Race and Ethnicity

The Modernism of Race

Article by Jonson Miller.

The implicit religiosity of this article aside, its seems this writer’s ideas would be more befitting of a genuine anarchism as opposed to racial reductionism and leftist universalism. A welcome contribution.


Human Biological Diversity (HBD), as a concept, is inimical to the radical traditionalism identified as the core orientation of Alternative Right. The use of HBD does stand as a challenge to the egalitarianism of Liberalism and, more generally, of modernity. However, the abstraction, materialism, and quantification upon which HBD is predicated are in fact more characteristic of Liberalism than of anything called traditionalism. We should not give ourselves over to the scientists’ materialist conceptions of man. We need, instead, an organic conception of man that recognizes the transcendent.

It was in the development of eugenics that we gained a clear crystallization of the “nature versus nurture” conflict, as well as the idea of races as statistical populations that is so important for HBD. And it was the Left that gave us eugenics. It was driven by a Progressive desire for an increasingly powerful state that could intervene to manage populations perceived as troublesome in order to promote the improvement of society. Eugenists believed in the perfectibility of man. But, instead of perfecting individuals through education and the creation of free societies, as was the desire of eighteenth-century proponents of the Enlightenment, eugenists sought to rationally manipulate the very materials of inheritance to produce long-term improvements in populations.

Granted, there were great variations in the methods and goals of eugenists, but, most relevant for HBD, was the development of statistical methods to map out human difference. But what concept of the nature of man is embedded in this? To them, man was fundamentally mechanical. He was defined by the material nature of his inheritance. Why did some people and not others commit crimes? Not because they were immoral, enmeshed in sin, or because of any other spiritual or moral quality. They committed crimes because of their biological inheritance. They couldn’t help it. This view of man absolves us of any responsibility, as well as of any free will or spiritual quality. It’s no wonder that eugenics came from the Left and not the Right.

And what of the environmentalists who argued that some people commit crimes because of the environment in which they were raised? It was the same conceptualization of man. Both were equally mechanical. Both were equally modern. And, for both, by what means do we come to know the nature of man? Through reason. It is reason, not faith, revelation, tradition, or individual will that is supreme.

Does the HBD concept not contain the same materialist assumptions about the nature of man? Does it, with its abstract and statistical methods not claim the supremacy of reason? For many readers and contributors to Alternative Right, this is not a problem. Paul Gottfried, for example, looks back to an ideal of nineteenth-century liberalism, an ideal built upon the supremacy of reason and a mechanical view of man and the cosmos. So, should someone like Gottfried have any interest in statistical conceptualizations and rankings of race, it would not conflict with his metaphysical foundations. Might we then identify a split within the “traditionalists” of Alternative Right? Is there a split between paleocons, with their modernism and nineteenth-century liberalism, and, if I may, archaeocons, who are groping towards a rejection of modernity?

So then how are opponents of modernity to understand human difference? Is there a non-modern conceptualization we can apply to modern racial classifications? I don’t think so. Race is entirely modern. Race, which emerged as an idea in the seventeenth century, requires an abstract and universalistic view of man, by which we float above a single thing called man and divide him into categories based on rational analysis. In contrast, traditional views of human difference emerged organically from the concrete and local experience of individuals. No universal system of classification was necessary. An individual in Gaul would have understood difference according to his personal needs and experiences, which may have differed greatly from those of an individual in Carthage or a Pict. Indeed, two individuals of differing stations or regions of Gaul may have conceived of human difference differently. And all of these conceptions could have lived along with one another without any pressure to reconcile them in some universal and abstract manner.

I question, however, whether or not diverse organic and concrete conceptualizations of man are possible today. Human difference, like all else, has been subordinated to industrialization and the modern state. The modern state demands uniformity of definitions, universalism, and abstraction so that it might manage the populations over which it rules. Both the HBD concept and liberal views of man as equal – the same – both fulfill this demand. Both are modern. Neither are traditional.

Categories: Race and Ethnicity

1 reply »

  1. I understand the point raised by the author. I myself have been in the “hard traditionalist” milieu for several years and I’m used to this sort of “soft traditionalist race denial”. The problem is that universals are not a feature of Modernism: it’s a feature of reality itself. Universals are incomplete and dangerous, but real. You can’t have science without abstract reasoning and universal concepts. You’ve got to be very, very careful with over-generalizations, dogmatism and the structural vices and bias of human individual reason. That’s been the traditionalist caveat with human reason for centuries. But the idea of a Logos in the Universe it’s a characteristic of western thinking that has been with us since the times of Plato and before. Universals and the idea of One Truth in the Universe (extremely big, extremely complex, a truth that you can never apprehend in its totality) are not the same that Modernism. And race is a biological category full of importance that you can’t simply wish away from existence.

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