Modern Liberal Individualism

Posting has been pretty light recently as I am working on a number of essays/ articles for a formative journal, but I wanted to wade into to doctrinal issues regarding Moldbug again.

Starting with Anisimov’s medium article from some time back Why the Replacement of Neoreaction with the Alt Right Was a Good Thing. The key quote is this:

“No. Yarvin explicitly billed himself only as a channel to older writers like Carlyle, nothing more. Though he did offer many oddball ideas, so does every outside-the-box thinker, and these can just be ignored if desired. He explicitly qualified his own proscriptions as being experimental. Many of his adherents have trouble swallowing this; they want to believe he left a coherent dogma, but he did not. He just created a small body of rhetoric and assorted ideas. His key ideas were critiques, not anything proscriptive. No matter how often this qualification is repeated, many want to see a coherent framework where there decidedly is none.”

While I have been planning on responding to Anissimov’s post for some time, my response today is however more catalysed by the post Moldbug and Hrx  from Froude Society, especially the following:

“This post is not intended to be fratricidal but a clarification of claims. Carlyleian and De Jouvenalian Rx cannot pretend to be heirs of Moldbug, but neither can NRx. All of us actively dismiss some fraction of his doctrine in favor of a more consistent doctrine for ourselves. Yarvin brings together contradictory ideas that we must parse into something more useful. He is a crypto-whig but has repented by good works. Any divisions this post may cause is for the better, as Reactionaries have always fought one another, for far more trivial reasons. Let there be no enemies to the Right, but plenty of rivals, too”

In short, I find the claim of a lack of coherent framework to be wrong. There is a coherent framework underlying it all, and that is the pursuit of virtue, and it is our duty to continue to pursue virtue through self-cultivation and pursuit of the goods of excellence provided by ethical and moral development. Unfortunately, many, if not most “neoreactionaries” have not grasped this underlying core, and have instead pursued, or been allowed to be distracted by, external goods in the form of popularity, social validation, “success” in democratic political battles and the like. The reason for this is that they have taken numerous aspects of the collection of critiques of modernity presented by Moldbug from numerous writers, and merely tied them to their own little version of modernity for their own petty political platforms, instead of using them to continue pushing towards a total renunciation of the bedrocks of modern thought.

If they did, they would approach the alt right and any other form of political action with absolute disgust. Such a centrality is most succinctly provided by the advice “I. Become worthy.II. Accept power.III. Rule”, this is not empty rhetoric, it is central. To become worthy is to become virtuous, which is to pursue virtue in line with the excellence provided by practical action within a societal context. Moldbug approaches this from a Confucian angle, but the Aristotlean and Thomistic tradition likewise embody this approach (Modernity in contrast is voluntarism secularised.)

The Alt-right is a waste of time. It has no virtue, and for that matter, neither has nationalism, ethno or otherwise, and is built atop what Alaisdair MacIntyre has dubbed “Modern Liberal Individualism” as explained in his entry on the IEP:

“MacIntyre’s use of the term “modern liberal individualism” in philosophy is not equivalent to “liberalism” in contemporary politics. Some readers interpreted MacIntyre’s rejection of “modern liberal individualism” to mean that he is a political conservative (AV, 3rd ed., p. xv), but MacIntyre uses “modern liberal individualism” to name a much broader category that includes both liberals and conservatives in contemporary American political parlance, as well as some Marxists and anarchists (See ASIA, pp. 280-284). Conservatism, liberalism, Marxism, and anarchism all present the autonomous individual as the unit of civil society (see “The Theses on Feuerbach: A Road Not Taken.”); none of these political theories can provide a well-developed conception of the common good; and none of them can adequately explain or justify any shared pursuit of any common good.

The sources of modern liberal individualism—Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau—assert that human life is solitary by nature and social by habituation and convention. MacIntyre’s Aristotelian tradition holds, on the contrary, that human life is social by nature. Modern liberal individualism seeks to justify the moral authority of various universal, impersonal moral principles to enable autonomous individuals to make morally correct decisions. But modern moral philosophers use those principles to establish the authority of universal moral norms, and modern autonomous individuals set aside the pursuit of their own goods and goals when they obey these principles and norms in order to judge and act morally. MacIntyre rejects this modern project as incoherent. MacIntyre identifies moral excellence with effective human agency, and seeks a political environment that will help to liberate human agents to recognize and seek their own goods, as components of the common goods of their communities, more effectively. For MacIntyre therefore, ethics and politics are bound together.”

The Alt-right is, as Anissimov has correctly observed “just Reaganism with a splash of Pat Buchanan”, but so is Neoreaction. It is still firmly built on top of MLI, and many of its adherents promote Thatcherism and Reaganism as if it is reactionary. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just take Thatcher’s much repeated comments on society not existing:

“I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand “I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it!” or “I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!” “I am homeless, the Government must house me!” and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first… There is no such thing as society. There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.’”

If this is reactionary, than I am a monkey’s uncle, but it could pass as neoreactionary. The same goes for Mises, and the rest of the neo-liberal theorists who were funded into the mainstream by the same financial interests that promoted the civil rights era and all the current “one world free trade” psychotic nonsense of the present day.

So, no, there is a coherent core to Moldbug even with the development from 2007 onwards, in that he pursues virtue in the intellectualist tradition which is as reactionary as you can get (one could argue his adherence to Misean Praxeology appears to be the escape route – rejecting determinism usually is.)  Because he approached it from the libertarian angle is no excuse for the ridiculous claims of it being libertarianism+ or anarch-capitalism with a manchesterised state.

As for no enemies to the right, sure there is. All of them. The right has forsaken virtue by being a part of the democratic structure. If you want to argue their ultimate goal is to end the structure, then maybe there is a discussion there, but I don’t see much issue with the structure on the right, it seems to me the structure is taken as neutral.

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