Scales of Sovereignty (part 1)
Continuing Moldbug’s tradition of submitting ‘democratic’ society to Machiavellian analysis, Spandrell explains why rich and powerful Westerners do what they do and make the decisions they make. They do what they do for the same petty reasons any of us do anything: to solidify our friendships and to fuck with the people we don’t like. Writes Spandrell,
When you, politically awakened man, think about power, you have an abstract framework of what power does, and what it should do. You have your ideas on how society should be organized, and think that politics is about applying those ideas in absolute terms. But on closer inspection, it doesn’t work like that. George Soros didn’t buy shares of Herbalife because he has abstract beliefs on how the economy works and believes Herbalife is great value. Or he has abstract mathematical models that say that Herbalife will make him a lot of money. He has enough money anyway. Soros is probably buying Herbalife shares to fuck with Bill Ackman, another disagreeable Jewish banksta who seems to have very few friends.
All politics are local. Taken to its extreme, this maxim means that rich and powerful individuals make decisions affecting millions—billions—of abstract ‘others’ based entirely on the local realities of the rich and powerful themselves, that is, based on their relationships with other rich and powerful people they know, love, and loathe. The reality of democratic politics confirms Spandrell’s insight. Read any D.C. insider memoir. Petty social networking runs America. Justice? Founding fathers? Republican ideals? Bullshit. It’s all about who has what, who wants what, who’s a good drinking buddy, who’s a douche bag, and who knows how to play quid pro quo.
As Spandrell’s post reminds us, the Machiavellian impulse—the realist impulse—in neoreactionary politics is demanded and enabled by the insights of Darwinism and HBD. People are people. People are animals. (Or, as the trads put it, people are fallen.) We’re only a few evolutionary branches away from baboons. Civilization is hard.
Earlier discussions about sovereignty were prompted by the Moldbuggian question, “Is sovereignty conserved?” However, when I sat down to re-read the discussions about that question, I realized how rarely we talked in terms of HBD and Dark Enlightenment. In light of Spandrell’s cynically and darkly enlightened analysis of elite power plays, we should be prepared to answer Moldbug’s question with a resounding, “Yes, obviously.” Because mammals, especially humans, have evolved to do sovereignty.
I quote Bob Dylan:
You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Ten thousand years ago, various populations of mankind realized that some control and coercion are necessary if we want to be more than naked, competing brutes. The libertarian paradise of complete socio-political freedom would, in reality, not even look like the Serengeti. It would look worse than the Serengeti. Most animal groups maintain cohesion and exert control through their own simplified hierarchies (e.g., lion prides or meerkat matriarchy).
There will always be sovereignty. There will always be someone to serve, someone or some group who has some element of control over certain elements of other peoples’ lives. This is a necessary condition for civilization.
Commenter Hypothetical provides the following quote from Frederic Jameson regarding two different mechanisms (state power and market power) by which mankind is controlled and thereby kept safe from his own brutish, stupid anarchy:
Hobbes needs state power to tame and control the violence of human nature and competition; in Adam Smith (and Hegel on some other metaphysical plane) the competitive system, the market, does the taming and controlling all by itself, no longer needing the absolute state […] the market is thus Leviathan in sheep’s clothing: its function is not to encourage and perpetuate freedom (let alone freedom of a political variety) but rather to repress it.
According to Jameson’s way of thinking, the state and the market serve the same end: ensuring that mankind does not devolve toward his animal instincts, toward a too-destructive competitive environment in which everyone loses. Dylan again: You’re gonna have to serve somebody. Indeed, as I said, you’re gonna have to serve somebody because the last 10k years of human evolution have taught humans that control and coercion are necessary, in some form and to some degree, for intelligence optimization and general human flourishing. If some freedoms are lost, so be it.
Control is necessary in some form and to some degree. That’s the key. Jameson is guilty of equivocation by suggesting that the “control” enacted by the state is of the same form or has the same effects as “control” enacted by market forces. Clearly, there is a world of difference between the two. State or political control is all too human, enabled by the petty politicking and social networking—the kind described by Spandrell—that we should expect from the human animal and from the human elite in particular. In other words, state control is control by individual politicians operating at local (petty, short-sighted, moralistic, status-whoring) scales. State control is control by the whims of individuals and the fickle furors brought on by activists with megaphones. State control is control by factional baboons who have lost their fur.
Market control, on the other hand, is control by an aggregate of individuals and interactions at distant and varied scales that are not human at all. Market forces are often intractable for any individual human or group, if not in the short term then certainly in the long term. I don’t think that economists really have any idea how these forces work; however, we can be sure they exist and that, like physical laws before Newton, they seem to work whether or not we can describe them.
Whom do I want to serve? Where do I want sovereignty conserved? In forces I don’t understand, not in individual human animals, whom I understand too well, and who are, in their competitive brutishness, apt to bring civilization tumbling down just to piss off other humans they don’t like or to earn a few status points in the short term.
Journal of Neoreactionary Scholarship
A while back, James Goulding suggested that some of the conversations taking place in the reacto-sphere can lead or already have led to essays able to be re-packaged in the form of articles as rigorous and interesting as academic articles published by scholarly presses. I think he’s absolutely right. However, as we all know, 75% of things we publish on our blogs (75% of anything anyone publishes) is not worth saving. But it’s the 25% that we need to capture and publish in a more stable format.
To that end, I’m building an online journal for neoreactionary scholarship. I already have the basic CSS in place. I’ve been inspired by the launch of Theden, but I know that a web magazine is a lot of time and energy—content must be updated regularly. I imagine this online journal to be more academic, which updates once every three or four months with the best content written on blogs or submitted for original publication in the journal. A bit like La Griffe du Lion, but with a broader range of content (philosophy, linguistics, evo psych, alternative political structures, art and literature, religion, et cetera) and a much more aesthetic design. I’ll also ask submitters to provide at least some biographical information; they can remain anonymous, but a certain level of ethos needs to be built, and it can only be built by signalling credentials and experience. And honestly, the journal should consist of content that needn’t be anonymous. Screeds and real-talk have their place, but this journal will not be it. Rather, this will be the place for building a case for Dark Enlightenment that can be touted in the Cathedral without getting shouted down as blatantly ___________. The universities are incredibly powerful in shaping discourse and worldview; I think this would be one more strategy for setting up an antiversity.
I haven’t registered a domain yet because I don’t know what to call the journal. Consider this a call for suggestions. Leave your ideas in the comments, along with other recommendations for such a project.
Two Shapes of Time: Moral vs. Technological Progress
Nick Land’s unfolding series The Shape of Time—well worth the read, like all of Land’s multi-part essays—quotes John Michael Greer at length in an attempt to summarize the various ‘time shapes’ with which the Occident has ordered time and understood its place in the unfolding expanse of it. Land, following Greer, identifies two major shapes: the Augistinian and the Joachim.
The former is the Christian time shape, beginning with Creation and the Fall, ending with The Last Day and Paradise. Everything in between—that is, secular history—is merely the muddled middle through which God and Christ lead the elect.
The Joachim time shape, on the other hand, is equted with the contemporary progressive ordering of time. Greer describes it:
To Joachim, sacred history was not limited to a paradise before time, a paradise after it, and the thread of the righteous remnant and the redeeming doctrine linking the two. He saw sacred history unfolding all around him in the events of his own time. His vision divided all of history into three great ages, governed by the three persons of the Christian trinity: the Age of Law governed by the Father, which ran from the Fall to the crucifixion of Jesus; the Age of Love governed by the Son, which ran from the crucifixion to the year 1260; and the Age of Liberty governed by the Holy Spirit, which would run from 1260 to the end of the world.
What made Joachim’s vision different from any of the visionary histories that came before it — and there were plenty of those in the Middle Ages — was that it was a story of progress.
Yes, a story of progress, but almost certainly a story of moral progress.
The progressive time-shape—an ordering of time which denies the existence of feedback loops, regression, cycles, a complexly but systematically enforced sustainability—has today developed conceptually along two disconnected axes: the moral and the technological.
The first is exemplified by radical, millennial Protestantism and its belief in the perfectability of mankind. The ordering of time along an axis of ever-perfecting moral progress was the explicit assumption of John Noyes and other 19th century North American utopian Christians; it is the implicit assumption of the progressive Left in the 20th and 21st centuries. It is given its clearest form in Martin Luther King Jr.’s gnomic apothegm: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The axis of time stretches in one direction; its purpose is predominantly moral; and its terminal point is the moral perfection of human beings. The discourse of the progressive Left constantly reaffirms this sense of universal purpose.
However, the ordering of time along an axis of ever-expanding technological progress has little to do with the time shape of moral progress. Ray Kurzweil is the obvious exemplar in this case. The first chapter of The Singularity is Near explicitly orders the history of time according to Six Epochs, each representing a more advanced stage of knowledge and/or technological progress than the epoch that came before it: Epoch One: Physics and Chemistry. Epoch Two: Biology and DNA. Epoch Three: Brains. Epoch Four: Technology. Epoch Five: The Merger of Human Technology with Human Intelligence. Epoch Six: The Universe Wakes Up.
This time shape is given its clearst form in the idea that “humans are the minds through which the universe comes to know and marvel at itself.” Humans with the highest IQs and most advanced technology are obviously in the best position to further travel along this arc of technological progress toward singularity.
Those who order time according to the shape of Moral Progress rarely have any affinity for those who order time according to the shape of Technological Progress. And vice versa. They see time expanding toward very different (though, I suppose, not mutually exclusive) goals.
My personal preference is obviously for the latter time shape: technological progress. I am only concerned with moral progress insofar as vice leads to social disorder and instability, which are not optimal for the progress of knowledge and technology. I have, for most of my adult life, been a firm believer in technological progress; even in my nominally Leftist days, however, I was skeptical about the existence of moral progress. As a neoreactionary, I outright deny it.
In general, good evidence exists for accepting the one time arc but denying the other. Moral progress is a blatant absurdity. Slavery is as rampant today as it was a thousand years ago; wars and rumors of war never cease. The idea that the species can be improved in some way, as Cormac McCarthy said, is a false idol, and those who worship it make their lives vacuous and corrupt. My rejection of progressivism is ultimately a rejection of the belief in moral progress; it also results from the belief that those who try to push the world along a time arc that doesn’t actually exist are usually the ones pushing it, at various times and places, into the social disorder and instability they seek to obviate.
Conversely, technological progress is a blatant reality. Isn’t it? Science would look like magic to human populations from just a few hundred years ago. Diseases have been eradicated or made easily treateable. A thouand years back, humans hadn’t made it across the Atlantic Ocean; now we fly over it in a few hours; hell, making it to the moon isn’t too much trouble . . .
That is to say, making it to the moon wasn’t too much trouble at one point. Today, NASA can’t even put a person in low-earth orbit.
Technological progress has clearly occurred, but its continuation is not inevitable. In hindsight, this should be an obvious point. The success of 20th century science has led me to be more optimistic than history warrants. And I’m not even talking about the collapse of Rome. That regression was relatively minor compared to regressions on longer time scales in deep history. At some point, a population of archaic hominids found themselves stranded on the island of Flores in Indonesia. Over the course of the next ten thousand years, their brains shrunk. And then shrunk some more. They continued to use basic tools, but they were destined never to advance like their distant cousins who stayed in Africa and Europe. As Razib Khan puts it here: “I can believe that a local adaptation toward small brains, Idiocracy-writ large, occurred. Brains are metabolically expensive, and it isn’t as if the history of life on earth has shown the massive long-term benefits of being highly encephalized.”
Regression. To a Westerner in 2013, the notion of regression is frightening, nearly horrific. In most dystopian visions, things regress, but somewhere someone retains high-tech knowledge and skill. Earth in Elysium may be one giant Mexican city, but the whites, Indians, and Asians on Elysium itself have advanced closer toward Singularity. In Wells’ vision, the Eloi are docile illiterates, but the Morlock still know how to run the machines.
A global regression, on the other hand, means that everyone has forgotten. Lost knowledge of the ancients. My modern bias tells me that the ancients didn’t know anything worth knowing in our age of science, but maybe that’s not true. Regardless, if contemporary knowledge is lost, then our distant idiot ancestors will have lost the knowledge of the ancients.
If we take Greer’s and Land’s thesis seriously—that any time shape positing an Arc of Progress is seriously problematic—then we must prepare ourselves for the possibility that a technolgoical Elysium is as unattainable, or, at least, as unlikely a goal as a moral Utopia. That’s a hard pill to swallow for a futurist. One can only hope that the complex cycles of time always come around to this same place again. If Science, Technology, and Reason are transient, humanity can always look forward to their return.
I’ve been away on vacation and/or holed up in a cubicle doing some freelance work so I can pay off the credit cards I used while on vacation. Posting, commenting on other blogs, and trolling on Twitter to resume shortly . . .
Baseball and Population History
Here are the 13 MLB players suspended for using steroids or other illegal “performance enhancing drugs.” The picture is interesting from an HBD and socio-political perspective. All of these players would check “Hispanic” on their census forms. They would all qualify for affirmative action and various other diversified goodies. However, the men in this photo clearly stand at the most recent ends of very different population histories.
Peralta is the classic “white Hispanic.” Exchange his last name with McClintock, and you wouldn’t bat an eye. Cervelli is Venezuelan, but like the Pope, he’s about one generation removed from his obvious homeland: Italy. Montero is also a white Hispanic, but unlike Peralta, he probably does have a wee bit of indio mixed in with his predominantly Ibizan genes. I have cousins who look like Montero.
Puello is the descendant of slaves, but I’m guessing Escalona, Martinez, and Valdespin also have a significant percentage of African SNPs. Cabrera is the most obvious indio of the group; however, I imagine Bastardo also has a significant Asian ancestry.
All “Hispanic” or, if you prefer, “Latino.” Because they all speak Latin.