedom, and anti-equality.

What a joke.

Misunderstanding Passivism

The debate on Passivism is largely pointless because next to no-one has grasped the underlying premises that inform the concept.  The central point is that the left is mere anarchy; indiscriminate anarchy which has no central brain. This is only comprehensible from a De Jouvenelian left-right concept. If you don’t understand this, then you don’t understand the concept. This is a point I have been trying to drive home, but it doesn’t seem to stick. It really doesn’t seem to stick. Central power in an unsecure position is lacking intelligence, as such, it is possible to act in such a way that this entity which lacks cephalisation can be avoided.

To make things worse, this un-cephalised entity acts aggressively against certain things that are threats to its power. The brown scare, racism, anything non-democratic, anything which raises the prospect of economic organisation, militarism etc basically, anything which is a threat to the market, and anything which is a threat to liberalism. Anything which stands between the central power and the liberated individual will be chewed up and attacked. If your tactic is to feed this mechanism, then you are beyond stupid.

There is a bizarre failure to see this mechanism, and instead to substitute a strange conception of how things work which seems to revolve around convincing people the truth, or encouraging people to be brave or something, which I sense is premised on liberal anthropology. Every man a sovereign individual, or something, I guess. I don’t know, but either way it is toxic.

I guess, I am saying that attempts to explain or understand Moldbug without the underlying De Jouvenalian base are at best misguided, and at worst subversive.

 

 

 

Leftism is power

Because I am not sure I have been clear enough, I think it might be worthwhile restating a point I have been trying to make, and this is simply that the left is power, but it is only a very specific manifestation of power. It only exists when power is too weak, and not properly placed within society.

The elite in society always rise to the top, this is so obvious as to be tautological. That’s what the elite do. The elite will rise to governance, and in governance they will seek to do what they logically must in their given positions. So in our current system which is very much law led, as Tocqueville noted so well in “Democracy in America,” the elite will manipulate the system to do as they must to overcome barriers placed in their way. So while Tocqueville notes the following:

“The third characteristic of the judicial power is its inability to act unless it is appealed to, or until it has taken cognizance of an affair. This characteristic is less general than the other two; but, notwithstanding the exceptions, I think it may be regarded as essential. The judicial power is by its nature devoid of action; it must be put in motion in order to produce a result. When it is called upon to repress a crime, it punishes the criminal; when a wrong is to be redressed, it is ready to redress it; when an act requires interpretation, it is prepared to interpret it; but it does not pursue criminals, hunt out wrongs, or examine into evidence of its own accord. A judicial functionary who should open proceedings, and usurp the censorship of the laws, would in some measure do violence to the passive nature of his authority.”

We can add that this is an assessment which has proven flawed, given that legal activism and the creation of cases to overcome this passive power limitation is what subsequently occurred. All roads end in legal cases in democracy as Tocqueville notes, so the elite engaged the legal system…in the name of the people, as always.

In fact, the central prevalence of law is a neglected aspect of analysis of democracy as Tocqueville notes:

“The government of democracy is favorable to the political power of lawyers; for when the wealthy, the noble, and the prince are excluded from the government, they are sure to occupy the highest stations, in their own right, as it were, since they are the only men of information and sagacity, beyond the sphere of the people, who can be the object of the popular choice. If, then, they are led by their tastes to combine with the aristocracy and to support the Crown, they are naturally brought into contact with the people by their interests. They like the government of democracy, without participating in its propensities and without imitating its weaknesses; whence they derive a twofold authority, from it and over it. The people in democratic states does not mistrust the members of the legal profession, because it is well known that they are interested in serving the popular cause; and it listens to them without irritation, because it does not attribute to them any sinister designs. The object of lawyers is not, indeed, to overthrow the institutions of democracy, but they constantly endeavor to give it an impulse which diverts it from its real tendency, by means which are foreign to its nature. Lawyers belong to the people by birth and interest, to the aristocracy by habit and by taste, and they may be looked upon as the natural bond and connecting link of the two great classes of society.”

And:

“In visiting the Americans and in studying their laws we perceive that the authority they have entrusted to members of the legal profession, and the influence which these individuals exercise in the Government, is the most powerful existing security against the excesses of democracy.”

Democracy in effect becomes rule by lawyers, and this is not really a secret among the law profession, as a cursory search of legal essays can explain, as for example here:

“Legal experts routinely acknowledge the need to protect the rights of the minority against the will of popular majorities, rendering judicial independence the most essential characteristic of a free society.  As Judge Shirley Abramson stated, “Judicial independence is a means to an end-the end is due process, a fair trial according to law. Judicial independence thus protects the litigants in court and all the people of the nation. ‘

Judges and scholars have also emphasized the importance of academic freedom. Justice Felix Frankfurter declared that it was the “special task of teachers to foster those habits of open-mindedness and critical inquiry which alone make for responsible citizens. ‘ Justice William Brennan echoed the importance of academic freedom:

Our Nation is deeply committed to safeguarding academic freedom, which is of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned. That freedom is therefore a special concern of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom.  A report on Policy for Government by the People for the 21st Century reminds us that democracy is not immutable-without due diligence, antidemocratic forces tend to creep forward, making small but significant adjustments in key structural components of democratic institutions. As a result, efficacy and normative functional values are quickly undermined by duplicity and neglect.”

In effect, this “independence” means legal rule by an “impartial” process, and as Moldbug made a point of noting, the USA’s ultimate sovereign is the Supreme Court, which is a legal institution and that:

“In the fallacy of “rule by law,” and the fallacy of “rule by science,” we see a common thread: the fallacy of “rule by formula,” in which it is pretended that a government can be conducted by some mechanical process, in which the human character of the governors is irrelevant.”

A mechanical process will be gamed, it will give rise to the the left wing, and it will tear society apart.

Platform building

Unfortunately, what passes for opposition to leftism in the western world is a bizarre mixture of leftism, mixed in with a great big bag stupid, which is then spun around even more. Take examples of extreme “rightism” in the form of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, only in the 20th century could they be passed off as anything but degenerate stupidity.  We know (or should know by now) that conservatism is a progressive offshoot that is younger than progressivism, and all these claims of classical liberalism are just attempts to resurrect an older form of leftism. As an added piece of confusion, the cold war split created an obscene situation in which all the sins of “leftism” were transferred to Communism, and Liberalism (its birth mother) was claimed to be its total opposite (“left” liberalism and “right” liberalism are an utter joke.) Political discourse is fundamentally shot. It is useless. That no one outside of the De Jouvenel tradition can even define right and left with any coherency should make this clear.

This situation seems to be assisted by the pervasive idea that what happens in society is a matter of collecting a group of ideas together (a political platform) and then advocating for your leaders to then implement the collection of wishes which then come true. So a Libertarian will make a list as so: I want liberty for all, weed legalization, free exit, small governance etc, while a designated socialist will demand a list as so: equality, social security, social justice etc. Here is another good example, and so is here, and here.

The absence of any serious thought as to the function of government as a complex process requiring extreme skill is pronounced. But unfortunately, that is the state of things in the west. The East seems less utterly delusional, but it is hard to tell.

The direction of serious thought would logically need to not begin with what should happen, or its imperative offshoot “must happen,” but with an analysis of what does happen. But this line of thought is unpleasant and leads to conclusions which people do not like.

Everything linked with the alt-right and neoreaction is firmly in the “must”, and “should” camps, and can best be described as a collection of political platforms. So white nationalism is a collection of platforms with a central premise of declaring that ethnic interests should be secured to varying degrees, whilst neoreaction seems to be a collection of libertarian, rationalist and paleo-con platforms with no real rhyme or reason plus an advocate of extreme non-governance via AI and/ or automated constitutions (the ultimate magic “should” and “must” political thinking.)

This is all very entertaining and all, but I don’t see any realism in any of it. The starting point in all of this is firmly not in the “what does/ did happen.” The original cathedral analysis (not the nonsense it has become) was firmly in the “what did/ does happen” category, De Jouvenel’s analysis is firmly in the “what did/ does happen” category, Carlyle’s analysis of the effects of non-governance is firmly in the “what did/ does happen” category. All of these things lead to unpleasant, but deeply necessary conclusions. So unpleasant that even those noticing it could sometimes not bring themselves to state the solution.

Political science

Political science is a largely worthless term, it is not in any way something that can be defended, but it is typical of modern western political thought in that it is built atop deterministic metaphysical assumptions regarding humans which are woefully wrong. Think back to the entire underpinning of Hobbes and the modern liberal tradition.

Political science proper in its current guise is a creation of the Foundations, through which the Liberal elite of the USA and UK sought to establish scientific government. Auguste Comte has his mirror in the form of Charles Merriam in the USA, whose wiki page should be read. I have written on the logic of this development in relation to the Cathedral concept previously, and the manner in which progressivism and empiricism go hand in hand here.

The absolute deluge of money which has created political science keeps a lock on what can be researched, and what cannot be. The impetus is not on correctness of value, it is on the closeness of the research to the demands of this “science” which is itself selected by Power. Such a mechanism has virtually zero potential for producing anything which is explanatory in any way, shape, or form, and is merely an arm of study which is by default supportive of democracy, progressivism and liberalism- all forms of the same process of Power destruction. To complain of this process and call for intellectual plurality is a form of futile begging.

The foundation funds, while being of extreme value at the beginning (and still useful now,) appear to have been overtaken by the education institute’s funding capabilities, which form a re-enforcing feedback loop. No matter how incoherent, useless and plain wrong the production of this school of thinking, the funds keep coming. It is not premised on correctness.

The enormous prestige which political science endures regardless of its silliness at every single point feeds into subsequent generations, and into the general culture of society. Young intelligent people do not have the time or ability to investigate the background of this thinking to make judgement on it, to assume they could is stupid, instead they take society’s established points of prestige and then emulate, and aspire towards them. Education is a process involving a great deal of trust. You have to trust the educators to educate you. So a politics student will enter university on the premise of being educated in the cutting edge of politics, only to be spoon fed a great deal of stupidity that has nothing to do with any conceivable and observable reality, but has logic in relation to Power. They then progress along this process of education, and when it comes time for research, the areas of grant money are clear. This is a very well oiled, self running machine, and it has been running for some time.

Any attempt at understanding politics as understood in the Aristotlean sense must by necessity be immune to the western tradition, and immune to the effect of the prestige that is afforded to it. The ease with which the allure and temptation of a modicum of acknowledgement from this pit of uselessness can create is a strong pull, but if anything worthwhile is to be produced, it has to be in complete hostility to thought in the current paradigm of unsecure power. The mashing into progressive pulp of anything that comes into contact with it is clearly a process of this prestige and monstrous selection pressure of this thing. You enter into its grinding mechanisms, and the promise of a tiny sliver of power entices domestication.

An easy way to do this is to aggressively reject all acknowledgement from educational institutes and current structures. Totally reject them. Seek no influence in them, and seek no progress in them. They are dead.

Political Science should then be a dead term, finished, a joke that will be consigned to the dustbin of history as a footnote to human folly. In its place the study of Political Logic takes its place. Once can see this in all of the thinkers that have been in any way correct in the past, and in all the great political treatises that a slavish adherence to positivism is not present at all, and that the application of deduction and induction is unimpeded by useless “science” in everything.

Clear examples of this include Aristotle’s Nicomanchean Ethics, Confucius’ Analects, and The pamphlets of Thomas Carlye, Burnham’s Machiavellians, De Jouvenel’s On Power and other such works. Many of them take pains to make the case for rejection of positivism in the epistemology of politics. All of them are roundly ignored by current institutions as they are inimical to unsecure power systems. There has been no conscious ban on them, the selection process makes this unnecessary. Again, complaining about this is as futile as building a dam of twigs to stem a river.

Compare the value of insights from any section of the above mentioned works against the combined output of Game Theory, statistical analysis and other aspects of “science” and the “science” comes off badly.

So what does Political Logic look like?, well we have  De Jouvenel to provide an example. In what way could Political Science have conceived of the notion that central Power in the form of the kings were the engineers of political levelling as a means of conflict against intermediary powers? And that this process is largely the process of the modern state which is a decephalised entity that is unable to engage in any behaviour beyond this, as any attempts to do so are met with the removal of individuals in question by default? Impossible. It could not even begin to comprehend it. So it is worthless.

The same goes for Carlyle’s prediction of the breakdown of society and the effect of lack of governance, as well as Aristotle’s understanding of the necessity of a political unit towards which ordered goods must be aligned for a functioning society, and the Political nature of ethics. Science is barren here, except as a means of scepticism to use against political blocks, or as a source of selective data to be used as “impartial” support of a position.

Misunderstanding the Cathedral concept

Two very interesting posts have been put up by Poseidon Awoke and Brett Stevens which will help me to elaborate on a couple of points of contention I have with the alt-right and the neoreactionary discourse post Moldbug. The first is Poseidon Awoke’s claims about The Cathedral concept here.I wont bother getting into the details of the post, and my issues with the deterministic underpinnings of the reversion to genetics as an explanation. Such things stink of the liberal tradition, as well as the typical gambit of intellectuals to simplify humans so as to fit with their arbitrary constructions (think of the liberal conception of man for instance, and its shoehorning in to fit the liberal tradition’s “theories.” Instead, I merely want to draw attention to something; The Cathedral concept was not built on a substrate of genetics. It was built atop the theories and concepts of Bertrand de Jouvenel, as well as the thinking of Thomas Carlyle and others, but the central core of it is Jouvenel. Moldbug even makes the point in How Dawkins got Pwnd part 5 when outlining Universalism which is central to the Cathedral:

“The point is that this thing, whatever you care to call it, is at least two hundred years old and probably more like five. It’s basically the Reformation itself. It’s certainly the most up-to-date revision of Jouvenel’s Minotaur. And just walking up to it and denouncing it as evil is about as likely to work as suing Shub-Niggurath in small-claims court.”

The tendency post Moldbug, is to take a conclusion, then ignore how it was arrived at, and then backfill it with a chosen system – Deleuzze-Guatari, Nietzsche, Genetic determinism – take your pick. At which point the theory goes haywire and makes no sense. It is a total mess, but it serves for trying to bootload your own wishes into it.

Moldbug could have been more clear that De Jouvenel forms the basis, and pulled back on the Darwinian analogy a little, because he does say things like this about memes:

“If not, how do you think the parasite could be improved? (Of course, this sort of “intelligent design” by no means implies that any such beastie was designed by some purposive plan. We are just trying to reverse-engineer the effects of Darwinian selection.)”

But the central point is that the logical interactions of unsecure power are creating the selection processes for these ideas, which makes the Darwinian claim a metaphor, and not literal. Hence Poesidon Awoke’s conclusions are badly wrong. He hasn’t remotely understood the De Jouvenelian unpinning and sees bogeymen under every bed.

On the subject of Nietzsche, Brett Steven’s post very helpfully highlights how the alt-right is indeed Nietzschean,  meaning it is basically still liberal and still sophist. It doesn’t, and can’t offer any structure or insight which is not arbitrary. It is (if you still want to use the Moldbug cladistics metaphor) a variant of liberalism that has developed from conservatism due to a shift in communication methods (the internet) so will be subject to selection pressure as brought to bear by the unsecure power of  current political structures. It will therefore be ground down into (even more) mush.