Left and Right

Death to Modernity

By Alex Kurtagic


To create, you must first destroy. That is the implication behind the French (but in reality European) New Right’s Manifesto for a European Renaissance, authored by Alain de Benoist and Charles Champetier thirteen years ago and recently republished in book form by Arktos Media.

And what is it that needs to be destroyed? It is not specifically Marxism, cultural or otherwise, nor even the ethnically based movements that grew out of it, though these would be casualties. It is, in fact, the prior ideology of liberalism, against which Marxism—and also the response to Marxism: fascism, or National Socialism—constituted a response. Liberalism is the enemy: it is the originating formulation of the evil of modernity, and the main agent of the accelerating destruction of European cultures over the past three hundred or so years.

The Manifesto traces the roots of modernity to Christianity. The movement, defined by individualisation, massification, desacralisation, rationalism, and universalism, is seen as ‘a secularisation of the ideas and perspectives borrowed from Christian metaphysics which spread into secular life following a rejection of any transcendent dimension’. Individualisation stems from the idea of individual salvation; egalitarianism from the idea that salvation is equally available to all of mankind; progressivism from the idea that the world has an absolute beginning and a necessary end; and universalism from the sense of ‘a manifest revealed truth which, valid for all men, summons them to conversion’. This means that Christianity, now ‘reduced to an opinion among others’, has ‘unwittingly become victim of the movement it started’. Indeed, ‘in the history of the West, Christianity has become the religion of the way out of religion’.



 

According to the authors,

The various concurrent and often contradictory philosophical schools of modernity agree on one issue: that there is a unique and universalisable solution for all social, moral and political problems. Humanity is understood to be the sum of rational individuals who, through self-interest, moral conviction, fellowship or even fear are called upon to realise their unity in history. In this perspective, the diversity of the world becomes an obstacle, and all that differentiates men is thought to be incidental or contingent, outmoded or even dangerous. To the extent that modernity is not only a body of ideas, but also a mode of action, it attempts by every available means to uproot individuals from their individual communities, to subject them to a universal mode of association. In practice, the most efficient means for doing this has been the marketplace.

Modernity, however, is dead. It has by now nothing left to say, and survives as a zombie, condemned endlessly to re-iterate, recycle, refine, and even parody itself. Post-modernity is not really a movement after modernity, but is rather modernity on life-support. At a recent event, where I spoke about various models of collapse (an article is due soon to appear in The Occidental Quarterlyon this same topic), New Right theorist Alexandr Dugin applied the term ‘delayed collapse’ to post-modernity. And this is apt, for in the arts we can recognise the post-modern movement as a capitulation, as an admission of defeat, by modern creatives. Are they not reduced to pastiche, collage, self-parody, scepticism, irony, and ‘language games’?

They say that money is the root of all evil. Certainly, in ancient and mediaeval times money lacked the all-consuming pre-eminence it acquired during the modern era, during which money became the measure of all things, and in which market value is often the main determinant of whether something is done or made—or not. Does it not follow, then, since economism is a by-product of modernity and modernity a by-product of liberalism—indeed, they are all one and the same— that liberalism is the root of all evil?

European Renaissance

Having identified the source of the problem, the Manifesto proceeds to offer a systematic view of man and the world, contrasting the New Right’s view with the modern one. De Benoist and Champetier set the New Right’s organic man against modernity’s abstract man; contextual man against universal man; the society of kith and kin against the society of individuals; politics as an art against politics as business transactions; the economy in the service of man against man in the service of the economy; particularised morality against universalised morality; technology in the service of man against man in the service of technology; plurality against universality; and the integration of the transcendent and the material against their segregation into entirely separate realms.

Put another way, for the New Right man is, or should be conceived as, an organic being, which integrates the biological with the social, intellectual, and spiritual; who exists in a specific social, geographical, familial, and historical context, which determines his morality and wherefrom he derives, or within which he constructs, his identity; who also exists in a world where man, morality, and thought occur in a plurality of forms; and who is part of a universe where the material and the transcendent comprise a continuum, in which man and the material acquires meaning through the transcendent.

This contrasts with the modern conception of man as an abstraction, which is the same everywhere and begins life as a blank slate, totally malleable, and who exists in a contractual society that is nothing more than a collection of economically motivated individuals pursuing their rational self-interests and universal moral convictions, in a purely material world that is to grow ever more advanced techonologically and ever more efficient economically, and where history will end once a state of liberal democracy, social and economic equality, universal education, and secularisation have been achieved.

Having outlined a comprehensive worldview, the third part of the Manifestooffers policy positions on a variety of contemporary topics. Most of the headings are self-explanatory:

  • Against indifferentiation and uprooting; for clear and strong identities;
  • Against racism; for the right to difference;
  • Against immigration; for cooperation;
  • Against sexism; for the recognition of gender;
  • Against the New Class; for autonomy from the bottom up;
  • Against Jacobinism; for a federal Europe;
  • Against depoliticisation; for the strengthening of democracy;
  • Against productivism; for new forms of labour;
  • Against the ruthless pursuit of current economic policies; for an economy at the service of the people;
  • Against gigantism; for local communities;
  • Against megalopolis; for cities on a human scale;
  • Against unbridled technology; for integrated ecology;
  • For independent thought and a return to the discussion of ideas.

In various ways these positions coincide with mine, though I do not ever speak about the ‘right’ to anything (such as the ‘right’ to difference, listed above), since the notion of ‘rights’ is a liberal one—hence the culture of entitlement that pervades our modern Western societies—and I prefer, instead, to speak of the assertion and recognition of prerogatives. What the Manifesto articulates as a ‘right’ to difference expresses, in reality, the need to discredit equality as an absolute moral good and emphasise, in its place, the moral goodness of difference—of being different, distinct, unique, and / or member of one of a plurality of lineages or categories, based on clear and strong identities.

In the area of race relations, the New Right sees racism as the result of liberalism: in recognising that individuals construct their own identities from their membership of a group or community, which coheres around the recognition of its own distinctness or uniqueness, the liberal model of giant open societies, immigration, cosmopolitanism, and universal metropoles populated by equivalent and interchangeable humans constitutes an attack on both the individual and the community, which then react defensively by developing racism. Hence, anti-racism causes racism. The reason is simple: quality and equality are diametrically opposed and, on the whole, mutually exclusive. Quality, both in the sense of superior quality and of distinguishing qualities, is where we find value. What is superior in quality has greater value than what is average. What has many or very strong distinguishing qualities tends also to be rare, and what is rare has greater value than what is common. But to equalise one has to destroy quality and distinguishing qualities, to shave off anything that stands out, in order to keep only that which is common to all. Thus, the pursuit of human equality represents the destruction of human value, through mental erasure (‘race doesn’t exist’), active policy (progressive taxation), or both. This is what is so obnoxious about the liberal worldview. Is it a surprise that non-parasitical folk react negatively, when faced with the consequences liberal policy?

Rather than assume that all humans are equivalent and interchangeable, and that they are blank slates that can be inscribed with whatever social engineers deem technically and economically efficient, the New Right prescribes recognising human difference, or diversity; and it prescribes the prerogative of individuals and groups to construct their own distinct identities. In this model, what makes sense is not immigration, but collaboration between distinct, autonomous communities, according to their specialisation. Diversity, as conceived by egalitarians, has failed because the latter’s commitment to equality means they cannot recognise that there cannot be diversity (and therefore meaningful cultural exchange or enrichment) without distinctness and autonomy. An egalitarian who preaches diversity lives in fundamental contradiction.

The same principles apply to gender: feminism, as is understood nowadays, is a devaluation of women, exactly the opposite of what it purports to be.

The issue of feminism is linked, inevitably, to the modern obsession with production. In the liberal worldview, everything is material, so the only way to increase value is through production and ever increasing productivity. This materialism means that we end up with a world where ‘nothing has value, but everything has a price’. In other words, a world that grows progressively more meaningless the more production destroys value through massification, standardisation, and the maximisation of profits. It is no coincidence that we are surrounded by advertisement everywhere and that shops are overflowing with shiny, worthless, poorly made junk items that break within hours of purchase. A society that focuses on productivity, and therefore on economic growth, where its performance is decided on the basis of gross domestic product, where the goodness of a policy is decided on the basis on its effect on economic growth, is a society whose understanding of value is one-dimensional, which conflates value and market value, thereby ignoring other all other sources of valuation. In such a society, aesthetic value, spiritual value, intellectual value, either do not exist or are debased through strict subordination to market value. Quality of life also suffers, because time and energy is directed at maximising productivity and economic growth. It follows, then, that any post-liberal model would have to recognise the many forms of value, and would, therefore, not operate purely as a business.

There is much more in this Manifesto, but I would rather the reader explore it on his own than have it pre-digested for him here, since this is a very succinct text and there is no point in my reproducing it in its entirety. The general idea, the overall shape of the New Right’s vision, can doubtlessly be grasped from the above.

American Renaissance

The New Right’s Manifesto poses an interesting problem for American readers, because it is by no means irrelevant to the American situation. In has, in fact,everything to do with it, and the values associated with it, because the United States is a spawn of ‘Enlightment’ liberalism—the ideas of John Locke, Adam Smith, Thomas Paine, Montesquieu, and so on. Founding Fathers Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams were all leading figures of the American ‘Enlightenment’. (I put the term in quotation marks because the term ‘Enlightenment’ is pure propaganda, since it effectively says: ‘you are benighted—you’re not enlightened—if you don’t believe in these ideas’.) It would appear, then, given the intellectual origins of Americanism, that a rebirth of European man in the North American continent would necessitate the prior destruction of the United States—at least as we conceive it today.

By destruction I do not mean a thermonuclear Armageddon, as depicted in the 1987 novel, Swansong, by Robert McCammon; the 1984 British film Threads; the 1983 American television film The Day After, or the 1961 Japanese film The Last War—though Cormac McCarthy’s The Road illustrates quite eloquently that a thermonuclear Armageddon would likely do the trick. Neither do I mean the kind of scenario explored in The Turner Diaries or later elaborations on that theme: without a prior revolution in the way Americans think at the most fundamental level, jumping straight to armed insurrection would only push the problem aside, but not kill it, and the result would be either the ascent of reactionary liberals (turning the clock back to a previous stage), or ongoing conflict between liberals and anti-liberals, in which case the situation remains defined by liberalism, which is never really transcended. By destruction I mean philosophical, ideological, and legal eradication, right down to first principles. That is to say, Americans reinvent themselves as something other, something that returns them and reintegrates them with the European civilisation wherefrom they came, becoming once more an extension of it, rather than the uprooted, or amputated, hypertrophic outgrowth of a passing vogue in European thought. In this scenario ‘American’ becomes merely a demonym, divested of its ideological implications.

To most this will likely be nearly inconceivable, particularly given that many patriotic, reactionary, and ultra-conservative Americans keep alive a cult of the Founding Fathers and a sort of Constitutional fundamentalism: other than the Comanches, the Apaches, the Iroquois, and the various other traditional nations predating the European colonial project, there was hardly ever a country in that part of the world that was legally and philosophically formulated upon different principles. In this sense the United States is fundamentally different from the nations of Western Europe, which have long histories prior to liberalism. Yet, there was once something other in what later became the United States—in the early colonial days, in the frontier, and in the Old West, beyond the reach of abstract philosophy—; and this illiberal otherness survived into modern times, albeit marginalised or sublimated into fiction (H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard), poetry (Ezra Pound, though he is a modernist), and, in a certain way, comic books and graphic novels, a topic that Jonathan Bowden touched upon at various times. Admittedly, a non-liberal reformulation of the American identity appears nearly impossible from where we stand today, and the tradition that would serve as its resources is indeed comparatively small, especially given the monstrous intellectual and legal edifice that has been erected since the late 1700s—but the resources do exist, and their remoteness and obscurity may in time prove an advantage rather than a disadvantage.

Given that the American nationality is the result of a European settler colonial project as well as a particular strand of European thought, and that, ultimately, because of this, the only ‘American’ is an European American, it seems ironic, does it not, that Americans will not save themselves from complete erasure down the line unless they recast themselves, think, and learn to act in ways that would today be considered ‘un-American’.

Finally . . .

We must come to a question that will doubtless be in the minds of some, given Kevin MacDonald’s recognition of a number of Jewish intellectual movements’ having been instrumental in the disprivileging, deconstruction, even the attempted and largely successful destruction of traditional European and White American identities during the twentieth century, and given also the fact that the aforementioned movements have all represented an exacerbation of liberalism and a pushing of it to its most extreme logical conclusions. The New RightManifesto says nothing about this topic specifically, but the tools to tackle the issue are provided nevertheless. And it boils down to this: we can and ought to respect the desire of Jews to define themselves as they wish, and to remain a distinct people, but, similarly, it remains our prerogative also to define ourselves as we wish, and to remain a distinct people, which means any attempt by outside agents to prevent this must be resisted.

The solution offered in the Manifesto is much more radical than simply educating folk about the nature of these movements and their role in ethnic competition between Jews and European-descended peoples, or recommending the instituting of exclusionary policies, or suggesting the mirroring of Jewish strategies, for these movements were all enabled by liberalism and they and any future analogue would become impossible, indeed unthinkable, once the ideas that form the basis of liberalism fall into discredit.

Conclusion

We have, thus, is a very clever and comprehensive manifesto, replete with profitable insights that are well worth pondering, certainly in Europe, almost certainly in North America, and probably also in other far-flung outposts of European civilisation.

Categories: Left and Right

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