Tag Archives: Português

The Real Dugin – Tudor

The Real Dugin: Alexander Dugin’s Political Theories and his Relevance to the New Right

By Lucian Tudor

 

Translations: Čeština, Español, Português

Alexander Dugin is by now well-known in “Right-wing” circles of all sorts across the world—whether we are speaking of nationalists, Fascists, traditionalists, cultural or national conservatives, or New Rightists (also known as Identitarians). Upon the translation of his book The Fourth Political Theory in 2012, Dugin has received a significant amount of international attention from anyone interested in Right-wing or Conservative theory. Since then, a number of other essays by Dugin on the topics of Eurasianism (also spelled “Eurasism”) and also the Theory of the Multipolar World (both of which are interconnected with each other and with what he calls the Fourth Political Theory) have been translated into English, among other languages, allowing us a better view into his thought.

There is no need to discuss Dugin’s theories in any depth here, since his own essays achieve that sufficiently. However, a problem has arisen among Right-wingers in the West in regards to Dugin: while many have appreciated his works, a large number have completely dismissed or attacked him and his theories largely on the basis of misunderstandings or propaganda from Dugin’s political enemies. The situation is certainly not helped by the fact that well-known Identitarian writers such as Greg Johnson, Michael O’Meara, Domitius Corbulo, and some others in Europe have denounced Dugin with reasoning based upon such misunderstandings. Personally, I had once considered these critiques as being essentially valid, but upon a more thorough investigation of Dugin’s writings and thought, I concluded that these critiques were based on flawed premises and assumptions. My intention here is to point out what the most common reasons for denouncing Dugin have been and why they are based on misconceptions and propaganda rather than reality.

Position on Race

First, one of the most difficult issues is the claim that Alexander Dugin believes that race has no substantial reality, that it is a “social construct” and must be completely abandoned as a harmful product of modern Western society. Certainly, he critiques racialist theory, but this is not the same as rejecting race entirely (since one can assert the importance of race without resorting to “racism.” See my essay “Ethnic and Racial Relations”). It must be admitted that Dugin has not taken a clear stance on the matter of race, and occasionally makes statements which imply a dismissal of race (although it is significant that, for the most part, he leaves it an open question). On the other hand, he has also made statements implying an appreciation for racial identity to some extent, such as when he wrote the following:

Being White and Indo-European myself, I recognize the differences of other ethnic groups as being a natural thing, and do not believe in any hierarchy among peoples, because there is not and cannot be any common, universal measure by which to measure and compare the various forms of ethnic societies or their value systems. I am proud to be Russian exactly as Americans, Africans, Arabs or Chinese are proud to be what they are. It is our right and our dignity to affirm our identity, not in opposition to each other but such as it is: without resentment against others or feelings of self-pity. (quoted from “Alexander Dugin on ‘White Nationalism’ & Other Potential Allies in the Global Revolution”)

However, let us assume, for the sake of argument, that Dugin truly does believe that race is a “social construct”, as some have assumed. Would this be enough reason to declare Dugin a subversive intellectual in the Right? If this was the case, it would follow by the same reasoning that any past Right-wing intellectual who did not believe in the importance of race (or at least the biological form of race) must also be denounced. This would include such notable thinkers as Oswald Spengler, Francis Parker Yockey, Othmar Spann, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, Oswald Mosley, and numerous other Fascist or nationalist intellectuals and leaders who did not place much importance upon physical race. Yet, paradoxically, many of those we see denouncing Dugin today would not do the same for such thinkers. This is not to imply that previous Fascist or nationalist intellectuals are entirely agreeable for us today (in fact, most New Rightists reject Fascism and old-fashioned nationalism), it is only to point out the self-contradiction which has gone unnoticed.

Furthermore, it is important to remember that Dugin clearly believes in the importance of ethnicity and culture and advocates ethnic separatism. Similarly to German Revolutionary Conservative and Völkisch thinkers, Dugin has unmistakably placed the Volk or ethnos as one of the highest values of his philosophy: “The subject of this theory [the Fourth Political Theory], in its simple version, is the concept ‘narod,’roughly, ‘Volk’ or ‘people,’ in the sense of ‘peoplehood’ and ‘peoples,’ not ‘masses’” (quoted from “The Fourth Estate: The History and Meaning of the Middle Class”). Thus, it is clear that even if he does not value race, Dugin certainly does value ethno-cultural identity. Of course, this is not to say that rejecting the reality of race is not at all problematic, only that it is not enough to denounce a philosopher. However, those who like to claim that Dugin dismisses race as a “social construct” are reminiscent of those who say the same thing about Alain de Benoist, whereas it is clear that Benoist asserts the reality of race and advocates racial separatism–specifically from a non-racist standpoint–in many of his writings, one of the most notable in English being “What is Racism?”.

Empire vs. Imperialism

The second problematic notion about Dugin is that he is an advocate of a type of Russian imperialism, usually suggested being of a Stalinist and Soviet type. However, this claim has no basis in fact, since he has renounced Soviet imperialism and has also distinguished between true empire and imperialism (which also made by Julius Evola and many other Traditionalist and New Right authors). In his essay “Main Principles of Eurasist Policy,” Dugin has asserted that there are three basic types of policy in modern Russia: Soviet, pro-Western (liberal), and Eurasist. He criticizes the Soviet and Liberal types while advocating the Eurasist policy: “Eurasism, in this way, is an original ‘patriotic pragmatism’, free from any dogmatics – be it Soviet or liberal… The Soviet pattern operates with obsolete political, economic and social realities, it exploits nostalgia and inertness, it lacks a sober analysis of the new international situation and the real development of world economic trends.” It should be clear from Dugin’s analysis of different forms of political approaches that his own viewpoint is not based on the USSR model, which he explicitly rejects and critiques.

Moreover, it is often overlooked that when Dugin advocates a Eurasian empire or union, there is a distinction between a true empire—in the traditionalist sense—and imperialism, and thus an empire is not necessarily an imperialistic state (for a good overview of this concept, see Alain de Benoist’s “The Idea of Empire”). Unlike domineering and imperialistic states, the Eurasian Union envisioned by Dugin grants a partial level of self-government to regions within a federalist system:

The undoubted strategic unity in Eurasist federalism is accompanied by ethnic plurality, by the emphasis on the juridical element of the “rights of the peoples”. The strategic control of the space of the Eurasian Union is ensured by the unity of management and federal strategic districts, in whose composition various formations can enter – from ethno-cultural to territorial. The immediate differentiation of territories into several levels will add flexibility, adaptability and plurality to the system of administrative management in combination with rigid centralism in the strategic sphere. (quoted from “Main Principles of Eurasist Policy”)

Of course, it must also be remembered that Dugin’s vision needs to be differentiated from the policies of the present Russian state, which, at this time, cannot be said to adequately represent the Eurasists’ goals (despite the influence of Eurasism on certain politicians). Furthermore, it should be mentioned that while Dugin currently supports president Putin, it is clear that he does not uncritically accept all of the policies of Putin’s government. Therefore, a sound analysis of Dugin’s proposed policies will not equate them with those of the Russian government, as some of his critics have erroneously done.

The “West” as the Enemy

Another common misconception is that Dugin is hostile to Western European civilization and even advocates its complete destruction. It is important to recognize that Dugin’s conception of the “West” is similar to that advocated by the European New Right (in the works of Pierre Krebs, Alain de Benoist, Guillaume Faye, Tomislav Sunic, etc.). The “West” is not a reference to all of Western-European civilization, but rather to the specific formulation of Western-European civilization founded upon liberalism, egalitarianism, and individualism: “The crisis of identity […] has scrapped all previous identities–civilizational, historical, national, political, ethnic, religious, cultural, in favor of a universal planetary Western-style identity–with its concept of individualism, secularism, representative democracy, economic and political liberalism, cosmopolitanism and the ideology of human rights.” (quoted from the interview with Dugin, “Civilization as Political Concept”).

Thus, Dugin, like the New Right, asserts that the “West” is actually foreign to true European culture—that it is in fact the enemy of Europe: “Atlanticism, liberalism, and individualism are all forms of absolute evil for the Indo-European identity, since they are incompatible with it” (quoted from “Alexander Dugin on ‘White Nationalism’ & Other Potential Allies in the Global Revolution”). Likewise, in his approving citation of Alain de Benoist’s cultural philosophy, he wrote the following:

A. de Benoist was building his political philosophy on radical rejection of liberal and bourgeois values, denying capitalism, individualism, modernism, geopolitical atlanticism and western eurocentrism. Furthermore, he opposed “Europe” and “West” as two antagonistic concepts: “Europe” for him is a field of deployment of a special cultural Logos, coming from the Greeks and actively interacting with the richness of Celtic, Germanic, Latin, Slavic, and other European traditions, and the “West” is the equivalent of the mechanistic, materialistic, rationalist civilization based on the predominance of the technology above everything. After O. Spengler Alain de Benoist understood “the West” as the “decline of the West” and together with Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger was convinced of the necessity of overcoming modernity as nihilism and “the abandonment of the world by Being (Sein)” (Seinsverlassenheit). West in this understanding was identical to liberalism, capitalism, and bourgeois society – all that “New Right” claimed to overcome. (quoted from “Counter-hegemony in Theory of Multi-polar World”)

While Dugin attacks the “West” as modern liberal civilization, he simultaneously advocates the resurrection of Europe in his vision of the multipolar world: “We imagine this Greater Europe as a sovereign geopolitical power, with its own strong cultural identity, with its own social and political options…” (quoted from “The Greater Europe Project”). Similarly to the previous statements which we have quoted, he asserts here that European culture has multiple ideological elements and possible pathways in its history which are different from the liberal model: “Liberal democracy and the free market theory account for only part of the European historical heritage and that there have been other options proposed and issues dealt with by great European thinkers, scientists, politicians, ideologists and artists.”

Domitius Corbulo has argued, based on statements Dugin made in The Fourth Political Theory that liberalism and universalism are elements which run throughout Western civilization, that Dugin condemns Western-European culture in its entirety. However, it is important to recognize that these arguments are largely borrowed from Western-European authors such as Spengler, Heidegger, and Evola. These authors also recognized that anti-universalist, anti-liberal, and anti-materialist elements also exist in Western-European culture, and thus that there have always been other paths for the destiny of this culture. It is evident that Dugin would assert the same fact from his essays which we have cited here (as well as books not yet available in English, such as ¿Qué es el eurasismo?, Pour une théorie du monde multipolaire, or in Russian in Четвертый Путь, among others). It is important to remember here that The Fourth Political Theory is not a complete and perfect statement of Dugin’s thought, and that what he says there must be balanced with what he says in his other works.

It is often assumed that, considering his hostility to the liberal “West,” Dugin also advocates a complete destruction of the United States of America, which is seen as the epitome of the “West.” However, the very essence of his theory of the multipolar world is the idea that each civilization and nation must be granted the right to live and to determine its own destiny, political form, and way of life. For this reason, Dugin advocates the global combating of American cultural and economic imperialism, which denatures non-Western cultures. However, in the multipolar scheme, the United States also has the right to exist and to choose its own path, which means allowing the American people the right to continue the liberal model in the future, should they desire to do so. Of course, the liberal model would naturally be discouraged from abroad and be limited in its influence. This position can be drawn from Dugin’s key essays explicating the Theory of the Multipolar World: “The Multipolar World and the Postmodern” and “Multipolarism as an Open Project”.

The Fourth Political Theory vs. Reactionary Traditionalism

Some writers, such as Kenneth Anderson (“Speculating on future political and religious alliances”), have interpreted Alexander Dugin’s thought as a form of Radical Traditionalism (following Julius Evola and Rene Guenon) which is completely reactionary in nature, rejecting everything in the modern world–including all technological and scientific development–as something negative which needs to be eventually undone. This interpretation can be easily revealed to be incorrect when one examines Dugin’s statements on Traditionalism and modernity more closely. It is true that Dugin acknowledges Traditionalist thinkers such as Evola and Guenon among his influences, but it is also clear that he is not in full agreement with their views and advocates his own form of conservatism, which is much more similar to German Revolutionary Conservatism (see The Fourth Political Theory, pp. 86 ff.).

Unlike some Traditionalists, Dugin does not reject scientific and social progress, and thus it can also be said that he does not reject the Enlightenment in toto. When Dugin criticizes Enlightenment philosophy (the ideology of progress, individualism, etc.), it is not so much in the manner of the Radical Traditionalists as it is in the manner of the Conservative Revolution and the New Right, as was also done by Alain de Benoist, Armin Mohler, etc. In this regard, it can be mentioned that critiquing the ideology of progress is, of course, very different from rejecting progress itself. For the most part, he does not advocate the overcoming of the “modern world” in the Traditionalist sense, but in the New Rightist sense, which means eliminating what is bad in the present modern world to create a new cultural order (“postmodernity”) which reconciles what is good in modern society with traditional society. Thus Dugin asserts that one of the most essential ideas of the Eurasist philosophy is the creation of societies which restore traditional and spiritual values without surrendering scientific progress:

The philosophy of Eurasianism proceeds from priority of values of the traditional society, acknowledges the imperative of technical and social modernization (but without breaking off cultural roots), and strives to adapt its ideal program to the situation of a post-industrial, information society called “postmodern”. The formal opposition between tradition and modernity is removed in postmodern. However, postmodernism in the atlantist aspect levels them from the position of indifference and exhaustiveness of contents. The Eurasian postmodern, on the contrary, considers the possibility for an alliance of tradition with modernity to be a creative, optimistic energetic impulse that induces imagination and development. (quote from Eurasian Mission, cited in Dugin, “Multipolarism as an Open Project”)

It should be evident from these statements that Dugin is not a reactionary, despite his sympathy to Radical Traditionalism. In this regard, it is worth mentioning that Dugin also supports a “Third Positionist” form of socialism as well as a non-liberal form of democracy. In regards to socialism, he has written that the “confusion of mankind into the single global proletariat is not a way to a better future, but an incidental and absolutely negative aspect of the global capitalism, which does not open any new prospects and only leads to degradation of cultures, societies, and traditions. If peoples do have a chance to organize effective resistance to the global capitalism, it is only where Socialist ideas are combined with elements of a traditional society…” (from “Multipolarism as an Open Project”). Whereas some have accused Dugin of being anti-democratic, he has plainly advocated the idea of a “democratic empire”: “The political system of the Eurasian Union in the most logical way is founded on the ‘democracy of participation’ (the ‘demotia’ of the classical Eurasists), the accent being not on the quantitative, but on the qualitative aspect of representation” (quoted from “Main Principles of Eurasist Policy”; see also the comments on democracy in his “Milestones of Eurasism”).

References to Leftists and Cultural Marxists

Finally, one of the most recent attacks on Alexander Dugin is based on his reference to Cultural Marxist and “Leftist” philosophers, which is seen by some as an indicator that Dugin himself is sympathetic to Cultural Marxism (see Domitius Corbulo’s “Alexander Dugin’s 4th Political Theory is for the Russian Empire, not for European Ethno-Nationalists”). However, Dugin has clearly pointed out that while he uses ideas from Marxist and “Leftist” theorists, he rejects their ideologies as a whole: “The second and third political theories [Fascism and Marxism] must be reconsidered, selecting in them that which must be discarded and that which has value in itself. As complete ideologies… they are entirely useless, either theoretically or practically.” (quoted from The Fourth Political Theory, p. 24).

If one notes that Dugin occasionally makes use of Marxist thinkers, then it should not be overlooked that he places even more importance on Right-wing thinkers, who clearly form the greater influence on him; the intellectuals of the Conservative Revolution (Heidegger, Schmitt, Moeller van den Bruck, etc.), the Traditionalist School (Evola, Guenon, Schuon, etc.), the New Right (Benoist, Freund, Steuckers, etc.), and the conservative religious scholars (Eliade, Durand, etc.). Furthermore, Corbulo objects to Dugin’s use of Claude Levi-Strauss’s work, yet respected New Right thinkers like Alain de Benoist and Dominique Venner (see Robert Steuckers, “En souvenir de Dominique Venner”, citing Venner’s Le siècle de 1914) have also referenced the ideas of Levi-Strauss on matters of culture and ethnicity, among other authors that Dugin uses, such as Jean Baudrillard.

In a recent interview, Dugin has clearly agreed with the European Right’s position on immigration (which advocates the restriction of non-European immigration), mentioning the threat that liberal cosmopolitanism brings to European culture: “The immigration changes the structure of European society. The Islamic people have very strong cultural identity. The European people weaken their own identity more and more in conscious manner. It is human right and civil society individualistic ideological dogma. So Europe is socially endangered and is on the eve to lose it identity” (quoted from “The West should be rejected”). Thus, when we take a less biased view of Dugin’s writings and statements, it is clear that his overall position is very far from that of the Cultural Marxists and the New Left.

From our examination thus far, it should be obvious that there are too many misconceptions about Alexander Dugin’s thought being circulated among Right-wingers. These misconceptions are being used to dismiss the value of his work and deceive members of Right-wing groups into believing that Dugin is a subversive intellectual who must be rejected as an enemy. Many other important Right-wing intellectuals have been similarly dismissed among certain circles, due to practices of a kind of in-group gleichschaltung, closing off any thinker who is not seen as readily agreeable. It is important to overcome such tendencies and support an intellectual expansion of the Right, which is the only way to overcome the present liberal-egalitarian hegemony. People need to take a more careful and unbiased look at Dugin’s works and ideas, as with other controversial thinkers. Of course, Dugin is not without flaws and imperfections (nor is any other thinker), but these flaws can be overcome when his thought is balanced with that of other intellectuals, especially the Revolutionary Conservatives and the New Rightists.

 

————–

Tudor, Lucian. “The Real Dugin: Alexander Dugin’s Political Theories and his Relevance to the New Right.” Radix Journal, 30 August 2014. <http://www.radixjournal.com/journal/2014/8/30/the-real-dugin >.

Note: On the issue of bias and hostility towards Dugin and Russia in general, see Michael McGregor’s “Bipolar Russophobia”: <http://www.radixjournal.com/blog/2014/9/13/bipolar-russophobia >.

For an overview of the vision of a Multipolar World from an Identitarian perspective, see also Lucian Tudor, “The Philosophy of Identity: Ethnicity, Culture, and Race in Identitarian Thought,” The Occidental Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Fall 2014), pp. 83-112.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under New European Conservative

Civilization as Political Concept – Dugin

Civilization as Political Concept

Interview with the leader of the International “Eurasian Movement”, a philosopher, and a professor at Moscow State University Alexander Dugin.

Interviewed by the Global Revolutionary Alliance’s own Natella Speranskaja (Natella Speranskaya).

 

Natella Speranskaja: The crisis of identity, with which we faced after the Cold War and the collapse of the communist world, is still relevant. What do you think is capable of lifting us out of this crisis – a religious revival or creation of a new political ideology? Which of the options are you inclined to yourself?

Alexander Dugin: After the collapse of communism came the phase of the “unipolar moment” (as Charles Krauthammer called it). In geopolitics, this meant the victory of unilateralism and Atlanticism, and because the pole was left alone, the West has become a global phenomenon. Accordingly, the ideology of liberalism (or more accurately, neo-liberalism) is firmly in place crushing the two alternative political theories that existed in the twentieth century – communism and fascism. The Global liberal West has now defined culture, economics, information and technology, and politics. The West’s claims to the universalism of its values, the values of Western modernity and the Postmodern era, has reached its climax.

Problems stemming from the West during the “unipolar moment” has led many to say that this “moment” is over, that he could not yet be a “destiny” of humanity. That is, a “unipolar moment” should be interpreted very broadly – not only geopolitical, but also ideologically, economically, axiologically, civilization wide. The crisis of identity, about which you ask, has scrapped all previous identities – civilizational, historical, national, political, ethnic, religious, cultural, in favor of a universal planetary Western-style identity – with its concept of individualism, secularism, representative democracy, economic and political liberalism, cosmopolitanism and the ideology of human rights. Instead of a hierarchy of identities, which have traditionally played a large role in sets of collective identities, the “unipolar moment” affirmed a flat one-dimensional identity, with the absolutization of the individual singularity. One individual = one identity, and any forms of the collective identity (for example, individual as the part of the religious community, nation, ethnic group, race, or even sex) underwent dismantling and overthrowing. Hence the hatred of globalists for different kind of “majorities” and protection of minorities, up to the individual.

The Uni-polar Democracy of our moment – this is a democracy, which unambiguously protects the minority before the face of the majority and the individual before face of the group. This is the crisis of identity for those of non-Western or non-modern (or even not “postmodern”) societies, since this is where customary models are scrapped and liquidated. The postmodern West with optimism, on the contrary, asserts individualism and hyper-liberalism in its space and zealously exports it on the planetary scale.

However, it’s not painless, and has caused at all levels its own growing rejection. The problems, which have appeared in the West in the course of this “uni-polar moment”, forced many to speak, that this “moment’s” conclusion, has not succeeded in becoming “the fate” of humanity. This, therefore, was the cost of the possibility of passage to some other paradigm…

So, we can think about an alternative to the “unipolar moment” and, therefore, an alternative to liberalism, Americanism, Atlanticism, Western Postmodernism, globalization, individualism, etc. That is, we can, and I think should, work out plans and strategies for a “post-uni polar world”, at all levels – the ideological and political, the economic, and religious, and the philosophical and geo-political, the cultural and civilizational, and technology, and value.

In fact, this is what I call multi-polarity. As in the case of uni-polarity it is not only about the political and strategic map of the world, but also the paradigmatic philosophical foundations of the future world order. We cannot exactly say that the “uni-polar moment” has finally been completed. No, it is still continuing, but it faces a growing number of problems. We must put an end to it – eradicate it. This is a global revolution, since the existing domination of the West, liberalism and globalism completely controls the world oligarchy, financial and political elites.

So they just will not simply give up their positions. We must prepare for a serious and intense battle. Multi-polarity will be recaptured by the conquered peoples of the world in combat and it will be able to arise only on the smoking ruins of the global West. While the West is still dictating his will to the rest, to talk about early multipolarity – you must first destroy the Western domination on the ground. Crisis – this is much, but far from all.

Natella Speranskaja: If we accept the thesis of the paradigmatic transition from the current unipolar world order model to a new multi-polar model, where the actors are not nation-states, but entire civilizations, can it be said that this move would entail a radical change in the very human identity?

Alexander Dugin: Yes, of course. With the end of the unipolar moment, we are entering a whole new world. And it is not simply a reverse or a step back, but it is a step forward to some unprecedented future, however, different from the digital project of “lonely crowds”, which is reserved for humanity by globalism. Multi-polar identity will be the complex nonlinear collection of different identities – both individual and collective, that is varied for each civilization (or even inside each civilization).

This is something completely new that will be created.

And the changes will be radical. We cannot exclude that, along with known identities, civilizations, and offering of new ways … It is possible that one of these new identities will become the identity of “Superman” – in the Nietzschean sense or otherwise (for example, traditionalist) … In the “open society” of globalism the individual is, on the contrary, closed and strictly self-identical.

The multi-polar world’s anthropological map will be, however, extremely open, although the boundaries of civilizations will be defined clearly. Man will again re-open the measurement of inner freedom – “freedom for”, in spite of the flat and purely external liberal freedom – “freedom from” (as in John Mill), which is actually, not freedom, but its simulacrum, imposed for a more efficient operation of the planetary masses by a small group of global oligarchs.

Natella Speranskaja: Alexander Gelevich Dugin, you are the creator of the theory of a multi-polar world, which laid the foundation from which we can begin a new historical stage. Your book The Theory of a Multi-polar World (Теория многополярного мира) has been and is being translated into other languages. The transition to a new model of world order means a radical change in the foreign policy of nation-states, and in today’s global economy, in fact, you have created all the prerequisites for the emergence of a new diplomatic language. Of course, this is a challenge of the global hegemony of the West. What do you think will be the reaction of your political opponents when they realize the seriousness of the threat posed?

Alexander Dugin: As always in the vanguard of philosophical and ideological ideas, we first have the effect of bewilderment, the desire to silence or marginalize them. Then comes the phase of severe criticism and rejection. Then they begin to consider. Then they become commonplace and a truism. So it was with many of my ideas and concepts in the past 30 years. Traditionalism, geopolitics, Sociology of imagination , Ethnosociology, Conservative Revolution , National Bolshevism, Eurasianism, the Fourth Political Theory, National-structuralism, Russian Schmittianism, the concept of the three paradigms, the eschatological gnosis, New Metaphysics and Radical Theory of the Subject, Conspiracy theories, Russian Heideggerianism, a post-modern alternative, and so on – perceived first with hostility, then partially assimilated, and finally became part of mainstream discourse in academia and politics of Russia, and in part, beyond.

Each of these directions has their fate, but the diagram of their mastering is approximately identical. So it will be also with the theory of a multipolar world It will be hushed up, and then demonized and fiercely criticized, and then they will begin to look at it closely, and then accepted. But for all this it is necessary to pay for it and to defend it in the fight. Arthur Rimbaud said that “the spiritual battle as fierce and hard, as the battle of armies.” For this we will have to struggle violently and desperately. As for everything else.

Natella Speranskaja: In the “Theory of a multipolar world,” you write that in the dialogue between civilizations the responsibility is born by the elite of civilization. Do I understand correctly, it should be a “trained” elite, that is, the elite, which has a broad knowledge and capabilities, rather than the present “elite”? Tell me, what is the main difference between these elites?

Alexander Dugin: Civilizational elite – is a new concept. Thus far it does not exist. It is a combination of two qualities – deep assimilation of the particular civilizational culture (in the philosophical, religious, value levels) and the presence of a high degree of “drive,” persistently pushing people to the heights of power, prestige, and influence. Modern liberalism channels passion exclusively in the area of economics and business, creating a preference for a particular social elevator and it is a particular type of personality (which is an American sociologist Yuri Slezkine called the “mercurial type”).

The Mercurial elite of globalism, “aviakochevniki” mondialist nomadism, sung by Jacques Attali, should be overthrown in favor of radically different types of elites. Each civilization can dominate, and other “worlds”, not only thievish, mercurial shopkeepers and cosmopolitans. Islamic elite is clearly another – an example of this we see in today’s Iran, where the policy (Mars) and economics (Mercury) are subject to spiritual authority, of the Ayatollah (Saturn).

But the “world” is only a metaphor. Different civilizations are based on different codes. The main thing is that the elite must be reflected in the codes themselves, whatever they may be. This is the most important condition. The will to power inherent in any elite, shall be interfaced with the will to knowledge; that is, intellectualism and activism in such a multipolar elite should be wedded. Technological efficiency and value (often religious) content should be combined in such an elite. Only such an elite will be able to fully and responsibly participate in the dialogue of civilizations, embodying the principles of their traditions and engaging in interaction with other civilizations of the worlds.

Natella Speranskaja: How can you comment on the hypothesis that the return to a bipolar model is still possible?

Alexander Dugin: I think not, practically or theoretically. In practice, because today there is no country that is comparable to the basic parameters of the U.S. and the West in general. The U.S. broke away from the rest of the world so that no one on their own can compete with them. Theoretically, only the West now has a claim to universality of its values, whereas previously Marxism was regarded as an alternative. After the collapse of the Soviet Union it became clear that universalism is only liberal, capitalist. To resist Western imperialism there can only be a coalition of large spaces – not the second pole, but immediately multiple poles, each of them with its own strategic infrastructure and with a particular civilizational, cultural and ideological content.

Natella Speranskaja: How real is the sudden transition to a non-polar model? What are the main disadvantages of this model?

Alexander Dugin: Passage to a non-polar model, about which leaders are increasingly talking of in the Council on Foreign Relations (Richard Haass, George Soros, etc.), means the replacement of the facade of a uni-polar hegemony, the transition from the domination based on military and strategic power of the United States and NATO (hardware) to dispersed domination of the West as a whole (software). These are two versions – hard-hegemony and soft-hegemony. But in both cases the West, its civilization, its culture, its philosophy, its technologies, its political and economic institutes and procedures come out as the standard universal model. Over the long term, this will indicate the transfer of power to a “world government”, which will be dominated by all the same Western elites, the global oligarchy. It will then discard its mask and will act directly on behalf of the transnational forces. In some sense, non-polarity is worse than uni-polarity, though it would seem hard to believe.

Non-polarity itself, and even more sharply and rapidly, will not yet begin. For this, the world must go through the turmoil and trials until a desperate humanity itself cries for the world elite with a prayer for salvation. Prior to that, to weaken the power of the United States, world disasters occur, and war. Non-polar world under the control of a world government, consisting of direct representatives of the global oligarchy, is expected by many religious circles as the coming “of the kingdom of the Antichrist.”

As for the “shortcomings” of such a model, I believe that it is just “a great parody of” the sacred world empire, which Rene Guenon warned of in his work The Reign of Quantity and The Signs of the Times. This will be a global simulacrum. To recognize these “deficiencies” will not be so easy, otherwise opposition to “the Antichrist” would be too simple a matter, and the depth of his temptation would be insignificant.

The true alternative is a multi-polar world. Everything else – evil in the truest sense of the word.

Natella Speranskaja: The “counter-hegemony” by Robert Cox, who you mention in your book aims to expose the existing order in international relations and raise the rebellion against it. To do this, Cox called for the creation of counter-hegemonic bloc, which will include political actors who reject the existing hegemony. Have you developed the Fourth Political Theory as a kind of counter-hegemonic doctrine that could unite the rebels against the hegemony of the West?

Alexander Dugin: I am convinced that the Fourth Political Theory fits into the logic of building counter-hegemony, which Cox spoke of. By the way, also in the proximity of critical theory in the MO theory, and multi-polar world is a wonderful text by Alexandra Bovdunova, voiced at the Conference on the Theory of a Multipolar World in Moscow, Moscow State University on 25-26 April 2012.

4PT is not a complete doctrine, this is still the first steps toward the exit from the conceptual impasse in which we find ourselves in the face of liberalism, today rejected by more and more people around the world, in the collapse of the old anti-liberal political theories – Communism and Fascism. In a sense, the need for 4PT – is a sign of the times, and really cannot be disputed by anyone. Another matter, what will be 4PT in its final form. The temptation appears to build it as a syncretic combination of elements of previous anti-liberal doctrines and ideologies …

I am convinced that we should go another way. It is necessary to understand the root of the current hegemony. This coincides with the root of modernity as such, and it grows from the roots of modernity in all three pillars of political theories – liberalism, communism and fascism. To manipulate them to find an alternative to modernity and liberalism, respectively, and of the liberal hegemony of the West, is in my view, pointless. We must move beyond modernity in general, beyond the range of its political actors – individual, class, nation, state, etc.

Therefore 4PT as the basis of a counter-hegemonic planetary front should be constructed quite differently. Like the theory of a multipolar world 4PT operates with a new concept – “civilization”, but 4PT puts special emphasis on the existential aspect of it. Hence the most important, the central thesis of 4PT that its subject is the actor – Dasein. Every civilization, its Dasein, which means that it describes a specific set of existentials. On their basis, should be raised a new political theory generalized at the following level into a “multipolar federation of Dasein” as the concrete structure of counter-hegemony. In other words, the very counter-hegemony must be conceived existentially, as a field of war between the inauthentic globalization (global alienation) and the horizon of authentic peoples and societies in a multipolar world (the possibility of overcoming the alienation of civilizations).

Natella Speranskaja: When we talk about cognitive uprising, however, first of all, should our actions be aimed at the overthrow of the dictatorship of the West?

Alexander Dugin: The most important step is the beginning of the systematic preparation of a global revolutionary elite-oriented to multi-polarity 4PT. This elite must perform a critical function – to be a link between the local and global. At the local level we are talking about the masses and the clearest exponents of their local culture (religious leaders, philosophers, etc.). Often, these communities do not have a planetary perspective and simply defend their conservative identity before the onset of toxic globalization and Western imperialism.

Raising the masses and the traditionalist-conservatives to a realized uprising in the context of a complex union of a counter-hegemonistic block is extremely difficult. Simple conservatives and their supportive mass, for example, of the Islamic or Orthodox persuasion are unlikely to realize the necessity of alliances with the Hindus or the Chinese. This will be the play (and they are already actively playing it) of the globalists and their principle of “divide and conquer!” But the revolutionary elite, which is the elite, even within a particular traditionalist elite of society, should take the heartfelt deep and deliberate feelings of local identity and correlate it within a total horizon of multi-polarity, and the 4PT.

Without the formation of such an elite, the revolt against the post-modern world and the overthrow of the dictatorship of the West will not take place. Every time and everywhere the West has a problem, he will come to the aid of anti-Western forces, which, however, will be motivated by narrow bills to specific civilizational neighbors – most often, just as anti-Western as they are. So it will be and already is the instrumentalization of globalists of various conservative fundamentalist and nationalist movements. Islamic fundamentalists to help the West is one. European nationalists – is another. So a “unipolar moment” extends not only to exist in itself, but also playing the antagonistic forces against him. The overthrow of the dictatorship of the West will become possible only if this strategy will be sufficient enough to create or make appear a new counter-hegemonic elite. An initiative like Global Revolutionary Alliance – the unique example of really revolutionary and effective opposition to hegemony.

Natella Speranskaja: You have repeatedly said that Eurasianism is a strategic, philosophical, cultural and civilizational choice. Can we hope that the political course chosen by Vladimir Putin (establishment of a Eurasian Union) Is the first step towards a multipolar model?

Alexander Dugin: This is a difficult question. By himself, Putin and, especially, his environment, they act more out of inertia, without calling into question the legitimacy of the existing planetary status quo. Their goal – to win his and Russia’s rather appropriate place within the existing world order. But that is the problem: a truly acceptable place for Russia is not and cannot exist, because the “uni-polar moment”, as well as the globalists, stand for the de-sovereignization of Russia, eliminating it as an independent civilization and strategic pole.

This self-destruction seems to suit Dmitry Medvedev and his entourage (INSOR), for he was ready to reboot and go for almost all of it. Putin clearly understands the situation somewhat differently, and his criteria of “acceptability” is also different. He would most of all psychologically arrange a priority partnership with the West while maintaining the sovereignty of Russia. But this is something unacceptable under any circumstances to the unipolar globalists – practically or theoretically.

So Putin is torn between multipolarity – where he leads the orientation of sovereignty – and Atlanticism – where he leads the inertia and the tireless work of a huge network of influence that permeates all of the structure of Russian society. Here is the dilemma. Putin makes moves in both directions – he proclaims multi-polarity, the Eurasian Union, to protect the sovereignty of Russia, even spoke of the peculiarities of Russian civilization, strengthening vertical power, shows respect (if not more) to Orthodoxy, but on the other hand, surrounds himself with pro-American experts (eg, “Valdai Club”), rebuilds education and culture under the globalistic Western models, has a liberal economic policy and suffers comprador oligarchs, etc.

The field for maneuver Putin is constantly shrinking. The logic of the circumstances pushes him to a more unambiguous choice. Inside the country this uncertainty of course causes growing hostility, and his legitimacy falls.

Outside the country, the West only increases the pressure on Putin to persuade him towards globalism and the recognition of “unilateralism”, specifically – to cede his post to the Westerner Medvedev. So Putin, while continuing to fluctuate between multipolarity and Westernism, loses ground and support here and there.

The new period of his presidency will be very difficult. We will do everything we can to move it to a multipolar world, the Eurasian Union and 4PT. But we are not alone in Russian politics – against us for influence in Putin’s circles we have an army of liberals, agents of Western influence and the staff of the global oligarchy. For us, though, we have the People and the Truth. But behind them – a global oligarchy, money, lies, and, apparently, the father of lies. Nevertheless, vincit omnia veritas. That I have no doubt.

 

—————–

Dugin, Alexander. “Civilization as Political Concept.” Interview by Natella Speranskaja. Euro-Synergies, 13 June 2012. <http://euro-synergies.hautetfort.com/archive/2012/06/09/civilization-as-political-concept.html >. The text of this interview was also found at the official Fourth Political Theory website: <http://www.4pt.su/en/content/civilization-political-concept >. (See this article in PDF format here: Civilization as Political Concept).

Notes on further reading: On the topics discussed in the above interview, one of Aleksandr Dugin’s most  well-known books is Четвёртая политическая теория (Санкт-Петербург & Москва: Амфора, 2009), which is available in English translation as The Fourth Political Theory (London: Arktos, 2012), in Spanish translation as La Cuarta Teoría Política (Molins de Rei, Barcelona: Nueva República, 2013), in German translation as Die Vierte Politische Theorie (London: Arktos, 2013), in French translation as La Quatrième Théorie Politique (Nantes: Éditions Ars Magna, 2012), in Portuguese translation as A Quarta Teoria Política (Curitiba: Editora Austral, 2012), in Romanian translation as A Patra Teorie Politică (Chișinău: Editura Universitatea Populară, 2014), in Greek translation as Η τέταρτη πολιτική θεωρία (Αθήνα: Έσοπτρον, 2013), and in Serbian translation as Четврта политичка теорија (Београд: MIR Publishing, 2013).

Also of note in English is Dugin’s book Eurasian Mission: Program Materials (Moscow: International Eurasian Movement, 2005 [2nd edition: London: Arktos, 2015]). For those who know French, an important book by Alexander Dugin has been published as  Pour une théorie du monde multipolaire (Nantes: Éditions Ars Magna, 2013), the French translation of the Russian original: теория многополярного мира (Москва: Евразийское движение, 2012). There is also a Portuguese translation of this work known as Teoria do Mundo Multipolar (Iaeg, 2012). On the theory of the multi-polar world in German, see Dugin’s Konflikte der Zukunft: Die Rückkehr der Geopolitik (Kiel: Arndt-Verlag, 2014). Also worth noting in French is Dugin’s books Le prophète de l’eurasisme (Paris: Avatar Éditions, 2006) and L’appel de L’Eurasie (Paris: Avatar Éditions, 2013). A Spanish version of the latter has been published as ¿Qué es el eurasismo? Una conversación de Alain de Benoist con Alexander Dugin (Tarragona: Ediciones Fides, 2014). It should also be noted that a deeper clarification of the Fourth Political Theory has also been published by Dugin (in Russian), titled Четвертый Путь (Москва: Академический проект, 2014).

A good introduction to Dugin and his ideas in the Spanish language can be found in Sebastian J. Lorenz’s Elementos, N° 70, “Alexander Dugin y la Cuarta Teoría Política: La Nueva Derecha Rusa Eurasiática” (Mayo 2014), <http://urkultur-imperium-europa.blogspot.com/2014/05/elementos-n-70-alexander-dugin-y-la.html >. (We have made Elementos Nº 70 available for download from our site here: Elementos Nº 70 – Dugin). For Spanish readers, the book ¿Qué es el eurasismo? (previously cited) also serves as a good introduction to Dugin’s thought, which augments the Elementos publication.

For more information, see the official Fourth Political Theory website: <http://www.4pt.su/ >.

 

4 Comments

Filed under New European Conservative

Othmar Spann – Tudor

Othmar Spann: A Catholic Radical Traditionalist

By Lucian Tudor

 

Translations: Português

Othmar Spann was an Austrian philosopher who was a key influence on German conservative and traditionalist thought in the period after World War I, and he is thus considered a representative of the intellectual movement known as the “Conservative Revolution.” Spann was a professor of economics and sociology at the University of Vienna, where he taught not only scientific social and economic theories, but also influenced many students with the presentation of his worldview in his lectures. As a result of this he formed a large group of followers known as the Spannkreis (“Spann Circle”). This circle of intellectuals attempted to influence politicians who would be sympathetic to “Spannian” philosophy in order to actualize its goals.[1]

Othmar Spann himself was influenced by a variety of philosophers across history, including Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, J. G. Fichte, Franz von Baader, and most notably the German Romantic thought of Adam Müller. Spann called his own worldview “Universalism,” a term which should not be confused with “universalism” in the vernacular sense; for the former is nationalistic and values particularity while the latter refers to cosmopolitan or non-particularist (even anti-particularist) ideas. Spann’s term is derived from the root word “universality,” which is in this case synonymous with related terms such as collectivity, totality, or whole.[2] Spann’s Universalism was expounded in a number of books, most notably in Der wahre Staat (“The True State”), and essentially taught the value of nationality, of the social whole over the individual, of religious (specifically Catholic) values over materialistic values, and advocated the model of a non-democratic, hierarchical, and corporatist state as the only truly valid political constitution.

Social Theory

Othmar Spann declared: “It is the fundamental truth of all social science . . . that not individuals are the truly real, but the whole, and that the individuals have reality and existence only so far as they are members of the whole.”[3] This concept, which is at the core of Spann’s sociology, is not a denial of the existence of the individual person, but a complete denial of individualism; individualism being that ideology which denies the existence and importance of supra-individual realities. Classical liberal theory, which was individualist, held an “atomistic” view of individuals and regarded only individuals as truly real; individuals which it believed were essentially disconnected and independent from each other. It also held that society only exists as an instrumental association as a result of a “social contract.” On the other hand, sociological studies have disproven this theory, showing that the whole (society) is never merely the sum of its parts (individuals) and that individuals naturally have psychological bonds with each other. This was Othmar Spann’s position, but he had his own unique way of formulating it.[4]

While the theory of individualism appears, superficially, to be correct to many people, an investigation into the matter shows that it is entirely fallacious. Individuals never act entirely independently because their behavior is always at least in part determined by the society in which they live, and by their organic, non-instrumental (and thus also non-contractual) bonds with other people in their society. Spann wrote, “according to this view, the individual is no longer self-determined and self-created, and is no longer based exclusively and entirely on its own egoicity.”[5] Spann conceived of the social order, of the whole, as an organic society (a community) in which all individuals belonging to it have a pre-existing spiritual unity. The individual person emerges as such from the social whole to which he was born and from which he is never really separated, and “thus the individual is that which is derivative.”[6]

Therefore, society is not merely a mechanical aggregate of fundamentally disparate individuals, but a whole, a community, which precedes its parts, the individuals. “Universalists contend that the mental or spiritual associative tie between individuals exists as an independent entity . . .”[7] However, Spann clarified that this does not mean that the individual has “no mental self-sufficiency,” but rather that he actualizes his personal being only as a member of the whole: “he is only able to form himself, is only able to build up his personality, when in close touch with others like unto himself; he can only sustain himself as a being endowed with mentality or spirituality, when he enjoys intimate and multiform communion with other beings similarly endowed.”[8] Therefore,

All spiritual reality present in the individual is only there and only comes into being as something that has been awakened . . . the spirituality that comes into being in an individual (whether directly or mediated) is always in some sense a reverberation of that which another spirit has called out to the individual. This means that human spirituality exists only in community, never in spiritual isolation. . . . We can say that individual spirituality only exists in community or better, in ‘spiritual community’ [Gezweiung]. All spiritual essence and reality exists as ‘spiritual community’ and only in ‘communal spirituality’ [Gezweitheit]. [9]

It is also important to clarify that Spann’s concept of society did not conceive of society as having no other spiritual bodies within it that were separate from each other. On the contrary, he recognized the importance of the various sub-groups, referred to by him as “partial wholes,” as constituent parts and elements which are different yet related, and which are harmonized by the whole under which they exist. Therefore, the whole or the totality can be understood as the unity of individuals and “partial wholes.” To reference a symbolic image, “Totality [the Whole] is analogous to white light before it is refracted by a prism into many colors,” in which the white light is the supra-temporal totality, while the prism is cosmic time which “refracts the totality into the differentiated and individuated temporal reality.”[10]

Nationality and Racial Style

Volk (“people” or “nation”), which signifies “nationality” in the cultural and ethnic sense, is an entirely different entity and subject matter from society or the whole, but for Spann the two had an important connection. Spann was a nationalist and, defining Volk in terms of belonging to a “spiritual community” with a shared culture, believed that a social whole is under normal conditions only made up of a single ethnic type. Only when people shared the same cultural background could the deep bonds which were present in earlier societies truly exist. He thus upheld the “concept of the concrete cultural community, the idea of the nation – as contrasted with the idea of unrestricted, cosmopolitan, intercourse between individuals.”[11]

Spann advocated the separation of ethnic groups under different states and was also a supporter of pan-Germanism because he believed that the German people should unite under a single Reich. Because he also believed that the German nation was intellectually superior to all other nations (a notion which can be considered as the unfortunate result of a personal bias), Spann also believed that Germans had a duty to lead Europe out of the crisis of liberal modernity and to a healthier order similar to that which had existed in the Middle Ages.[12]

Concerning the issue of race, Spann attempted to formulate a view of race which was in accordance with the Christian conception of the human being, which took into account not only his biology but also his psychological and spiritual being. This is why Spann rejected the common conception of race as a biological entity, for he did not believe that racial types were derived from biological inheritance, just as he did not believe an individual person’s character was set into place by heredity. Rather what race truly was for Spann was a cultural and spiritual character or type, so a person’s “racial purity” is determined not by biological purity but by how much his character and style of behavior conforms to a specific spiritual quality. In his comparison of the race theories of Spann and Ludwig Ferdinand Clauss (an influential race psychologist), Eric Voegelin had concluded:

In Spann’s race theory and in the studies of Clauss we find race as the idea of a total being: for these two scholars racial purity or blood purity is not a property of the genetic material in the biological sense, but rather the stylistic purity of the human form in all its parts, the possession of a mental stamp recognizably the same in its physical and psychological expression. [13]

However, it should be noted that while Ludwig Clauss (like Spann) did not believe that spiritual character was merely a product of genetics, he did in fact emphasize that physical race had importance because the bodily racial form must be essentially in accord with the psychical racial form with which it is associated, and with which it is always linked. As Clauss wrote,

The style of the psyche expresses itself in its arena, the animate body. But in order for this to be possible, this arena itself must be governed by a style, which in turn must stand in a structured relationship to the style of the psyche: all the features of the somatic structure are, as it were, pathways for the expression of the psyche. The racially constituted (that is, stylistically determined) psyche thus acquires a racially constituted animate body in order to express the racially constituted style of its experience in a consummate and pure manner. The psyche’s expressive style is inhibited if the style of its body does not conform perfectly with it.[14]

Likewise Julius Evola, whose thought was influenced by both Spann and Clauss, and who expanded Clauss’s race psychology to include religious matters, also affirmed that the body had a certain level of importance.[15]

On the other hand, the negative aspect of Othmar Spann’s theory of race is that it ends up dismissing the role of physical racial type entirely, and indeed many of Spann’s major works do not even mention the issue of race. A consequence of this was also the fact that Spann tolerated and even approved of critiques made by his students of National Socialist theories of race which emphasized the role of biology; an issue which would later compromise his relationship with that movement even though he was one of its supporters.[16]

The True State

Othmar Spann’s Universalism was in essence a Catholic form of “Radical Traditionalism”; he believed that there existed eternal principles upon which every social, economic, and political order should be constructed. Whereas the principles of the French Revolution – of liberalism, democracy, and socialism – were contingent upon historical circumstances, bound by world history, there are certain principles upon which most ancient and medieval states were founded which are eternally valid, derived from the Divine order. While specific past state forms which were based on these principles cannot be revived exactly as they were because they held many characteristics which are outdated and historical, the principles upon which they were built and therefore the general model which they provide are timeless and must reinstituted in the modern world, for the systems derived from the French Revolution are invalid and harmful.[17] This timeless model was the Wahre Staat or “True State” – a corporative, monarchical, and elitist state – which was central to Universalist philosophy.

1. Economics

In terms of economics, Spann, like Adam Müller, rejected both capitalism and socialism, advocating a corporatist system relatable to that of the guild system and the landed estates of the Middle Ages; a system in which fields of work and production would be organized into corporations and would be subordinated in service to the state and to the nation, and economic activity would therefore be directed by administrators rather than left solely to itself. The value of each good or commodity produced in this system was determined not by the amount of labor put into it (the labor theory of value of Marx and Smith), but by its “organic use” or “social utility,” which means its usefulness to the social whole and to the state.[18]

Spann’s major reason for rejecting capitalism was because it was individualistic, and thus had a tendency to create disharmony and weaken the spiritual bonds between individuals in the social whole. Although Spann did not believe in eliminating competition from economic life, he pointed out that the extreme competition glorified by capitalists created a market system in which there occurred a “battle of all against all” and in which undertakings were not done in service to the whole and the state but in service to self-centered interests. Universalist economics aimed to create harmony in society and economics, and therefore valued “the vitalising energy of the personal interdependence of all the members of the community . . .”[19]

Furthermore, Spann recognized that capitalism also did result in an unfair treatment by capitalists of those underneath them. Thus while he believed Marx’s theories to be theoretically flawed, Spann also mentioned that “Marx nevertheless did good service by drawing attention to the inequality of the treatment meted out to worker and to entrepreneur respectively in the individualist order of society.”[20] Spann, however, rejected socialist systems in general because while socialism seemed superficially Universalistic, it was in fact a mixture of Universalist and individualist elements. It did not recognize the primacy of the State over individuals and also held that all individuals in society should hold the same position, eliminating all class distinctions, and should receive the same amount of goods. “True universalism looks for an organic multiplicity, for inequality,” and thus recognizes differences even if it works to establish harmony between the parts.[21]

2. Politics

Spann asserted that all democratic political systems were an inversion of the truly valuable political order, which was of even greater importance than the economic system. A major problem of democracy was that it allowed, firstly, the manipulation of the government by wealthy capitalists and financiers whose moral character was usually questionable and whose goals were almost never in accord with the good of the community; and secondly, democracy allowed the triumph of self-interested demagogues who could manipulate the masses. However, even the theoretical base of democracy was flawed, according to Spann, because human beings were essentially unequal, for individuals are always in reality differentiated in their qualities and thus are suited for different positions in the social order. Democracy thus, by allowing a mass of people to decide governmental matters, meant excluding the right of superior individuals to determine the destiny of the State, for “setting the majority in the saddle means that the lower rule over the higher.”[22]

Finally, Spann noted that “demands for democracy and liberty are, once more, wholly individualistic.”[23] In the Universalist True State, the individual would subordinate his will to the whole and would be guided by a sense of selfless duty in service to the State, as opposed to asserting his individual will against all other wills. Furthermore, the individual did not possess rights because of his “rational” character and simply because of being human, as many Enlightenment thinkers asserted, but these rights were derived from the ethics of the particular social whole to which he belonged and from the laws of the State.[24] Universalism also acknowledged the inherent inequalities in human beings and supported a hierarchical organization of the political order, where there would be only “equality among equals” and the “subordination of the intellectually inferior under their intellectual betters.”[25]

In the True State, individuals who demonstrated their leadership skills, their superior nature, and the right ethical character would rise among the levels of the hierarchy. The state would be led by a powerful elite whose members would be selected from the upper levels of the hierarchy based on their merit; it was essentially a meritocratic aristocracy. Those in inferior positions would be taught to accept their role in society and respect their superiors, although all parts of the system are “nevertheless indispensable for its survival and development.”[26] Therefore, “the source of the governing power is not the sovereignty of the people, but the sovereignty of the content.”[27]

Othmar Spann, in accordance with his Catholic religious background, believed in the existence of a supra-sensual, metaphysical, and spiritual reality which existed separately from and above the material reality, and of which the material realm was its imperfect reflection. He asserted that the True State must be animated by Christian spirituality, and that its leaders must be guided by their devotion to Divine laws; the True State was thus essentially theocratic. However, the leadership of the state would receive its legitimacy not only from its religious character, but also by possessing “valid spiritual content,” which “precedes power as it is represented in law and the state.”[28] Thus Spann concluded that “history teaches us that it is the validity of spiritual values that constitutes the spiritual bond. They cannot be replaced by fire and sword, nor by any other form of force. All governance that endures, and all the order that society has thus achieved, is the result of inner domination.”[29]

The state which Spann aimed to restore was also federalistic in nature, uniting all “partial wholes” – corporate bodies and local regions which would have a certain level of local self-governance – with respect to the higher Authority. As Julius Evola wrote, in a description that is in accord with Spann’s views, “the true state exists as an organic whole comprised of distinct elements, and, embracing partial unities [wholes], each possesses a hierarchically ordered life of its own.”[30] All throughout world history the hierarchical, corporative True State appears and reappears; in the ancient states of Sparta, Rome, Persia, Medieval Europe, and so on. The structures of the states of these times “had given the members of these societies a profound feeling of security. These great civilizations had been characterized by their harmony and stability.”[31]

Liberal modernity had created a crisis in which the harmony of older societies was damaged by capitalism and in which social bonds were weakened (even if not eliminated) by individualism. However, Spann asserted that all forms of liberalism and individualism are a sickness which could never succeed in fully eliminating the original, primal reality. He predicted that in the era after World War I, the German people would reassert its rights and would create revolution restoring the True State, would recreate that “community tying man to the eternal and absolute forces present in the universe,”[32] and whose revolution would subsequently resonate all across Europe, resurrecting in modern political life the immortal principles of Universalism.

Spann’s Influence and Reception

Othmar Spann and his circle held influence largely in Germany and Austria, and it was in the latter country that their influence was the greatest. Spann’s philosophy became the basis of the ideology of the Austrian Heimwehr (“Home Guard”) which was led by Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg. Leaders of the so-called “Austro-fascist state,” including Engelbert Dollfuss and Kurt Schuschnigg, were also partially influenced by Spann’s thought and by members of the “Spann circle.”[33] However, despite the fact that this state was the only one which truly attempted to actualize his ideas, Spann did not support “Austro-fascism” because he was a pan-Germanist and wanted the German people unified under a single state, which is why he joined Hitler’s National Socialist movement, which he believed would pave the way to the True State.

Despite repeated attempts to influence National Socialist ideology and the leaders of the NSDAP, Spann and his circle were rejected by most National Socialists. Alfred Rosenberg, Robert Ley, and various other authors associated with the SS made a number of attacks on Spann’s school. Rosenberg was annoyed both by Spann’s denial of the importance of blood and by his Catholic theocratic position; he wrote that “the Universalist school of Othmar Spann has successfully refuted idiotic materialist individualism . . . [but] Spann asserted against traditional Greek wisdom, and claimed that god is the measure of all things and that true religion is found only in the Catholic Church.”[34]

Aside from insisting on the reality of biological laws, other National Socialists also criticized Spann’s political proposals. They asserted that his hierarchical state would create a destructive divide between the people and their elite because it insisted on their absolute separateness; it would destroy the unity they had established between the leadership and the common folk. Although National Socialism itself had elements of elitism it was also populist, and thus they further argued that every German had the potential to take on a leadership role, and that therefore, if improved within in the Volksgemeinschaft (“Folk-Community”), the German people were thus not necessarily divisible in the strict view of superior elites and inferior masses.[35]

As was to be expected, Spann’s liberal critics complained that his anti-individualist position was supposedly too extreme, and the social democrats and Marxists argued that his corporatist state would take away the rights of the workers and grant rulership to the bourgeois leaders. Both accused Spann of being an unrealistic reactionary who wanted to revive the Middle Ages.[36] However, here we should note here that Edgar Julius Jung, who was himself basically a type of Universalist and was heavily inspired by Spann’s work, had mentioned that:

We are reproached for proceeding alongside or behind active political forces, for being romantics who fail to see reality and who indulge in dreams of an ideology of the Reich that turns toward the past. But form and formlessness represent eternal social principles, like the struggle between the microcosm and the macrocosm endures in the eternal swing of the pendulum. The phenomenal forms that mature in time are always new, but the great principles of order (mechanical or organic) always remain the same. Therefore if we look to the Middle Ages for guidance, finding there the great form, we are not only not mistaking the present time but apprehending it more concretely as an age that is itself incapable of seeing behind the scenes. [37]

Edgar Jung, who was one of Hitler’s most prominent radical Conservative opponents, expounded a philosophy which was remarkably similar to Spann’s, although there are some differences we would like to point out. Jung believed that neither Fascism nor National Socialism were precursors to the reestablishment of the True State but rather “simply another manifestation of the liberal, individualistic, and secular tradition that had emerged from the French Revolution.”[38] Fascism and National Socialism were not guided by a reference to a Divine power and were still infected with individualism, which he believed showed itself in the fact that their leaders were guided by their own ambitions and not a duty to God or a power higher than themselves.

Edgar Jung also rejected nationalism in the strict sense, although he simultaneously upheld the value of Volk and the love of fatherland, and advocated the reorganization of the European continent on a federalist basis with Germany being the leading nation of the federation. Also in contrast to Spann’s views, Jung believed that genetic inheritance did play a role in the character of human beings, although he believed this role was secondary to cultural and spiritual factors and criticized common scientific racialism for its “biological materialism.”

Jung asserted that what he saw as superior racial elements in a population should be strengthened and the inferior elements decreased: “Measures for the raising of racially valuable components of the German people and for the prevention of inferior currents must however be found today rather than tomorrow.”[39] Jung also believed that the elites of the Reich, while they should be open to accepting members of lower levels of the hierarchy who showed leadership qualities, should marry only within the elite class, for in this way a new nobility possessing leadership qualities strengthened both genetically and spiritually would be developed.[40]

Whereas Jung constantly combatted National Socialism to his life’s end, up until the Anschluss Othmar Spann had remained an enthusiastic supporter of National Socialism, always believing he could eventually influence the Third Reich leadership to adopt his philosophy. This illusion was maintained in his mind until the takeover of Austria by Germany in 1938, soon after which Spann was arrested and imprisoned because he was deemed an ideological threat, and although he was released after a few months, he was forcibly confined to his rural home.[41] After World War II he could never regain any political influence, but he left his mark in the philosophical realm. Spann had a partial influence on Eric Voegelin and also on many Neue Rechte (“New Right”) intellectuals such as Armin Mohler and Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner.[42] He has also had an influence on Radical Traditionalist thought, most notably on Julius Evola, who wrote that Spann “followed a similar line to my own,”[43] although there are obviously certain marked differences between the two thinkers. Spann’s philosophy thus, despite its flaws and limitations, has not been entirely lacking in usefulness and interest.

Notes

1. More detailed information on Othmar Spann’s life than provided in this essay can be found in John J. Haag, Othmar Spann and the Politics of “Totality”: Corporatism in Theory and Practice (Ph.D. Thesis, Rice University, 1969).

2. See Othmar Spann, Types of Economic Theory (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1930), p. 61. We should note to the reader that this book is the only major work by Spann to have been published in English and has also been published under an alternative title as History of Economics.

3. Othmar Spann as quoted in Ernest Mort, “Christian Corporatism,” Modern Age, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Summer 1959), p. 249. Available online here: http://www.mmisi.org/ma/03_03/mort.pdf.

4. For a more in-depth and scientific overview of Spann’s studies of society, see Barth Landheer, “Othmar Spann’s Social Theories.” Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 39, No. 2 (April, 1931), pp. 239–48. We should also note to our readers that Othmar Spann’s anti-individualist social theories are more similar to those of other “far Right” sociologists such as Hans Freyer and Werner Sombart. However, it should be remembered that sociologists from nearly all political positions are opposed to individualism to some extent, whether they are of the “moderate Center” or of the “far Left.” Furthermore, anti-individualism is a typical position among many mainstream sociologists today, who recognize that individualistic attitudes – which are, of course, still an issue in societies today just as they were an issue a hundred years ago – have a harmful effect on society as a whole.

5. Othmar Spann, Der wahre Staat (Leipzig: Verlag von Quelle und Meyer, 1921), p. 29. Quoted in Eric Voegelin, Theory of Governance and Other Miscellaneous Papers, 1921–1938 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2003), p. 68.

6. Spann, Der wahre Staat, p. 29. Quoted in Voegelin, Theory of Governance, p. 69.

7. Spann, Types of Economic Theory, pp. 60–61.

8. Ibid., p. 61.

9. Spann, Der wahre Staat, pp. 29 & 34. Quoted in Voegelin, Theory of Governance, pp. 70–71.

10. J. Glenn Friesen, “Dooyeweerd, Spann, and the Philosophy of Totality,” Philosophia Reformata, 70 (2005), p. 6. Available online here: http://members.shaw.ca/hermandooyeweerd/Totality.pdf.

11. Spann, Types of Economic Theory, p. 199.

12. See Haag, Spann and the Politics of “Totality,” p. 48.

13. Eric Voegelin, Race and State (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997), pp. 117–18.

14. Ludwig F. Clauss, Rasse und Seele (Munich: J. F. Lehmann, 1926), pp. 20–21. Quoted in Richard T. Gray, About Face: German Physiognomic Thought from Lavater to Auschwitz (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2004), p. 307.

15. For an overview of Evola’s theory of race, see Michael Bell, “Julius Evola’s Concept of Race: A Racism of Three Degrees.” The Occidental Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Winter 2009–2010), pp. 101–12. Available online here: http://toqonline.com/archives/v9n2/TOQv9n2Bell.pdf. For a closer comparison between the Evola’s theories and Clauss’s, see Julius Evola’s The Elements of Racial Education (Thompkins & Cariou, 2005).

16. See Haag, Spann and the Politics of “Totality, p. 136.

17. A more in-depth explanation of “Radical Traditionalism” can be found in Chapter 1: Revolution – Counterrevolution – Tradition” in Julius Evola, Men Among the Ruins: Postwar Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist, trans. Guido Stucco, ed. Michael Moynihan (Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2002).

18. See Spann, Types of Economic Theory, pp. 162–64.

19. Ibid., p. 162.

20. Ibid., p. 226.

21. Ibid., p. 230.

22. Spann, Der wahre Staat, p. 111. Quoted in Janek Wasserman, Black Vienna, Red Vienna: The Struggle for Intellectual and Political Hegemony in Interwar Vienna, 1918–1938 (Ph.D. Dissertion, Washington University, 2010), p. 80.

23. Spann, Types of Economic Theory, pp. 212.

24. For a commentary on individual natural rights theory, see Ibid., pp.53 ff.

25. Spann, Der wahre Staat, p. 185. Quoted in Wassermann, Black Vienna, Red Vienna, p. 82.

26. Haag, Spann and the Politics of “Totality,” p. 32.

27. Othmar Spann, Kurzgefasstes System der Gesellschaftslehre (Berlin: Quelle und Meyer, 1914), p. 429. Quoted in Voegelin, Theory of Governance, p. 301.

28. Spann, Gesellschaftslehre, p. 241. Quoted in Voegelin, Theory of Governance, p. 297.

29. Spann, Gesellschaftslehre, p. 495. Quoted in Voegelin, Theory of Governance, p. 299.

30. Julius Evola, The Path of Cinnabar (London: Integral Tradition Publishing, 2009), p. 190.

31. Haag, Spann and the Politics of “Totality, p. 39.

32. Ibid., pp. 40–41.

33. See Günter Bischof, Anton Pelinka, Alexander Lassner, The Dollfuss/Schuschnigg Era in Austria: A Reassessment (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2003), pp. 16, 32, & 125 ff.

34. Alfred Rosenberg, The Myth of the Twentieth Century (Sussex, England: Historical Review Press, 2004), pp. 458–59.

35. See Haag, Spann and the Politics of “Totality, pp. 127–29.

36. See Ibid., pp. 66 ff.

37. Edgar Julius Jung, “Germany and the Conservative Revolution,” in: The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, edited by Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), p. 354.

38. Larry Eugene Jones, “Edgar Julius Jung: The Conservative Revolution in Theory and Practice,” Conference Group for Central European History of the American Historical Association, Vol. 21, No. 02 (1988), p. 163.

39. Edgar Julius Jung, “People, Race, Reich,” in: Europa: German Conservative Foreign Policy 1870–1940, edited by Alexander Jacob (Lanham, MD, USA: University Press of America, 2002), p. 101.

40. For a more in-depth overview of Jung’s life and thought, see Walter Struve, Elites Against Democracy: Leadership Ideals in Bourgeois Political Thought in Germany, 1890–1933 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University, 1973), pp. 317 ff. See also Edgar Julius Jung, The Rule of the Inferiour, 2 vols. (Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellon Press, 1995).

41. Haag, Spann and the Politics of “Totality, pp. 154–55.

42. See our previous citations of Voegelin’s Theory of Governance and Race and State; Armin Mohler, Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918–1932 (Stuttgart: Friedrich Vorwerk Verlag, 1950); “Othmar Spann” in Gerd-Klaus Kaltenbrunner, Vom Geist Europas, Vol. 1 (Asendorf: Muth-Verlag, 1987).

43. Evola, Path of Cinnabar, p. 155.

 

—————-

 

Tudor, Lucian. “Othmar Spann: A Catholic Radical Traditionalist.” Counter-Currents Publishing, 19 March 2013. <http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/03/othmar-spann-a-catholic-radical-traditionalist/>.

Note: This essay was also republished in updated form in Lucian Tudor’s From the German Conservative Revolution to the New Right: A Collection of Essays on Identitarian Philosophy (Santiago, Chile: Círculo de Investigaciones PanCriollistas, 2015).

 

2 Comments

Filed under New European Conservative

Review of Dugin’s 4th Political Theory – Pistun

The Fourth Political Theory – A Review

By Olivia Pistun

 

Professor Aleksandr Dugin is Head of the Centre of Conservative Researches at the Faculty of Sociology at Moscow State University and leader of the International Eurasian Movement.

What is perhaps initially most appealing about this publication – aside from the promise of an offer of a fresh, viable alternative to the present stagnant political void, this “end of history” in which we find ourselves – is the comprehensive critique of the prevailing liberal ideology from a perspective which neither wholly aligns itself with the traditional positions in opposition to liberalism, nor stations itself against these.

The principal aim of Professor Dugin’s work is not simply to deconstruct the previous failed political theories, which he lists as fascism, communism, and liberalism, but to fashion a new fourth theory, utilising what may be learnt from some of the previous models after their deconstruction rather than dismissing them outright on the basis of particulars worthy of rejection. That is not to say that the Fourth Political Theory is simply a synthesis of ideas that in their singular form have seen their day. Dugin is conscious of the necessity to bring something new to the table, with one of the principal of these novel ideas being the rejection of the subjects of the old ideologies, such as class, race, or the individual, in favour of the existential Heideggerian concept of Dasein (roughly Being or being-in-the-world. Literally da – there; sein– being) as the primary actor.

Arguably this is the greatest difficulty in Professor Dugin’s book. Whereby the subject of class or race may be conceived of on the scientific, quantifiable level, the metaphysical idea of Dasein as the cardinal actor in the Fourth Political Theory is significantly more difficult to grasp in an age which overvalues the scientific method. This said, the title of the book itself serves to suggest that the contents will not be free from abstract concepts. This is, after all, a work of theory.

Those hoping for a comprehensive outline of a route to salvation will be disappointed. At least initially. The Fourth Political Theory does not seek to form a rigid ideological structure founded on an exhaustive set of axioms, but rather to serve as an invitation to further build upon what is an initial guiding framework.

Traditionalists who ascribe to a more conservative world view need not be put off by Dugin’s avant-garde approach towards historically enemy ideologies. His boldly honest examination – unhindered by any concern of how he will be received – of the previous political theories is illustrative of the principle which is prevalent throughout his work, namely the opposition to the sort of reflexive reaction that stems from ingrained preconceptions, and advocating instead a willingness and ability to acknowledge the positive parts within an overall negative whole.

With this in mind, it may serve to benefit any to cast aside suspicions and scepticism towards this Russian thinker and to refrain from dismissing this innovating work on the basis of the presupposition that seemingly disagreeable notions act as principle maxims within the Fourth Theory.

Regardless of where one stands in relation to this seminal work, the Fourth Political Theory is a valuable contribution to the alternative political discourse and, I suspect, will be quick to gain even greater momentum.

Copies of Aleksandr Dugin’s The Fourth Political Theory can be purchased from ARKTOS

 

—————

Pistun, Olivia. “Aleksandr Dugin: The Fourth Political Theory: A Review.” Traditional Britain Group, 26 May 2013. <http://www.traditionalbritain.org/content/aleksandr-dugin-fourth-political-theory-review-olivia-pistun >.

Publication notes: Aleksandr Dugin’s book The Fourth Political Theory (London: Arktos, 2012) is the English translation of the original Russian work Четвёртая политическая теория (Санкт-Петербург & Москва: Амфора, 2009). The book under review, The Fourth Political Theory,  has also been translated into many other languages. We will note that it is also available in Spanish translation as La Cuarta Teoría Política (Molins de Rei, Barcelona: Nueva República, 2013), in German translation as Die Vierte Politische Theorie (London: Arktos, 2013), in French translation as La Quatrième Théorie Politique (Nantes: Éditions Ars Magna, 2012), in Portuguese translation as A Quarta Teoria Política (Curitiba: Editora Austral, 2012), in Romanian translation as A Patra Teorie Politică (Chișinău: Editura Universitatea Populară, 2014), in Greek translation as Η τέταρτη πολιτική θεωρία (Αθήνα: Έσοπτρον, 2013), and in Serbian translation as Четврта политичка теорија (Београд: MIR Publishing, 2013). Other books or essays by Dugin may be available in these languages and many others. For more information, see the offical Fourth Political Theory website: <http://www.4pt.su/ >.

Notes on further reading: For a better summary of the Fourth Political Theory, see also especially “The Necessity of the Fourth Political Theory” by Leonid Savin and “The Fourth Political Theory and ‘Other Europe'” by Natella Speranskaya. We also recommend that our audience look at the other articles by Alexander Dugin on our website for a further clarification of the nature of his political philosophy (Fourth Political Theory, Eurasianism, Multipolar World Theory): <https://neweuropeanconservative.wordpress.com/tag/alexander-dugin/ >.

Also of note in English is Dugin’s book Eurasian Mission: Program Materials (Moscow: International Eurasian Movement, 2005 [2nd edition: London: Arktos, 2015]). For those who know French, an important book by Alexander Dugin has been published as  Pour une théorie du monde multipolaire (Nantes: Éditions Ars Magna, 2013), the French translation of the Russian original: теория многополярного мира (Москва: Евразийское движение, 2012). There is also a Portuguese translation of this work known as Teoria do Mundo Multipolar (Iaeg, 2012). On the theory of the multi-polar world in German, see Dugin’s Konflikte der Zukunft: Die Rückkehr der Geopolitik (Kiel: Arndt-Verlag, 2014). Also worth noting in French is Dugin’s books Le prophète de l’eurasisme (Paris: Avatar Éditions, 2006) and L’appel de L’Eurasie (Paris: Avatar Éditions, 2013). A Spanish version of the latter has been published as ¿Qué es el eurasismo? Una conversación de Alain de Benoist con Alexander Dugin (Tarragona: Ediciones Fides, 2014). It should also be noted that a deeper clarification of the Fourth Political Theory has also been published by Dugin (in Russian), titled Четвертый Путь (Москва: Академический проект, 2014).

Further information on Dugin and his ideas in the Spanish language can be found in Sebastian J. Lorenz’s Elementos, N° 70, “Alexander Dugin y la Cuarta Teoría Política: La Nueva Derecha Rusa Eurasiática” (Mayo 2014), <http://urkultur-imperium-europa.blogspot.com/2014/05/elementos-n-70-alexander-dugin-y-la.html >. (We have made Elementos Nº 70 available for download from our site here: Elementos Nº 70 – Dugin). For Spanish readers, the book ¿Qué es el eurasismo? (previously cited) also serves as a good introduction to Dugin’s thought, which augments the Elementos publication.

Commentary: We should also note that Dugin’s position on the matter of race and racism is somewhat unclear and questionable. Some have interpreted Dugin’s works as implying the view that race is unimportant to ethnic identity, and that rejecting racism necessarily means rejecting belief in racial identity and difference. It is not yet clear whether this interpretation is valid or not, and Dugin himself may actually believe that race has some importance, but no clear position on the matter is expressed in either The Fourth Political Theory or his essays on Eurasianism that we have seen thus far. If the former interpretation is in fact true, then his position is partly incompatible with that of the New Rightists, Identitarians, and Traditionalists. Although Dugin respects Alain de Benoist and has published some of his essays in Russian (collected in Против либерализма: к четвертой политической теории [Санкт-Петербург: Амфора, 2009]), it is significant to note that Benoist holds a clear ethnic and racial separatist – although strictly non-racist – view, as expressed in many of his works, such as “What is Racism?” (available on our site along with more information through the hyperlink) and Les Idées à l’Endroit (Paris: Libres-Hallier, 1979). Furthermore, Julius Evola, another thinker whom Dugin respects, held a view of race in which the biological race and heritage still held a degree of importance among traditionalist values, as expressed in, for example, The Path of Cinnabar (London: Arktos, 2010) and Revolt Against the Modern World (Rochester: Inner Traditions, 1995).

 

4 Comments

Filed under New European Conservative

Reasons for a Voluntary Death – Venner

The Reasons for a Voluntary Death

By Dominique Venner

Translated by Greg Johnson

Introductory Note: This is the full text of the suicide note left by the French historian Dominique Venner in the Notre Dame Cathedral, where he committed suicide on May 21, 2013.

Translations in other languages: Czech, Danish, Dutch, German, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish

 

I am healthy in body and mind, and I am filled with love for my wife and children. I love life and expect nothing beyond, if not the perpetuation of my race and my mind. However, in the evening of my life, facing immense dangers to my French and European homeland, I feel the duty to act as long as I still have strength. I believe it necessary to sacrifice myself to break the lethargy that plagues us. I give up what life remains to me in order to protest and to found. I chose a highly symbolic place, the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, which I respect and admire: she was built by the genius of my ancestors on the site of cults still more ancient, recalling our immemorial origins.

While many men are slaves of their lives, my gesture embodies an ethic of will. I give myself over to death to awaken slumbering consciences. I rebel against fate. I protest against poisons of the soul and the desires of invasive individuals to destroy the anchors of our identity, including the family, the intimate basis of our multi-millennial civilization. While I defend the identity of all peoples in their homes, I also rebel against the crime of the replacement of our people.

The dominant discourse cannot leave behind its toxic ambiguities, and Europeans must bear the consequences. Lacking an identitarian religion to moor us, we share a common memory going back to Homer, a repository of all the values ​​on which our future rebirth will be founded once we break with the metaphysics of the unlimited, the baleful source of all modern excesses.

I apologize in advance to anyone who will suffer due to my death, first and foremost to my wife, my children, and my grandchildren, as well as my friends and followers. But once the pain and shock fade, I do not doubt that they will understand the meaning of my gesture and transcend their sorrow with pride. I hope that they shall endure together. They will find in my recent writings intimations and explanations of my actions.

Note:

For more information, one can go to my publisher, Pierre-Guillaume Roux. He was not informed of my decision, but he has known me a long time.

Source: http://www.ndf.fr/poing-de-vue/21-05-2013/exclusif-les-raisons-dune-mort-volontaire-par-dominique-venner?fb_source=pubv1

 

——————-

Venner, Dominique. “The Reasons for a Voluntary Death.” Counter-Currents Publishing, 21 May 2013. <http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/05/the-reasons-for-a-voluntary-death/ >.

Note: Dominique Venner’s last book before his suicide was Un Samouraï d’Occident: Le bréviaire d’un insoumis (Paris: Pierre-Guillaume de Roux Editions, 2013), which had been translated into German as Ein Samurai aus Europa: Das Brevier der Unbeugsame (Bad Wildungen: Ahnenrad der Moderne, 2013). Other important works by Dominique Venner are Histoire et tradition des Européens: 30,000 ans d’identité (Monaco et Paris: Éd. du Rocher, 2002), Le Choc de l’Histoire: Religion, mémoire, identité (Versailles: Via Romana, 2011), and Le Siècle de 1914: Utopies, guerres et révolutions en Europe au XXe siècle (Paris: Pygmalion, 2006), which has been translated into Portuguese as O Século de 1914: Utopias, Guerras e Revoluções na Europa do Século XX (Porto: Civilizaçao Editora, 2009). Also, an exclusive Spanish book covering similar topics to Le Choc de l’Histoire and Le Siècle de 1914 had been published as Europa y su Destino: De ayer a mañana (Barcelona: Áltera, 2010).

Additional notes: See Alain de Benoist’s comment on Dominique Venner’s suicide in French (he said that Venner was “a man who has chosen to die standing”): http://www.bvoltaire.fr/alaindebenoist/dominique-venner-un-homme-qui-a-choisi-de-mourir-debout,23784

See also Greg Johnson’s commentary on Venner’s death (“Suicide in the Cathedral: The Death of Dominique Venner”): http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/05/suicide-in-the-cathedralthe-death-of-dominique-venner/

 

1 Comment

Filed under New European Conservative

Idea of Empire – Benoist

The Idea of Empire

by Alain de Benoist

 

Europe was the place where two great models of polity, of political unity, were elaborated, developed and clashed: the nation, preceded by the monarchy, and the empire. The last emperor of the Latin West, Romulus Augustus, was deposed in 475. Only the Eastern empire remained. But after the Western empire was dismantled, a new unitary consciousness seems to have arisen. In 795, Pope Leon III started to date his encyclicals based on the reign of Charles, king of the Franks and patrician of the Romans, rather than on the reign of the emperor of Constantinople. Five years later in Rome, on Christmas Day in the year 800, Leon III placed the imperial crown on Charlemagne’s head.

This is the first renovation of the empire. It obeys the theory of transfer (transratio imperii) according to which the empire Charlemagne revived is a continuation of the Roman empire, thus putting an end to theological speculations inspired by the prophet David who foresaw the end of the world after the end of the fourth empire, i.e., after the end of the Roman empire which succeeded the Babylonian, the Persian and the Alexandrian empires.

At the same time, the renovation of the empire also breaks with the Augustinian idea of a radical opposition between civitas terrena and civitas Dei, which could have been understood to mean that a Christian empire was only a chimera. In fact, Leon III had a new strategy — a Christian empire, where the emperor would be the defender of the City of God. The emperor derived his powers from the pope, whose spiritual powers he reproduced in the temporal realm. Of course, all quarrels surrounding investitures will stem from this equivocal formulation which makes the emperor a subject in the spiritual order but at the same time makes him the head of a temporal hierarchy whose sacred character will soon be asserted.

After the Verdun Treaty (843) sealed the division of the empire between Charlemagne’s three grandsons (Lothario I, Ludwig the German, and Charles the Bald), the king of Saxony, Henry I, was crowned emperor in 919. The empire then became Germanic. After Carolingian power was dislocated, it was restored again in the center of Europe with the Othonians and the Franks in 962 to the benefit of King Otto I of Germania. It remained the major political force in Europe until the middle of the 13th century, when it was officially transformed into the Sacrum Romanum Imperium. After 1442, the appellation “of the German nation” was added.

It is not possible to retrace the history of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation here beyond pointing out that throughout its history it was a composite bringing together three components: antiquity, Christianity, and German identity.

Historically the imperial idea began to disintegrate in the Renaissance, with the appearance of the first national states. Of course, the 1525 victory of Pavia, won by imperial forces against Francis II’s troops, seemed to reverse the trend. At the time, this event was considered very important and caused a renaissance of Ghibellinism in Italy. After Charles V, however, the imperial title did not go to his son Philip, and the empire was again reduced to a local affair. After the Peace of Westphalia (1648), it was seen less and less as something dignified and more and more as a simple confederation of territorial states. The decline went on for another two and a half centuries. On 6 April 1806, Napoleon brought the revolution to fruition by destroying what remained of the empire. Francis II resigned his tide and the Holy Roman Empire was no more.

At first sight, the concept of empire is not easy to understand, given the often contradictory uses that have been made of it. In his dictionary, Littre is satisfied with a tautological definition: an empire is “a state ruled by an emperor.” This is a bit too brief. Like the polis or the nation, the empire is a kind of political unity; unlike the monarchy or the republic, it is not a form of government. This means that the empire is compatible a priori with different forms of government. The first article in the Weimar Constitution stated that “the German Reich is a republic.” Even in 1978, the constitutional court at Karlsruhe did not hesitate to claim that “the German Reich remains a subject of international law.” The best way to understand the substantive reality of the empire is by comparing it with that of the nation or the nation-state — the latter represents the end of a process of nationality-formation for which France more or less provides the best example.

In its current meaning, the nation appears as a modern phenomenon. In this respect, both Colette Beaune [1] and Bernard Guenée are wrong in locating the birth of the nation very early in history. This idea rests on anachronisms; it confuses “royal” and “national,” the formation of nationality and the formation of nation. The formation of nationality corresponds with the birth of a sense of belonging which begins to go beyond the simple natal horizon during the war against the Plantagenets — a sense reinforced during the Hundred Years War. But it should not be forgotten that in the Middle Ages the word “nation” (from nation, “birth”) had an exclusively ethnic meaning — the nations of the Sorbonne are simply groups of students who speak a different language. In the same way, the word “country,” which only appeared in France with the 16th century humanists (Dolet, Ronsard, Du Bellay), originally referred to the medieval notion of “homeland.” When more than a mere attachment to the land of one’s birth, “patriotism” is fidelity to the lord or allegiance to the person of the king. Even the word “France” appeared relatively late. Starting with Charles III (called the Simple), the title borne by the king of France was Rex Francorum. The expression Rex Franciae only appeared at the beginning of the 13th century, under Philippe-Auguste, after the defeat of the Count of Toulouse au Muret, which ended with the annexation of the countries speaking the langue d’oc and with the persecution of the Cathars.

The idea of nation was fully constituted only in the 18th century, especially during the revolution. At the beginning it referred to a concept of sovereignty opposed to that of absolute monarchy. It brought together those who thought the same politically and philosophically—it was no longer the king but the “nation” which embodied the country’s political unity. Finally, it was the abstract location where people could conceive of and exercise their rights, where individuals were transformed into citizens.

First of all, the nation is the sovereign people which, in the best of all cases, delegates to the king only the power to apply the law emanating from the general will; then it is those peoples who recognize the authority of a state, inhabit the same territory and recognize each other as members of the same political unity; finally, it is the political unity itself. This is why the counter-revolutionary tradition, which exalts the aristocratic principle, initially refrains from valuing the nation. Conversely, Article 3 of the 1789 Declaration of Rights proclaims “The principle of all sovereignty essentially resides in the nation.” Bertrand de Jouvenel even wrote that: “In hindsight, the revolutionary movement seems to have had as its goal the foundation of the cult of the nation.” [2]

What distinguishes the empire from the nation? First of all, the fact that the empire is not primarily a territory but essentially an idea or a principle. The political order is determined by it — not by material factors or by possession of a geographical area. It is determined by a spiritual or juridical idea. In this respect, it would be a serious mistake to think that the empire differs from the nation primarily in terms of size in that it is somehow “a bigger nation than others.” Of course, an empire covers a wide area. What is important, however, is that the emperor holds power by virtue of embodying something which goes beyond simple possession. As a dominus mundi, he is the suzerain of princes and kings, i.e., he rules over sovereigns, not over territories, and represents a power transcending the community he governs.

Julius Evola writes: “The empire should not be confused with the kingdoms and nations which constitute it because it is something qualitatively different, prior to and above each of them in terms of its principle.” [3] Before it expressed a system of supra-national territorial hegemony, “the old Roman notion of imperium referred to the pure power of command, the quasi-mystical force of auctoritas.” During the Middle Ages, the prevailing distinction was precisely one between auctoritas (moral and spiritual superiority) and potestas (simple political public power exercised by legal means). In both the medieval empire and the Holy Roman Empire, this distinction underlies the separation between imperial authority and the emperor’s sovereign authority over a particular people. For example, Charlemagne was part emperor and part king of the Lombards and the Franks. From then on, allegiance to the emperor was not submission to a people or to a particular country. In the same way, in the Austro-Hungarian empire, loyalty to the Hapsburg dynasty constituted “the fundamental link between peoples and replaced patriotism” (Jean Béranger); it prevailed over relations of a national or confessional character.

This spiritual character of the imperial principle directly provoked the famous quarrel concerning investitures which pitted the partisans of the pope and those of the emperor against each other for many centuries. Lacking any military content, the notion of empire originally acquired a strong theological cast in the medieval Germanic world, where one could see a Christian reinterpretation of the Roman idea of imperium. Considering themselves the executors of universal sacred history, the emperors deduced from this the idea that the empire, as a “sacred” institution (Sacrum imperium), must constitute an autonomous power with respect to the pope. This is the reason for the quarrel between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines.

The emperor’s followers who denied the pope’s pretensions—the Ghibellines — found support in the old distinction between imperium and sacerdotium, seen as two equally important spheres both instituted by God. This interpretation was an extension of the Roman concept of relations between the emperor and the pontifex maximus, each being superior to the other in their respective orders. The Ghibelline viewpoint was not to subject spiritual authority to temporal power but to claim for imperial power an equal spiritual authority in the face of the Church’s exclusive pretensions. So for Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, the emperor is the half-divine intermediary whereby God’s justice is spread on earth. This renovatio, which makes the emperor the essential source of law and confers on him the character of “living law on earth” (lex animata in terris), encapsulates the Ghibelline claim: like the pope, the empire must be recognized as an institution sacred in nature and character. Evola emphasizes that the opposition between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines “was not only political . . . it expressed the antagonism of two great dignitates, both claiming a spiritual dimension . . . On its deepest level, Ghibellinism held that during his life on earth (seen as discipline, combat and service) the individual could transcend himself . . . by means of action and under the sign of the empire, in accordance with the character of the ‘supernatural’ institution which was granted to it.” [4]

From here on, the decline of the empire throughout the centuries is consistent with the decline of the central role played by its principle and, correspondingly, with its movement toward a purely territorial definition. The Germanic Roman empire had already changed when the attempt was made in both Italy and Germany to link it to a privileged territory. This idea is still absent in Dante, for whom the emperor is neither German nor Italian but “Roman” in the spiritual sense, i.e., a successor of Caesar and Augustus. In other words, the empire cannot transform itself into a “great nation” without collapsing because, in terms of the principle which animates it, no nation can assume and exercise a superior ruling function if it does not rise above its allegiances and its particular interests. “The empire in the true sense,” Evola concludes, “can only exist if animated by a spiritual fervor . . . If this is lacking, one will only have a creation forged by violence — imperialism — a simple mechanical superstructure without a soul.” [5]

For its part, the nation finds its origin in the pretension that the kingdom has to give itself imperial prerogatives by relating them not to a principle but a territory. Its beginnings can be located in the division of the Carolingian empire following the Verdun Treaty. At that point France and Germany, if one can call them that, began to have separate destinies. The latter remained in the imperial tradition, whereas the kingdom of the Franks (Regnum Francorum), seceding from the Germanic community, slowly evolved toward the modern nation by the intermediary of the monarchical state. The end of the Carolingian dynasty dates from the 10th century: 911 in Germany, 987 in France. Elected in 987, Hugh Capet was the first king who did not understand francique. He was also the first sovereign who situated himself clearly outside the imperial tradition, which explains why, in the Divine Comedy, Dante has him say: “I was the malignant roof whose shade darkened all Christian land!”

In the 13th and 14th centuries, the kingdom of France was constructed against the empire with Philippe-Auguste (Bouvines, 1214) and Philippe le Bel (Agnani, 1303). As early as 1204, Pope Innocent III declared that “it is publicly known that the king of France does not recognize any authority above him in the temporal realm.” Just as the Trojan legend was instrumentalized, an entire work of “ideological” legitimation allowed the empire to be opposed to the principle of sovereignty of national kingdoms and their right to recognize no law other than their own interest. The role of jurists, emphasized so well by Carl Schmitt, is fundamental here. In the mid-13th century they were the ones who formulated the doctrine according to which “the king of France, who does not see anyone above him in the temporal realm, is exempt from the empire and may be considered as a princeps in regno suo.” [6] This doctrine was further developed in the 14th and 15th centuries with Pierre Dubois and Guillaume de Nogaret. By proclaiming himself “emperor in his own realm” (rex imperator in regno suo), the king opposed his territorial sovereignty to the spiritual sovereignty of the empire—his purely temporal power was opposed to imperial spiritual power. At the same time, jurists took the side of centralization against local freedoms, and against the feudal aristocracies, thanks especially to the institution of the cas royal. They founded a juridical order, bourgeois in character, in which the law — conceived as a general norm with rational attributes — became the basis of a purely statist power. Law was transformed into simple legality codified by the state. In the 16th century, the formula of the king as “emperor in his own realm” was directly associated with the idea of sovereignty, about which Jean Bodin theorized. Schmitt remarks that France was the first country in the world to create a public order completely emancipated from the medieval model.

What happened next is well known. In France the nation came into being under the double sign of centralizing absolutism and the rise of the bourgeoisie. Here the main role fell on the state. When Louis XIV said “L’Etat c’est moi,” he meant there was nothing above the state. The state creates the nation, which in turn “produces” the French people; whereas in the modern age and in countries with an imperial tradition, the people create the nation, which then creates a state. The two processes of historical construction are thus entirely opposed and this opposition is based on the difference between the nation and the empire. As has often been pointed out, the history of France has been a constant struggle against the empire. The secular politics of the French monarchy was primarily aimed at breaking up Germanic and Italian spaces. After 1792, the republic took up the same objectives: the struggle against the house of Austria and the conquest of the Rhine.

The opposition between the spiritual principle and the territorial power is not the only one. Another essential difference concerns the way in which the empire and the nation regard political unity. The unity of the empire was not mechanical but organic, which goes beyond the state. To the degree to which it embodies a principle, the empire only envisages a unity on the level of that principle. Whereas the nation engenders its own culture or finds support in culture in the process of its formation, the empire embraces various cultures. Whereas the nation tries to make the people and the state correspond, the empire associates different peoples.

The principle of empire tries to reconcile the one and the many, the particular and the universal. Its general law is that of autonomy and of the respect for diversity. The empire tries to unify on a higher level, without suppressing the diversity of cultures, ethnic characters and peoples. It is a whole whose parts are autonomous in proportion to the solidity of what unites them. These parts are differentiated and organic. In contrast to the unitary and centralized societas of the national kingdom, the empire embodies the classical image of universitas. Moeller van den Bruck rightly saw the empire as a unity of opposites, while Evola defined it as “a supranational organization such that its unity does not tend to destroy or to level the ethnic and cultural multiplicity it embraces,” [7] adding that the imperial principle makes it possible “to retreat from the multiplicity of diverse elements to a principle which is at once higher and prior to their differentiation—a differentiation which proceeds only from sensible reality.” So it is not a question of abolishing but of integrating difference.

At the height of the Roman Empire, Rome was an idea, a principle, which made it possible to unite different peoples without converting or suppressing them. The principle of imperium, which was already at work in republican Rome, reflected the will to realize an always threatened cosmic order. The Roman Empire did not require jealous gods. It admitted other divinities, known or unknown, and the same is the case in the political order. The empire accepted foreign cults and the diversity of juridical codes. Each people was free to organize its federation in terms of its traditional concept of law. The Roman jus prevailed only in relations between individuals of different peoples or in relations between federations. One could be a Roman citizen (civis romanus sum) without abandoning one’s nationality.

This distinction (foreign to the spirit of the nation) between what today is called nationality and citizenship can be found in the Germanic Roman Empire. The medieval Reich, a supra-national institution (because animated by a principle beyond the political order), was fundamentally pluralist. It allowed people to live their own lives according to their own law. In modern language, it was characterized by a marked “federalism” particularly able to respect minorities. After all, the Austro-Hungarian empire functioned efficiently for centuries while minorities began to constitute most of its population (60% of the total). It brought together Italians and Romanians, as well as Jews, Serbs, Russians, Germans, Poles, Czechs, Croats and Hungarians. Jean Béranger writes that “the Hapsburgs were always indifferent to the concept of nation-state,” even to the point where this empire, founded by the house of Austria, for many centuries refused to create an “Austrian nation,” which really only took shape in the 20th century. [8]

Conversely, what characterizes the national realm is its irresistible tendency to centralization and homogenization. The nation-state’s investment of space is first revealed in a territory on which a homogeneous political sovereignty is exercised. This homogeneity may at first be apprehended in law: territorial unity results from the uniformity of juridical norms. The monarchy’s secular struggle against the feudal nobility, especially under Louis XI, the annihilation of the civilizations of countries where the langue d’oc was spoken, the affirmation of the principle of centralization under Richelieu, all tended in the same direction. In this respect, the 14th and 15th centuries marked a fundamental shift. During this period the state emerged as the victor against feudal aristocracies and ensured its alliance with the bourgeoisie at the same time as a centralized juridical order was put in place. Simultaneously, the “national” economic market appeared. Thanks to a monetarization of all forms of exchange (non-commercial, intra-community exchanges being untaxable before then), it responded to the will of the state to maximize its fiscal revenues. As Pierre Rosanvallon explains: “the nation-state is a way of composing and articulating global space. In the same way, the market is primarily a way of representing and structuring social space; only secondarily is it a decentralized mechanism for regulating economic activity through the price system. From this perspective, the nation-state and the market refer to the same form of socialization of individuals within space. They are conceivable only in an atomized society in which the individual is considered autonomous. In both the sociological and economic senses of these terms, a nation-state and a market cannot exist in spaces where society unfolds as a global and social entity.” [9]

There is no doubt that monarchial absolutism paved the way for bourgeois national revolutions. After Louis XIV had broken the nobility’s last resistances, the revolution was inevitable when the bourgeoisie could in turn win its autonomy. But there is also no doubt that in many respects the revolution only carried out and accelerated the tendencies of the Ancien Régime. Thus Tocqueville wrote: “The French Revolution caused many subordinate and secondary things, but it really only developed the core of the most important things; these existed before it . . . With the French, the central power had already taken over local administration more than any other country in the world. The revolution only made this power more skillful, powerful, enterprising.” [10]

Under the monarchy, as under the republic, the “national” logic tried to eliminate anything that might interfere between the state and the individual. It tried to integrate individuals to the same laws in a unified fashion; it did not attempt to bring together collectivities free to preserve their language, cultures and laws. State power was exercised over individual subjects, which was why it constantly destroyed or limited the power of all forms of intermediate socialization: familial clans, village communities, confraternities, trades, etc. The 1791 law against corporations (loi Le Chapelier) thus found its precedent in Francis I’s suppression of “all confraternities of trades and artisans in the whole kingdom” in 1539 — a decision which at that time targeted those artisans belonging to societies said to be of duty. With the revolution, of course, this trend accelerated. The restructuring of the territory into departments of more or less equal size, the fight against “the provincial spirit,” the suppression of particularities, the offensive against regional languages and “patois,” the standardization of weights and measures, represent a real obsession with bringing everything into alignment. In terms of Ferdinand Tönnies’ old distinction, the modern nation emerges when society rises on the ruins of old communities.

This individualist component of the nation-state is essential here. The empire requires the preservation of the diversity of groups; by its very logic, the nation recognizes only individuals. One is a member of the empire in a mediated fashion through intermediary structures. Conversely, one belongs to the nation in an immediate way, i.e., without the mediation of local ties, bodies or states. Monarchial centralization was essentially juridical and political; it thereby pointed to the work of constructing the state. Revolutionary centralization, which accompanied the emergence of the modern nation, went further still. It aimed at “producing the nation” directly, i.e., at engendering new social modes of behavior. The state then became productive of the social, a monopolistic producer: it attempted to establish a society of individuals recognized as equal on a secular level, on the ruins of the intermediate bodies it had suppressed. [11]

As Jean Baechler points out, “in the nation the intermediate groups are seen as irrelevant with respect to the citizenry and so tend to become secondary and subordinated.” [12] Louis Dumont argues along similar lines, that nationalism results from transferring the subjectivity characteristic of individualism to the level of an abstract collectivity. “In the most precise, modern, sense of the term, ‘nation’ and ‘nationalism’ (distinguished from simple patriotism) have historically been part and parcel of individualism as a value. The nation is just a type of global society which corresponds to the reign of individualism as a value. Not only does the nation accompany individualism historically, the interdependence between them is so indispensable that one could say the nation is a global society composed of people who consider themselves individuals.” [13]

This individualism, woven within the logic of the nation, is obviously opposed to the holism of imperial construction, where the individual is not dissociated from his natural connections. In the empire the same citizenry is composed of different nationalities. In the nation the two terms are synonyms: belonging to a nation is the foundation for citizenship. Pierre Fougeyrollas summarizes the situation in these terms: “Breaking with medieval societies which had a bipolar identity—that of ethnic roots and of the community of believers — modern nations are constituted as closed societies where the only official identity is that which the state confers on citizens. Thus in terms of its birth and foundations, the nation has been an anti-empire. The Netherlands originated in a break with the Hapsburg Empire; England originated in a break with Rome and the establishment of a national religion. Spain only became Castilian by escaping from the grasp of the Hapsburg system, and France, which was slowly constituted as a nation against the Germanic Roman Empire, only became a nation by combating traditional forces in all of Europe.” [14]

The empire is never a closed totality, as opposed to the nation, which has been increasingly defined by intangible boundaries. The empire’s frontiers are naturally fluid and provisional, which reinforces its organic character. Originally the word “frontier” had an exclusively military meaning: the front line. At the beginning of the 14th century, under the reign of Louis X (“Louis the Stubborn”) in France, the word frontiere replaced marche, which had commonly been used up to then. But it would still take four centuries before it acquired its current meaning of delimitation between two states. Contrary to legend, the idea of a “natural frontier,” which jurists sometimes used in the 15th century, never inspired the external politics of the monarchy. Its origin is sometimes wrongly attributed to Richelieu, or even to Vauban. In fact, only during the revolution was this idea, according to which the French nation would have “natural frontiers,” used systematically. Under the Convention especially, the Girondins used it to legitimate the establishment of the eastern frontier on the left bank of the Rhine and, more generally, to justify their annexation policies. It is also during the revolution that the Jacobin idea that the frontiers of a state must all at once correspond to those of a language, a political authority, and a nation begins to spread everywhere in Europe. Finally, it is the Convention which invented the notion of the “foreigner within” (of which Charles Maurras was paradoxically to make great use) by applying it to aristocrats who supported a despised political system: by defining them as “strangers in our midst,” Barrère asserts that “aristocrats have no country.”

Even with its universal principle and vocation, the empire is not universalist in the current sense of the term. Its universality never meant expansion across the whole earth. Instead, it was connected to the idea of an equitable order seeking to federate peoples on the basis of a concrete political organization. From this viewpoint, the empire, which rejects any aim of conversion or standardization, differs from a hypothetical world-state or from the idea that there are juridico-political principles universally valid at all times and in all places.

Since universalism is directly linked to individualism, modern political universalism must be conceived in terms of the individualist roots of the nation-state. Historical experience shows that nationalism often takes the form of an ethnocentrism blown up to universal dimensions. On many occasions the French nation wanted to be “the most universal of nations,” and it is from the universality of its national model that it claimed to derive its right to disseminate its principles throughout the world. At the time when France wanted to be “the older sister of the Church,” the monk Guibert de Nogent, in his Gesta Dei per Francos, made the Franks the instrument of God. From 1792 on, revolutionary imperialism also tried to convert all of Europe to the idea of the nation-state. Since then, there has been no lack of voices authorized to ensure that the French idea of nation is ordered to that of humanity, and that this is what would make it particularly “tolerant.” One can question this pretension since the proposition can be inverted: if the nation is ordered to humanity, it is because humanity is ordered to the nation. With this corollary, those opposed to it are excluded not only from a particular nation but from the human species in its entirety.

The word empire should be reserved only for the historical constructions deserving this name, such as the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Germanic Roman Empire or the Ottoman Empire. The Napoleonic empire, Hitler’s Third Reich, the French and British colonial empires, and modern imperalisms of the American and Soviet types are certainly not empires. Such a designation is only abusively given to enterprises or powers merely engaged in expanding their national territory. These modern “great powers” are not empires but rather nations which simply want to expand, by military, political, economic or other conquest beyond their current frontiers.

In the Napoleonic era the “empire” (a term already used to designate the monarchy before 1789, but simply in the sense of “state”) was a national-statist entity attempting to assert itself in Europe as a great hegemonic power. Bismarck’s empire, which gave priority to the state, also attempted to create the German nation. Alexandre Kojève observed that “Hitler’s slogan: Ein Reich, ein Volk, ein Führer is only a (bad) German translation of the nationalistic watchword of the French Revolution: la Republique une et indivisible.” The Third Reich’s hostility to the idea of empire is also visible in its critique of the ideology of intermediate bodies and “estates.” [15] A centralist and reductive vision always prevailed in the Soviet “empire,” implying a unified politico-economic space thanks to a restrictive concept of local cultural fights. As for the American “model,” which tries to convert the whole world into a homogeneous system of material consumption and techno-economic practices, it is difficult to see what idea, what spiritual principle, it could claim!

“Great powers” are not really empires. In fact, modern imperialisms should be challenged in the name of what an empire truly is. Evola thought no differently when he wrote: ‘”Without a Meurs et deviens, no nation can aspire to an effective and legitimate imperial mission. It is not possible to retain one’s national characteristics and then to desire, on this basis, to dominate the world or simply another place.” [16] And again: “If the ‘imperialist’ tendencies of the modern age have been abortive because they often accelerate the downfall of the peoples who give in to them, or if they have been the source of all kinds of calamities, this is precisely because they lack any really spiritual — supra-political and supra-national — element; the latter is replaced by the violence of a power which is greater than the one it wants to subjugate but which is not of a different nature. If an empire is not a holy empire, it is not an empire but a kind of cancer attacking all the distinctive functions of a living organism.” [17]

Why think at all about the concept of empire today? Is it not purely chimerical to call for the rebirth of a true empire? Perhaps. But is it an accident if, even today, the model of the Roman Empire has continued to inspire all attempts to go beyond the nation-state? Is it an accident if the idea of empire (the Reichsgedanke) still mobilizes reflection at a time when thought is in disarray? [18] And is it not this idea of empire which underlies all the debates currently surrounding the construction of Europe? Is the nation-state irreplaceable? Many on the Left and on the Right have said so. This is, notably, Charles Maurras’ viewpoint. According to him, the nation is “the biggest of the temporally solid and complete communitarian circles.” [19] He declared that “there is no political framework larger than the nation.” [20] Thierry Maulnier replied: “The cult of the nation is not in itself a response but a refuge, a mystifying effusion, or worse still, a redoubtable diversion from internal problems.” [21]

What basically moves the world today is beyond the nation-state. The latter finds its framework for action, its sphere of decision-making, torn apart by many ruptures. The nation is challenged both from above and below. It is challenged from below by new social movements: by the persistence of regionalisms and new communitarian claims. It is as if the intermediate forms of socialization which it once did away with were born again today in new forms. The divorce between civil society and the political class is reflected in the proliferation of networks and the multiplication of “tribes.” But the nation is also challenged from above by often weighty social phenomena which mock national frontiers. The nation-state is stripped of its powers by the world market and international competition, by the formation of supra-national or communitarian institutions, by intergovernmental bureaucracies, techno-scientific apparati, global media messages or international pressure groups. At the same time, there is the increasingly distinct external expansion of national economies at the expense of internal markets. The economy is becoming globalized because of interacting forces, multinationals, the stock-exchange, global macro-organizations.

The imagery of nations also seems to be in crisis and those who talk of “national identity” are generally hard-pressed to define it. The national model of integration seems to be exhausted. The evolution of politics toward a system of techno-managerial authorities, which brings to fruition the implosion of political reality, confirms that the logic of nations is no longer able to integrate anyone or to assure the regulation of relations between a state criticized on all fronts and a civil society which is breaking apart. So the nation is confronted with the growth of certain collective or communitarian identities at the very moment when global centers of decision-making paint a gloomy picture above it. Daniel Bell expressed this when he said that nation-states have become too big for little problems and too little for the big ones. Deprived of any real historical foundation, in the Third World the nation-state seems to be a Western import. The long-term viability of, e.g., black African or near Eastern “nations,” seems increasingly uncertain. In fact these nations are the result of a series of arbitrary decisions by colonial powers profoundly ignorant of local historical, religious, and cultural realities. The dismantling of the Ottoman and of the Austro-Hungarian empires as a result of the Sevres and Versailles treaties was a catastrophe whose effects are still felt today — as the Gulf War and renewed conflicts in Central Europe show.

In such conditions, how can the idea of empire be ignored? Today it is the only model Europe has produced as an alternative to the nation-state. Nations are both threatened and exhausted. They must go beyond themselves if they do not want to end up as dominions of the American superpower. They can only do so by attempting to reconcile the one and the many, seeking a unity that does not lead to their impoverishment. There are unmistakable signs of this. The fascination with Austria-Hungary and the rebirth of the idea of Mitteleuropa [22] are among them. The call for empire will be born of necessity. The work Kojève wrote in 1945, only recently published, is remarkable. In it he makes a fervent appeal for the formation of a “Latin empire” and posits the necessity of empire as an alternative to the nation-state and to abstract universality. “Liberalism,” he wrote, “is wrong to see no political entity beyond the nation. Internationalism sins because it can see nothing politically viable beyond humanity. It too was incapable of discovering the intermediate political reality of empires, i.e., of unions, even international fusions, of related nations, which is today’s very political reality.” [23]

In order to create itself Europe requires a unity of political decision-making. But this European political unity cannot be built on the national Jacobin model if it does not want to see the richness and diversity of all European components disappear. It also cannot result from the economic supra-nationality dreamt by Brussels technocrats. Europe can only create itself in terms of a federal model, but a federal model which is the vehicle for an idea, a project, a principle, i.e., in the final analysis, an imperial model. Such a model would make it possible to solve problems of regional cultures, ethnic minorities and local autonomies, which will not find a true solution within the framework of the nation-state. It would also make it possible to rethink the whole problem of relations between citizenship and nationality in light of certain problems arising from recent immigration. It would allow one to understand the resurgent dangers of ethno-linguistic irredentism and Jacobin racism. Finally, because of the important place it gives to the idea of autonomy, it would make room for grass-roots democratic procedures and direct democracy. Imperial principle above, direct democracy below: this is what would renew an old tradition!

Today there is a lot of talk about a new world order, and one is certainly necessary. But under what banner will it take shape? The banner of man-machine, of the “computer-man,” or under the banner of a diversified organization of living peoples? Will the earth be reduced to something homogeneous because of deculturalizing and depersonalizing trends for which American imperialism is now the most cynical and arrogant vector? Or will people find the means for the necessary resistance in their beliefs, traditions, and ways of seeing the world? This is really the decisive question that has been raised at the beginning of the next millennium.

Whoever says federation, says federalist principle. Whoever says empire, says imperial principle. Today this idea does not seem to appear anywhere. Yet it is written in history. It is an idea which has yet to find its time. But it has a past and a future. It is also a matter of making an origin dear. At the time of the Hundred Years War, Louis d’Estouteville’s motto was, “Where honor is, where loyalty is, there lies my country.” We have our nationality and we are proud of it. But it is also possible to be citizens of an idea in the imperial tradition. This is what Evola argues: “The idea alone should represent the country . . . It is not the fact of belonging to the same soil, speaking the same language, or having the same bloodline which should unite or divide us, but the fact of supporting or not supporting the same idea.” [24] This does not mean that roots are unimportant. On the contrary, they are essential. It only means that everything must be put into perspective. This is the whole difference between origin as a principle and origin as pure subjectivity. Only origin conceived as a principle makes it possible to defend the cause of peoples, of all peoples, and to understand that, far from being a threat to one’s own identity, the identity of others in fact plays a role in what allows one to defend one’s respective identity against a global system which tries to destroy them. It is necessary to affirm the superiority of the idea which preserves diversity for everyone’s benefit. It is necessary to assert the value of the imperial principle.

Notes

[1] Naissance de la nation France (Paris: Gallimard, 1985).
[2] Les débuts de l’État moderne. Une histoire des idées politiques au XIXe siècle (Paris: Fayard, 1976) p. 92.
[3] Révolte contre le monde moderne (Montreal: L’Homme, 1972) p. 121.
[4] Les hommes au milieu des ruines (Paris: Sept Couleurs, 1972) p. 141.
[5] Essais politiques (Puiseaux: Pardès, 1988) p. 86.
[6] Robert Folz, Le coronnement impérial de Charlemagne (Paris: Gallimard, 1964).
[7] Essais politiques, op. cit., p. 83.
[8] Histoire de l’empire des Habsbourg 1273-1918 (Paris: Fayard, 1990).
[9] Le libéralisme économique. Histoire de l’ldée de marché (Paris: Seuil, 1989) p. 124.
[10] L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution, Vol. I (Paris: Gallimard, 1964) p. 65. (First edition 1856).
[11] Cf. Pierre Rosanvallon, L’État en France de 1789 à nos jours (Paris: Seuil, 1990).
[12] ‘Dépérissement de la nation?’ in Commentaire (Spring, 1988) p. 104.
[13] Essais sur l’individualisme (Paris: Seuil, 1983) pp. 20-1.
[14] La nation, essor et déclin des sociétés modernes, (Paris: Fayard, 1987) p. 931.
[15] Cf. Justus Beyer, Die Standeideologien der Systemzeit und ihre Uberwindung (Darmstadt, 1942).
[16] Essais politiques, op. cit., p. 62.
[17] Révolte contre le monde moderne, op. cit., p. 124.
[18] During the Weimar Republic, there was a real growth in publications concerning the idea of empire and of ‘thinking about the Reich’ (Reichsgedanke). On this subject, see Fritz Buchner, ed., Was ist das Reich? Eine Aussprache unter Deutschen (Oldenburg: Gerhard Stalling, 1932); Herbert Krüger, ‘Der Moderne Reichsgedanke’, in Die Tat (December 1933) pp. 703-15 and (January 1934) pp. 795-804; Edmund Schopen, Geschichte der Reichsidee, 8 Volumes, (Munich: Carl Rohrig, 1936); Peter Richard Rohden, Die Idee des Reiches in der Europäischen Geschichte (Oldenburg: Gerhard Stalling, 1943); Paul Goedecke, Der Reichsgedanke im Schriftum von 1919 bis 1935 (Marburg: Doctoral thesis, 1951). The authors dealing with this subject often disagree about the meaning of the idea of empire and about the relation between the medieval Germanic Reich and the Roman imperium. In Catholic circles, the apology for empire often expresses nostalgia for the medieval Christian unity before the religious wars. The concept of the Reich as a ‘Holy Alliance’ or as a ‘sacramental reality’ frequently points to romanticism (Novalis, Adam Müller) but also to Constantin Franz. In other respects, the idea of a ‘third empire’ carries chiliastic representations from the end of the Middle Ages (Joachim of Fiore’s announcement of the Reign of the Spirit). On the Protestant side, one finds the ‘Reich theologies’, especially in Friedrich Gogarten’s Politische Ethik (Jena: Eugen Diederichs, 1932), Wilhelm Stapel’s Der Christliche Staatsmann: Eine Theologie der Nationalismus (Hamburg: Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt, 1932) or Friedrich Hielscher’s Das Reich (Berlin: Reich, 1931), but from a different perspective. In Stapel, the main idea is that of a national Reich having its own ‘nomos’ with a pronounced pluri-ethnic character but sanctifying German hegemony. See his reply to the supporters of the Catholic Reich, ‘Der Reichsgedanke zwischen den Konfessionen’, in Deutsches Volkstum, (15 November 1932) pp. 909-16. In Moeller van den Bruck, this secularized and strictly German concept of empire is stressed even more. Very critical of the Holy Roman Empire, Moeller accuses Staufen of having been taken in by the ‘Italian mirage’, and of wanting to make the imperium romanum (the ‘periphery’) live again rather than trying to unify the German people (the ‘center’). This is the reason for his strange sympathy with the Guelphs and for his preference for the Deutsches Reich deutscher Nation as opposed to the Heiliges römisches Reich. After 1933, the discussion concerning the idea of Reich (Reichsidee) was carried on outside official circles. For Carl Schmitt, the notion of empire is the central representation of a new right-wing political order of peoples associated with the notion of ‘great space’ (Großraum) — an idea which was strongly criticized by the supporters of a purely German and völkische notion of empire. These supporters saw in the Reich the organizing force for a ‘living space’ grounded in the ‘biological’ substance of the German peoples. This argument is made by Reinhard Höhn (‘Großraumordnung und völkisches Rechtsdenken’: in Reich, Volksordung, Lebensraum, 1943, pp. 216-352). See also Karl Richard Ganzer, Das Reich als europäische Ordnungsmacht (Hamburg: Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt, 1941-2); and Oswald Torsten, Rîche. Eine Geschichtliche Studie bet die Entwicklung der Reichsidee (Munich and Berlin: R. Oldenburg, 1943).
[19] Mes idées politiques (Albatros, 1983) p. 281.
[20] Enquête sur la monarchie 1900-1909, 1st ed. (Nouvelle Librairie Nationale, 1909) p. XIII.
[21] Au-delà du nationalisme (Paris: Gallirnard, 1938).
[22] Cf. Karlheinz Weissmann, ‘Das Herz des Kontinents: Reichsgedanke und Mitteleuropa-ldee’, in Mut (January 1987) pp. 24-35.
[23] ‘L’empire latin’, in La Règle du jeu (1 May 1990) p. 94.
[24] Les hommes au milieu des ruines, op. cit., p. 41.

 

—————-

De Benoist, Alain. “The Idea of Empire.” Telos, Vol. 1993, No. 98-99 (December 1993), pp. 81-98. Text retrieved from: <https://eurocontinentalism.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/the-idea-of-empire-alain-de-benoist/ >. (See this essay in PDF format here: The Idea of Empire).

Note: The essay “The Idea of Empire” was originally published in French as “L’idée d’Empire” (published in Critiques – Théoriques [Lausanne & Paris: L’Age d’Homme, 2003]). It is also available in a German translation as “Der Reichsgedanke. Das imperiale Modell für die künftige Struktur Europas” (published in Schöne Vernetzte Welt [Tübingen: Hohenrain-Verlag, 2001]), in a Spanish translation as “La idea de Imperio” (published in Elementos Nº 32, “Imperio: Orden Especial y Espiritual” [11 September 2012], <http://issuu.com/sebastianjlorenz/docs/elementos_n__32 >, pp. 3-30), in an Italian translation as “L’idea di Impero” (published in Incursioni [May 2007], pp. 31-51), in a Dutch translation as “De Europese Rijksgedachte” (published in Teksten: kommentaren en studies No. 68 [July-September 1992], pp 34-48), in a Russian translation as “Идея Империи” (published in Против либерализма: к четвертой политической теории [Санкт-Петербург: Амфора, 2009]), in  a Portugese translation as “Nação e império” (published online: website Legio Victrix, 10 April 2012, <http://legio-victrix.blogspot.com/2012/04/nacao-e-imperio.html >), and in a Belarusian translation as “Ідэя Імперыі” (published online: website Cytadel, n.d., <http://cytadel.org/en/node/2356 >).

Note on further reading: On this topic, see also the related essay by Benoist known as “What is Sovereignty?”

 

2 Comments

Filed under New European Conservative

Nazism & Communism – Benoist

“Nazism And Communism: Evil Twins?” by Alain de Benoist (PDF – 52.6 KB):

Nazism and Communism – Evil Twins

—————–

De Benoist, Alain. “Nazism And Communism: Evil Twins?” Telos, Vol. 1998, No. 112 (Summer 1998), pp. 178-192. <http://www.alaindebenoist.com/pdf/evil_twins.pdf >.

Note: Alain de Benoist has written an entire book related to this subject entitled Communisme et Nazisme: 25 réflexions sur le totalitarisme au XXe siècle, 1917-1989 (Paris: Labyrinthe, 1998). It has been translated into German as Totalitarismus: Kommunismus und Nationalsozialismus – die andere Moderne, 1917-1989 (Berlin: Junge Freiheit, 2001), into Spanish as Comunismo y Nazismo: 25 reflexiones sobre el totalitarismo en el siglo XX, 1917-1989 (Barcelona: Áltera, 2005), into Italian as Comunismo e Nazismo: 25 riflessioni sul totalitarismo nel 20. secolo, 1917-1989 (Casalecchio: Arianna, 2000),  into Portuguese as Comunismo e Nazismo: 25 reflexões sobre o totalitarismo no século XX, 1917—1989 (Lisboã: Hugin Editores, 1999), into Dutch as Totalitarisme: Communisme en nationaal-socialisme: die andere moderniteit, 1917-1989 (Wijnegem: Delta-Stichting, 2001), into Croatian as  Komunizam i nacizam: 25 ogleda o totalitarizmu u XX. Stoljecu (1917-1989) (Zagreb: Zlatko Hasanbegovic, 2005), and into Hungarian as Kommunizmus és nácizmus: Gondolatok a XX. Századi totalitarizmusokról (Budapest: Europa Authentica, 2000).

 

1 Comment

Filed under New European Conservative

Manifesto of the New Right – Benoist & Champetier

“Manifesto of the French New Right in the Year 2000” by Alain de Benoist and Charles Champetier (PDF – 264 KB):

Manifesto of the French New Right (English)

The following is the original French version of this work:

Manifeste: la Nouvelle Droite de l’an 2000 (PDF – 208 KB):

Manifeste: la Nouvelle Droite de l’an 2000 (Français)

The following is the Spanish translation of this work:

Manifiesto: La Nueva Derecha del año 2000 (PDF – 204 KB):

Manifiesto: la Nueva Derecha del año 2000 (Español)

The following is the Italian translation of this work:

La Nuova Destra del 2000 (PDF – 202 KB):

La Nuova Destra del 2000 (Italiano)

——————–

Notes on publications and translations of the Manifesto:

Alain de Benoist’s and Charles Champetier’s “Manifesto of the French New Right in the Year 2000” (Telos, Vol. 1999, No. 115, [March-May 1999], pp. 117-144) was the first edition of the English version, which was also published in a second edition as Manifesto for a European Renaissance (London: Arktos, 2012). The full text of this manifesto was also included as an appendix within the third edition of Tomislav Sunic’s Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right (London: Arktos, 2011). The text used to create the file available on this site was retrieved from: <http://www.amerika.org/texts/manifesto-of-the-french-new-right-in-year-2000-alain-de-benoist-and-charles-champetier >. The text in English is alternatively available in HTML format here: <http://home.alphalink.com.au/~radnat/debenoist/alain9.html >.

The “Manifiesto: la Nueva Derecha del ano 2000” (Hespérides, Vol. IV, No. 19 [March-May 1999], pp. 13-47) was the first edition of the Spanish version, which was also published in a second edition as Manifiesto para un renacimiento europeo (Mollet del Vallès, Barcelona: Grup de recerca i estudi de la cultura europea, 2000), which has in turn been recently republished by Arktos (London, 2013). The text of the Spanish translation was retrieved from: <http://www.red-vertice.com/disidencias/textosdisi19.html >.

The “Manifeste: la Nouvelle Droite de l’an 2000” (Eléments, No. 94, [February 1999], pp. 11-23) was the first edition of the original French version, which was also published in a second edition as Manifeste pour une renaissance européenne (Paris: GRECE, 2000). The text of the French retrieved from: <http://www.grece-fr.net/textes/_txtWeb.php?idArt=71 >.

The “La Nuova Destra del 2000” (“La Nuova Destra del 2000” (Diorama letterario, Firenze, 229-230, October-November 1999) was the first Italian translation of the manifesto, which was published in a newer edition as Manifesto per una Rinascita Europea (Rome: Nuove Idee editore, 2005). The file made available on this site was retrieved from: <http://www.alaindebenoist.com/pdf/la_nuova_destra_del_2000.pdf >.

Other translations: The manifesto was also translated into German as “Manifest: Die Nouvelle Droite des Jahres 2000” (published in Aufstand der Kulturen [Berlin: Edition Junge Freiheit, 1999]), into Dutch as “Manifest voor Europees herstel en vernieuwing” (TeKos, Wijnegem, 95, octobre-décembre 1999), into Danish as “Manifest. Det nye højre år 2000” (Nomos, Valby, III, 2005, 1), into Hungarian as “Manifesztum az európai újjászületésért” (A51 [2002], pp. 239-285), into Czech as “Manifest: Nova pravice v roce 2000” (Tradice budoucnosti. Ed. Orientace 1/2008), into Croatian as “Manifest za Europsku Obnovu, Nova Desnica u 21. Stoljeću” (included as an appendix to Tomislav Sunic, Europska Nova Desnica [Zagreb, Croatia: Hasanbegović, 2009]), into Portuguese as Manifesto Para Um Renascimento Europeu (USA & EU: Editora Contra Corrente, 2014), into Polish as Manifest Grupy Badań i Studiόw nad Cywilizacją Europejską (GRECE) (published online: Konserwatyzm.pl, 2013), and into Ukrainian as Маніфест Нових Правих (published online: Національний альянс, 2009, http://nation.org.ua/)

——————–

Further Reading (Major works by Alain de Benoist):

The following works are considered to be the most important books (along with the above Manifesto) by Alain de Benoist which establish the intellectual foundations of the New Right movement:

Vu de Droite: Anthologie critique des idées contemporaines (Paris: Copernic, 1977), which was translated into German as Aus Rechter Sicht: Eine kritische Anthologie zeitgenössischer Ideen (Tübingen: Grabert, 1983-1984), into Italian as Visito da Destra: Antologia critica delle idee contemporanee (Napoli: Akropolis, 1981), into Portugese as Nova Direita, Nova Cultura: Antologia critica das ideias contemporaneas (Lisboa: Afrodite 1981), and in an abridged format into Romanian as O perspectivâ de dreapta: Anthologie criticâ a ideilor contemporane (Bucarest: coll. « Dreapta europeanâ », 2, Anastasia, 1998).

Les Idées à l’Endroit (Paris: Libres-Hallier, 1979), which was translated into Italian as Le Idee a Posto (Napoli: Akropolis, 1983), into Spanish as La Nueva Derecha: Una respuesta clara, profunda e inteligente (Barcelona: Planeta, 1982), into Greek as Oi ιδέες sta ορθο (Αθήνα: Ελεύθερη Σκέψις, 1980), and partially into German as Kulturrevolution von Rechts: Gramsci und die Nouvelle Droite (Krefeld: Sinus-Verlag, 1985).

Démocratie: le problème (Paris: Le Labyrinthe, 1985), which was translated into English as The Problem of Democracy (London: Arktos, 2011), into German as Demokratie: das Problem (Tübingen & Zürich: Hohenrain, 1986), into Italian as Democrazia: il problema (Firenze: Arnaud, 1985), and into Spanish as ¿Es un Problema la Democracia? (Barcelona: Nueva República, 2013).

Au-delà des droits de l’homme: Pour défendre les libertés (Paris: Krisis, 2004), which was translated into English as Beyond Human Rights: Defending Freedoms (London: Arktos Media, 2011), into German translation as Kritik der Menschenrechte: Warum Universalismus und Globalisierung die Freiheit bedrohen (Berlin: Junge Freiheit, 2004), into Italian as Oltre i diritti dell’uomo: Per difendire le libertà (Rome: Il Settimo Sigillo, 2004), and into Spanish as Más allá de los Derechos Humanos: defender las libertades (published online 2008 at Les Amis d’Alain de Benoist: <http://www.alaindebenoist.com/pdf/mas_alla_de_los_derechos_humanos.pdf >).

In German, an important collection of essays by Alain de Benoist has been published in the book  Schöne Vernetzte Welt: Eine Antwort auf die Globalisierung (Tübingen: Hohenrain-Verlag, 2001). Another German collection had also been published as Aufstand der Kulturen: Europäisches Manifest für das 21. Jahrhundert (Berlin: Edition Junge Freiheit, 1999). In Spanish, see also the following two publications: Benoist’s Más Allá de la Derecha y de la Izquierda: El pensamiento político que rompe esquemas (Barcelona: Ediciones Áltera, 2010), and a collection of essays by Benoist and Guillaume Faye titled Las Ideas de la “Nueva Derecha”: Una respuesta al colonialismo cultural (Barcelona: Nuevo Arte Thor, 1986). In Russian, a notable collection of translated essays by Alain de Benoist (Ален де Бенуа) has been published as Против либерализма: к четвертой политической теории (Санкт-Петербург: Амфора, 2009).

Also worth mentioning is a book by Benoist that is only available in French known as Critiques – Théoriques (Lausanne & Paris: L’Age d’Homme, 2003),  but from which selected essays (two important examples being “A Critique of Liberal Ideology” and “The Idea of Empire”) have been translated into multiple languages – including English, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Russian, among some others – and published in various magazines or journals. In addition, we would like to make note of a collection of essays on racism and anti-racism, which includes Benoist’s important essay “Racisme: remarques autour d’une définition” (translated into English as “What is Racism?”): the book Racismes, Antiracismes, edited by Andre Béjin and Julien Freund (Paris: Librairie des Méridiens, 1986), translated into Italian as Razzismo e antirazzismo (Firenze: La roccia di Erec, 1992).

Finally, it is worth mentioning the joint work of Alain de Benoist and Alexander Dugin on the theory of Eurasianism and the Fourth Political Theory, L’appel de L’Eurasie, conversation avec Alain de Benoist (Paris: Avatar Éditions, 2013), translated into Spanish as ¿Qué es el eurasismo? Una conversación de Alain de Benoist con Alexander Dugin (Tarragona: Ediciones Fides, 2014).

Read more about Alain de Benoist’s life and work at his official website: <http://www.alaindebenoist.com/ >, and see also F. Roger Devlin’s review of Alain de Benoist’s Memoire Vive: <https://neweuropeanconservative.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/benoists-vivid-memory-devlin/ >.

 

3 Comments

Filed under New European Conservative

Immigration – Benoist

Immigration: The Reserve Army of Capital

By Alain de Benoist

Translated from French by Tom Sunic

 

In 1973, shortly before his death, the French President Georges Pompidou admitted to have opened the floodgates of immigration, at a request of a number of big businessmen, such as Francis Bouygues, who was eager to take advantage of docile and cheap labor devoid of class consciousness and of any tradition of social struggle. This move was meant to exert downward pressure on the wages of French workers, reduce their protesting zeal, and in addition, break up the unity of the labor movement. Big bosses, he said, “always want more.”

Forty years later nothing has changed. At a time when no political party would dare to ask for further acceleration of the pace of immigration, only big employers seem to be in favor of it — simply because it is in their interest. The only difference is that the affected economic sectors are now more numerous, going beyond the industrial sector and the hotel and catering service sector — now to include once “protected” professions, such as engineers and computer scientists.

France, as we know, starting with the 19th century, massively reached out to foreign immigrants. The immigrating population was already 800,000 in 1876, only to reach 1.2 million in 1911. French industry was the prime center of attraction for Italian and Belgian immigrants, followed by Polish, Spanish and Portuguese immigrants. “Such immigration, unskilled and non-unionized, allowed employers to evade increasing requirements pertaining to the labor law” (François-Laurent Balssa, « Un choix salarial pour les grandes entreprises » Le Spectacle du monde, Octobre, 2010).

In 1924, at the initiative of the Committee for Coalmining and big farmers from the Northeast of France, a “general agency for immigration” (Société générale d’immigration) was founded. It opened up employment bureaus in Europe, which operated as suction pumps. In 1931 there were 2.7 million foreigners in France, that is, 6.6 % of the total population. At that time France displayed the highest level of immigration in the world (515 persons on 100,000 inhabitants). “This was a handy way for a large number of big employers to exert downward pressure on wages. … From then on capitalism entered the competition of the workforce by reaching out to the reserve armies of wage earners.”

In the aftermath of World War II, immigrants began to arrive more and more frequently from Maghreb countries; first from Algeria, then from Morocco. Trucks chartered by large companies (especially in the automobile and construction industry) came by the hundreds to recruit immigrants on the spot. From 1962 to 1974, nearly two million additional immigrants arrived to France of whom 550,000 were recruited by the National Immigration Service (ONI), a state-run agency, yet controlled under the table by big business. Since then, the wave has continued to grow. François-Laurent Balssa notes that

when a workforce shortage in one sector occurs, out of the two possible choices one must either raise the salary, or one must reach out to foreign labor. Usually it was the latter option that was favored by the National Council of French Employers (CNPF) and as of 1998 by its successor, the Movement of Enterprises (MEDEF). That choice, which bears witness of the desire for short-term benefits, delayed advancement of production tools and industrial innovation. During the same period, however, as the example of Japan demonstrates, the rejection of foreign immigration and favoring of the domestic workforce enabled Japan to achieve its technological revolution, well ahead of most of its Western competitors.

Big Business and the Left; A Holy Alliance

At the beginning, immigration was a phenomenon linked to big business. It still continues to be that way. Those who clamor for always more immigration are big companies. This immigration is in accordance with the very spirit of capitalism, which aims at the erasure of borders (« laissez faire, laissez passer »).“While obeying the logic of social dumping, Balssa continues, a “low cost” labor market has thus been created with the “undocumented” and the “low-skilled,” functioning as stopgap “jack of all trades.” Thus, big business has reached its hand to the far-left, the former aiming at dismantling of the welfare state, considered to be too costly, the latter killing off the nation-state considered to be too archaic.” This is the reason why the French Communist Part (PCF) and the French Trade Union (CGT) (which have radically changed since then) had, until 1981, battled against the liberal principle of open borders, in the name of the defense of the working class interests.

For once a well-inspired Catholic liberal-conservative Philippe Nemo, only confirms these observations:

In Europe there are people in charge of the economy who dream about bringing to Europe cheap labor. Firstly, to do jobs for which the local workforce is in short supply; secondly, to exert considerable downward pressure on the wages of other workers in Europe. These lobbies, which possess all necessary means to be listened to either by their governments or by the Commission in Brussels, are, generally speaking, both in favor of immigration and Europe’s enlargement — which would considerably facilitate labor migrations. They are right from their point of view — a view of a purely economic logic […] The problem, however, is that one cannot reason about this matter in economic terms only, given that the inflow of the extra-Europe population has also severe sociological consequences. If these capitalists pay little attention to this problem, it is perhaps because they enjoy, by and large, economic benefits from immigration without however themselves suffering from its social setbacks. With the money earned by their companies, whose profitability is ensured in this manner, they can reside in handsome neighborhoods, leaving their less fortunate compatriots to cope on their own with alien population in poor suburban areas. (Philippe Nemo, Le Temps d’y penser, 2010)

According to official figures, immigrants living in regular households account for 5 million people, which was 8% of the French population in 2008. Children of immigrants, who are direct descendants of one or two immigrants, represent 6.5 million people, which is 11% of the population. The number of illegals is estimated to be between 300,000 to 550,000. (Expulsion of illegal immigrants cost 232 million Euros annually, i.e., 12,000 euro per case). For his part, Jean-Paul Gourevitch, estimates the population of foreign origin living in France in 2009 at 7.7 people million (out of which 3.4 million are from the Maghreb and 2.4 million from sub-Saharan Africa), that is, 12.2% of the metropolitan population. In 2006, the immigrating population accounted for 17% of births in France.

France is today experiencing migrant settlements, which is a direct consequence of the family reunification policy. However, more than ever before immigrants represent the reserve army of capital.

In this sense it is amazing to observe how the networks on behalf of the “undocumented,” run by the far-left (which seems to have discovered in immigrants its “substitute proletariat”) serve the interests of big business. Criminal networks, smugglers of people and goods, big business, “human rights” activists, and under- the-table employers — all of them, by virtue of the global free market, have become cheerleaders for the abolition of frontiers.

For example, it is a revealing fact that Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri in their books Empire and Multitude endorse “world citizenship ” when they call for the removal of borders, which must have as a first goal in developed countries the accelerated settlement of the masses of low-wage Third World workers. The fact that most migrants today owe their displacement to outsourcing, brought about by the endless logic of the global market, and that their displacement is precisely something capitalism strives for in order to fit everybody into the market, and finally, that each territorial attachment could be a part of human motivations — does not bother these two authors at all. On the contrary, they note with satisfaction that “capital itself requires increased mobility of labor as well as continuous migration across national borders.” The world market should constitute, from their point of view, a natural framework for “world citizenship.” The market “requires a smooth space of uncoded and deterritorialized flux,” destined to serve the interests of the “masses”, because “mobility carries a price tag of capital, which means the enhanced desire for liberty.”

The trouble with such an apology of human displacement, seen as a first condition of “liberating nomadism,” is that it relies on a completely unreal outlook of the specific situation of migrants and displaced people. As Jacques Guigou and Jacques Wajnsztejn write, “Hardt and Negri delude themselves with the capacity of the immigration flows, thought to be a source for new opportunities for capital valuation, as well as the basis for opportunity enhancement for the masses. Yet, migrations signify nothing else but a process of universal competition, whereas migrating has no more emancipating value than staying at home. A ‘nomadic’ person is no more inclined to criticism or to revolt than a sedentary person.” (L’évanescence de la valeur. Une présentation critique du groupe Krisis, 2004).

“As long as people keep abandoning their families,” adds Robert Kurz, “and look for work elsewhere, even at the risk of their own lives — only to be ultimately shredded by the treadmill of capitalism — they will be less the heralds of emancipation and more the self-congratulatory agents of the postmodern West. In fact, they only represent its miserable version.” (Robert Kurz, « L’Empire et ses théoriciens », 2003).

Whoever criticizes capitalism, while approving immigration, whose working class is its first victim, had better shut up. Whoever criticizes immigration, while remaining silent about capitalism, should do the same.

————

Alain de Benoist is a philosopher residing in France. The above article was first published in the quarterly Eléments, “L’immigration; armée de réserve du capital” (April-June 2011, Nr. 139).

———————-

De Benoist, Alain. “Immigration: The Reserve Army of Capital.” The Occidental Observer, 23 August 2011. <http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2011/08/immigration-the-reserve-army-of-capital/>. (See this essay in PDF format here: Immigration – The Reserve Army of Capital).

Note: This is one of Alain de Benoist’s most widely known articles. It was originally published in French as “Immigration, l’armée de réserve du capital” (Eléments, No. 139, April-June 2011, pp. 26-28; republished in Au bord du gouffre [Paris: Krisis, 2011]). It is available in German translation as “Pompidous Irrtum. Masseneinwanderung nach Frankreich” (Junge Freiheit, No. 16, 15 April 2011, p. 20), in Spanish translation as “Inmigración: El Ejército de Reserva del Capitalismo” (published online: Area Identitaria, 4 February 2013, <http://areaidentitaria.blogspot.com/2013/02/la-inmigracion-ejercito-de-reserva-del.html >), in Italian translation as “L’immigrazione, l’armata di riserva del capitale” (Diorama letterario, No. 303, May-June 2011, pp. 10-13), in Portuguese translation as “Imigração: o exército de reserva do capital” (published online: Legio Victrix, 21 November 2011, <http://legio-victrix.blogspot.com/2011/11/imigracao-o-exercito-de-reserva-do.html >), in Polish translation as “Imigracja: armia rezerwowa kapitalu” (published online: Nacjonalista.pl, 25 August 2011, <http://www.nacjonalista.pl/2011/08/25/alain-de-benoist-imigracja-armia-rezerwowa-kapitalu/ >), in Lithuanian translation as “Imigracija: kapitalo rezerviné armija” (published online: Nacionalistas, 21 March 2014, <http://ltnacionalistas.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/alain-de-benoist-imigracija-kapitalo-rezervine-armija/ >).

 

Leave a comment

Filed under New European Conservative

Critique of Liberal Ideology – Benoist

A Critique of Liberal Ideology

By Alain de Benoist

Translated by Greg Johnson

 

Translator’s Note: In “A Critique of Liberal Ideology,” Alain de Benoist uses the term “liberalism” in the broad European sense of the term that applies not just to American liberalism but also to American libertarianism and mainstream conservatism, insofar as all three share a common history and common premises. I wish to thank Alain de Benoist for permission to translate and publish this essay, Michael O’Meara for checking the translation, and Arjuna for help with French idioms.

***

Not being the work of a single man, liberalism was never presented in the form of a unified doctrine. Various liberal authors have, at times, interpreted it in divergent, if not contradictory, ways. Still, they share enough common points to classify them all as liberals. These common points also make it possible to define liberalism as a specific school of thought. On the one hand, liberalism is an economic doctrine that tends to make the model of the self-regulating market the paradigm of all social reality: what is called political liberalism is simply one way of applying the principles deduced from these economic doctrines to political life. This tends to limit the role of politics as much as possible. (In this sense, one can say that “liberal politics” is a contradiction in terms.) On the other hand, liberalism is a doctrine based on an individualistic anthropology, i.e., it rests on a conception of man as a being who is not fundamentally social.

These two characteristic features, each of which has descriptive and normative aspects (the individual and the market are both described as facts and are held up as models), are directly opposed to collective identities. A collective identity cannot be analyzed in a reductionistic way, as if it were the simple sum of the characteristics possessed by the individuals of a given community. Such an identity requires the collectivity’s members to be clearly conscious that their membership encompasses or exceeds their individual being, i.e., that their common identity is a product of this composition. However, insofar as it is based on individualism, liberalism tends to sever all social connections that go beyond the individual. As for the market’s optimal operation, it requires that nothing obstruct the free circulation of men and goods, i.e., borders must be treated as unreal, which tends to dissolve common structures and values. Of course this does not mean that liberals can never defend collective identities. But they do so only in contradiction to their principles.

* * *

Louis Dumont has shown Christianity’s role in Europe’s passage from a traditional holist society to a modern individualistic society. Right from the start, Christianity presented man as an individual who, prior to any other relationship, has an inner relationship to God and who thus seeks salvation through personal transcendence. In this relationship with God, man’s value as an individual is affirmed, and by comparison the world is necessarily degraded or devalued. Moreover, the individual is made equal to all other men, who also have individual souls. Egalitarianism and universalism are thus introduced on a higher plane: the absolute value the individual soul receives from its filial relationship with God is shared by all humanity.

Marcel Gauchet takes up the theme of a causal link between the emergence of a personal God and the birth of an inner man, whose fate in the beyond depends solely on his individual actions, and whose independence is already present in the possibility of an intimate relationship with God, i.e., of a relationship that involves God alone. “The more remote God becomes in his infinity,” Gauchet writes, “the more the relationship with him tends to become purely personal, to the point of excluding any institutional mediation. Raised to the absolute, the divine subject has no legitimate terrestrial counterpart other than intimate presence. Thus the original interiority leads directly to religious individuality.”[1]

The Pauline doctrine reveals a dualistic tension that makes the Christian, in his relationship to God, an “otherworldly individual”: to become Christian implies in some way giving up the world. However, in the course of history, the “otherworldly” individual gradually contaminated worldly life. To the extent that he acquired the power to make the world conform to his values, the otherworldly individual progressively returned to the world, immersing himself in it and transforming it profoundly.

The process was carried out in three main stages. Initially, secular life was no longer rejected but relativized: this is the Augustinian synthesis of the two cities. In the second stage, the papacy secularized itself by assuming political power. Finally, with the Reformation, man invested himself completely in the world, where he worked for the glory of God by seeking material success that he interpreted as the very proof of his election.

In this way, the principle of equality and individuality—which initially functioned solely in the relationship with God and thus could still coexist with an organic and hierarchical principle structuring the social whole—was gradually brought down to earth, resulting in modern individualism, which represents its secular projection. “In order for modern individualism to be born,” writes Alain Renaut explicating the theses of Louis Dumont, it was necessary for the individualistic and universalist component of Christianity “to contaminate,” so to speak, modern life to such an extent that gradually the two orders were unified, the initial dualism was erased, and “life in the world was reconceived as being able to conform completely to the supreme value”: at the end of this process, “the otherworldly individual became the modern worldly individual.”[2]

Organic society of the holist type then disappeared. In contemporary terms, one passed from community to society, i.e., to common life conceived as simple contractual association. The social whole no longer came first, but rather individual holders of individual rights, bound together by self-interested rational contracts.

An important moment of this evolution was the fourteenth century nominalism of William of Ockham, who held that nothing exists but particular beings. Another key moment was Cartesianism, which philosophically established the conception of the individual later presupposed by the legal doctrine of the rights of man and the intellectual perspective of the Enlightenment. Beginning in the eighteenth century, the emancipation of the situated individual from his natural attachments was routinely interpreted from the perspective of universal progress as marking the accession of humanity to “adulthood.” Sustained by this individualistic impulse, modernity was characterized first and foremost as the process by which local and kinship groups, and broader communities, are gradually broken down to “liberate the individual,” and all organic relations of solidarity are dissolved.

* * *

From time immemorial, to be human meant to be affirmed both as a person and as a social being: the individual dimension and the collective dimension are not identical, but are inseparable. In the holist view, man develops himself on the basis of what he inherits and in reference to his social-historical context. It is to this model, which is the most common model in history, that individualism, which one must regard as a peculiarity of Western history, directly comes to be opposed.

In the modern sense of the term, individualism is the philosophy that regards the individual as the only reality and takes him as the principle of every evaluation. The individual is considered in himself, in abstraction from his social or cultural context. While holism expresses or justifies existing society in reference to values that are inherited, passed on, and shared—i.e., in the last analysis, in reference to society itself—individualism establishes its values independently of society as it finds it. This is why it does not recognize the autonomous status of communities, peoples, cultures, or nations. For it sees these entities as nothing but sums of individual atoms, which alone have value.

This primacy of the individual over the community is simultaneously descriptive, normative, methodological, and axiological. The individual is assumed to come first, whether he is prior to the social in a mythical representation of “prehistory” (the anteriority of the state of nature), or simply has normative primacy (the individual is what is worth more). Georges Bataille asserts that, “at the basis of every being, there exists a principle of insufficiency.” Liberal individualism, on the contrary, affirms the full sufficiency of the singular individual. In liberalism, man can apprehend himself as an individual without reference to his relationship to other men within a primary or secondary sociality. Autonomous subject, owner of himself, moved solely by his particular interests, the individual is defined, in opposition to the person, as a “moral, independent, autonomous and thus primarily nonsocial being.”[3]

In liberal ideology, the individual possesses rights inherent in his “nature” entirely independent of social or political organization. Governments are obligated to guarantee these rights, but do not establish them. Being prior to all social life, they are not immediately correlated to duties, because duties imply precisely that social life already exists: there are no duties toward others if there are no others. Thus the individual himself is the source of his own rights, beginning with the right to act freely according to the calculation of his private interests. Thus he is “at war” with all other individuals, since they are supposed to act the same way in a society conceived as a competitive market.

Individuals may well choose to associate with one another, but the associations they form are conditional, contingent, and transitory, since they remain dependent on mutual assent and have no other goal than to better satisfy the individual interests of each party. Social life, in other words, is nothing but an affair of individual decisions and interested choices. Man behaves like a social being, not because it is in his nature, but because it is to his advantage. If he no longer finds it advantageous, he can always (in theory at least) break the pact. Indeed, this rupture best expresses his freedom. In opposition to ancient freedom, i.e., the possibility of participating in public life, modern freedom is, above all, the right to withdraw from public life. This is why liberals always tend to define freedom as synonymous with independence.[4] Thus Benjamin Constant extols “the peaceful pleasure of private individual independence,” adding that “men, to be happy, need only to be left in perfect independence, in all that relates to their occupations, their companies, their sphere of activity, their dreams.”[5] This “peaceful pleasure” is to be understood as the right of secession, the right to be constrained neither by duty of membership nor by any of those allegiances that, in certain circumstances, can indeed appear incompatible with “private independence.”

Liberals insist particularly on the idea that individual interests should never be sacrificed to the collective interest, the common good, or the public safety, concepts that they regard as inconsistent. From this idea it follows that only individuals have rights, while communities, being only collections of individuals, have none of their own. Thus Ayn Rand writes, “Since only an individual man can possess rights, the expression ‘individual rights’ is a redundancy.”[6] Benjamin Constant also affirmed that, “Individual independence is the primary modern need. Consequently, one never should ask it to be sacrificed to establish political freedom.”[7] Before him, John Locke declared that “a Child is born a Subject of no Country or Government,” since, having become an adult, he is “at liberty what Government he will put himself under; what Body Politick he will unite himself to.”[8]

Liberal freedom thus supposes that individuals can be abstracted from their origins, their environment, the context in which they live and where they exercise their choices, i.e., from everything that makes them who they are, and not someone else. It supposes, in other words, as John Rawls says, that the individual is always prior to his ends. Nothing, however, proves that the individual can apprehend himself as a subject free of any allegiance, free of any determinism. Moreover, nothing proves that in all circumstances he will prefer freedom over every other good. Such a conception by definition ignores commitments and attachments that owe nothing to rational calculation. It is a purely formal conception, that makes it impossible to understand what a real person is.

The general idea is that the individual has the right to do everything he wants, so long as his use of his freedom does not limit the freedom of others. Freedom would thus be defined as the pure expression of a desire having no theoretical limits other than the identical desire of others, the whole of these desires being mediated by economic exchanges. It is what Grotius, the theorist of natural right, already asserted in the seventeenth century: “It is not against the nature of human society to work for one’s own interest, provided that one does so without wounding the rights of others.”[9] But this is obviously an irenic definition: almost all human acts are exercised in one way or another at the expense of the freedom of others, and it is, moreover, almost impossible to determine the moment when the freedom of one individual can be regarded as hindering that of others.

In fact, liberal freedom is, above all, the freedom to own. It does not reside in being, but in having. Man is called free insofar as he is an owner—first of all, an owner of himself. The idea that self-ownership fundamentally determines freedom will later be adopted by Marx.[10]

Alain Laurent defines self-realization as an “ontological insularity whose primary goal is the search for one’s own happiness.”[11] For liberal writers, the “search for happiness” is defined as the unhampered freedom to try always to maximize one’s best interest. But immediately we encounter the problem of understanding “interests,” especially since those who take interests as axiomatic seldom care to speak of their genesis or describe their components, any more than they wonder whether all social actors are at bottom driven by identical interests or if their interests are commensurable and compatible. When cornered, they tend to give the term a trivial definition: for them an “interest” becomes synonymous with a desire, a project, an action directed towards a goal, etc. Anything can become an “interest.” Even the most altruistic or disinterested action can then be defined as egoistic and interested, since it corresponds to the voluntary intention (the desire) of its author. In reality, though, it is clear that for liberals, an interest is defined initially as a material advantage which, to be appreciated as such, has to be calculable and quantifiable, i.e., to be expressible in terms of the universal equivalent which is money.

It should, therefore, be no surprise that the rise of liberal individualism initially entailed a progressive dislocation of the organic structures of existence characteristic of holist society, then a generalized disintegration of the social bonds, and finally a situation of relative social anomie, in which individuals were increasingly estranged from and even enemies of one other, which is part and parcel of the modern version of the “war of all against all,” that is, generalized competition. Such is the society Tocqueville described in which each member, “retired to the sidelines, is like a foreigner to all the others.” Liberal individualism tends everywhere to destroy direct sociability, which for a long time impeded the emergence of the modern individual and the collective identities that are associated with him. “Liberalism,” writes Pierre Rosanvallon, “to some extent makes the depersonalization of the world a condition of progress and freedom.”[12]

* * *

Liberalism is nevertheless obliged to recognize the existence of the social. But rather than wonder why the social exists, liberals are instead concerned with how it is established and maintained, and how it functions. After all, society for them is nothing more than the simple sum of its members (the whole being nothing but the sum of its parts), merely the contingent product of individual wills, a simple assembly of individuals all seeking to defend and satisfy their private interests. Society’s essential goal, therefore, is to regulate exchange relations. Such a society can be conceived either as the consequence of an initial rational voluntary act (the fiction of the “social contract”) or as the result of the systemic play of the totality of projects produced by individual agents, a play regulated by the market’s “invisible hand,” which “produces” the social as the unintentional result of human behavior. The liberal analysis of the social rests, thus, either on contractualism (Locke), recourse to the “invisible hand” (Adam Smith), or the idea of a spontaneous order, independent of any intention (F. A. Hayek).

Liberals developed the whole idea of the superiority of regulation by the market, which is supposed to be the most effective, most rational, and thus also the most just means to harmonize exchanges. At first glance, the market is thus presented above all as just a “technique of organization” (Henri Lepage). From an economic standpoint, it is at the same time an actual place where goods are exchanged and a virtual entity where in an optimal way the conditions of exchange—i.e., the adjustment of supply and demand and the price level—are formed.

But liberals do not wonder about the origin of the market either. Commercial exchange for them is indeed the “natural” model for all social relations. From this they deduced that the market itself is also a “natural” entity, establishing an order prior to any deliberation and decision. Being the form of exchange most in harmony with human nature, the market would be present at the dawn of humanity, in all societies. One finds here the tendency of every ideology to “naturalize” its presuppositions, i.e., to present itself, not for what it is, in fact a construction of the human spirit, but as a simple description, a simple transcription of the natural order. The state being correlatively rejected as an artifice, the idea of the “natural” regulation of the social by means of the market can then be imposed.

In understanding the nation as a market, Adam Smith brings about a fundamental dissociation between the concept of space and that of territory. Breaking with the mercantilist tradition, which still identified political territory and economic space, he shows that the market cannot by nature be contained within specific geographical limits. The market is indeed not so much a place as a network. And this network is destined to extend to the ends of the earth, since its only limit in the final analysis lies in the ability to exchange. “A merchant,” Smith writes in a famous passage, “. . . is not necessarily the citizen of any particular country. It is in a great measure indifferent to him from what place he carries on his trade; and a very trifling disgust will make him remove his capital, and together with it all the industry which it supports, from one country to another.”[13] These prophetic lines justify the judgment of Pierre Rosanvallon, who sees Adam Smith as “the first consistent internationalist.” “Civil society, conceived as a fluid market,” adds Rosanvallon, “extends to all men and allows them to transcend national and racial divisions.”

The main advantage of the concept of the market is that it allows liberals to solve the difficult problem of how to make obligation part of the social pact. The market can indeed be regarded as a law—a principle regulating the social order—without a legislator. Regulated by the action of an “invisible hand,” which is inherently neutral because it is not incarnated in concrete individuals, the market establishes an abstract mode of social regulation based on allegedly objective “laws” that make it possible to regulate the individual relations where no forms of subordination or command exist. The economic order would thus have to establish the social order, both orders being conceived as emerging without being instituted. The economic order, says Milton Friedman, is “the nonintentional and nondesired consequence of the projects of a great number of people driven solely by their interests.” This idea, abundantly developed by Hayek, is inspired by the formula of Adam Ferguson (1767) who referred to social facts that are “the result of human action, but not the execution of any human design.”[14]

Everyone knows the Smithian metaphor of the “invisible hand”: In commerce, the individual “intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.”[15] This metaphor goes far beyond the altogether banal observation that the results of a one’s actions are often quite different from what one expected (what Max Weber called the “paradox of consequences”). Smith indeed frames this observation in a resolutely optimistic perspective. “Each individual,” he adds, “always makes every effort to find the most advantageous employment for all the capital at his disposal; it is quite true that he envisions his own benefit, not that of society; but the care that is given to finding his personal advantage leads him naturally, or rather necessarily, to precisely prefer the kind of employment that is most advantageous to society.” And further: “All while seeking only his personal interest, he often works in a much more effective manner for the interest of society than if his purpose really were to work for it.”

The theological connotations of this metaphor are obvious: the “invisible hand” is only a secular avatar of Providence. It should also be emphasized that, contrary to what is often believed, Adam Smith does not assimilate the very mechanism of the market to the play of the “invisible hand,” because he utilizes the latter only to describe the end result of the confluence of commercial exchanges. Besides, Smith still accepts the legitimacy of public intervention when individual projects alone fail to realize the common good.

But this qualification would soon disappear. Neo-liberals now dispute the very concept of the public good. Hayek prohibited any comprehensive approach to society on principle: no institution, no political authority ought to set objectives that might question the efficiency of the “spontaneous order.” Given this view, the only role that most liberals agree to allow the state is guaranteeing the conditions necessary for the free play of economic rationality to work in the market. The state can have no goal of its own. It exists only to guarantee individual rights, freedom of exchange, and respect for law. Equipped more with permissions than with prerogatives, it must in all other domains remain neutral and renounce proposing a model of the “good life.”[16]

The consequences of the theory of the “invisible hand” are decisive, particularly at the moral level. In some passages, Adam Smith indeed rehabilitates the very behaviors that previous centuries always condemned. By subordinating the social interest to individual economic interests, Smith makes selfishness the best way to serve others. While seeking to maximize our best personal interest, we work—without knowing it, indeed without even having to want it—for the interest of all. The free confrontation of egoistic interests in the market “naturally, or rather necessarily,” allows their harmonization by the play of the “invisible hand,” thus making them contribute to the social optimum. Thus there is nothing immoral in seeking one’s own interest first, since in the final analysis the egoistic action of each leads, as if by accident, to the interest of all. It is what Frédéric Bastiat summarized in a formula: “Each one, while working for himself, works for all.”[17] Egoism is thus nothing but altruism properly understood. By contrast, it is the schemes of the public authorities that deserve to be denounced as “immoral,” whenever, in the name of solidarity, they contradict the right of individuals to act according to their own interests.

Liberalism links individualism and the market by stating that the free operation of the latter is also the guarantor of individual freedom. By ensuring the best return on exchanges, the market in effect guarantees the independence of each agent. Ideally, if the market’s performance is unhindered, this adjustment takes place in an optimal way, making it possible to attain an ensemble of partial equilibriums that ensure an overall equilibrium. Defined by Hayek as a “catallaxy,” the market constitutes a spontaneous and abstract order, the formal instrumental support for the exercise of private freedom. The market thus represents not just the satisfaction of an economic ideal of optimality, but the satisfaction of everything to which individuals, considered as generic subjects of freedom, aspire. Ultimately, the market is identified with justice itself, which leads Hayek to define it as a “game that increases the chances of all the players,” stipulating that, under these conditions, losers would be ill-advised to complain, for they have only themselves to blame. Finally, the market is intrinsically “pacifying” because, based on “gentle commerce,” it substitutes the principle of negotiation for conflict, neutralizing both rivalry and envy.

Note that Hayek reformulates the theory of the “invisible hand” in “evolutionary” terms. Hayek indeed breaks with any sort of Cartesian reasoning, such as the fiction of the social contract, which implies the opposition (standard since Hobbes) between the state of nature and political society. On the contrary, in the tradition of David Hume, he praises custom and habit, which he opposes to all “constructivism.” But at the same time he affirms that custom selects the most effective and rational codes of conduct, i.e., the codes of conduct based on commercial values, whose adoption results in rejecting the “tribal order” of “archaic society.” This is why, invoking “tradition” all the while, he criticizes traditional values and firmly condemns any organicist vision of society. Indeed, for Hayek the value of tradition derives above all from what is spontaneous, abstract, impersonal, and thus inappropriable. It is this selective character of custom that explains why the market was gradually imposed. Hayek thus thinks that any spontaneous order is basically “right” in the same way that Darwin asserts that the survivors of the “struggle for life” are necessarily “the best.” The market order thus constitutes a social order that prohibits by definition any attempt to reform it.

Thus one sees that, for liberals, the market concept goes well beyond the merely economic sphere. The market is more than a mechanism for the optimal allocation of scarce resources or a system regulating the pathways of production and consumption. The market is also and above all a sociological and “political” concept. Adam Smith himself, insofar as he turned the market into the principal agent of social order, was led to conceive human relations on the economic model, i.e., as relations between merchandise. Thus a market economy leads quite naturally to a market society. “The market,” writes Pierre Rosanvallon, “is primarily a way of representing and structuring social space; it is only secondarily a decentralized mechanism for regulating economic activities through the pricing system.”[18]

For Adam Smith, generalized exchange is the direct consequence of the division of labor: “Every man thus lives by exchanging, or becomes in some measure a merchant, and the society itself grows to be what is properly a commercial society.”[19] Thus, from the liberal perspective, the market is the dominant paradigm in a society that defines itself through and through as a market society. Liberal society is only a realm of utilitarian exchanges by individuals and groups all driven solely by the desire to maximize their self-interest. A member of this society, where everything can be bought and sold, is either a merchant, or an owner, or a producer, and in all cases a consumer. “The superior rights of consumers,” writes Pierre Rosanvallon, “are to Smith what the General Will is to Rousseau.”

In the modern age, liberal economic analysis was gradually extended to all social facts. The family was assimilated to a small business, social relations to a network of competing self-interested strategies, political life to a market where the voters sell their votes to the highest bidder. Man is perceived as capital, the child as a consumer good. Economic logic was thus projected onto the social whole, in which it was once embedded, until it entirely encompassed it. As Gerald Berthoud writes, “society can then be conceived starting from a formal theory of purposeful action. The cost-benefit analysis is thus the principle that rules the world”[20] Everything becomes a factor of production and consumption; everything is supposed to result from the spontaneous adjustment of supply and demand. Everything is worth its exchange value, measured by its price. Correlatively, all that cannot be expressed in quantifiable and calculable terms is held to be uninteresting or unreal. Economic discourse thus proves profoundly reifying of social and cultural practices, profoundly foreign to any value that cannot be expressed in terms of price. Reducing all social facts to a universe of measurable things, it finally transforms men themselves into things—things substitutable and interchangeable from the monetary point of view.

* * *

This strictly economic representation of society has considerable consequences. Completing the process of secularization and “disenchantment” of the world characteristic of modernity, it leads to the dissolution of peoples and the systematic erosion of their distinct characteristics. On the sociological plane, privileging economic exchange divides society into producers, owners, and sterile classes (like the former aristocracy), through an eminently revolutionary process that Karl Marx was not the last to praise. On the plane of the collective imagination, it leads to a complete inversion of values, while raising to the pinnacle commercial values that from time immemorial had been regarded as the very definition of inferior, since they were matters of mere necessity. On the moral plane, it rehabilitates the spirit of self-interested calculation and egoistic behavior, which traditional society has always condemned.

Politics is regarded as intrinsically dangerous, insofar as it concerns the exercise of power, which is considered “irrational.” Thus liberalism reduces politics to the guarantee of rights and management of society solely by technical expertise. It is the fantasy of a “transparent society” coinciding immediately with itself, outside any symbolic referent or concrete intermediation. In the long run, in a society entirely governed by the market and based on the postulate of the self-sufficiency of “civil society,” the state and related institutions are supposed to decay as surely as in the classless society imagined by Marx. In addition, the logic of the market, as Alain Caillé shows, is part of a larger process tending toward the equalization, even the interchangeability, of men, by the means of a dynamic that is observed already in the modern use of currency. “The juggling act of the liberal ideology,” according to Caillé, “. . . resides in the identification of the legal state with the commercial state, its reduction to an emanation of the market. Consequently, the plea for the freedom of individuals to choose their own ends in reality turns into an obligation to have only commercial ends.”[21]

The paradox is that liberals never cease affirming that the market maximizes the chances of each individual to realize his own ends, while affirming that these ends cannot be defined in advance, and that, moreover, nobody can better define them than the individual himself. But how can they say that the market brings about the optimum, if we do not know what this optimum is? In fact, one could just as easily argue that the market multiplies individual aspirations much more than it gives them the means to achieve them, that it increases, not their satisfaction, but their dissatisfaction in the Tocquevillian sense of the term.

Moreover, if the individual is always by definition the best judge of his own interests, then what obliges him to respect reciprocity, which would be the sole norm? Liberal doctrine would no longer base moral behavior upon a sense of duty or the moral law, but upon self-interest, rightly understood. While not violating the liberty of others, I would dissuade them from violating mine. Fear of the police is supposed to take care of the rest. But if I am certain that, by transgressing the rules, I incur only a very small risk of punishment, and reciprocity does not matter to me, what prevents me from violating the rules or the law? Obviously nothing. On the contrary, taking into account nothing but my own interests encourages me to do so as often as I can.

In his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), Adam Smith writes frankly:

. . . though among the different members of the society there should be no mutual love and affection, the society, though less happy and agreeable, will not necessarily be dissolved. Society may subsist among different men, as among different merchants, from a sense of its utility, without any mutual love or affection; and though no man in it should owe any obligation, or be bound in gratitude to any other, it may still be upheld by a mercenary exchange of good offices according to an agreed valuation.[22]

The meaning of this passage is clear. A society can very well economize—this word is essential—on any form of organic sociality, without ceasing to be a society. It is enough for it to become a society of merchants: the social bond will merge with the feeling of its “utility” and the “mercenary exchange of good offices.” Thus to be human, it is sufficient to take part in commercial exchanges, to make free use of one’s right to maximize one’s best interest. Smith said that such a society will certainly be “less happy and agreeable,” but the nuance was quickly forgotten. One even wonders if, for certain liberals, the only way to be fully human is to behave like merchants, i.e., those who were formerly accorded an inferior status (not that they were not regarded as useful, and even necessary, but for the very reason that they were nothing but useful—and their vision of the world was limited by the sole value of utility). And that obviously raises the question of the status of those who do not behave like that, either because they lack the desire or the means. Are they still men?

* * *

The logic of the market actually imposed itself gradually, beginning at the end of the Middle Ages, when long-distance and local trade started to be unified within national markets under the impetus of the emerging nation-states, eager to monetize and hence tax formerly untaxable forms of noncommercial intra-community trade. Thus, far from being a universal fact, the market is a phenomenon strictly localized in time and space. And, far from being “spontaneous,” this phenomenon was in fact instituted. Particularly in France, but also in Spain, the market was by no means constructed in spite of the nation-state, but rather thanks to it. The state and the market are born together and progress at the same pace, the former constituting the latter at the same time as it institutes itself. “At the very least,” Alain Caillé writes, “it is advisable not to consider market and state as two radically different and antagonistic entities, but as two facets of the same process. Historically, national markets and nation-states are built at the same pace, and one is not found without the other.”[23]

Indeed, both develop in the same direction. The market amplifies the movement of the national state which, to establish its authority, cannot cease to destroy methodically all forms of intermediate socialization which, in the feudal world, were relatively autonomous organic structures (family clans, village communities, fraternities, trades, etc.). The bourgeois class, and with it incipient liberalism, sustained and aggravated this atomization of society, insofar as the emancipation of the individual it desired required the destruction of all involuntary forms of solidarity or dependence that represent as many obstacles to the extension of the market. Pierre Rosanvallon observes:

From this perspective, nation-state and market reflect the same type of socialization of individuals in space. They are conceivable only within the framework of an atomized society, in which the individual is understood to be autonomous. Thus both the nation-state and the market, in both the sociological and economic sense of these terms, are not possible where society exists as an encompassing social whole.[24]

Thus the new form of society that emerged from the crisis of the Middle Ages was built gradually, starting from the individual, from his ethical and political standards, and from his interests, slowly dissolving the coherence of political, economic, legal, and even linguistic realms that the old society tended to sustain. Until the seventeenth century, however, state and civil society continued to be one and the same: the expression “civil society” was still synonymous with politically organized society. The distinction begins to emerge late in the seventeenth century, notably with Locke, who redefines “civil society” as the sphere of property and exchanges, the state or “political society” being henceforth dedicated to protecting economic interests alone. Based upon the creation of an autonomous sphere of production and exchanges, and reflecting the specialization of roles and functions characteristic of the modern state, this distinction led either to the valorization of political society as the result of a social contract, as with Locke, or to the exaltation of civil society based on the spontaneous adjustment of interests, as with Mandeville and Smith.[25] As an autonomous sphere, civil society creates a field for the unrestricted deployment of the economic logic of interests. As a consequence of the market’s advent, “society,” as Karl Polanyi writes, “is managed as an auxiliary of the market. Instead of the economy being embedded in social relations, social relations are embedded in economic relations.”[26] This is the very meaning of the bourgeois revolution.

At the same time, society takes the form of an objective order, distinct from the natural or cosmic order, which coincides with the universal reason to which the individual is supposed to have immediate access. Its historical objectivation initially crystallizes in the political doctrines of rights, the development of which one can follow from the time of Jean Bodin to the Enlightenment. In parallel, political economy emerges as a general science of society, conceived as a process of dynamic development synonymous with “progress.” Society henceforth becomes the subject of a specific scientific knowledge. To the extent that it achieves a supposedly rational mode of existence, and its practices are subject to an instrumental rationality as the ultimate principle of regulation, the social world falls under a certain number of “laws.” But due to this very objectivization, the unity of society, like its symbolization, becomes eminently problematic, the more so as the privatization of membership and attachment leads quickly to the fragmentation of the social body, the multiplication of conflicting private interests, and the onset of de-institutionalization. New contradictions soon appear, not only between the society founded by the bourgeoisie and remnants of the Old Regime, but even within bourgeois society, such as class struggle.

The distinction between the public and the private, state and civil society, was still acute in the nineteenth century, generalizing a dichotomic and contradictory view of social space. Having extended its power, liberalism, henceforth promoted a “civil society” identified with the private sphere alone and denounced the “hegemonic” influence of the public sector, leading it to plead for the end of the state’s monopoly on the satisfaction of collective needs and for the extension of commercial modes of intrasocial regulation. “Civil society” then took on a largely mythic dimension. Being defined less and less in its own terms than in opposition to the state—its contours fuzzily defined by what was theoretically subtracted from the state—it seemed more an ideological force than a well-defined reality.

By the end of the nineteenth century, however, adjustments had to be made to the purely economic logic of society’s regulation and reproduction. These adjustments were less the result of conservative resistance than of the internal contradictions of the new social configuration. Sociology itself arose from real society’s resistance to political and institutional changes as well as those who invoked a “natural order” to denounce the formal and artificial character of the new mode of social regulation. For the first sociologists, the rise of individualism hatched a double fear: of “anomie” resulting from the disintegration of social bonds (Émile Durkheim) and of the “crowd” made up of atomized individuals suddenly brought together in an uncontrollable “mass” (Gustave Le Bon or Gabriel Tarde, both of whom reduce the analysis of social facts to “psychology”). The first finds an echo among counter-revolutionary thinkers in particular. The second is mainly perceptible among the bourgeoisie concerned above all with protecting itself from the “dangerous classes.”

While the nation-state supported and instituted the market, antagonism between liberalism and the “public sector” grew in tandem. Liberals never cease fulminating against the welfare state, without realizing that it is precisely the market’s extension that necessitates ever-increasing state intervention. The man whose labor is subject solely to the market’s play is indeed vulnerable, for his labor might find no takers or have no value. Modern individualism, moreover, destroyed the organic relations of proximity, which were above all relations of mutual aid and reciprocal solidarity, thus destroying old forms of social protection. While regulating supply and demand, the market does not regulate social relations, but on the contrary disorganizes them, if only because it does not take into account demands for which one cannot pay. The rise of the welfare state then becomes a necessity, since it is the only power able to correct the most glaring imbalances and attenuate the most obvious distresses. This is why, as Karl Polanyi showed, every time liberalism appeared to triumph, it has been paradoxically assisted by the addition of official interventions necessitated by the damage to the social fabric caused by the logic of the market. “Without the relative social peace of the welfare state,” Alain Caillé observes, “the market order would have been swept away altogether.”[27] This synergy of market and state has long characterized (and in certain regards continues to characterize) the Fordist system. “Social protection,” concludes Polanyi, “is the obligatory accompaniment of the self-regulating market.”[28]

Insofar as its interventions aim at compensating for the destructive effects of the market, the welfare state in a certain manner plays a role in “de-marketizing” social life. However, it cannot completely replace the forms of community protection destroyed by industrial development, the rise of individualism, and the expansion of the market. Compared to these old forms of social protection, it indeed has as many limitations as benefits. Whereas the old solidarity rested on an exchange of mutual services, which implied responsibility for all, the welfare state encourages irresponsibility and turns citizens into dependents. Whereas the old solidarity fell under a network of concrete relations, the welfare state takes the form of an abstract, anonymous, and remote machinery, from which one expects everything and to which one thinks one owes nothing. The substitution of an impersonal, external, and opaque solidarity for an old, immediate solidarity is thus far from satisfactory. It is, in fact, the very source of the current crisis of the welfare state which, by its very nature, seems doomed to implement only a solidarity that is economically ineffective because it is sociologically maladjusted. As Bernard Enjolras writes, “to go beyond the internal crisis of the welfare state presupposes . . . rediscovering the conditions that produce a solidarity of proximity,” which are also “the conditions for reforging the economic bond to restore synchronism between the production of wealth and the production of the social.”[29]

* * *

“All the degradation of the modern world,” wrote Péguy, “i.e., all lowering of standards, all debasement of values, comes from the modern world regarding as negotiable the values that the ancient and Christian worlds regarded as nonnegotiable.”[30] Liberal ideology bears a major responsibility for this “degradation,” insofar as liberalism is based on an unrealistic anthropology entailing a series of erroneous conclusions.

The idea that man acts freely and rationally in the market is just a utopian postulate, for economic facts are never autonomous, but relative to a given social and cultural context. There is no innate economic rationality; it is only the product of a well-defined social-historical development. Commercial exchange is not the natural form of social relations, or even economic relations. The market is not a universal phenomenon, but a localized one. It never realizes the optimal adjustment of supply and demand, if only because it solely takes into account the demand of those who can pay. Society is always more than its individual components, as a class is always more than the elements that form it, because it is that which constitutes it as such, and that from which it is thus logically and hierarchically distinct, as shown in Russell’s theory of logical types (a class cannot be a member of itself, no more than one of its members on its own can constitute the class). Finally, the abstract conception of a disinterested, “decontextualized” individual who acts upon strictly rational expectations and who freely chooses his identity from nothing, is a totally unsupportable vision. On the contrary, communitarian and quasi-communitarian theorists (Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Sandel) have shown the vital importance for individuals of a community that necessarily constitutes their horizon, their episteme—even to forge a critical representation of it—for the construction of their identity as well as for the satisfaction of their goals. The common good is the substantial doctrine that defines the community’s way of life and thus its collective identity.

The whole current crisis arises from the contradiction that is exacerbated between the ideal of the abstract universal man (with its corollary atomization and depersonalization of all social relationships) and the reality of the concrete man (for whom social ties continue to be founded on emotional ties and relations of proximity, along with their corollaries of cohesion, consensus, and reciprocal obligations).

Liberal authors believe society can be based solely on individualism and market values. This is an illusion. Individualism has never been the sole foundation of social behavior, and it never will be. There are also good reasons to think that individualism can appear only insofar as society remains to some extent holist. “Individualism,” writes Louis Dumont, “is unable to replace holism completely and reign over all society. . . . Moreover, it cannot function without holism contributing to its life in a variety of unperceived and surreptitious ways.”[31] Individualism is what gives liberal ideology its utopian dimension. Thus it is wrong to see holism as only a doomed legacy of the past. Even in the age of modern individualism, man remains a social being. Holism reappears the moment liberal theory posits a “natural harmony of interests,” in effect recognizing that the common good takes precedence over private interests.

Notes

[1] Marcel Gauchet, Le désenchantement du monde (Paris: Gallimard, 1985), 77. In English: The Disenchantment of the World: A Political History of Religion, trans. Oscar Burge (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997).

[2] Alain Renaut, L’ère de l’individu. Contribution à une histoire de la subjectivité (Paris: Gallimard, 1989), 76–77. In English: The Era of the Individual: Contribution to a History of Subjectivity, trans. M. B. DeBevoise and Franklin Philip (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999).

[3] Louis Dumont, Homo æqualis. Genèse et épanouissement de l’idéologie économique (Paris: Gallimard, 1977), 17.

[4] Certain liberal authors, however, endeavored to distinguish independence and autonomy, while others (or the same ones) endeavored to differentiate between the subject and the individual, or even between individualism and narcissism. Unlike independence, autonomy is compatible with submission to supra-individual rules, even when they come from a self-grounding normativity. This is, for example, the point of view Alain Renaut defends (L’ère de l’individu, 81–86), but it is not very convincing. Autonomy is indeed quite different from independence (in certain connections, it even represents the opposite of it), but that is not the essential question. The essential question is to know what, from a liberal point of view, can force an individual to adhere to any limitation of his freedom, whenever this limitation conflicts with his self-interest.

[5] Benjamin Constant, De la liberté des Anciens comparée à celle des Modernes (1819).

[6] Ayn Rand, “Collectivized ‘Rights’,” in her The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism (New York: New American Library, 1964), 101.

[7] Constant, De la liberté des Anciens.

[8] John Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690), ch. viii, in Two Treatises of Government, ed. Peter Laslett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 347.

[9] Hugo Grotius, Du droit de la guerre et de la paix (1625).

[10] Besides supporting the “mechanism” characteristic of liberal ideology, which is given a fundamental epistemological value, Marx himself adheres to a metaphysics of the individual, which led Michel Henry to see him as “one of the leading Christian thinkers of the Occident” (Michel Henry, Marx [Paris: Gallimard, 1991], vol. 2, 445). The reality of Marxist individualism, beyond its collectivist façade, was established by many authors, beginning with Louis Dumont. “Marx’s entire philosophy,” Pierre Rosanvallon writes, “can . . . be understood as an effort to enhance modern individualism. . . . The concept of class struggle itself has no meaning outside the framework of an individualistic representation of society. In a traditional society, by contrast, it has no significance” (Le libéralisme économique. Histoire de l’idée de marché [Paris: Seuil, 1989], 188–89). Marx certainly challenged the fiction of Homo economicus that developed beginning in the eighteenth century, but only because the bourgeoisie used it to alienate the real individual and bind him to an existence narrowed to the sphere of self-interest alone. However, for Marx, self-interest is merely an expression of a separation between the individual and his life. (It is the basis of the best part of his work, namely his criticism of “reified” social relations.) But he by no means intends to substitute the common good for private interests. There is not even a place for class interests.

[11] Alain Laurent, De l’individualisme. Enquête sur le retour de l’individu (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1985), 16.

[12] Rosanvallon, Le libéralisme économique, vii.

[13] Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976), vol. 1, book III, ch. iv, 426.

[14] Adam Ferguson, An Essay on the History of Civil Society, ed. Fania Oz-Salzberger (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), third part, section II, p. 119.

[15] Smith, The Wealth of Nations, vol. 1, book IV, ch. ii, p. 456.

[16] With respect to the role of the state, this is the most current liberal position. The libertarians known as “anarcho-capitalists” go further, since they refuse even the “minimal state” suggested by Robert Nozick. Not being a producer of capital, though it consumes labor, for them the state is necessarily a “thief.”

[17] Frederic Bastiat, Harmonies économiques (1851). This is the well-known thesis that Mandeville defends in his Fable of the Bees: “Private vices, public virtue.”

[18] Rosanvallon, Le libéralisme économique, 124.

[19] Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, vol. 1, book I, ch. iv, p. 37.

[20] Gerald Berthoud, Vers une anthropologie générale. Modernité et altérité (Geneva: Droz, 1992), 57.

[21] Alain Caillé, Splendeurs et misères des sciences sociales. Esquisse d’une mythologie (Geneva: Droz 1986), 347.

[22] Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976), 86.

[23] Caillé, Splendeurs et misères, 333–34.

[24] Rosanvallon, Le libéralisme économique, 124.

[25] Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees (1714).

[26] Karl Polanyi, La grande transformation. Aux origines politiques et économiques de notre temps (Paris: Gallimard, 1983), 88. In English: The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1944).

[27] Caillé, Splendeurs et misères, 332.

[28] Polanyi, La grande transformation, 265.

[29] Bernard Enjolras, “Crise de l’Etat-Providence, lien social et associations : éléments pour une socio-économie critique,” Revue du MAUSS, 1er semestre 1998, 223.

[30] Charles Péguy, “Note conjointe sur M. Descartes et la philosophie cartésienne,” Note conjointe (Paris: Gallimard, 1935).

[31] Dumont, Homo æqualis.

 

————

De Benoist, Alain. “A Critique of Liberal Ideology.” The Occidental Quarterly, Winter 2007-2008, vol. 7, No. 4, 9-30. <www.toqonline.com/archives/v7n4/743BenoistLiberalismrevised.pdf >. (PDF version also downloadable from our site: A Critique of Liberal Ideology)

Note: For those who are interested, a more extensive critique specifically of Friedrich Hayek’s liberal theories was made by Alain de Benoist in “Hayek: A Critique,” Telos, Vol. 1998, No. 110 (December 1998), pp. 71-104. Made available for download from our site: Hayek: A Critique.

Notes on translations: The original French version of “A Critique of Liberal Ideology” was “Critique de l’idéologie libérale”, published in Critiques – Théoriques (Lausanne & Paris: L’Age d’Homme, 2003). It is available in German translation as “Die Kritik am Liberalismus” (published in Aufstand der Kulturen [Berlin: Edition Junge Freiheit, 1999]), in Italian translation as “Il liberalismo contro le identità collettive” (published in Le sfide della postmodernità [Casalecchio: Arianna, 2003]), in Spanish translation as “Crítica de la ideología liberal” (published online: InfoKrisis, 1 August 2009, <http://infokrisis.blogia.com/2009/080103-critica-de-la-ideologia-liberal-ii-de-iv-alain-de-benoist.php >), in Portuguese translation as “Crítica da ideologia liberal” (published online: Legio Victrix, 23 October 2012, <http://legio-victrix.blogspot.com/2012/10/critica-da-ideologia-liberal.html >), in Russian translation as “Критика либеральной идеологии” (published in Против либерализма [Санкт-Петербург: Амфора, 2009]), and in Slovakian translation as “Kritika ideológie liberalizmu” (Filozofia, No. 63, Vol. 9,2008, pp. 817-829).

 

Leave a comment

Filed under New European Conservative