A response to Dark Reformation on oligarchy and democracy

I hate to go back on my word but Vincent Hanna over at the Dark Reformation blog has tempted me into writing this post.

In his post, he writes a number of criticisms of the speculative claim, which a number of us have been exploring, that a monarchical point of governance always exists. On a number of points he is exactly correct, but on a number of other points I believe he misses what is being claimed.

Firstly, Hannah hits the nail on the head when he locates that the core issue with this claim of the preservation of the monarchical structure is the existence of collective decision making. This is easily dealt with by denying that collective decision making in the sense implied by oligarchy or democracy exists. This instantly does away with the mealy mouthed flight to small scale democracy and direct democracy that is the recourse that everyone turns to when they discount large scale democracy. Hannah, for example, provides the case of the Supreme Court, but I would deny that they are sovereign, and to explain this thinking requires a little bit of a detour.

I have been working on a number of papers for the upcoming promised journal (it is really going to happen, it’s very close) and one of the areas which it covers is the concept of anarchistic versus absolutist ontologies which has been worked on in the background by a couple of us. An anarchist ontology frankly includes every single political theory in existence. All of them are based on a form of anthropology that implies anarchism. The difference between them all is the level of awareness and intellectual coherence of the advocates. Anarchists are the most honest in following through the implications of this anarchism, and they seem to be often the ones most likely to be led to some form of sanity, or even partial sanity, by virtue of their extreme adherence to the logic of the position. So, for example, we see the flip of syndicalists to Italian fascism, which is the most sane variant of western political theory for the past 500 years, yet still lacking drastically. Once the most robust thinkers concluded that the workers were not a vehicle for class warfare, they identified the state as the vehicle for their aims, then they followed through the implications of admitting the role of a political organisation. Conservatives, liberals, white nationalist etc. are completely deluded and have no care for following through the implications of their underlying premises. This seems to me to be because they are often working from a vision of what they think should happened which is sociologicaly impoverished, a product of their specific and limited life experience and biases. Or it is because they are caught up in the perpetual political conflict of the cretinous and vile democratic system.

Now, the anarchist ontology is basesless, stupid and completely devoid of sense. It requires that the human agent simply appears. It has direct roots in Biblical exegesis and did not originate with Locke. Hannah in identifying Filmer as having responded to Locke is in error, Filmer was responding to Grotius, Suarez and Bellarmine in particular. The first you may notice was a Dutch protestant and the second and third were Catholics. It seems to be the case that anarchist ontology is a result of political conflict. The anarchist ontology of man not being a product of authority is basically a lie that collapses on the simplest examination, and was promoted for power attainment. Filmer is pretty clear on this as well. He identifies accurately that the Catholic Church was a major culprit in this regard, and it is an unfortunate misdirection that this process has been occluded. This is not to blame the Church specifically, as all segment of governance in Western Europe were guilty of this. Not only the Church, but also the nobility and the parliament/ bourgeois, and also the monarchs themselves were promoting this lie as a means to undermine each other, it is the high-low alliance of De Jouvenel.

A major underlying assumption of this anarchistic ontology is that groups of people can make decisions collectively, but we have to ask is this actually possible. The concrete example of the Supreme Court is an excellent one, does the Supreme Court actually decide in the act of voting? I don’t think they do. The vote is not a decision in any real sense, it is really a show of strength to force through a particular decision made before it. A decision can only be made by a single person within their head. This follows in my opinion for large scale democracy “decision” making as well. The entire mystical premise of the general will or public opinion is a joke, a decision cannot be made by a multitude, only a single person can, and then they impose that decision by mobilizing numbers to impose their will by force, or threat of force, by means of voting. The vote is a threat of force.

There are many other angles from which we can dismiss small scale decision making, but they can wait for another day. For now, having dismissed the premise of small scale collective decision making as mystical nonsense which covers up the reality of human social structures, which are always hierarchical, we can continue with the logic of absolutist ontology and see if the image of society is helpful to analysis. We set it to work in effect. To do this we can draft in some help from the Italian Elitist School of Pareto, Mosca and Michels, and also the German theorist Carl Schmitt.

The elitists claimed that all organisation is oligarchy, but we have just dismissed small scale collective decision making, so what they really mean is all organisation is monarchical in structure. A government is an organisation, so a government is a monarchy. But this leaves us with some confusion. Just who is the sovereign then? Well from the position of decision making, the delegated sovereign decision making role moves depending on the question. But are they the sovereigns? No. They make decisions that are effect make them the pinnacle of governance, but they are not sovereign. They are acting as delegates of the sovereign. To determine the true sovereign here, we again can turn to Schmitt with his state of exception. It is curious that in Polticial Theology Schmitt makes the claim of the sovereign being “He” who decides on the exception but is then unclear if this can be a group or must be an individual. I conclude it must be an individual because a group cannot make a collective decision in the sense implied by this exception. The decision always rests behind the vote, the vote being a factional proxy conflict resolution device.

So, given the above, we can look at a concrete example of a sovereign becoming clear, and of the state of exception being employed in the case of the Nazi party and the usage of article 48 of the Weimar Constitution and the introduction of the Enabling Act 1933. The article was supposedly balanced by the ability of the Reichstag to cancel the emergency decree by vote. This concept rests on the actors acting within the institutions and rules set out by the constitution and being able to make a collective decision. So Hitler enacted Article 48 and passed the Enabling Act by usage of non-formal actors (the SA and SS) to stamp his authority on the voters to vote in accordance with his decision that a state of exception pertained. The voters then didn’t vote in accordance with their faction, but in line with his faction. The voting process showed itself to be the expression of factional dominance, not a decision in the sense assumed by oligarchy and democracy. So in the US system, whoever can force the Supreme Court to act in line with their faction and decide/determine a state of exception pertained is the sovereign. It was always a factional conflict device, and Hitler clearly understood this and acted accordingly. This example shows us that if we look at the formal structures specifically, and don’t include non-formal structures, we fail to see what is happening. We can only do this from an absolutist ontology which holds us to always looking for the sovereign, as it cuts away the misdirection created by a fluffy belief in a sort of psychic mind-meld collective decision making, a belief that is more in place in a science fiction story then political theory.

The idea has been put to me that oligarchy, aristocracy, democracy etc. can then be reformatted, if you really wish to keep these categories, by concluding that the delegated sovereign decision making is contained in differing groups, a wealthy group in oligarchy, a group tied by marriage in aristocracy, anyone in democracy, and so on. This is a significant break from Aristotle and the western tradition.

So, in summary, all organisations are monarchical in structure, not oligarchical. The turnover of these monarchical points can increase in velocity, or decrease in velocity, and they can be formally clear, or not clear. The sovereign is he who can decide on the state of exception and is therefore the final point of call. They always exist because laws cannot cover all contingencies and are merely tools, not actors.

If anyone wishes to comment, please do so on reddit or your own blog post, as the comment system on wordpress is horrible, and I never check it.

Also, check out Adam’s Generative Anthropology blog for far more erudite thinking on this topic.

(Almost) The Final RF post

My last post seems to have been too ambiguous, and I can assure those who have emailed me that I will most definitely continue writing. I have previously mentioned I am looking to set up an online journal and have been keeping a set of papers on ice for far too long. That will be coming soon and my last post will link to it.

The project which I was referring to was specifically the RF one of trying to develop certain strands of Unqualified Reservations within the the reactionary sphere. This was a failure. I think rejecting links to Moldbug might be useful as well. Consider me a De Jouvenalian/Filmerite/Carlyean.

I no longer consider the ideas developed here as reactionary, neoreactionary or otherwise in any shape. I am certain that these reactionary/neoreactionary areas are simply tired versions of liberalism. The key is in the actors’ inability to define liberalism as anything other than an internal condition or a mythical force. The only conclusions that the fundamental anarchism of liberalism allows. Merely adding a negative slant makes no difference. (Some are so brazen they declare themselves liberal and are still considered neoreactionary.)

These groups are operating with obvious liberal background beliefs, or positing thinkers without having an underlying model of their own allowing them to take observations and modify them without being dragged into liberalism.

Any attempt at serious theoretical engagement results in absurd statements. One minute they will nod along to De Jouvenal and the claim that it implies that power structures shape culture, then they will publish a post arguing such things as liberalism as a psychological issue, or that spontaneous order is correct. Astute reader may notice these are contradictory. Pointing this out results in more stupid claims that either retread stupid libertarian criticism of central planning or try to make some middle ground which always reduces to liberalism.*

*liberalism is the political doctrine of placing the liberation of the individual from society and authoritorial constraints as primary. This doctrine is promoted by centralizing powers in an insecure system – hint, Martin Luther and the rest of the gang didn’t sprout Reformation genes or convince everyone with pamphlets. (Zippy is actually right on this one)

The end of this project

I am fairly certain that the reactionaryfuture project is nearing an end, and the blog and reddit sub will likely soon be left dormant. I find that discussion within the neoreactionary sphere is basically finished in any meaningful manner. Not only is there an impossibility of synthesis of the present views in this area, I also find that any possibility of reasoning anyone else into other positions is impossible. Most demonstrate a singular inability to follow complex discussion and will claim agreement and then immediately make pronouncements which completely contradict this agreement, whilst being adamant that they do not disagree. It is Kafkaesque at times.

I have become extremely convinced that  the project of rejecting imperium in imperio is one which can be successfully fused with the work of Alaisdair MacIntyre, and such a move would require rejecting a great deal of Moldbug’s theorizing. Moldbug worked heavily with the tradition of Mises, and therefore Hume and Smith, to whom Mises is a derivative. This theory contains a very specific conception of man which rejects the functional status of men, hence the fallacious “is-Ought” distinction and Mises (derivative) relativism. There really isn’t much in Mises which wasn’t already elaborated by Smith and Hume’s moral theories, and Mises transformation of this conceptual scheme into an assertion of objective contextless axiomatic certainty is unconscionable. It is really a tradition, with clear roots going back from Mises to Smith and Hume, who themselves were just justifying a set of contingent Calvinist/ English Protestant ethical positions. Their project failed, and Mise’s project failed.

The ramification for any political theory which is to escape liberalism, is that an admittance of the status of both tradition and the rational scheme within which any claim is made must be explicit. All modern liberal theory rejects this, and if you wish to determine if your position is really just a variant of this modern liberal structure, simply ask the following questions 1) do you claim your position is based on some point of abstract truth which can be comprehended as such by all regardless of their circumstance and background 2) do you claim that your positions is not in any way rooted in a tradition of any sort 3) do you hold that the preferences and order of goods of any individual is intrinsic and prior to society. If you answer yes to any of these, then you are evidently within the modern liberal scheme, a scheme derived from protestant voluntarist positions. By forcing the admittance of a tradition, it must be accepted that the modern liberal project is functionally insane.

MacIntyre paints a very vivid picture tracing this tradition as it transformed into secular liberalism, and the great missing piece in his genealogy is an explanation of how it occurred, which is something he is evidently aware of with his call in After Virtue for a unified history of the modern period. I am convinced that De Jouvenal’s analysis of the role of power and the social structures and currents it promoted provides this missing piece, and will continue to develop this further elsewhere.

So, unless a libertarian can admit that the genealogy goes Mises->Hume/ Smith-> Locke->protestantism and then reason through the ramifications of this, there is no possibility of rational discourse. Unless a nationalist can admit the genealogy Nationalism-> Rouseau->Locke -> Protestantism, there is no possibility of rational discourse. The same can be done for any other special position in the alt-right or neoreaction, be it liberalism in the guise of genetic determinism AKA HBD, or Tech Comm hyper liberalism shouting at imaginary enemies with their calls for everything we already have in the form of extreme individual human rights, zero restraints for secondary property holders and guaranteed exit (just who is blocking exit in the world? Who is constraining capital? – states are shoveling free money into markets, and who is denying the right for humans to self determination? We can even chose our own gender now.)

In summary, as everyone is busy claiming (or assuming) that their positions don’t rest on an overall rational scheme, no rational discourse can take place. It is as simple as that.

MacIntyre on the Enlightenment project’s logical incoherence

“The moral scheme which forms the historical background to their thought had, as we have seen, a structure which required three elements:
untutored human nature, man-as-he-could-be-if-he-realized-his-telos and the moral precepts which enable him to pass from one state to the other. But the joint effect of the secular rejection of both Protestant and Catholic theology and the scientific and philosophical rejection of Aristotelianism was to eliminate any notion of man-as-he-could-be-if-he-realized-his-telos. Since the whole point of ethics-both as a theoretical and a practical discipline – is to enable man to pass from his present state to his true end, the elimination of any notion of essential human nature and with it the abandonment of any notion of a telos leaves behind a moral scheme composed of two remaining elements whose relationship becomes quite unclear. There is on the one hand a certain content for morality: a set of injunctions deprived of their teleological context. There is on the other hand a certain view of untutored-human-nature-as-it-is. Since the moral injunctions were originally at home in a scheme in which their purpose was to correct, improve and educate that human nature, they are clearly not going to be such as could be deduced from true statements about human nature or justified in some other way by appealing to its characteristics. The injunctions of morality, thus understood, are likely to be ones that human nature, thus understood, has strong tendencies to disobey. Hence the eighteenth-century moral philosophers engaged in what was an inevitably unsuccessful project; for they did indeed attempt to find a rational basis for their moral beliefs in a particular understanding of human nature, while inheriting a set of moral injunctions on the one hand and a conception of human nature on the other which had been expressly designed to be discrepant with each other. This discrepancy was not removed by their revised beliefs about human nature. They inherited incoherent fragments of a once coherent scheme of thought and action and, since they did not recognize their own peculiar historical and cultural situation, they could not recognize the impossible and quixotic character of their self-appointed task.

[…]

This change of character, resulting from the disappearance of any connection between the precepts of morality and the facts of human nature already appears in the writings of the eighteenth-century moral philosophers themselves. For although each of the writers we have been concerned with attempted in his positive arguments to base morality on human nature, each in his negative arguments moved toward a more and more unrestricted version of the claim that no valid argument can move from entirely factual premises to any moral or evaluative conclusion-to a principle, that is, which once it is accepted, constitutes an epitaph to their entire project. Hume still expresses this claim in the form of a doubt rather than of a positive assertion. He remarks that in ‘every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with’ authors make a transition from statements about God or human nature to moral judgments: ‘instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I met with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not’ (Treatise Ill. i. 1). And he then goes on to demand ‘that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it’

[…]

From such factual premises as ‘This watch is grossly inaccurate and irregular in time-keeping’ and ‘This watch is too heavy to carry about comfortably’, the evaluative conclusion validly follows that ‘This is a bad watch’. From such factual premises as ‘He gets a better yield for this crop per acre than any farmer in the district’, ‘He has the most effective programme of soil renewal yet known’ and ‘His dairy herd wins all the first prizes at the agricultural shows’, the evaluative conclusion validly follows that ‘He is a good farmer’.
Both of these arguments are valid because of the special character of the concepts of a watch and of a farmer. Such concepts are functional concepts; that is to say, we define both ‘watch’ and ‘farmer’ in terms of the purpose or function which a watch or a farmer are characteristically expected to serve. It follows that the concept of a watch cannot be defined independently of the concept of a good watch nor the concept of a farmer independently of that of a good farmer; and that the criterion of something’s being a watch and the criterion of something’s being a good watch-and so also for ‘farmer’ and for all other functional concepts-are not independent of each other. Now clearly both sets of criteria-as is evidenced by the examples given in the last paragraph-are factual. Hence any argument which moves from premises which assert that the appropriate criteria are satisfied to a conclusion which asserts that ‘That is a good such-and-such’, where ‘such-and-such’ picks out an item specified by a functional concept, will be a valid argument which moves from factual premises to an evaluative conclusion. Thus we may safely assert that, if some amended version of the ‘No ~ought” conclusion from “is” premises’ principle is to hold good, it must exclude arguments involving functional concepts from its scope. But this suggests strongly that those who have insisted that all moral arguments fall within the scope of such a principle may have been doing so, because they took it for granted that no moral arguments involve functional concepts. Yet moral arguments within the classical, Aristotelian tradition-whether in its Greek or its medieval versions – involve at least one central functional concept, the concept of man understood as having an essential nature and an essential purpose or function; and it is when and only when the classical tradition in its integrity has been substantially rejected that moral arguments change their character so that they fall within the scope of some version of the ‘No “ought” conclusion from “is” premises’ principle. That is to say, ‘man’ stands to ‘good man’ as ‘watch’ stands to ‘good watch’ or ‘farmer’ to ‘good farmer’ within the classical tradition. Aristotle takes it as a standing-point for ethical enquiry that the relationship of ‘man’ to ‘living well’ is analogous to that of ‘harpist’ to ‘playing the harp well’ (Nicomacbean Ethics, 1095a 16). But the use of ‘man’ as a functional concept is far older than Aristotle and it does not initially derive from Aristotle’s metaphysical biology. It is rooted in the forms of social life to which the theorists of the classical tradition give expression. For according to that tradition to be a man is to fill a set of roles each of which has its own point and purpose: member of a family , citizen, soldier, philosopher, servant of God. It is only when man is thought of as an individual prior to and apart from all roles that ‘man’ ceases to be a functional concept.”

p54-59 After Virtue

No telos means you are left with deontology, consequentialism, utilitarianism etc.

Spontaneous order does not exist

I have recently concluded that spontaneous order is frankly nonsense. Now, I have received push back on this along the lines that A) Moldbug wrote posts in favour of spontaneous order and that B) my understanding of spontaneous order is not “true” spontaneous order.

The first point of contention is less relevant than it may first appear. I have repeatedly made the point that I consider the identification of imperium in imperio as a disastrous solecism, and the resultant project of reasoning through the implications of this in relation to governance as the project, and not the attempt to follow Moldbug along every claim he made. The idea of using Unqualified Reservation as some guide like a manual is absurd, especially as I have made the claim on a number of occasions that it seems clear to me he was working through the implications of rejection of imperium in imperio – 2007 positions don’t equate to 2010 positions.

In addition to this, I have been trying to make the point that I hold to MacIntyre’s conception of traditions as always conserved. Every thinker operates in a tradition, the claim of finding universal maxims or abstract universal truths is nonsense of the highest order (but central to modern liberal thought.) Further to this, traditions are, and must be, subject to continual contest and rational re-appraisal in line with their inherent rationality. This is in stark contrast to tradition as per Burke for example, for whom tradition was wisdom without thinking and spontaneous – the action of so many unguided individuals clearly – one can see here the Whig and anarchist conception of society ordered without ordering. This has relevance not only for my reasoning for why Moldbug cited spontaneous order favorably is irrelevant, but also for why I consider spontaneous order as a concept to be a political assertion, and not a neutral observation.

In regards to Moldbug and this conception of tradition, I consider the project of reasoning through rejection of imperium in imperio to be continual and requiring creativity and intellectual questioning of every concept in accordance with it – therefore everything Moldbug wrote should be subject to robust and honest criticism to test its rational coherence in line with this project.

As for the second pushback on spontaneous order, it is clear that as a concept it has confused, and continues to confuse us all especially those that produced it. At its core, regardless of any particular conception that is considered true, there is a central claim that action organises spontaneously by the un-coerced actions of individuals with no planning. If we stray from this, then we are not talking about spontaneous order, but everyone wants to do this for a number of reasons. For the purpose of this post, please consider me to be dealing directly with Hayek’s conception.

To really see what the concept of spontaneous order is pushing, it really must be placed firmly in its historical and spatial (both location, and societal) positions. It has to be considered as a contingent concept with a history and a tradition within which it makes “sense.”

Spontaneous order, and this is something I doubt will be disputed by libertarians et al. finds its roots directly in the work of both Hobbes and Locke, but ultimately they were both reasoning on the same premises of the nature of individuals. Fundamentally, both thinkers set themselves the task of trying to explain ordering by individuals. It is the philosophy of anarchism, but with an inherited background of conservative considerations of ethics. The Scottish Enlightenment thinkers continued this process, with Hume, Reid, Smith et al. Burke also expressed the same sentiments, with Menger, Hayek et al. resurrecting it in overt propaganda form in the 20th century, even though it is in reality central to liberal thought and central to modern society. Any governance attempts based on this fundamental foundation of modern thought (such as nationalism, communism, fascism, liberal-democracy) is inherently unstable, contradictory and insane, as demonstrated by historical example.

So what is the context of this theory of spontaneous order? In its origination in Locke in particular, it is the work of someone from a particular part of society, promoted by particular segments of society that opposed monarchical governance, and were trying to justify the oligarchic governance post 1688. As for the Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, I am again in agreement with MacIntyre that they were in a position of being external to English culture, yet in the process of adopting it, and in so being in such a position, were able to observe, and had to engage with it, in a way in which English people (for whom it was merely a given) were unable to do, or didn’t see the need to do. You find the same thing with Burke (an Irishman) and Hayek, Menger, Mises (Austrians). For those in any culture in which certain standards have been set and imposed, and not open to further discussion, it requires those with outside models and conceptions to be able to analyse and explain. These thinkers in effect became radicalised anglophile thinkers.

Now, in effect, all of these thinkers are trying to justify a specific form of societal organisation. Spontaneous order is then a concept brought into to justify how society forms without organisation and planning(it doesn’t and can’t.) Spontaneous order is then a loaded concept, as all concepts are. To repeat what I have already said, it asserts that spontaneous ordering by the uncoerced actions of individuals with no planning is possible.

So, what are the underlying assumption here? I have already mention one – that society can order without governance, but there are other obvious ones such as that society forms from the voluntary interaction of individuals (if not voluntary then it cease to be spontaneous) and that all actors are then fully fledged moral actors. In a word the underlying assumptions pretty much match directly to liberalism. Now, by having these assumptions, spontaneous order takes them as a given and then in effect asserts them. It is clearly not a neutral observation of reality at all (something not possible.)

So, we have gone from spontaneous order being an impartial observation (not possible) to being a concept which is a legitimization of a particular social configuration (liberalism.)

Now, we can push this a little further and demand spontaneous order explain events, and we can quite easily find that not only does it not explain anything, but it actively conceals the roles of power centers in forming cultural trends, promoting ideas and maintaining traditions. In a word, it has no functional usage beyond being a justificationary piece of fiction.

Monkey shrieking sophistry

Any genuine discussion on political theory that is to be anything more than merely screaming our own preferences at each other dressed in incoherent statements must absolutely ensure that all participants have an understanding of the precise meaning of the language being used. Take the words capitalism, fascism, communism, Christianity, Islam, religion in general etc. all of these words possess differing meanings given different assumptions and background frameworks. Most, if not almost all political discussion revolves around throwing statements around without clarifying any of this, and then receiving a response which does the same, which results in mere shrill shouting across each other. Most of this is due to rank stupidity on the part of the participants, sometimes it is more cynical behavior on the part of more intelligent individuals with a mind to winning a rhetorical conflict, as opposed to pursuing any kind of truth. In antiquity these people were called sophists, and in modernity they are comparable to liberals. The constant delight of modern thinkers in looking into sophistry in antiquity and seeing themselves is a disgusting spectacle. That it arose in Ancient Greece in the context of a society on a divided power system is something worthy of research.

So, if we take a word like capitalism, we can either A) accept that it has various meanings dependent on the conceptual model (or tradition) of the person saying it and then endeavor to understand the difference and proceed from there or B) scream like chimps about capitalism as if both parties understood it as meaning X,Y or Z.

Capitalism is a superb example of this phenomena.

Ludwig von Mises described it as:

 “essentially a system of mass production for the satisfaction of the needs of the masses.”

While Friedrich Hayek called it

“the system of free markets and the private ownership of the means of production,” which is an “essential condition of the very survival of mankind.”

Wiki has the following:

Capitalism is an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit.”

We could go on, but what is the point. It is just various people absolutely refusing to acknowledge that what they are describing is a concept built upon a foundation of prior assumptions (a tradition.) This gets even worse when you acknowledge that these words (as all words do) have plainly got a genealogy, and are therefore plainly rooted in a specific times, cultural/ societal position and historical position.

It is notable that a member of the modern liberal individualist tradition absolutely denies this context for their words and concepts and can therefore claim them as being concepts time immemorial. The battle then becomes one of who gets to claim the mantle of objective truth, so everyone claims their “true” capitalism, or true religion with their definitions saying more about them and their position in the world than about anything else.

If we are to pursue any genuine political theory, then it must begin by acknowledging that the very words we are ourselves using have serious problems, and contain seriously troublesome assumptions that need to be examined.