The Crab and the Bear: On Alexander Dugin

I first heard the name Alexander Dugin around the time that “neo-Eurasianism” was first being noticed by the online alternative Right.The Russian Question had been brought up by figures on the European New Right. An example is Guillaume Faye and his vision of a European civilization “from Lisbon to Vladivostok”. Dugin fascinates many on the Right because he has gone beyond theory. A man who can both have a conference with Alain de Benoist and also claim to influence minds in the Kremlin has outdone every Western critic of global liberalism. These days even the Western media wants to know about him. At the same time, his name probably sparks more controversy among the Right than ever before. Pro-Kiev voices condemn him as a legitimizer of Russian aggression. Identitiarians hear him cast accusations of racism and wonder why he’s sounding like a Buzzfeed columnist. Putin fans idolize him as the architect of global traditionalist resurgence. The West still dominates much of the globe, and the Cathedral dominates all of the West. Both Dugin and Neoreaction are deconstructing that Cathedral’s ideological operating system. But we shouldn’t assume that Dugin’s project is the same as the Neoreactionary one. As we’ll see, their means and motivations have some sharp divergences.

For the uninitiated, Dugin calls his theoretical framework the Fourth Political Theory (4PT). Its name hints at its foundations. Dugin holds that since the Enlightenment, three political theories have wrestled for global control. Liberalism came first, and annihilated the old Christian and monarchic order. When it thinks about society, it focuses on the individual person. Communism came second, and rose in reaction to Liberalism. It takes the socio-economic class as its subject. This was because Liberal individualism failed to address the situation of the poor and working classes, now that the bourgeoisie had overthrown their own masters. The third theory is Fascism, and it reacted against both Communism and its Liberal predecessor. It tried to overcome the division of individuals and classes by basing society on a common foundation. In cases like Italy, it took the State as its starting point. In Germany, the racial volk played this role. Communism and Liberalism defeated Fascism, and Liberalism eventually overcame its former ally too, and now stands triumphant. Dugin claims that it can only be challenged by a fourth theory, which learns from the failures of former critiques.

His belief is that the failures of each ideology came from focusing on a single aspect of human existence. In fact, our world is a complex of all these things: we individuals are part of an ethno-cultural whole, a political order, and a particular station in that order. The 4PT claims to take a holistic view of the human being and accepts all these realities. Dasein – real existence in the world – can’t be so slickly reduced to a set of axioms. Humans are different. Ethnicities differ. Cultures and histories differ. Geopolitical realities differ. Because of this, societies develop different ways of existing. Liberalism claims to accept differences, but this is mere shadow play. In reality, it imposes a common value framework on all groups. Religion and culture become ornaments for liberal homogeneity. Neoreaction’s own framework agrees with this analysis. It condemns the idea that society can be constructed from an ideological blueprint. The bigger the plan for society, the more unknowns one faces. In fact, Neoreaction takes this further than 4PT. The Eurasian idea itself, with its vision of a federal union of states and de-Westernized cultures, is more detailed than anything Neoreaction puts forward. The presumption of knowledge is a dangerous thing to contend with. Instead, Neoreaction intends to be a toolbox to be used according to different sets of needs.

There are further comparisons. Western social science distinguishes between theoretical models and the “real world”. Both 4PT and Neoreaction critique this. Dugin talks about “practice as theory”, and believes that one cannot separate lived experience from ideology; Neoreaction discerns the prerequisites to Civilization from the historical record rather than manifestos. Liberalism claimed to leave individuals free to choose their own ways of living; the modern Liberal agrees, provided they make the proper choice. With Dugin, Neoreaction recognizes the slight of hand. All three have come to understand that unrestricted personal freedom is inimical to an enduring social order. The only difference is that the latter two are honest about it. Furthermore, Neoreactionary thought has overcome theological divides in the concept of Gnon – Nature or Nature’s God. Gnon’s laws cannot be suspended by activist judges or deconstructed by university professors. Societies must discover them and structure themselves accordingly. Meanwhile, Dugin has taken inspiration from the German Conservative Revolution and the Traditionalist School. As Dugin says in The Fourth Political Theory:

“Conservative revolutionaries want not only to slow time down, like the liberal conservatives, or return to the past like traditionalists, but to pull out from the structure of the world the roots of evil…and in so doing [fulfil] some kind of secret, parallel, non-evident intention of the Deity itself.”

But Dugin’s response to these ideas also leads us to some of the clashes between Western Rightists and the Fourth Political Theory. Dugin has consistently charged the ideology of progress as racist, and the West as being a “globally deployed model of…ethnocentrism, which is the purest manifestation of racist ideology.” When he so closely echoes the rhetoric of university SJW’s, those otherwise sympathetic become understandably suspicious. There are two things we need to note. The first is that racism isn’t actually the accurate term to describe what Dugin means. In Fourth Political Theory, he states that racism also exists among cultures, classes and even technology. Clearly, “chauvinism” or “supremacy” would be more accurate words than “racism”. Dugin’s supporters explain that the term illustrates that the West uses ideology in the same way it once used race and religion – to justify itself as the standard for Civilization. But it’s worth noting that the word also allows Dugin to attack Western liberalism on its own basis.

dugin5Dugin takes as one of his premises that all cultures and peoples – including the European West – must determine for themselves how they choose to exist. In that sense, 4PT undermines modern Progressivism’s condemnation of Western identity and heritage. The 4PT is a weaponized ideology: its stated purpose is to take over from the failures of Liberalism. Western countries have often used liberal ideology to undermine states in opposition to Western interests. From Russia to Egypt, Western NGO’s have funded groups with liberal sympathies, as the ideology is particularly useful in such ventures. Since it focuses on the individual, Liberalism can delegitimize a political order by focusing on select groups who view themselves as being excluded from the political process. Of course, Western countries themselves do this all the time through electoral and speech regulations. Implicit in our laws is the admission that not everyone should have equal involvement in the political process. If the 4PT gains influence, Russia and other countries will have a strong ideological counterweapon to this tactic.

Nevertheless, this is not the only issue on which Dugin seems to compromise with ideologies antithetical to the values of the Right. While an ideological anticommunist, he has defended the Soviet Union as an expression of the Russian worldview.

“Thanks to those who will be engaged in the defense of the Republic of Novorossia and who experience this particular Eurasian Orthodox identity, the rest of the Russian population will learn more about its ideological identity. At the same time, the achievements of the Soviet Union will not be excluded but included in a broader context rid of orthodox Marxism, materialism and atheism. That is the Eurasian ideology: it mainly includes the legacy of orthodoxy of the Byzantine monarchy and Russian nationalism, not to mention the Russian interpretation of Soviet history as briefly expressed in National Bolshevism.”

To understand Dugin’s reasoning, we need to distinguish between ideological communism and the geopolitical entity of the USSR. Communism as an ideology is rejected by Dugin as the failed second political theory. Communism as a system of government was absorbed into a broader Russian culture and worldview. Hence, Stalin is today remembered by many Russians not primarily as a Communist, but as a strong central ruler in the Russian tradition of autocracy. Similarly, the modern Communist Party of the Russian Federation supports cooperation with the Russian Orthodox Church. This is due to the Left-Nationalist faction currently controlling the party. The same pattern is reflected in the Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples’ Republics attempting to secede from Ukraine. Soviet institutions, nationalist rhetoric, and Orthodox religion are woven together by supporters of Russian rule. For Dugin, this is part of an organic process. Under bolshevism, the Russian people suffered mightily. From Stalin on, they were also a superpower. In the post-Soviet age, the Russian mind must reconcile itself to its own historical experience.

Applied metaphysics

Applied metaphysics

Neoreaction’s similarities with 4PT also contain its differences: both seek to deconstruct the liberal ideological premises laid in the Enlightenment. But Dugin is working in a society which holds fundamentally illiberal values, mores, and worldviews. Neoreaction exists in the sanctum of Liberalism, the West itself. If 4PT is a ship to let Russia sail on its own path, Neoreaction is a lifeboat with a map and compass that we hope against hope will get us to shore. Dugin looks at civilizations which must choose whether to follow the West’s path or not. Neoreaction looks at societies which must choose whether to follow Civilization’s path or not – and most seem to have chosen the latter. Moreover, Neoreaction stands firmly in a tradition of empirical analysis which Dugin categorizes as part and parcel of the Western “Atlanticist” thinking Russia rejects. The programmer who built an ideology in his garage stands in stark contrast to the bearded philosopher holding a rocket launcher in South Ossetia. As both ideologies accept differences, this isn’t necessarily a point of conflict. But it’s crucial to understanding the distinctions in methodology.

Both 4PT and Neoreaction are deeply concerned with Civilization. But this may also be the most fundamental point of distinction between the two schools of thought. For 4PT, the main emphasis is on the right to difference. Of course, Neoreaction agrees that different peoples and cultures must find their own particular modes of Civilization. But Dugin goes further, almost into relativism. He proclaims:

“There will be no universal standard, neither in the material nor in the spiritual aspect. Each civilisation will at last receive the right to freely proclaim that which is, according to its wishes, the measure of things. Somewhere that will be man, somewhere religion, somewhere ethics, somewhere materialism.”

This makes the difference clear. Dugin imagines many different civilizations. Civilization is simply a particular people’s mode of being – its culture, self-conception, and so forth. But Neoreaction goes further. Modes of being have consequences. They can make you master of the globe or they can send you to a humiliating historical grave. Beyond the many particular civilizations, there is a common phenomenon of Civilization proper. Violence and force are its foundation, because they are the tools used to create law and order. When people can live in peace and safety, they have the incentive to have families, invent, and improve themselves. When this is reinforced with responsibility to the common good, people invest in the future. The structures may differ, but the effect is the same: society flourishes. But when authority breaks down, families are abandoned, and the common good forgotten, a society will collapse. Sometimes, enough is protected that it can repair and be reborn. More often, it gets overrun and absorbed by healthier rivals. While 4PT focuses on the particular, Neoreaction is more willing to address those universal truths that all civilizations must contend with. And if it has no quarrel with Russia taking its own path, it can also see the omens that point to its incredible fragility at the present time. Any Eurasian future becomes less likely when the future of Russia itself is uncertain. From demographic collapse to economic woe, no stirring promises of a united Russian sphere can mask the problems besetting it. Neoreaction may have some lessons for Mr. Dugin yet, Atlanticist or not.

Next week’s article will be a neoreactionary analysis of Russia itself. It will cover geopolitical and domestic issues, as well as the Russian talent for weaponizing ideology.

 

Liked it? Take a second to support Social Matter on Patreon!
View All

18 Comments

  1. The current Russian regime is what I would call “pseudo-nationalist”, in that it appropriates nationalist elements where helpful to get the support of the population, as the New Deal regime did, but has other goals. Dugin using the phrase “racism” is pretty silly, like anyone with a couple brain cells can’t see through that one.

    The current American regime threw off all pretense of nationalism with the selection of Obama, although it was effectively dead with the arrival of Clinton and Rubin/Citibank.

  2. Dugin represents a powerful opportunity for the growing NXr movement. His political philosophy, as well summerized in this article, complements NXr and even nationalism. It’s tempting to criticize or even oppose movements that only partially embrace the tenants of what we subscribe. Honestly though, the new right needs allies. We’re fighting a major uphil battle and political clout, even if it’s thousands of miles away, still matters.

    The Fourth political theory sets geopolitical foundations on which NXr can grow. That’s fucking paramount considering the alternatives. What’s more, it posseses an organic foundational identity in Orthodox Christianity and thus far, opposes universalist claims. That’s makes it a friend to the growing new right movements in the west, and more importantly, an enemy to liberalism and Islam.

    1. Dugin and the 4PT are absolutely not an enemy to Islam. Dugin views Islam as a key ally against global liberalism, and as an integral traditional religion of the Eurasian sphere.

      I’ll be addressing next week what Russia’s interest in promoting 4PT and similar ideologies would be.

      1. From what I’ve read of Dugin, it seems to me that he sees Islam as useful because it will expose the contradictions inherent to the Liberal system once the two collide. He opposes it’s universalism, but sees strategic value in it against Liberalism.

  3. I think it is quite proper to understand Neoreaction as an outgrowth of Atlanticist though, albeit one that frequently strains against the confines and inveighs against the shibboleths of its intellectual lineage. It is what it is, like it or not, but the circumstances of its birth dictate that it be forced to walk down a different path than the Eurasianism of Dugin’s. The two are certainly fellow travelers with much in common, but I suspect time will show that they do not have the same destination on common after all.

  4. I think its important to note that the 4PT and nRx are unfinished ideas. Eurasianism, on the other hand, is specific. I often wonder if “nrx” will no longer exist in a few years, having evolved into something stronger and clearer. The 4PT also, does not really exist. Its defined by what it isn’t. When it emerges its unlikely it will be called “the Fourth Political Theory.”

    In many ways I consider nRx to be the American Fourth Political Theory, which again, is only defined by what it opposes at this point. Regardless of the critical reception it receives in rightist circles, I consider Dugin’s work to be some of the most important new writing in existence with the strongest summaries of liberal totalitarianism. He (and his cadre) is my main influence. I’m also suspicious that Moldbug was a secret Dugin reader. Too much overlap in their arguments to ignore.

    Regarding the Muslim thing… Islam is strangely immune to liberalism and that is worth studying. Many Islamic critiques of liberalism also contain some great points. Although Islam is obviously a degenerate barbarian religion with no place in civilization other than a museum, it is worth studying.

    1. NRx as the Anglo-Western fourth political theory is an interesting point. I hadn’t considered it from that perspective. On a theoretical level, Dugin would probably agree with this notion since NRx draws from the empirical Western tradition. It’s more appropriate for the Western mindset. Of course NRx itself is a toolbox like 4PT is. I see that some of our Southern American friends are going beyond the theory and applying these ideas to their own context – see the #SRx hashtag.

      Since I have leanings toward the Traditionalist school myself, I’m “friendlier” toward Islam than a lot of people in this sphere of things. I more or less view current fundamentalism as the Islamic equivalent of Protestant literalism and puritanism. There are still traditional Islamic groups which have kept a lot of the classical heritage they received centuries ago. These are also the primary schools which Dugin engages with and promotes as appropriate for Eurasia. Daesh and the Wahhabis are doing their level best to eradicate this heritage, all the way down to historical monuments and books.

      That said, the relationship between Islam and the West has to do with a lot more than the religion proper. Austria’s new law caught my attention as a sensible approach to these matters.

      1. NRx is damningly factional. I grossly underestimated this until I contributed here. Considered myself a “traditionalist” as you do, until recently (like last week, haha). I just realized that I don’t really know what that means anymore, and the variations are so huge in the definition. There is a very serious identity problem in the Neoreaction and its really troubling, – I mean the factionalism. When I first started reading writers (like those here on this site) it was exhilarating, I felt like there may be hope. But there is nothing resembling a consensus, which is why debate can become obnoxious. Perhaps its premature to suggest some kind of formal organization or leadership, but that’s really what Dugin has going for himself.

        4PT helps me rationalize the ideological vacuum that exists.

        I sympathize with your take on Islam. I’ve even wondered if a caliphate is preferable to what we have. The three monotheisms, the Abrahamic religions, seem bound for battle-royale. Similar to the quest for the Fourth Theory, I try wishing another religious option into existence, but this “Gnon” thing doesn’t really do it for me. The church is derelict as far as I can see.

        1. I mean Traditionalist as in the school of Rene Guenon.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditionalist_School

          Remember that Gnon is just a placeholder to be used in the context of NRx analysis, and not as a personal or social way of understanding that reality. In real life, this is God, the gods, Heaven, Nature, etc. I’m not Christian myself, but I see a lot of promise in the Orthodox Church’s expansion into the West. The traditionalists in the Catholic Church also have a strong community. Small phyles, but resilient.

        2. The distinction between Traditionalist and Reactionary is really only one of intent and context.

          Those living before the dawn of the Kali Yuga, so ‘pre-Enlightenment’ may be considered Traditionalists, as their Tradition was passive in nature. There was no other competing political ideology. However, those who seek the restoration of the World of Tradition in the post-Enlightenment era can be deemed Reactionary, as we do have political ideologies opposing us and thus are forced intro conflict with them.

          A Reactionaries goal is really to become a Traditionalist… to remove all competing ideologies to Tradition, the main one now being liberal democracy.

  5. It’s interesting that he considers Communism part of Russian identity, because surviving Russian royalists, the White émigrés, claimed that Communists couldn’t be Russian. It is similar to how Taiwanese consider themselves to be the true Chinese, and don’t consider the PRC Chinks Chinese at all. Dump Alexander Dugin; if you want real Russian Conservatism read Ivan Ilyin.

  6. One thing to bear in mind when discussing Dugin, who definitely falls under the larger umbrella of Reaction (though as a rather bizarre and specifically Russian brand) is that as well as being an intellectual, he is involved in actual policy and this has a MASSIVE impact on what he says and how he behaves as compared to your typical Reactosphere blogger. When Dugin says something that seems to be hypocritical, or in contention with something he has written, he is often doing so for political expediency. Thus, the Russian regime will call the Ukrainian government ‘far right fascists’ when the Kremlin is actively involved in aiding groups that fit that description far better around Europe. Dugin knows the game, and he plays it. More power to him. That’s how you win. You can think about fair play after the enemy is destroyed.

    I do often think his influence is overstated. His star has faded within the Kremlin in recent years. I don’t even think he holds his University professorship anymore after being dismissed. He does still have the ear of a key lawmaker though.

    Dugin’s concept of Eurasianism is a little too supernational to be pulled off in my opinion, but he has the right idea. What’s more, he’s Orthodox, so he and I have a common bond so to speak.

    Russia is not the ‘great white hope’… yet. There is a lot that needs to happen before that can be said, but it is a country whose political elite and surprisingly popular opinion are on a positive trajectory, and trajectories make all the difference in the world. Promotion of Reactionary ideals in the Slavic world is the most promising prospect if we want a tangible base of operation and support, perhaps in the future even funding will stem from Russia for subversive Reactionary projects in the west and elsewhere.

  7. There are very real conflicts between 4PT and NRx. Whatever alliance may be possible, we have very serious differences that are not negotiable. My point here is not to argue them but rather to make them clear:

    1-The total and intransigent opposition to racism is fundamental to 4PT. We recognize the white liberal racism of the west as the source of all the worst aspects of modernity. We are on the side of its victims. All races are welcomed into our ranks.

    (Everyone who thinks Dugin is a racist white nationalist is a damned illiterate.)

    2-4PT is pro-Jewish and pro-Islamic. We oppose racist Zionism and the Wahabist abomination, but not Judaism or Islam. We have supporters in both Tel Aviv and Teheran. Some of the founders and most important cadre of the Eurasianist movement are Rabbis and Muftis. All other religions are equally welcomed.

    3-4PT recognizes race as a social construction. We are heavily influenced by the structural and cultural anthropology of the new left as well as the sociological analysis of Marxism.

    4-4PT recognizes modern nationalism as a social construction. We prefer a healthy traditionalism built around the sacred and the ethnos to the diseased modernist conception of the nation.

    5-4PT regards the market based society as a complete abomination. We are even more anti-capitalist than Marxists and even more anti-globalist than Anarchists. We also reject socialism and every other ideology that orders society around economics as such.

    6-4PT is inspired by the madmen and heretics of both the right and the left. We mix Evola, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Junger, and Schmitt, with Debord, Gramsci, Foucault, Baudrillard, Deleuze, Derrida, and Sorel (just to begin with). When Dugin talks of a sacred front beyond right and left *he actually means it*. This is not Troy Southgate bullshit. We have a Communist international and a Makhnovist brigade of Ukrainian Anarchists fighting next to our glorious Eurasianist cadre to liberate Ukraine from the nazi-neoliberal Junta.

    7-4PT is a revolutionary theory for a revolutionary movement. Eurasianism is the revolutionary movement. The global revolutionary alliance is the coalition of this movement. The revolutionary conflict is a global geopolitical war between the American neoliberal empire and the rest of the world. (That means you, American.) We are on the side of everyone else.

    8-4PT is hostile to the entire civilization of western liberalism, not merely its worst aspects or nastiest parts. We believe your civilization is imploding and we have always intended to help it along. Now that your deranged elites are making war with Russia, the gloves are really going to come off. (You are going to pay for Victoria Nuland and her cookies.)

    9-Push has come to shove with the fascist and racist factions of the European new right in Ukraine. The era of fellow traveling with them is over. We will never forget the hideous crimes carried out by these degenerate traitors, or that they so cravenly allied themselves with a US state department coup intended to feed the people of Ukraine to the vultures of neoliberalism. Neo-nazis have always been illiterate snitches, and now they have shown their true colors as allies of Barack Obama and liberalism.

    1. I’m rather interested in seeing how you plan on keeping the nationalists and communists from turning their arms on each other the moment there’s a lull in the great crusade against the West. The enemy of your enemy is not your philosophical brother in arms, and Lenin’s enemies learned that very quickly.

    2. I do not think such differences are irreconcilable. You desire the downfall of the current world order as much as we do. Insomuch as such a post-Atlanticist world will have vast tracts of land that require states and societies, this is where the Reactionary would seek to lay down roots. No Reactionary wishes any war with another society of Traditional character, such as the one that you describe to be built in Russia. Our enemies are the same. Our goals, while perhaps ideologically nonidentical and geographically disparate, may serve each others’ purposes.

      Any harm you can cause the political order of the West is much obliged on our part, and we certainly have no love for the Ukrainian power grab by NATO. I think most Reactionaries would say, full steam ahead to Kiev if you wish.

      I will however critique 4PT as veering dangerously close to the very mistakes made by Mussolini’s Fascists, that is submerging oneself in an anti-Modernist, Reactionary mindset, but rather than going all the way in, creating a kind of makeshift ideology picking out the bits you like from the World of Tradition. If the Vedic Tradition proves correct, the Golden Age will not be some half-pure, Frankenstein’s monster of past ideals, but in fact the full rebirth of our ancestors’ ordered world. Some of the in-depth constructive criticisms leveled at 4PT by Neoreaction are valid and Dugin would do well to study them.

  8. According to Dugin, the whole Internet should be banned, “I think that Internet as such, as a phenomenon is worth prohibiting because it gives nobody anything good.

    1. An authoritarian can be identified by advocating for limits upon what can be published.

Comments are closed.