An open letter to the Tradinistas!

I have seen your manifesto, and I understand the sentiment, but I am confused. I can see the underlying influence from the likes of Alaisdair MacIntyre, but whilst the negative criticisms of the current system hold water in a broad sense, the positive proscriptions don’t make much sense. The reason for this is your unexamined liberalism which the manifesto betrays. Of course, when I talk of liberalism, I don’t mean classical liberalism, modern liberalism, neoliberalism or any other special political platform comprised of a hodgepodge of sugary sentiment. No. When I talk of liberalism, I mean every political concept that derives from the political structural fallout of the “modern” world in much the same way as Alaisdair MacIntyre in his usage of “modern liberal individualism.” We could argue forever if this is a correct word to use, and if it would salve everyone’s anger on a politically charged point, we can adopt a new word for the purpose of this argument, for example we could call it something neutral such as The Political Theory of Individuation (PTI). Now it sounds bland and uninteresting, and doesn’t get people excited.

Now, I hold to a conception of the events following the 16th century that accord with the political thinker Mencius Moldbug. The underlying principles of this conception are based on the work of Bertrand De Jouvenal. The fundamental premise of this is that the political structures of the western world underwent a number of changes throughout the medieval period which culminated in the collapse of monarchies and the mass individuation of society with the spread of PTI. This process was driven by the deceptively simple concept of imperium in imperio. Monarchs in their attempts to secure and enlarge their power engaged in indirect war against all intermediary structures (the Church, the family, the nobility) which involved a levelling of society. You will find this observation in many accounts of the history of the period, including in the works of Tocqueville.

This process of levelling culminated in the collapse of the political order which acknowledged a specific ordering of society in all areas of life, from property to ethics. It is with the utter collapse of the English monarchy for instance that we find the first clear elaborations of the PTI order in the form of Locke and Hobbes. A similar process occurred throughout Europe in those areas in which the Papacy was engaged in conflict with the secular sovereigns, but it is in England that this PTI  matured.

One benefit of your Marxist position is that if you are well read on Marx you will be familiar with his concept of the base and superstructure, in fact, you mention class conflict in points four, six and seven so I assume you are well versed in it. With this in mind, I will follow MacIntyre’s lead and note that Marxism is of the same type as the much narrower concept of liberalism you repeatedly decry. Marxism is based on PTI, yet it has redeeming features; please let me elaborate.

Normally you will likely have become used to people from a “reactionary” or “right wing” position dismiss Marxism in favor of capitalism, so it may surprise you if I don’t do that at all. I think Marxism is really a version of capitalism. The key point you have to acknowledge is that both Marx and Adam Smith for example, hold the same conception of property, as do all thinkers post 1600s;- this concept is based on PTI. The whole theoretical nexus is based on an anarchist conception of humanity in which the individual occurs from nowhere and is then endowed with powers that come from nowhere. Property is then a matter of mere possession which comes before the state, and obviously needs no state. You will note that all criticisms of Marxism from his supposed opposites on economics, such as the Austrian School, concentrate on technicalities, and never on his position on the origin of property. Maybe they are not actually different on this point, which should be cause for thought.

There is another area in which I think we can communicate fruitfully though, and that is on the issue of class struggle. I don’t believe it is correct, but I can see how Marx arrived at it. The key is in the question of what man is and does, and in this De Jouvenel offers a far fuller account which I think you will be able to understand.

In Marx’s conception, man is self-interested, and classes act in their specific interests at all time. All subsequent culture, law, norms etc. are nothing but the symptoms of this class conflict. This is an understandable conclusion when one follows the events of history in which Marx lived, but it doesn’t provide a means to predict outcomes, and even by the early 20th century many had realized this, it also assumes a number of things regarding property. His thinking was however in the right area – there is a base and superstructure of sorts, he just missed the target. In reality, the driver wasn’t class conflict, it was power centers within society engaging in conflict. Why did he miss the target? Because he was working on a conception of society based on PTI. In reality, man is not a presocietal individual with given powers of negotiation and the ability to produce property. Property is post societal and legal in character, and the ability to bargain and exchange is a function of society provided by a political organisation which recognizes the legal status of the act and provides protection. In reality, man is social by nature so Marx’s conception of property based on anarchist principles is false. Man is also not totally self-interested, but instead aims for the good within the context of the role he plays in society as understood by such advocates of virtue as Aquinas and Aristotle. De Jouvenal understood this, and realised those exercising power, likewise, work on a twofold premise of seeking to protect and forward their power as is their role, whilst also doing so on the basis of furthering the good of society, as is also their role. The result is a dynamic in which those in positions of power  further the cause of the low in society as a means to undermine other power centers that were a threat. Power has a dual face because it is never mere interests working directly as per Marx.

This process of competing power centers is in effect the base of sorts, and the resultant culture it has promoted is the superstructure.

So with this basic understanding of my position, we can skip point one, and turn to point two of the manifesto and note that not only did this already fail, but there is clear evidence that in the process of removing the Church’s influence the state level political authorities of the western world expressly promoted heretical movements that culminated in PTI. A superb source on this is provided by the theologian Willaim Cavanaugh in his magisterial book The Myth of Religious Violence in which he quite unawares puts forward the neoabsolutist position with a well researched and definitive demonstration that the 30 years war was not driven by religious differences, but was the result of competing power centers within the Holy Roman Empire. Protestantism which was always promoted and protected by schismatic princes then becomes a secondary effect of this conflict, the superstructure if you will. The resultant PTI theory of the likes of Hobbes using this conflict as an influence is an added bonus. As Cavanaugh notes, the structures of the modern state preceded this conflict, not the other way around. Here we have a clear example of how society being divided among competing conflicting centers of authority led to our current predicament. Merely resetting the clock to a previous unstable arrangement will lead to broadly the same situation as present, but of course with differing colourful heresies all in the same area of course.

As for you point three, I wholeheartedly agree, but we have a problem here, as again noted by Alasdair MacIntyre, whom I will quote on the issue of the modern political system from After Virtue:

“Modern systematic politics, whether liberal, conservative, radical, or socialist, simply has to be rejected from a standpoint that owes genuine allegiance to the tradition of the virtues; for modern politics itself expresses in its institutional forms a systematic rejection of that tradition”

If virtue as such is order toward a good, then the current system being divided not only does not acknowledge the virtues, but rejects them aggressively. If all of society is a matter of competing interests as you advocate with workers cooperatives for example, and class warfare in general, you yourself are rejecting the virtues.

There is a broad form of society which accords with your aims as outlined in this manifesto, but you have not been allowed to even consider it. The political ordering is one in which all within society is ordered in accordance with a central sovereign who is not bound by any competing power centers in the manner of feudalism, republicanism or socialism. The closest analogy would in effect be monarchism, and it must be noted that it was under monarchism that Christianity arose. A fully secure and competent monarchical organisation, and not a mere bourgeois insecure power sham monarchy as in the case of constitutional monarchy would indeed be able to embrace the virtues and end capitalism as well as the rest of your demands, precisely because capitalism is a matter of anarchist based conceptions of property as mere possession. A true neoabsolutist monarchy would acknowledge that primarily all within the sovereign’s territory is their possession, and subsequent ownership by those in society is property, and that ownership of property would need to be in accordance with the greater good which is now aligned with the sovereigns good.

Such a complete political system which acknowledges the fact that the political is always above and over the cultural would also be capable of massive decentralization of authority given the strength of its position. It need not, and will not, fear any completion or need to engage in bizarre behavior to engage in its rightful duties, such as the promotion of bizarre leveling culture or totalitarianism, which is an unsecure power phenomena.

In summary, what you are calling for is neoabsolutism. You just don’t realise it yet.