Neoreaction = Monarchy?


There it is. Neoreaction’s first profile in a popular media outlet (Tech Crunch’s global Alexa rank is 371). It’s unfortunate that “monarchy” is the term that most people will now associate with neoreaction. Honestly, how many of us are hardcore monarchists?

An assumption linking all neoreactionary camps is that the ideal of universal democracy—of universal voice—leads only to demotism, idiocracy, tyranny, or all three at once. We are anti-universal democracy, yes, but that is not exactly the same as anti-democratic, and certainly not the same as monarchist. From the maxim “To all voice, no exit” there is still a long, long road to monarchy.

I think a fine case can be made for monarchy. But I think what neoreaction is after is naturally emergent hierarchy and order, an order with feedback loops to ensure the failure of things that need to fail and the success of things that optimize for human intelligence and flourishing. Such an order can take many hypothetical forms; indeed, on grounds of naturally emergent order and feedback mechanisms to ward off zombies, one can argue just as well for anarchy as monarchy. Those of us with a Landian bent would love to see all these hypothetical forms flourish, so we can see which ones crash and burn and which ones deliver the Singularity. (Honestly, at this point, my political utopia isn’t monarchy but a world in which one can shop for a geo-political home like one shops for shoes.) So, I respect and, after a few bourbons, sometimes agree with monarchists, but monarchism is not neoreaction any more than Steve Sailer’s citizenism is neoreaction. The beauty of the reacto-sphere is that, having recognized that our current homes may not be inhabitable for much longer, we’re all spinning our hypothetical habitable worlds based on our own visions of the orders and hierarchies we believe will naturally emerge once the social engineers fall and the world is freed from the Cathedral and her Stereopticon. Neoreaction, however, is not any one vision, any one habitable world. It is the belief that each man should be free to find his own world, his own home, and to build one if he can’t find it.

[I think there are problems with what I’ve just said, but I really wanted to connect my blog’s title to the discussion.]

ADDED: I want to save this excellent comment from comment-thread oblivion. WhiteDeerGrotto on the Tech Crunch article, Scott Alexander, and neoreaction more generally:

This article is a soft pitch left over the plate, waiting to be smashed out of the park. If I didn’t know better, I’d think this Klint Finley was a neoreactionary confederate, a planted heckler in the crowd, soon to be silenced by the magician.

At its heart, neoreaction is a critique of the entire liberal, politically-correct orthodoxy. The Cathedral, a term coined by Moldbug, is a description of the institutions and enforcement mechanisms used to propagate and maintain this orthodoxy. It would take more than some 100~300 word blog comment to adequately describe either the Cathedral or neoreaction, but Moldbug’s “Open Letter”, Nick Land’s “The Dark Enlightenment”, and Scott Alexander’s “Reactionary Philosophy in an Enormous, Planet-Sized Nutshell” are all good places to start. All three are easily 10000+ words each. Neoreaction is a complete re-build of a political worldview. For those of us who have been indoctrinated since kindergarten that tolerance and democracy are the best things ever, this requires a through tear-down to the intellectual bedrock. Your patience will be rewarded.

Neoreaction does not have a single monolithic doctrine or political program. In its current state, it is, at best, a loose synthesis of various criticisms of our reigning liberal ideology. The politically-correct propagandists assert that humans are essentially interchangeable, regardless of culture or genetics, and that some form of multicultural social-welfare democracy is the ideal, final political state for all of humanity. Neoreaction says no. The sexes are biologically distinct, genetics matter, and democracy is deeply flawed and fundamentally unstable. It does not follow that all neoreactionaries are monarchists. The author is attacking a strawman.

The author of this article cites Scott Alexander’s anti-reactionary FAQ as if he were a shipwrecked sailor clinging to driftwood. Unfortunately, for him, Scott Alexander will not provide the salvation he desires. Alexander’s anti-reactionary FAQ is an impressive feat – it is nearly as long as a novel. But ultimately it is false advertising, because it does not refute any of neoreaction’s core criticisms of the Cathedral. Rather, it can be used as a guide to mark the current boundaries of neoreactionary thought. Where an individual neoreactionary writer has overextended his arguments, the anti-reactionary FAQ counterattacks, forcing back the salient. The monarchist position, for example, remains rather weak and underdeveloped, and Alexander pushes back quite effectively.

But this should give the anti-reactionary little comfort, because Scott Alexander himself has written one of the most effective, and persuasive summaries of neoreaction, as mentioned before, titled “Reactionary Philosophy in an Enormous, Planet-Sized Nutshell.” It’s so effective, in fact, that his anti-reactionary FAQ doesn’t even address his own summary of neoreaction. When probed on this point, he argues that he had actually “steelmanned” (the opposite of strawman) neoreactionary arguments, and chose to attack weaker targets, such as monarchists. By his own admission, his anti-reactionary FAQ only attacks the periphery of neoreaction, while avoiding the core.

And it gets worse. Even if you take the “Against Neoreaction” list at face value, you are still miles away from the liberal orthodoxy. To cite Ron Unz as an opponent of neoreaction is laughable – that would be like a lamb enlisting the help of a wolf to fight a lion. Scott Alexander’s position is already a significant retreat from the liberal worldview. None of the people cited are actually interested in defending the blank-slate theory of humanity, or the globalist multicultural social-democratic project. Each of them have put up their own barricade of resistance on the road to reaction, yelling “Here, and no further.” They are better described as moderates on the Cathedral-Neoreaction spectrum.

Don’t take my word for it, read for yourself.

27 responses

  1. twistedone151

    “our hypothetical habitable worlds”

    The problem being that they will remain only hypothetical.

    “It is the belief that each man should be free to find his own world, his own home, and to build one if he can’t find it.”

    But should does not necessarily entail can. We aren’t free to find our one worlds, we aren’t able to build one if we can’t find it, and we have no way of becoming either.

    November 23, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    • Well, hopefully, as boiling points are reached, the worlds won’t remain hypothetical.

      And I agree that “should” does not entail “can” in this context. That’s part of the problem with what I said. Reality is a harsh mistress, and we need to take her constraints into consideration at all times.

      November 23, 2013 at 11:16 pm

      • twistedone151

        “Well, hopefully, as boiling points are reached, the worlds won’t remain hypothetical.”

        One can hope this, but will it be anything other than a vain hope? Particulary given the very high probability that the “boiling points” will do irreversable, irreparable damage to civilization.

        November 25, 2013 at 2:43 am

  2. peppermint

    How do you package up utter contempt for democracy in a sound bite without calling it either monarchy or feudalism?

    November 23, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    • Re-cast universal democracy as universal tyranny. As Ben Franklin said: Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!

      November 23, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    • I think Scharlach’s Naturally Emergent Hierarchies is a supremely nice package.

      Except that it sounds scary. And the reason it sounds scary to the average politically interested, Anglophone person is that the very language of politics has devolved into: Democracy vs. Not Democracy. And all “Not Democracy” are synonyms: Totalitarian, Authoritarian, Monarchy, Aristocracy, Plutocracy, Feudalism, Dictatorship. They are all synonyms in the minds of the public. Not just the stupid public, but even the IQ 115 public. That shouldn’t be stupid, but it is, and the reason is, exactly as Orwell predicted, they’ve modified the language to change the thoughts.

      There’s no easy way out except to get people to get their thinkers working again. Should a family be democratic? Why not? Hmmm…

      Anyway, Anti-democracy is NOT a hill to die on. Democracy works passably for certain (suspiciously non-diverse) groups in certain (suspiciously socially tight-knit) situations. And there are people trying to give felons the right to vote because… disparate impact. OK, but MOST people are on board with NOT giving felons the right to vote. OK, why is that? There is still some tender shoots of consciousness that only “good people” should vote. And then you can build from there.

      It seems to me the weakest link for progressivism is subsidiarity and exit. I mean why should the Teabaggerz Nazis in Washington get to decide what’s right and wrong for California? Can’t we all just agree to an amicable divorce? Why not?

      November 26, 2013 at 7:58 pm

  3. peppermint

    Yeah, except all that says to progressives is that they need more safeguards for minority rights.

    How do you package up utter contempt for democracy without explicitly going through the argument that it’s a low-grade civil war and carefully explaining why it’s bad for everyone, not simply due to the effects on minorities?

    November 24, 2013 at 6:50 am

    • twistedone151

      “How do you package up utter contempt for democracy without explicitly going through the argument that it’s a low-grade civil war and carefully explaining why it’s bad for everyone, not simply due to the effects on minorities?”

      Exactly; we can’t. On the level of sound bites, of emotional appeals, of snappy arguments that appeal to the majority of human beings, nothing beats Cathedral Progressivism. It is a mind-virus of incredible tenacity; it may in fact be the Ultimate Memeplex.

      November 25, 2013 at 2:50 am

      • No, no, history isn’t over. I’d expect any ultimate memeplex to win over more than short-memoried urbanites, righteousness junkies, and the vibrant underclass.

        Democracy is two men fighting over a third man’s wallet.
        Democracy is rule by whoever informs the people.

        November 26, 2013 at 12:51 am

  4. Grotto

    Thanks, Scharlach. Of all the various neoreactionary thinkers I’ve read (a list that is hardly exhaustive), I most often find agreement with you. With regards to monarchism, this is definitely true.

    It’s also nice to finally learn what the title of this blog means. I originally thought you might be a space enthusiast. I’m guessing I’ve overlooked the post where you explained this.

    November 24, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    • Who (the hell) ARE you, Grotto? You cannot expect me to believe you’ve been lurking for 6 years.

      Anyway, good job!!

      November 26, 2013 at 8:02 pm

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  6. “… how many of us are hardcore monarchists?” — I’m not at all clear what the answer is to this question. It would be interesting to know.

    November 25, 2013 at 1:42 am

    • It can’t be very many. 25% is my guess.

      November 25, 2013 at 2:49 pm

      • It’s blurred by the fact that few in NR strongly object to a ‘Monarch’ of some limited (or often actually metaphorical) kind. I’d put myself in that camp. It’s just that I don’t think a strong monarchical politics — and certainly not a return to dynastic rule — is any kind of serious solution.The whole ‘aristocracy’ rhetoric also does more harm than good in my opinion. People just think it’s a romantic infatuation with funny hats, and it suggests a whole new wave of discriminatory social protections is being called for (which would, of course, be a disaster).

        December 2, 2013 at 1:21 am

  7. Jefferson

    Am I the only one who finds Alexander’s engagement with DE completely preposterous? He seems to cite ideas, only to ignore them moments later when they don’t fit his narrative. How hard of a distinction is it between a government that is for the people (as in doing what is best for them), versus one that is of the people (as in doing what the people want). From the administrative side, the form that a government takes is secondary to its capacity for establishing a solid metric (or set of metrics) to evaluate its performance and then iterating based on that.

    The core of the NR critique isn’t that we have a democracy and that democracy is bad, it’s that our metrics are bass-ackwards. That’s the problem with AIACC, the concept of demotism, etc.; if Obama were made hereditary monarch tomorrow, very little would change for the better. Our leadership class (and probably a majority of Americans) use idiotic metrics for evaluating *everything*. When we quibble on specifics (as Alexander does), it’s clear that we’re talking past each other.

    November 26, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    • It’s not an anti-reactionary FAQ; it’s an anti-Anissimov-and-neocameralism FAQ.

      November 27, 2013 at 8:11 am

    • “Am I the only one who finds Alexander’s engagement with DE completely preposterous?” — No.

      December 6, 2013 at 9:09 am

  8. LP

    I’ll throw in my view on how I think neo-reaction should look at political systems. Certain political systems are suited to certain environments. In a Hobbesian brutal state of nature, the Leviathan, is the correct response. But in creating a security state, you create a Lockean state of nature where people desire freedom. When you achieve a Lockean libertarian state, people desire a Millian utilitarian state. And the process never ends. I look at it like like Plato, no state is perfect and endures forever; each state contains the seeds of its own destruction. I also agree with Toqueville that democracies always go broke pleasing the people, and all the Western democracies are reaching that point. What is the proper way to adapt to the collapse of democracies is the question we should be asking. Toqueville and Plato both say that when democracies collapse they are replaced by tyrannies. Lets hope not and we can create something more civilized. I still like Jeffersonian democracy.

    November 26, 2013 at 5:28 pm

  9. Democracy is a convenient fiction used as a cloak by the ruling classes to achieve the delusion of mass consent for their rule.

    In the real world we are about to test the limits of consent. This testing occurs at the level of blood and soil — a level of existence that most modern intellectuals falsely believe they have surmounted.

    How many levels of separation divide your existence from total anarchy and violence? If you live in a large city, just a few blocks and the integrity of power and fuel supplies. How many levels of activity separate you from the soil? If you live in a large city, hundreds of miles and a massive interlocking infrastructure that is more fragile than generally understood.

    How would you raise a child so that he understood the concepts of naturally emerging hierarchies and interlocking feedback-driven systems of order? That question is already of surpassing importance. The changes will not come through debate or political process.

    December 2, 2013 at 3:00 pm

  10. Toddy Cat

    “It’s not an anti-reactionary FAQ; it’s an anti-Anissimov-and-neocameralism FAQ.”

    This. I’ll also repeat what a said a while back; when a person uses North Korea (Communist revolutionary regime) as an archetype of reactionary government, and South Korea (strongly Confucian, military oligarchy until the early ’80’s, dominated by big business concerns) as an archetype of liberal social democracy, that person is deeply confused.

    December 4, 2013 at 8:08 pm

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