The End Of Atomistic Individualism: A Theory On Who You Are

Imagine a large series of overlapping circles: a Venn diagram reflecting all human beings. The full set of mankind exists within the rectangle. Draw a circle around Christians. Now narrow it to Protestants. Draw a circle around Anglo-Saxons. Draw a circle around North Americans. Draw a circle around all those whose ancestors lived in Tennessee in 1861. Draw a circle around fathers.  Draw a circle around intellectuals. Continue doing this and eventually you’re going to get down to a very specific person like myself.

Wipe away the circles and do this for yourself: draw a series of Venn circles until you are able to zero in on you and you alone. Only use circles which relate to your identity, are definitive of yourself, and are valid throughout your life; don’t use your address, office number, or irrelevant facts which change like belt size.

Now read the list of circles that you created. You probably have religion, ethnicity, sex, and profession as circles. You might have sociopolitical identities. You might have circles with something to do with your ancestors and your descendants, if any. You may have circles representing your home town, high school, or regional identity. In order to make a Venn diagram which only includes yourself and excludes every other person on earth, you probably need a very complex interaction of multiple variables. If any one of these variables were removed, the diagram would no longer represent you.

The purpose of this thought experiment is an attempt to formulate a new, sustainable, non-atomistic understanding of the concept of individualism. Modern individualism, as a product of the Enlightenment, has the function of isolating and alienating individuals from God, society, and eventually even from themselves. From Putnam’s Bowling Alone to the transgender movement, modernity loudly proclaims the inability of people to belong, even to themselves. It instead offers a vision of individualism, in which the person creates themselves in their own image, as if Adam were to form himself in the Garden.

Just as it is vain to think that a lump of clay will form itself into a man, so it is equally vain to think that an alienated, atomized person can create in themselves a personality out of the muck of consumerism and mass media. Modernity tells us that we can form our own personality with tattoos, body modification, consumerist consumption, and status objects like automobiles.

Ultimately, what is created is not human, however, but subhuman: one’s personality is merely a combination of external signifiers devoid of inner content. Ironically, in an attempt to form a personality out of the components provided by modernity, the end result is a kind of perfect conformity. As the cliché goes, the nonconformist is the greatest conformist of all, conforming to a pre-determined image of the rebel, complete with Che t-shirt, black beret, and canned talking points written years ago by some Red professor and distributed to all nonconformists.

Today, these nonconformists come equipped with multicolored hair and stretched earlobes, among other signifiers, but the changing fashion of nonconformity doesn’t change the nature of the act. Modernity’s alienated individual is all superficiality without substance, because the only tools provided to the individual are surface decorations.

Let us return to the Venn diagram above. In contrast to modernity, a healthy person and society requires a vision of individualism in which particulars and content are not rejected in favor of superficial distinctions which mask inner conformity. From the pre-Enlightenment tradition, we have resources to consider, but let me be clear: a return to the past is impossible.

We are incapable of simply restoring old notions of identity and personality as though they had never been rejected. What is required is a renovation of old concepts into a new vision of the Self by working off of principles, rather than simply copying old signifiers.

A beginning of this must be a multipolar vision of what it means to be an individual. Look again at your list of circles. These are the basic, most fundamental components of who you are, of your identity, and of your personality. Each of these contributes, in some way, to defining who and what you are, as well as your place in the world.

Summed up, the idea is basically that the human individual is located within a unique nexus point of a vast, interconnected network of identities and communities.

In other words, if you imagine a vast multipolar scale of identities and communities, you as an individual are located in a single point wherein each of your Venn circles intersect.  The consequence of this theory is that each circle on your list is an essential part of your personality, and to be deprived of any one of these circles is to be deprived of your individuality.

Your family, your ethnicity, your national citizenship, your culture, your faith, and all other circles cannot be removed without grave psychological and spiritual harm to you as a person.

It doesn’t matter if someone else removes them by, for example, displacing you from your home, or whether you remove them from yourself by taking up a modern leftist ideology.

The latter needs to be seen as something akin to cutting; the purposeful self-mutilation of the person is no different, even if it is psychological and spiritual. When your Venn circles are stripped from you, you are less than what you were. You lose an essential part of yourself and are no longer whole. In this way, your membership in communities and identity groups is itself a substantial part of your identity and personality; we cannot fundamentally distinguish these spheres of being.

Let me add a caveat: I argue that individuality is located within that point of intersection, not that the point of intersection comprises individuality. I certainly agree with Aristotle that there is a certain spark of something ineffable in the nature of Man, which defies classification. This is the Imago Dei in Man, and this is the unknowable essence of the individual which protects us from complete self-destruction. While we can fundamentally alienate ourselves, demolishing our identity through left-wing ideology, self-hatred, or mindless consumerism, we are never truly capable of becoming beasts, only of becoming like beasts, because this spark of divine creation cannot be extinguished by mere human works. Whether one can become spiritually reprobate and lose this spark in a soteriological context, however, is a different question for better theologians than myself.

Let me end this with a contrast, what this theory is meant to oppose. I argue that the individualist theory of modernity is this: individuality is the act of stripping the person of all elements except a single, paradigmatic, universal circle wherein all mankind are united. When all of mankind is within a single circle, then man is “free” of all identities which limit his autonomous selection of his own identity within the greater identity of the paradigmatic circle.

The root of this idea is that man must shed himself of everything which defines him so that the choice of identity can be absolutely and completely unrestrained. Modern individuality sees man as his own creator, making himself in the image of his own mind. He alienates himself from everything and everyone so that his choice has this character of unrestraint. Then, having chosen his identity from a full and free marketplace of identities, the paradigmatic identity serves to reunite these freely chosen personalities under the banner of universal brotherhood. This is the basic model, I argue, of modern individualism, which I hope I articulated in a more or less reasonable and fair manner.

The classic example of this notion is found in the Second Treatise on Government. Locke reduces all society down to the market and all relationships down to that of citizenship in his model of the Social Contract. Man begins totally atomized and essentially separate, forming his own identity through participation in commerce which leads him to unity under the new contractual Government. It is through the act of citizenship, which unifies these alienated men, that their personalities can emerge in the form of economic interests within an unrestricted market and monadic society. On that basis they become capable of participating in politics, understood to be the extension of themselves as pursuers of economic self-interest, which Locke makes the fundamental element of personality.

The central flaw of modern conservative thought is that it accepts this reductionism, making the bond of citizenship the preeminent bond and abolishing or devaluing all others. The vast majority of meaningful relationships among individuals are exclusionary or closed communities – kith and kin, church, ethnicity, geographic community, and therefore are demeaned with the hate-words for exclusionary groups. Only citizenship is fundamentally and axiomatically valid to many conservatives, so all relationships must mirror citizenship in their nature and scope or they infringe on what they think is freedom. Citizenship is the paradigmatic identity, the only one which can be permitted in order to allow “true freedom of association.”

Liberal Christianity does the same thing, but elevates the Corpus Mysticum Christi to that status, rejecting all other relationships. The Church is considered to be the paradigmatic relationship, and all others must be destroyed in order to permit the “freedom” to define oneself within that unity. Thus, the Southern Baptist Church’s adoption program demeans the family, which is exclusive and based on heredity, and seeks to transform it into the corpus mysticum by radically opening it, thus destroying it through the introduction of the alien into the unit.

The monomania of liberal Christianity’s approach to the corpus mysticum makes it a mirror of the same totalitarian democratic impulse of secular society. All relationships which do not mirror the corpus mysticum are seen as fundamentally opposed to the Church and therefore are ungodly and sinful relationships. They barely even try to justify this policy on scriptural grounds any longer, making open appeal to the doctrines of political liberalism, pluralism, and democracy. In this way, the liberal Church is nothing more than a colony of the dominant secular ideology, expressing the same flawed perspective with a coat of Jesus paint slapped on the outside. To paraphrase Eric Voegelin’s critique of the Lutheran Church, they offer the same products as the secular world, only better quality. This should not be surprising, since as mentioned, the modern notion of individuality is superficial only and devoid of content or inner substance, just like liberal theology.

A non-reductionist political theory of individuality must accept and acknowledge the multiplicity of human relationships which diverge in character and nature, yet all maintain value and status, despite the different levels of inclusion and exclusion among them. The nature of the free individual is that he is a nexus of relationships, not all of which are voluntary or chosen. The character of political life is the experience, not of freedom, but of obligation, and it is through the embrace of obligation, of the involuntary parts of human life, that one manages to experience freedom.

“We make ourselves slaves unto the law in order that we might live free.”

For the future – we have the seeds of a new theory of human liberty in the last paragraph, one which appeals to the nature of Being as it exists in actuality rather than the arrogance of the unrestricted human will as the foundation of a free life.  The interaction of obligation, liberty, and the mature Man, the spoudaios of Aristotle, requires an essay of its own.

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124 Comments

  1. Michael Rothblatt October 20, 2016 at 11:21 am

    This seems similar to what Rothbard’s comment on the question
    The nation, of course, is not the same thing as the state, a difference that earlier libertarians, such as Ludwig von Mises and Albert Jay Nock understood full well. Contemporary libertarians often assume, mistakenly, that individuals are bound to each other only by the nexus of market exchange. They forget that everyone is born into a family, a language, and a culture. Every person is born into one or several overlapping communities, usually including an ethnic group, with specific values, cultures, religious beliefs, and traditions. He is generally born into a country; he is always born into a specific time and place, meaning neighborhood and land area.

    A propos ideological individualism it’s worth nothing that while it is often considered a staple of all Classical Liberalism, it’s actually a staple of Anglo Liberalism (Locke, Herbert Spencer), whereas continental classlib thought (von Hayek, de Jouvenel) consider it horseman of the big government (the more broken the society the more easy it is to push for new agencies and programs). Curiously enough, von Hayek blamed René Descartes as the originator of this “rational individualism”.

    1. This is just not correct. All liberalism, and practically all political thought from roughly around 1600 has been based on the individual as anterior to society. Any liberal claiming otherwise is not literate in his own theoretical basis or is simply deeply confused.

      Rothbard is totally lacking in intellectual robustness here, and failing to understand that this series of assertions completely pulls the rug from under himself and his libertarianism. The very existence of this “libertarian” contract forming individual is provided precisely by this society into which the individual is born, and the individual can only becomes this individual as a result of this. Worse, this individual represented by his tradition only becomes expressed after the creation of nation states, but he is clearly assuming it is a natural state of affairs for humans regardless of context – despite previously making the point of the context specificity of identity.

      It is truly contradictory. You cannot maintain both the anterior to society individual theory, and then try to shoe horn in the observation that humans are part of society.

      1. Michael Rothblatt October 20, 2016 at 1:14 pm

        Please! You couldn’t be any more wrong. Not even Herbert Spencer believed in individual as anterior to society (obviously enough, no social construct can exist if there is no society).

        Here’s Herbert Spencer pwning Carlyle

        You must admit that the genesis of a great man depends on the long series of complex influences which has produced the race in which he appears, and the social state into which that race has slowly grown…. Before he can remake his society, his society must make him.

        1. Anterior to society man is an inheritance from protestantism and forms the anthropological backbone to all modern thought – from communism all the way through to garden variety conservatism. Why do you think the likes of Spencer could claim the state was inessential? (yet he makes that comment about Carlyle? was he an idiot?)
          This separation of state and nation betrays the con game going on here. The implied idea seems to be that “the nation” is organic and grows (from spontaneous order from the ground up, due to spontaneous actions obviously) regardless of political institutions, yet the state is not organic. Thus rendering political institutions (the state) irrelevant and posterior to man. That these obviously assumed organic spontaneously formed nations were anything but, doesn’t factor in – because Locke, Burke, it undermines libertarianism, and the thought is not allowed.
          Take the example of the U.S.S.R given by Rothbard (and this is where I think his genuine understandable confusion comes through)- exactly how many of them were maintained, or created, by other power actors? he seems to acknowledge that a little when he says “nationalism, including submerged and sometimes dying languages, had to consciously preserved, generated, and expanded” but this then cuts his own legs off, doesn’t it? how can you have nations by consent?

          It is a conceptual mess.

          1. Michael Rothblatt October 21, 2016 at 5:34 am

            Your problem is that you’ve adopted Fascist framework and thus confuse state and society, whereas actually state≠society. Sure enough, state is a part of society (in a same way that you local ghetto gang is a part of society). No one denies the society as anterior, nor the necessity of societal action. Nor does anyone deny that states affect things very, very much. However, tribes and clans weren’t states. One could also hardly call the tribal monarchies of Early Middle Ages states. You are bitching about de Jouvenel all the time, well, then you’re supposed to know that the state is an anti-social force in society. Feminism, sodomite rights, mass immigration, economic regulation etc. all of it is in the interest of dissolving the “informal” (i.e. not bureaucratically approved) ties and increasing state Power. The end of history then, in fascist and progressive eschatology, is when every possible interaction between two people has bureaucracy as the middleman (and certainly, you can see that’s what they’re pushing towards with carbon credit, birth credit, sexual intercourse consent contracts, etc.). If you want to criticize classlib thought effectively (there *are* many things to criticize about it), you need at least a decent understanding of it, and you lack any (otherwise you wouldn’t screech about like a madman how EVERYONE and everything’s is liberal), you just construct convenient strawmen.

      2. Rothbard is of that unique category of thinker who has the intelligence to see and articulate reality but, because of the idealism of his transcendent world view, seeks to unite the possible with the impossible; itself an admirable characteristic. The catch? Rothbard lacked understanding of Divine Revelation which cannot be reasoned or discovered, but only given and revealed, with which to bridge the gap.

        Only through the divine do the possible and the impossible unite into one.

        1. Michael Rothblatt October 20, 2016 at 3:34 pm

          Do you mean to imply the Christian teaching on personhood? A person, neither an individual without ties, nor a cog in collective machinery.

          1. Essentially. Rothbard was consistent on nearly all counts excluding the inconsistency of uniting the perfect and imperfect, the possible and the impossible, the becoming and the become, without accounting for the means to do so; Divine Revelation.

    2. The problem with Rothbard is that you have young Rothbard and old Rothbard, and never the twain shall meet. Reading Egalitarianism as Revolt and some of his later works sounds like two different authors altogether.

      From Egalitarianism as Revolt, Rothbard admits the nature of egalitarianism as destructive of all identity, but then turns around and acknowledges the same as the essential cause of Libertarianism, except where Egalitarianism leaves a void, Libertarianism leaves “true individuality,” freely chosen. The point I’m trying to argue here is that a chosen identity is impossible because it assumes total self-ownership and self-awareness. Given the elements of our selves which are involuntary, to exercise proprietorship over ourselves must necessarily be self-destructive of those things outside of our power, ie. most closed forms of community and identity. This would be my critique of Rothbard and all libertarian individualism; you have to destroy those elements of yourself which are “accidents of nature” (a heretical term, IMO) to possess full proprietorship over the self.

      1. Michael Rothblatt October 20, 2016 at 3:01 pm

        Egalitarianism as Revolt (1974) is “middle Rothbard”, quote is from Nations by Consent (1993) which is “late Rothbard”, by which time he seems to have largely abandoned individualism, and became a sort of proto-Neoreactionary moving away from an earlier frontieresque version of anarcho-capitalism towards something resembling a patchwork of private states (never using the word “state” of course). I like it that it allows for indoctrination, as per de Maistre

        Human reason reduced to its own resources is perfectly worthless, not only for creating but also for preserving any political or religious association, because it only produces disputes, and, to conduct himself well, man needs not problems but beliefs. His cradle should be surrounded by dogmas, and when his reason is awakened, it should find all his opinions ready-made, at least all those relating to his conduct. Nothing is so important to him as prejudices. Let us not take this word in a bad sense. It does not necessarily mean false ideas, but only, in the strict sense of the word, opinions adopted before any examination. Now these sorts of opinions are man’s greatest need, the true elements of his happiness, and the Palladium of empires. Without them there can be neither worship, nor morality, nor government…

        Still, it’s problematic because there are things left unclear. For example, if one of the statures of a covenant community, or a sovereign corporation or a “private club”, is stoning of adulterous women, does actually committing punishment by lapidation break the non-aggression axiom? That is the key question I think.

        1. “The thesis of self-ownership is the claim that each individual has absolute ownership of himself—of his body and its parts, his talents, abilities, capacities, and labor”

          This is the kind of ontological materialism whose basic reduction of reality leads to the absurdity of libertarianism.

          “or to the incoherence of denying self-ownership, given that the very use of one’s rational faculties and body parts in formulating such a denial presupposes ownership of those things; and so forth.”

          Once again, reducing a complex interaction of variables into a simplistic model of materialist rationalism. Reason is a mathematical process in a biological brain to libertarians. There is an assumption of an ideal, objective standpoint outside the self from which to judge reality. All of which is fallacious; Man is more than a biological machine and the reality he inhabits is participatory. We cannot step outside of ourselves to achieve objectivity, we require an external referent, namely God.

          The basic flaw of this paper is the same as any other libertarian paper, the assertion of self-ownership is entirely materialistic and fails to look at: 1. The character of reality as ontologically hierarchical and stratified, and 2. The concept of self-ownership transcends the body and must extend to self-definition because Man is not merely a biological organism but a psychological Being, in which self-ownership becomes absurd.

          If we have self-ownership, we must own our minds as well as out bodies, and to own our minds means to define who we are. Fundamentally, we lack that ability. So much of conscious Man is involuntary that we cannot describe the extend to which our drives, desires, and conception of reality is defined for us by language, culture, genes, and so forth.

          I’m writing a article now about a concept called hexis in Greek and habitus in Latin, and 99% of the problem is that no word exists in English that reflects the full meaning of those words. Why? Because the very concept does not exist in English, thus the near impossibility to discussing the concept of hexis or habitus to English-speakers without significant experience in Aristotelian or Ciceronian ethics. If the mind of a native English-speaker is incapable of understanding a concept basic to Greek ethics, is he free? Is he self owning? Or is he a slave to his language? In what other ways are we slaves to factors beyond our knowledge? The English-speaker doesn’t know that he doesn’t know. What do we not know that we don’t know? Libertarianism cannot answer those questions because it cannot consider anything other than matter in motion, nor consider the implications of self-ownership any deeper than flesh and muscles exerting force on matter. Its viewpoint is reductionist and narrow.

          Our self-definition (or identity) is determined primarily by factors outside of our control, impressed upon us by others, or unconscious to even ourselves. We are called to know ourselves by Socrates, not make ourselves. The search for authenticity in the modern world is a response to the falseness of self-created identities, which we know in our hearts are fraudulent.

          1. Michael Rothblatt October 25, 2016 at 2:37 pm

            I agree, you can’t build morality (libertarianism is primarily concerned about the legitimate use of force) without metaphysics, and of course, person is neither a robot, nor a mindless cog.

          2. Michael Rothblatt October 25, 2016 at 2:56 pm

            Also, von Mises comes to mind here. In many ways he was more honest than libertarians. He did not attempt at constructing secular ethics, he did not believe in self-ownership, nor the existence of rights. Rather, he pushed his politics from consequentialist perspective. Of course, consequentialism presupposes the desired consequences, and we are back at the beginning.

  2. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:30

    Easy because it comes natural, and light because it is the burden of who we already are, the weight is that of self. What burden to I have to be an American? It is who I am. What burden have I to be a Catholic? It is who I am. How shall I bear my burden? With love, which lightens the heaviest of loads.

    To the traitor who sees me as an American, a Catholic, a Teacher, a Husband and a Brother and a Son, and calls out, “Is not your burden heavy?” I respond, “He’s ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” To do as we must, to follow our duty, is not a burden, but an honor and a joy.

    To call such things a burden is to call life itself a burden, and for the coward and the Devil life is the greatest burden they can envision.

    1. I absolutely agree with this sentiment. When our obligations are objects of love instead of being understood as burdens, this is the only situation wherein Man can experience liberty, whose pinnacle is the union of love and fear of God expressed as the Joy of Being.

      This is where I like some of the agrarian arguments which critique the nexus of liberalism and capitalism as fundamentally alienating, by divorcing labor and life. Seeing the act of work and eating as part of the same process, through a direct link to the soil, provides a healthy attitude toward our obligation to eat by the sweat of our brow.

    2. Spoken like a true Man.

  3. ConantheContrarian October 20, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    Gordian, thanks. Interesting article. I recently read the six principles of conservatism by Russell Kirk. I wondered if you thought that what you wrote conflicts or agrees with Kirk.

  4. I only read the American Cause, but I was unimpressed by that and I never went back to read The Conservative Mind. Chapter 3 killed me, and I find my disagreements with Kirk stem from religious principles which have political consequences.

    His discussion of American religion strikes me as weak-tea Unitarianism, which I find a thousand times more repulsive than honest, straight-up atheism. He rejects any fundamental differences between Jews, Catholics, and Protestants, and asserts the brotherhood of Man in this world. I assert as a Protestant that only the redeemed are counted among the Children of God, and therefore there is no universal bond between all Men on earth. I realize that many modern evangelicals reject this doctrine, but lovers gotta love and heretics gotta heretic. Kirk is immanantizing the Kingdom and therefore is in error.

    What my doctrine means, in practice, is that the individual has no obligation whatsoever to the true stranger, to which he has no bond. In an ideal world, however, with the multitude of Venn Circles I talk about above, you should never meet a person so alien from you for this to matter. All of your neighbors should share something with you and this point should be moot, but Globalization today makes this point salient. I don’t buy magic dirt; a piece of paper saying “citizen” doesn’t make an alien kith or kin to me.

    Kirk, like most Conservatives, sees citizenship as this unifying circle that brings all Americans together, and I reject the American Empire as a valid form of community. I am an ethnic American, as in a descendant of original settlers, and I don’t buy the notion that you can become my folk by getting a piece of paper from the government which butchered my people 150 years ago and drove us into poverty for the next hundred years.

    Kirk may not ultimately reject exclusive identities, but he certainly subsumes and diminishes them before the monomaniacal emphasis on citizenship as the paradigmatic identity.

  5. Great writing. I wrote some similar ideas a few months ago about replacing the concept of rights with obligations.

    The critique of liberal Christianity is spot on. It allows only for a single aspect of identity: citizenship in the kingdom.

    1. The critique of liberal Christianity was easily my favorite part of the piece because it’s such a pressing and obvious problem in the outer right.

    2. What’s amazing to me is that what you’re talking about is already present in the Classical and Christian literature, but we’ve simply forgotten it. When you go back into the Common Law, for example, the Right to Bear Arms is right there, except its termed as the responsibility to bear arms and comes with a penalty: any man who is unarmed becomes a serf of the King.

      We’ve inverted the order of Being, such that rights precedes obligation, when in truth, the Right (latin ius, Anglo-Saxon riht) is the action we take in concordance with our duty.

      I assert that we are objectively poorer in knowledge than our ancestors, as we have forgotten most of what they knew and replaced it with technical knowledge of little value. Tekne (skill, mechanical knowledge) is an order of knowledge far inferior to sophia (wisdom), or even phronesis (practical experience).

  6. Leftism is psychological self-mutilation. I like it.

  7. Great article.

    Especially this part:
    ”It instead offers a vision of individualism, in which the person creates themselves in their own image, as if Adam were to form himself in the Garden.

    Just as it is vain to think that a lump of clay will form itself into a man, so it is equally vain to think that an alienated, atomized person can create in themselves a personality out of the muck of consumerism and mass media. Modernity tells us that we can form our own personality with tattoos, body modification, consumerist consumption, and status objects like automobiles.”

    If man only uses himself as a reference point then he can not strive for better. In contrast to the man who is oriented towards the transcendent bound by obligations that makes him focus on Arete or excellence.

    Could this atomized individualism as well as other enlightenment ideologies be the product of a certain sentiment that “man is the measure of all things” taken to its logical conclusion?

    1. “Could this atomized individualism as well as other enlightenment ideologies be the product of a certain sentiment that “man is the measure of all things” taken to its logical conclusion?”

      Absolutely, I agree with this statement, and would take it a step further to say that it is the consequence of our fundamentally debased and reductionist ontology beginning with (Thomas Aquinas/William of Occam take your choice). When we reduce the scope of the real and the true to progressively exclude the higher levels of reality, eventually Man becomes the only measure you have left and externalities become the only comprehensible objects of the intellect.

      1. The quote ”man is the measure of all things” originate from the pre-socratic Sophist Protagoras back at the time of ancient Greece.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protagoras

        Perhaps this humanism has ancient roots that flowered during the “Enlightenment” or Renaissance period when men not only took the best of Greek philosophy but the worst as well which bore bitter fruit as it is realized.

        1. I doubt that it is necessary to go back to Plato’s dispute with the Sophists to trace the Renaissance collapse in ontology, as the more reasonable explanation is that these parties arrived at the same destination independently.

          It’s dangerous for us to attempt to associate Christian-era and Classical-era thinkers too closely, as there are major differences in the context of their works. Trying to make Fortescue an Aristotelian Mixed Republican, for example, or the Straussian appropriation of Aristotle or Averroes. Those who attempt to claim that Cicero’s consensus is the same as Locke’s Government by Consent, and so forth. Similarities in ideas don’t necessitate a common origin, and the search for a common origin often leads into error.

  8. By the way, I’ve begun editing and posting a few old essays as well as the occasional new idea. The things that I figure are too narrow or specialized to send to SM will go here.

    I’ve redone two essays in the last couple of weeks, one on Sentimentalism replacing Caritas in the Liberal Church and another on identity, emotion, and ethics.

    http://gordian12.blogspot.com/

  9. @Michael Rothblatt I have used a fascist frame, unless you want to write of everything prior to Locke as fascist, which, on second thoughts, it looks like you have.
    “No one denies the society as anterior, nor the necessity of societal action”
    There is a slippery game going on here. You, and Rothbard, seem to be seeing these “nations” and “society” as being organic spontaneous orders that form from the ground up. Nothing could be further from the truth. All that happens in the purview of a sovereign is the result of the sovereign acting, or not acting – the power system (state, king, warlord, gang.) determines society and culture (sovereignty is conserved, so no, society can not be separated as you wish.). This idea (and this is what I was attacking with Burke) that society just formed itself from spontaneous interactions from the ground up needs weeding out. It is pure poison.

    1. Michael Rothblatt October 21, 2016 at 6:17 pm

      Really??? Do you really think your dear Carlyle PBUH is older than Lao-Tze and Aristotle? You approach it in a very autistic, reductionist way. Spontaneous Order is above any pathetic, earthly so-called “sovereign” (or you think that some alpha gorilla ordered his pack to become humans one day). Most commonly used example, Spontaneous Order shall weed out those whose “sovereigns” forced feminism upon them. Who then, has the last laugh earthly “sovereigns” or Spontaneous Order (which is really just Nature in service of the Father)?
      Or, let me ask you this. Is alpha wolf a State over the pack, or is he just a natural part of the pack? Is the queen bee a State over the hive, or is she just a natural part of the hive? So it is for the humans. Natural aristocracy is natural part of the society, bureaucracy is just cancer, chieftain ≠ DMV clerk.

      1. The question is whether your “spontaneous order” has a central authority, isn’t it? Obviously the primitive society is before the big man and before the state. But is it still nonetheless ordered around a sacred centre of authority that governs all – i.e. the ritual order in a primitive society? Your joke about the gorilla grasps the point that human order is unlike the natural. How could the human come into being without a new kind of centre, “God”, if you like – the clan’s totem, perhaps – as the basis for shared consciousness of the newly human scene?

        1. Michael Rothblatt October 22, 2016 at 3:41 am

          Natural authorities are part of society, without them society cannot function. That was my point. States, on the other hand, have it in their interest to undermine all natural authorities and erase all ties (i.e. to promote radical individualism and egalitarianism) to increase their Power, that is, they’re inherently anti-social. When has there ever been a right-wing state (apart from, unfortunately, short-lived dictatorships of Salazar and Franco)? Wondered why Cthulhu always swims only leftwards? As Chris B will tell you, it’s Power.

          1. The state is a part of society, in the same sense that the center is “part of” the margin–the two are complementary and reciprocally defining. A state needs a society to govern. The question is one of logical and historical priority. Everything that you call “spontaneous order” can be explained in terms of unsecure power and social elites working through or against the state in some high-low alliance –to undermine some other power center. That would at least enable us to explain why developments move in one direction or another. But there is always a center, and everyone always tries to make it more secure. On the tribal level, there is a ritual center, and all social arrangements are referred back to that. You can, after the fact, construct a sociology saying that the ritual center is “really” just manipulated by shamans who “really” represent groups emerging spontaneously in society, but no one in the tribal community could see it that way. The very existence of “groups,” indeed of names, refers back to the sacred center. The way to secure power is certainly to construct durable loyalties horizontally an vertically–but this can only be done if there is a shared effort to secure power from the top down.

          2. Michael Rothblatt October 22, 2016 at 9:35 am

            I’ll repeat myself. Spontaneous Order is above and before any Power. It existed before humans existed. So-called “sovereigns” can choose to go against the Natural Order (whether as a consequence of HLvM or foolishness, it doesn’t matter in the least), but they will succeed only in ruination of those they rule over. Cultures that exhibit maladaptive behavior, for whatever reason, go extinct. Those cultures that serve the Order, prosper. It’s as simple as that.

  10. Here is where the disagreement lies. We can clarify the individual/society dispute by reframing it in terms of “bottom-up/top-down,” as Reactionary Future often does, with “spontaneous order” being the bottom-up approach. In that case, we can at least agree on terminology. The even more fundamental question is, what are human beings? The spontaneous order view sees human beings as another species of primate, which just happened to stumble “spontaneously” on this rather unique way of arranging their existence (by typing strangely shaped lines, circles and squiggles onto screens, for example). The absolutist position must assume, I argue, a top-down origin of the human, akin to that imagined by Judaism and Christianity. No assumption of supernatural beings is necessary here, though, since language itself (which cannot possibly be explained on strict evolutionary terms) is the leap out of the animal kingdom that created humans and has been the basis of “top-down” organization ever since. No doubt, evolution continues for humans, and any effective sovereign will want to know as much as possible about such natural constraints on power–but constraints on evolution are imposed from the top-down and constraints imposed by evolution are channeled by top-down power. Indeed, “knowing as much as possible” about such constraints is a way of channeling them, and making it difficult or impossible for them to become playthings in struggles over insecure power.

    1. Michael Rothblatt October 22, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      Top-down\bottom-up is a false dichotomy. Universe is not made of continuum, but out of particles. Evolution does not exclude The Creator. In fact, Spontaneous Order testifies Creator, just look at all the teleology in Creation (it’s what Spontaneous Order is all about).
      [sigh] What has the NRx turned into?! Couple of years ago everyone knew about carcinization, and now apparently young earth creationism is the best thing ever since sliced bread! [another sigh]

      1. Decrying false dichotomies is a way of saying that everything is really connected to everything else in really complex ways, which is of course true but meaningless. Unless you have a truer dichotomy–natural order vs. State, perhaps? In which case everything hums along nicely until the unnatural State (somehow) comes along, mucks things up for a while, and is then itself swept away by the natural order. Are human beings a collection of complexly interacting biological mechanisms? From a particular point of view, sure. But human intention is top-down–I decide to move my arm, my brain is not interacting with my arm muscles in such a way that moving my arm happens on regular, more or less predictable occasions. My arm muscles and my brain are not testifying to each other. The same with social order–nobody is doing anything that is not explicitly or implicitly permitted or encouraged by the sovereign, or a compelling power center.

        1. In the last sentence, that should be “competing power sentence.” Sorry

          1. Does it make any difference? What compels one to compete? As you teach, now subconsciously it seems, all sentences must refer back to a centre….

        2. Michael Rothblatt October 22, 2016 at 7:23 pm

          >nobody is doing anything that is not explicitly or implicitly permitted or encouraged by the sovereign, or a compelling power center.

          This is a great example of tautology that is void of any informational content. It’s like saying either it will rain tomorrow or it will not rain tomorrow.

          1. Yes, I’ll grant that regarding that compact formulation. So, let me put it this way. A new idea, invention, relationship, or practice is introduced by someone into a community. The novelty is produced someone schooled, housed and protected within that community–or, perhaps, a foreigner welcomed into it. The novelty is disseminated, publicized, reproduced, modified, etc. The mental and moral capabilities that enabled the individual to create the novelty derive from the community, the family into which he was born was legitimated by the community, the individual was provided with the at least minimal safety he needed by the community, the means of communication, transportation and education that enable the novelty to spread–all watched over by the agents of the community. Now, someone is doing the protecting, preserving, regulating and promoting of all these institutions and technologies–those who do it immediately answer to those higher up, who could at any moment, if those higher ups act unanimously, or under the command of a single will, completely squash the novelty. If the novelty is not squashed, i.e., is permitted, then either that single will chose not to do it, or there are competing wills among the higher ups, at least one of which wants to support the novelty. How else are the buildings, roads, printing presses, computers, cars, etc., that are needed to create novelties and bring them to public attention going to be available? Of course, not every novelty is assessed in this way–it is really the groups and institutions that produce them that are subject to sovereign attention. But that attention can and will be singularized at any time.

          2. How is this void of content? It makes the clear point that all possibilities within the sovereign’s sphere are bound by their control. This whole discussion is exceptionally useful in demonstrating the division though. On one side communists, conservatives, libertarians, anarchist, neoreactionaries etc. On the other – absolutists.

          3. Michael Rothblatt October 23, 2016 at 7:50 am

            Absolutists are much, much closer to Communists than any other group you’ve named. In fact, I would argue the only difference between you guys, and Marxist-Leninists is that they have a clear goal, whereas you’re all right with whatever the glorious leader cooks up. I’ve been thinking about it, and in conclusion you guys can’t complain about Communism at all! After all, “sovereign’s” word is the law, and therefore all those murders, or anything else Commies ever did weren’t crimes but perfectly just actions by definition. In hindsight, when Mao is your measure of “reactionariness”, I’ll gladly accept the “liberal” label.

  11. Yes, you’re right.

    1. Michael Rothblatt October 23, 2016 at 9:19 am

      I wonder how far does this absolutist sociopathic morality-less Machiavellianism extend? Are you next going to suggest that turning elderly into soylent is the only reactionary thing to do? After all, you can justify it with Moldbug, so why not?

  12. Absolutism is moral because it abolishes divided power, which is the source of all social disturbances, pathologies, and violence. It’s really not all that different than saying a company needs a CEO, the plant needs a manager, a newspaper needs a senior editor–someone who makes the final decision, some place where the “buck” stops. If there’s a senior editor, but his wife really makes the decisions behind the scenes based on her desire for elite social connections, or a cabal of writers subvert his decisions by getting stories he has rejected into print through an alliance with some guys at the printshop, or a junior editor maintains a separate power base because he has pictures of the senior editor with his mistress and can blackmail him, etc., etc., you don’t have much of a newspaper. Of course, if the senior editor is an incompetent moron, you don’t have much of a paper either, but in that case, at least, the remedy is clear: replace him with someone competent and interested in the truth, in timely stories, in fearless investigation, in the interests of your readership, in cultivating valuable sources, attracting the best writers, etc. That is, if you really want a newspaper and not a blog for a billionaire or a PAC for political candidates. It’s no different with sovereignty over a country: you can only be a successful sovereign insofar as the decisions you make are actually implemented to your satisfaction–they are not derailed by the bureaucracy, by private interests agitating various mobs to intimidate those charged with their implementation, by schools teaching that you are really illegitimate, etc. But, of course, those decisions have to be mostly good ones, ones that preserve and enhance trust and a sense of shared obligation amongst the people ruled, that allow for the identification and promotion of initiative, talent and public service. Otherwise, your sovereignty will be weakened, either internally or externally–or, most likely, both. At the same time, though, there must be an expectation among the people that those decisions are more likely than not to be good ones, and even an assumption that the sovereign is more likely to be right than any private individual. Of course, these expectations and assumptions can be “falsified,” in the case of a given ruler. In extreme cases rulers that through their own decisions undermine sovereign power will have to be replaced–but by another absolute sovereign, who will do a better job, because further dividing power can never be a solution to divided power. The expectation that sovereign decisions will tend to the good and the assumption that the sovereign knows better, in general, cannot be falsified, because clear lines of authority are essential to any notion of accountability, and are essential to the public morality of an absolutist social order.

    1. Michael Rothblatt October 23, 2016 at 10:56 am

      Bah, it’s fantasy, and a bad one at that. Has the history thought you nothing? Absolutism doesn’t scale well, it works for small communities, but does zilch for countries (it’s, as Hoppe would say “infinitely better” than democracy, but that’s not a particularly hard thing to accomplish, no?). Historically, absolute monarchies were countries with most (before the advent of democracies) corruption, behind-the-scenes scheming and informal power structures; tales abound of cunning eunuchs, bureaucrats, ministers, mistresses, or mother-empresses being real Power behind the throne. SovCorp at least corrected for such things.

      1. “History” is not going to render a final verdict on any political form. Even the communists don’t give up. Nor are there any unqualified, permanent success stories. Unless you wish to embark on the revolutionary effort to invent a completely new form of social order and governance, there is nothing to do but develop as rigorous a theoretical standpoint as possible, build a powerful intellectual tradition, and sift through the historical data in order to propose ways of doing things differently and better than whatever failed in the past. Absolutism starts in the best, most minimal way, with the question, what is it to govern? What is involved in sovereignty, in having power? It must mean that the governed know the rules and commands they must follow, because they know they have been issued from the same source that will see to the enforcement of and judgment on those rules and commands. How to get there is obviously not problem free, and, for example, the problem of scale is certainly a real one, but that’s what discussions like these (among other intellectual projects) are for.

        1. Michael Rothblatt October 23, 2016 at 1:56 pm

          Absolutism is exactly the same fiction as anarcho-capitalism (there’s an irreducible anarchy between sovereigns). Paradoxically enough, you absolutists decry anarcho-capitalism, failing to see that it is the exact same thing that you want i.e. absolute primary property ownership of certain land area by an individual, except they’re deontologists (all that looney non-aggression axiom stuff) whereas you’re pragmatists (“might makes right”). Well, guess what? You’ll never, ever, have secure Power, and Power tends to be especially insecure if concentrated in a single individual, because instead of multiple *mutually* competing power centers you have everyone (because no one is invested in maintaining that central Power, except itself) aiming at one (which is why absolute monarchies tended to end in revolutions). Feudalism lasted for a long time, whereas Absolutism ended fairly quickly.

          1. You’ll never have secure power, but power can be more or less secure, so the question is how. Multiple power centers can only create temporary and accidental balances of power that will be upset as soon as created. Everyone can be invested in a single power center if it brings peace, prosperity and justice and eliminates needless power struggles. The long time feudalism lasted was a long time during which the central power became increasing central and secure.

          2. Michael Rothblatt October 24, 2016 at 7:27 am

            >Multiple power centers can only create temporary and accidental balances of power that will be upset as soon as created.

            So, is that why absolutist countries had revolutions, whereas feudal didn’t? Just contrast France with HREotGN.

            >Everyone can be invested in a single power center if it brings peace, prosperity and justice and eliminates needless power struggles.

            But it doesn’t and that’s exactly the point. Why would it? I mean it’s not metaphysically impossible, but there’s no incentive (and there’s every incentive to govern badly). Moldbug has been absolutely wrong in describing how Fnargocracy would look like. I could simply point to Joseon, and be done with it. It was one of the poorest, most backwards countries in the world, despite having one of the highest IQ populations on the planet.

            >The long time feudalism lasted was a long time during which the central power became increasing central and secure.

            Not really, no. There were many rebellions that had to be crushed before absolutism was established, absolutism which then brought misery to everyone (except the select, well connected, few), which is why, eventually it lead to revolutions (supported in one way, or another, by all the classes, namely the Crown alienated everyone, and so no one had reason to care much about the Crown, even if they were not pro-revolution).

  13. “Absolutists are much, much closer to Communists than any other group you’ve named.” this is where liberal/ libertarian miss-information really messes things up. The entire project of the communist was to bring about a classless society in which the state withered away, not a giant plot to control everything. I don’t think anyone seriously doubts the line from Locke to Marx, do they?, yet the line also goes from Locke to Rothbard, and Locke to…everyone in the modern era. Locke placed man before society and the state. This is a seriously messed up anthropology, and it forces everyone to consider society as ground up and you then need to create fictions to explain how things work (spontaneous order for example.)
    If you then reject this, then you are completely outside of all modern political thinking, and all the variance between communism, libertarianism, conservatism etc. suddenly looks minuscule.

    1. Michael Rothblatt October 23, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      Also, nobody doubts the line from Carlyle to Marx, from de Bonald to Marx, from Ricardo to Marx, from Hegel to Marx, from French Socialists to Marx, etc. Marx had many influences. If you accused every one of them of being a Communist, you would end up with fair amount of reactionaries being Communist. From liberals he took praise of technological innovation and withering away of the state, from socialists equality and classlessness, but from reactionaries he took most of his thought. For example, Marx decried individualism, claiming that individualism was the result of alienation. So, in reality it is the exact opposite of what you claim i.e. Marx hated liberals. You ought to notice, for another example, hatred of bourgeoisie so much present in reaction, but a staple of Marxism.

    2. Michael Rothblatt October 23, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      Also, one hint that you ought to know, Communists didn’t believe in Spontaneous Order, but in central planning.

      1. It is only with the placement of Marxism in the position of actual power, and the resultant shit show that occurred that we get the “authoritarianism” that liberals claim as the true goal of Marxism (utter nonsense.) No one planned any of that, or thought that would happen. Cold War propaganda has really done a number of this issue.

        As to what they actually believed –
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutionary_spontaneity

        https://www.marxists.org/archive/mattick-paul/1949/spontaneity.htm

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luxemburgism

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian_Marxism

        1. Michael Rothblatt October 24, 2016 at 11:18 am

          Tsk tsk tsk. Do you even read what I say? I specifically compared you guys to Marxist-*Leninists*. Also revolutionary spontaneity has nothing to do with Taoist/Evolutionist Spontaneous Order and Natural Law theory.

          1. Even Marxist-Leninists were trying to create a utopia in which the individuals within society were totally free to pursue their own ends, and in which the state withered away. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Withering_away_of_the_state
            Libertarianism is just a variant of this in which private property is the mechanism of spontaneous order, as opposed to the Communist collective “administration of things.” Same underlying tools (individual before the state and society.)

          2. Michael Rothblatt October 24, 2016 at 12:08 pm

            Do you even hear yourself? American Frontier, the Wild West is Libertarian utopia. On the other hand, Stalinism in practice (not theory) is probably the closest thing to Carlylean utopia.

            Also, if you want to read about intellectual history of Socialism, how Socialism is bastard child of Reaction, and Marxian Socialism unholy bastard of Liberalism and Reaction both:
            http://www.amazon.com/Political-Context-Sociology-Leon-Bramson/dp/0691028044/

  14. Re: absolutism: It may or may nor prove helpful here to point out that in actual human history “absolute” political power was often little more than a boast, and nowhere realized in actual practice to an extent even close to the formal theoretical ideal. On the contrary: an irony of history here is that Enlightenment-type Liberals (e.g. Montesquieu, Beccaria, and so on) used to criticize absolutism in exactly the same terms that the new absolutists of right now critique the present Liberal State (e.g. as an irrational mess of inefficiency, inconsistency, weakness, pathology, power being exercised by actors not formally authorized to do so, etc.).

    These critiques of absolutism were much, much more than mere rhetorical imaginings or propaganda. The “absolutist” State simply did not have the wherewithal to make good on its totalitarian boasts. The despots of the East did not even have legislative authority as such! Even the early-modern States of the West, for all their “absolutist” pretensions, found their effective authority hamstrung by various vestiges of the old system in the form of customs and privileges it couldn’t always just wish away right off the bat (as certain English monarchs learned, the hard way).

    1. It’s not surprising that all critiques of government would share certain “family resemblances,” because they all take for granted that if “government” or “sovereignty” means anything it means that what the ruler wants done is done. All the critiques, then, look for hidden rulers, or flaws in the actual rulers (they say what they can’t back up, they do things that contradict what they say), and justify themselves in terms of the “real” ruler (God, the people, whatever). All understandings of sovereignty are tacitly absolutist.

    2. Sure, but this misses the mark. The argument Moldbug was making was that this process should have been completed, and that modern technology makes it possible to operate it. That the absolutist states were riven with disastrous conflicting power arrangements is something I have been covering a lot (which leaves me a little puzzled regarding your criticisms on this point.)
      Furthermore, the centralisation of power sought by monarchs was actually acomplished by democracy (and parliament) under the disguise of equality and liberty anyway. We just fail to see it due to the disguise of republicanism and its sham official governance system.

      1. OK then, I think we’re on exactly the same page about that particular aspect of things- I missed where you covered it already, and just wanted to point it out.

  15. To: Michael Rothblatt OCTOBER 24, 2016 AT 7:27 AM

    Absolutism came out of feudalism, which therefore wasn’t sustainable either. Absolutist sovereigns have an incentive to govern well insofar as their very sovereignty depends upon their doing so.

    1. Michael Rothblatt October 24, 2016 at 9:48 am

      >Absolutism came out of feudalism, which therefore wasn’t sustainable either.

      And democracy came out of absolutism. Nothing lasts forever. I’m just comparing the track records.

      >Absolutist sovereigns have an incentive to govern well insofar as their very sovereignty depends upon their doing so.

      But if their Power is secure, then by definition it doesn’t!

      1. Power needs to be preserved, so its security can never be guaranteed once and for all–the sovereign has work to do, and can obviously make serious mistakes.

  16. Awesome discussion all, the level of debate is just off the charts and there are a lot of very important things being discussed here.

    Some desultory remarks:

    -If by “spontaneous order” we mean the idea that society “emerges” out the prior interaction of individuals, then it is a crock. “Spontaneous order” can certainly account for the emergence of certain particular social phenomena, but not society in general (something Hayek seemed to recognize when he derided the idea of a general theory of sociology as tantamount to “natureology”). As a theory of sociogenesis (for lack of a better word), it would have to either presume the existence of what it’s tying to explain (e.g. individuals who can interact are already socialized to begin with), or altogether regress back to the juridical fiction of social contract from which it originates. The best thing to do from a theoretical point of view is to either simply accept the existence of society as “given data” that can’t be explained- or seriously look into supernatural explanation in the form of an intelligent design-type theory.

    -All Utopian political ideologies look forward to a Stateless future at the end of History. In practice, though, they can’t help but organize themselves as totalitarian despotism, since the anarcho-communist paradise is peopled with individuals who, in addition to being perfectly equal, have no personal power whatsoever, and are thus forbidden from forming families, owning property, or bearing arms. In short, they have all the attributes of *slaves*, and so implicitly stand equal in perfect subjection before a truly terrible despotic Sovereign. Marx, as a much more rigorous thinker than average, acknowledged this explicitly, although of course he nonetheless insisted that the “dictatorship of the proletariat” would eventually fall away by itself.

    -This anarchist conception of Stateless co-operation is a metaphysical wish or hope with no real intellectual foundation; thus, in a certain sense, it is a slur on the Austrians to call it “spontaneous order”- which conception, however flawed, is a serious social-science theory.

    -It’s not a good idea to draw rigid ontological distinctions between e.g. State and society, power and culture, etc. and then proceed to place them in a cause-and-effect, independent variable–>dependent variable sequence. The annals of modern social science are full of examples of this sort of thing going nowhere. Those interested in a pure theory of power might want to think about 86ing the distinction between power and culture altogether, instead of saying that e.g. “power determines culture.”

    -Truly “absolute” power cannot help but constitute itself as an embryonic form of Liberalism. The work of Hobbes has enjoyed a privileged place in the Liberal canon for good reason in this respect.

    1. We do have a compelling theory of “sociogenesis” that requires no supernatural assumptions: the originary hypothesis of Eric Gans, which locates the origin of the human, language and the sacred in a single event. See here, for starters: http://www.anthropoetics.ucla.edu/gaintro.htm.

      Truly “absolute” as opposed to absolute with qualifications? What do you mean?

      1. Truly absolute as opposed to the merely nominal or pretended absolutism I mentioned above.

        1. I think that truly absolute power would be power without remainder, which has nothing to do with liberalism.

          1. It strikes me that absolute power as a matter of definition reduces the subjects to equality, arms them with individual rights against each other, denies the legitimacy of any power exercised by any of the subjects over one another except where specifically authorized by law, and additionally holds that any solidary social ties between the subjects (e.g. the family) are purely Man-made and conventional as opposed to Natural (and thus for this reason alone puts the individual prior to society).

            All that remains is for a John Locke to come along and observe that State power isn’t truly absolute for as long as it is vested in one person who of necessity isn’t subject to State power himself- and that therefore the Sovereign power has to be depersonalized and divided, individual rights must be a barrier to State as well as private incursion, etc.

    2. Michael Rothblatt October 24, 2016 at 3:20 pm

      Note that von Hayek, when speaking about Spontaneous Order, never mentions why those groups happened to follow adaptive traditions (because it doesn’t matter for the subject at hand):

      To understand our civilisation, one must appreciate that the extended order resulted not from human design or intention but spontaneously: it arose from unintentionally conforming to certain traditional and largely moral practices, many of which men tend to dislike, whose significance they usually fail to understand, whose validity they cannot prove, and which have nonetheless fairly rapidly spread by means of an evolutionary selection — the comparative increase of population and wealth — of those groups that happened to follow them. The unwitting, reluctant, even painful adoption of these practices kept these groups together, increased their access to valuable information of all sorts, and enabled them to be ‘fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it’. This process is perhaps the least appreciated facet of human evolution.

      Oft-repeated case in point being the institution of patriarchy. No one designed the patriarchy. Of course, for it to be maintained “sovereign” must enforce the institution of patriarchy. In many countries across the world sovereign action employed feminism as a HLvM tool to increase Power, and destroyed patriarchy, undermining the natural authority of men. It doesn’t matter. Those that have feminism have sub-replacement fertility, whereas those have patriarchy have above-replacement fertility. Therefore, those that have feminism as their tradition will tend to disappear from the face of the Earth. I don’t see how Power analysis and Spontaneous Order contradict.

      Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu poetically advised “sovereigns” against enforcing egalitarianism, i.e. traditions contrary to the Natural Order

      The duck’s legs are short, but to stretch them out would worry him; the crane’s legs are long, but to cut them down would make him sad. What is long by nature needs no cutting off, what is short by nature needs no stretching.

      1. “Note that von Hayek, when speaking about Spontaneous Order, never mentions why those groups happened to follow adaptive traditions (because it doesn’t matter for the subject at hand”
        I have made the point before, and will make it again, this is just elaborate Burkeanism setting a basterdised and wrong account of how traditions develop and are maintained, against an enlightenment rationalism. So an internal squable masquerading as opposites.
        He is trying to explain society as the interaction of units from the ground up, and without the need for actors.

        1. Michael Rothblatt October 25, 2016 at 1:12 am

          Are you retarded, or do you simply not like to read?
          There no evolution right? There’s no group selection. People’s Temple that had maladaptive tradition (compelled upon by the sovereign will of Jim Jones) of mass suicide didn’t disappear, right? After all, as Bouvard said up there, absoluteautistic position assumes young earth creationism. So feminism doesn’t cause disappearance of populations that adopt it (upon which it is forced upon, whatever), right? And Communism did not work only because subjects did not obey the sovereign hard enough, right?

          1. The issue is how Jim Jones came about. According to you and Hayek, it was obviously some spontaneous event involving rational individuals. But no, you see that is a problem so you assign the blame to Jones actions and absolve the spontaneous order he ruined with his active contol. This is just Burke+
            AC and libertarianism is just a game of changing definitions at whim to protect this conception of man prior to society and the state.

          2. Michael Rothblatt October 25, 2016 at 2:19 pm

            I have repeated several times already what Spontaneous Order means. You are either intentionally misrepresenting what advocates of Spontaneous Order are saying, and what Spontaneous Order means (and are thus disingenuous and evil), or you are incapable of understanding (and are thus intellectually deficient). Either way, because you always resort to strawmen, there’s no point in me arguing with you anymore!

  17. Dissenting Sociologist 10.24 5:27 PM

    “It strikes me that absolute power as a matter of definition reduces the subjects to equality, arms them with individual rights against each other, denies the legitimacy of any power exercised by any of the subjects over one another except where specifically authorized by law, and additionally holds that any solidary social ties between the subjects (e.g. the family) are purely Man-made and conventional as opposed to Natural (and thus for this reason alone puts the individual prior to society).

    All that remains is for a John Locke to come along and observe that State power isn’t truly absolute for as long as it is vested in one person who of necessity isn’t subject to State power himself- and that therefore the Sovereign power has to be depersonalized and divided, individual rights must be a barrier to State as well as private incursion, etc.”

    OK, I see your position better now. Absolutism is compatible with mediating layers, strata and institutions insofar as all of those in the “middle” possess secondary property within the encompassing primary property of the sovereign. Think of it in terms of a conquest: the conquering general, now become king, distributes the conquered land amongst his supporters, in accord with their status and value–the generals below the supreme leader get bigger pieces, the colonels smaller ones, etc., while the natives on the conquered land stay on as serfs. Everyone’s land and authority derives from the king, in perpetuity, but within that frame the larger landowners can manage their estates and dependents as they like, the Church can be given land which it runs as it likes, and so on–all these institutions can develop in different ways as long as they never challenge the primary authority of the sovereign. All the power of the subjects, including that exercised over dependents, is, indeed, authorized by the sovereign (not by the law, although the sovereign will certainly operate through law), but that doesn’t mean the sovereign micromanages all of this–he may not need to intervene at all. He can have a continual flow of information coming to him from the various social locations to ensure that secondary property is exercised in accord with the prerogatives of primary property. A distinction between conventional and natural ties can still be made, but these distinctions are deemed so by the sovereign. Of course, a competent sovereign will not just “deem” anything to be natural or conventional, but will be economical and prudent in the use of power and let tradition and the distribution of human capabilities do as much of the work of providing order as possible (in truth, of course, we can never be sure where to draw such lines). All the subjects, in other words, need not be “equidistant” from the sovereign center.

  18. Bouvard: Does this mean that you define Sovereign power first and foremost in terms of a property relation, a power of eminent domain (or whatever technical term is applicable), in short, is your position based on a proprietary theory of the State?

  19. I would agree with the proprietary theory of the state, but I don’t know about “based upon” and “first and foremost”–first and foremost a social order has a center, and this center derives from the sacred center constitutive of humanity. Humans are fundamentally mimetic beings, and mimesis leads to violence, which can only be deferred and controlled by transcendent signs and institutions. The center is the transcendent–every one faces it, and listens to it, so to speak, so as to prevent endless struggles over its possession. In a civilized order, someone must occupy that center, and that occupation should be made as secure as possible–treating the realm as the property of the sovereign seems to me the best way of doing that.

    1. Thanks for this. Some stuff here going on that I can’t really address in a short comment. I’d like to reply in an essay on my own proper blog if and when time permits, will link it in this space if and when it happens.

      1. Thanks. And thanks for the conversation. My blog is linked to through my commenting name.

    2. Michael Rothblatt October 26, 2016 at 7:03 pm

      >treating the realm as the property of the sovereign seems to me the best way of doing that.

      How is that any different from anarcho-capitalism? If everyone else is either a trespasser or there only at his behest and mercy, what’s to stop him from simply going Congo Free State on everyone? To quote de Maistre “the liberal” Religion, laws, customs, opinion, class, and corporate privileges restrict the sovereign and prevent him from abusing his power, but libertarians will have none of it, only the ownership matters. As Szabo pointed to Moldbug, one cannot honestly compare an enterprise in free market system, to government, because no enterprise has territorial sovereignty, a thing which changes behavior of an actor quite a lot (What you think the laws of Washington State would be like if Microsoft Corporation owned it? Well, all competing software would be banned, for starters.). It’s not difficult to see why Land liked Moldbug’s vision, it’s Cyberpunk dystopia!

      1. All those things de Maistre mentions would restrict the sovereign, but did de Maistre believe that independent religious authorities, independent legal authorities, independent opinion making authorities, etc., would be able to command the sovereign to act one way or another? I don’t know his work that well, but I know he wasn’t incoherent, so I doubt he would have said any of that. Any sovereign would rely upon institutions and “orders”: religious, legal, educational, communal, etc.–any sovereign would delegate all these responsibilities and rely upon their effective operation. The “restrictions” are simply part of the moral order inherent in the responsibility of the sovereign to both model and preserve social discipline. Of course a sovereign can refuse to abide by those restrictions and violate the moral order, and, of course, there will be no divine punishment for doing so–a corrupt or evil monarch could hold power for we don’t know how long. Perhaps Mugabe’s son (if he has one) will succeed his father and keep wrecking the country for another 50 years. None of this changes the fact that sovereignty is preserved–someone rules, someone decides on the exception. There will never be a balance or distribution of powers within society that will dilute sovereignty–either someone will decide on the exception, or social order will not be preserved, at least once some kind of stress comes along. (Then you will just have local sovereigns, covering less territory, or the installation of a foreign sovereign.) Our political theorizing and practice should be directed not towards ever more ingenious means of stymying or resisting central power, or fantasizing local institutions, customs, etc., immune to it, but towards maximizing the possibility that the sovereign will be good. Preparing ourselves to obey, advise, teach, worship, etc., in ways worthy of a worthy sovereign is the best way to make those “restrictions” a reality for the sovereign.

        1. Michael Rothblatt October 27, 2016 at 10:45 am

          >All those things de Maistre mentions would restrict the sovereign, but did de Maistre believe that independent religious authorities, independent legal authorities, independent opinion making authorities, etc., would be able to command the sovereign to act one way or another?

          He did, he was an Ultramontanist.

          >maximizing the possibility that the sovereign will be good

          That’s a wishful thinking, right up there with all the other Utopias. The nature of Power is such that only the worst of the worst ever get to the top, and even if he was a normal man, Power tends to corrupt… the good thing about monarchy was that very “accident of birth” thingie that was often used as an argument against it. It meant that, by accident, subjects could, often enough, gain a ruler that was *not* a completely deranged sociopath (unlike democracy which virtually ensures it), and sometimes even end up with a decent one.

          1. Then de Maistre just thought the Pope should be sovereign. That doesn’t mean he thought the king should be subject to priests, journalists, legislators, lawyers, etc. If the kings of Europe submit to the Pope’s authority, and deploy all their power on his behalf, then the Pope would be sovereign over Europe.

            Your “all power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is just standard liberalism. But it’s wrong to say that more power must be worse than less power. Sometimes more power in single hands is necessary, sometimes less power in such hands leads to destruction. Rulers have to be able to do what ruling entails. It’s also self-evidently wrong to say that some rulers won’t be better than others, or that it’s impossible to make or help rulers be better. The starting point is recognizing value and worthiness in others–that makes it more likely that the sovereign will exemplify worthiness and recognize it in others.

          2. Michael Rothblatt October 27, 2016 at 1:01 pm

            >Your “all power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is just standard liberalism.

            It has been long observed throughout history. Most governments were corrupt and\or inept.
            Then there’s this too
            http://serval.unil.ch/resource/serval:BIB_4ED04AB05021.P001/REF
            (it doesn’t have to mean anything, or apply to anything, of course, but still… it’s interesting)

            Also, it’s not liberalism. Confounding absolutism with reaction, and any opposition to absolutism with liberalism is retarded. As good ‘ol Vladimir said
            […]one of the worst legacies of Moldbug’s half-baked theories of sovereignty is this widespread tendency to use “reactionary” as a synonym for absolutist centralized government.

          3. “It has been long observed throughout history. Most governments were corrupt and\or inept.”

            Compared to what?

          4. Michael Rothblatt October 28, 2016 at 8:57 am

            >Compared to what?

            Compared to what they claimed they were.

          5. Then there’s nothing to do but to close the gap between claim and reality as much as possible.

          6. Michael Rothblatt October 28, 2016 at 9:07 pm

            It is the nature of monopoly to provide bad product for high price, so that problem seems quite impossible to solve. David Friedman and Moldbug each proposed a solution. Friedman proposed a neoliberal version of anarcho-capitalism (which, in many ways seems polar opposite to Rothbard’s propertarian anarcho-capitalism) as a solution, and sure enough, it’s awful. Moldbug wrote about Patchwork and free exit. The question is, why would free exit be allowed? Moldbug would say something like “if Power is secure, then there’s no reason for it not to be allowed”, but then again there’s also no reason for it to be allowed.

  20. A good post, but there’s a snag. This is not, as you claim, a “new” theory of the individual, but rather, the old theory, the dominant pre-modern conception. It’s still spot-on, of course.

  21. @ Michael Rothblatt OCTOBER 28, 2016 AT 9:07 PM
    I love how you can just cart out uncut liberalism and Land’s misdirection despite the repeated times I have called this out. It is like you either have no capacity for updating your position, or act in bad faith. Moldbug’s patchwork was an extension of his rejection of imperium in imperio, not a development of free exit as a transcendental premise.
    And, no. It is not the place of monopolies to provide bad products. That is liberal claptrap that is part and parcel of the liberal.world view. A good argument against this fallacious claim is provides by Thiel of all people here-http://www.wsj.com/articles/peter-thiel-competition-is-for-losers-1410535536

    1. Michael Rothblatt October 29, 2016 at 9:04 am

      Ah, you got me, I admit it. Openly! I advocate Classical Liberalism… Classical Liberalism minus individual rights, separation of powers, rule of law, secularism, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of conscience, religious tolerance, …, and plus moralism and social conservatism.

      Of course everyone wants to get rid of his own competition! It’s for the very reason so that you could sell less valuable product at a higher price (profit maximization). Perfect competition was, of course, and remains nonsense, but that doesn’t mean monopoly is a good thing (from the buyer’s point of view, producer, of course, wants monopoly). Now problem here is two different kinds of monopoly. The bad kind is state granted monopoly. The nice kind is, for example, when a company invents new product that didn’t exist before (thereby, it naturally has a monopoly).

  22. Why assume that the state is providing a “service”? The sovereign defends his territory, against external and internal threats; he must therefore mobilize the loyalty of the subjects in defense of the realm. Even when there’s no immediate threat, there is preparation for potential threats, and the identification of vulnerabilities and slackening of social discipline. Any talk of economic comes after that–it’s not as if the state sets up shop like the Pinkertons.

    1. Michael Rothblatt October 29, 2016 at 6:15 pm

      It claims to provide for its “customers” justice, law, order, and security. It is therefore to be put under scrutiny not just as much as the Pinkertons, but much, much more so, because Pinkertons didn’t send tens of millions of their customers to meaningless deaths.

      1. I don’t think that even the most liberal states are at the point of calling their citizens/subjects “customers”–and they should stop thinking of them that way to the extent that they are. To what end should the state be scrutinized? If it’s to strengthen and improve an institution whose ultimate authority is taken for granted, fine; if it’s to delegitimate and subvert, why should the state allow it?

        1. Michael Rothblatt October 30, 2016 at 9:44 am

          >I don’t think that even the most liberal states are at the point of calling their citizens/subjects “customers”

          Regardless, that is essentially the nature of the relationship. And now that International Community has worldwide monopoly, you are getting bad “service” (anarcho-tyranny instead of law and order), at high price.

          >and they should stop thinking of them that way to the extent that they are

          Oh, the Middle Ages may not have been Lockean, but they were very, *very* contractual. Everyone knew exactly what feudal obligation he was getting in return for his own.

          >If it’s to strengthen and improve an institution whose ultimate authority is taken for granted, fine;

          Why would I want to strengthen and improve the Ivy League \ International Community? I want it razed to the ground.

          >if it’s to delegitimate and subvert, why should the state allow it?

          Aren’t all of us reactionaries subversives now? Aren’t all of us trying to delegitimate and subvert the regime? Sure, one day we may all end up in gulags. If that happens, I just hope that absolutists won’t be hypocrites, but rather that you will go into gulags gladly, with smiles on your faces!

          1. The international community does not have a monopoly, although we may be a good part of the way towards what might nevertheless be an impossible result. It is still possible for national states to resist and recover sovereignty–certainly China, Russia and the US, for starters. Anyway, a global state won’t see its subjects as customers, or even as clients, nor will that be their essential relationship: the essential relationship be much as you say, an anarcho-tyrannical leveraging by the high of the low against the middle, i.e., a kind of low level warfare. No one treats their customers that way.

            Nor are contractual relationships and reciprocal obligations, especially those that have traditional and only minimally “consensual” forms very similar to seller-buyer relationships.

            No sovereign will allow for subversion that genuinely threatens it. The question of how an absolutist resists and opposes existing authority is an interesting one, but I think the best answer is as follows: in a system of divided power, absolutists are loyal to whoever is most likely to unify and secure power. In that case, we we don’t agitate against the state or government in general, like a customer demanding the Better Business Bureau intervene, but we support one mode of sovereignty (and whatever, on any level of social activity, tends toward that mode of sovereignty) against the other, what we might call “fissioning,” mode of sovereignty.

          2. Here I think the conservation runs into what I like to think of as the “Reactionary paradox”. The modern Reactionary, born and bred a modern person, reserves the right to subject everything to rational scrutiny, including political arrangements that either do not as a matter of principle tolerate any scrutiny from private individuals (such as absolutism), or would not be able to withstand such scrutiny, since they rely on taken-for-granted arrangements that fall apart once people start explicitly questioning them (as in traditionalism). The modern Reactionary takes the stance of an individual in the juridical state of Nature shopping around for a State form he finds congenial- even though these forms may be inoperable without unconditional unthinking obedience in the form of reverence for authority and social arrangements invested with the sacred. (Not critiquing anybody in particular here- I do this too, we all do).

          3. Yes, it’s almost as if we would have to think ourselves into an unthinking acceptance of tacit relations, while at the same time upping our reasoning power in defending authority against rationalizing critiques. But the actual emergence of central power will solve the problem because insofar as we support it all our reasoning will come to take that support for granted.

          4. Michael Rothblatt October 30, 2016 at 11:23 am

            >Anyway, a global state won’t see its subjects as customers
            >Nor are contractual relationships and reciprocal obligations, especially those that have traditional and only minimally “consensual” forms very similar to seller-buyer relationships.

            I suppose that we can be autistic and pedantic about exact wording (I did, after all, use quotes did I not?), but that doesn’t change anything.

            >absolutists are loyal to whoever is most likely to unify and secure power

            Does this mean that absolutists would support even Commies, if Commies were to unify and secure Power?

          5. It changes something–it undermines the seriousness of your claim that feudal relationships were and prospective global state-individual relationships will be “essentially” seller-buyer relationships. It also undermines your implicit assumption that we could speak of all social relations in market terms.

            Communism cannot secure power, because it rules in the name of a historical process that pretends to end in the abolition of the state. It defines power as unsecure, and we can expect absolutists to know this. Now, dissidents in Communist regimes did address the government with demands–e.g., that the government adhere to a particular provision of the Constitution, or an international human rights treaty to which the Soviets were signatories. Orthodox Christians and fascists could do this as easily as liberals. So, those dissidents were “supporting” a more secure version of the existing government, one that would make promises and uphold them, and hence be more reliable and orderly, insofar as it would reduce the uncertainty faced by citizens and therefore social institutions.

          6. Michael Rothblatt October 30, 2016 at 1:22 pm

            >It changes something–it undermines the seriousness of your claim that feudal relationships were and prospective global state-individual relationships will be “essentially” seller-buyer relationships. It also undermines your implicit assumption that we could speak of all social relations in market terms.

            No it doesn’t. Why do you think Communists banned exit?

            >Communism cannot secure power

            I knew you would say that. But you also said
            “Power needs to be preserved, so its security can never be guaranteed once and for all–the sovereign has work to do[…]” Seems that Kim Jong dinasty did some mighty fine work. Also, they abandoned Marxism and “withering away of the state”. Doesn’t seem to have done people of DPRK any good though. You can see now why absolutist position is a contradiction. Since problems stem from “insecure Power” (Moldbug’s reductio ad absurdum version of Guglielmo Ferrero’s insecure Power theory), then securing Power would solve them, but if Power is secure, then the sovereign has no reason whatsoever to govern well, rather, since his Power is unconditional he has every reason to go Congo Free State on everyone.

          7. Leaving a country is not the same as going to Wal-Mart instead of Target.

            We’ll see how secure Nork power is–it’s been propped up by the Soviets, then the Chinese, and, who knows, maybe South Korea a bit as well–still, I think the South has contingency plans for massive refugee flows and a general social crisis pending the collapse of the Nork regime. They would be crazy not to. On the other hand, if a particular absolutist regime wants to reduce its people to a stone age level of technology, unless they’re threatening other regimes, who cares? Insofar as anyone is interested, they can make moral critiques, which (who knows?) might receive an answer, but I don’t see why anyone should interfere. I don’t think it’s a likely choice for a sovereign in a civilized country.

          8. Michael Rothblatt October 30, 2016 at 1:56 pm

            >Leaving a country is not the same as going to Wal-Mart instead of Target.

            Exactly! And why do you think that is so, hm?

            >We’ll see how secure Nork power is

            Economic collapse most certainly does not equal Power insecurity.

            >if a particular absolutist regime wants to reduce its people to a stone age level of technology, unless they’re threatening other regimes, who cares?

            Well, I can think of two groups. First one is the subjects of said regime, the second one is Moldbuggians. If Moldbug’s theory is wrong, if absolutism doesn’t guarantee good governance, is there any reason then to continue advocating said theory?

          9. I’m not sure what you’e getting at–territories are under sovereign command, making reciprocal and more or less comprehensive demands on the loyalty of subjects, unlike big box stores.

            Do you want to help the subjects of regimes you don’t like? I don’t see how, without convincing your sovereign to wage war on it. Will a better, non-absolutist, theory help them?

            My knowledge of Moldbug is not encyclopedic. If his claim is that absolutism guarantees good government, I would disagree. My claim is that absolutism provides the intellectual frame that makes it possible to discuss good government in the first place.

          10. Michael Rothblatt October 30, 2016 at 3:05 pm

            >I’m not sure what you’e getting at–territories are under sovereign command, making reciprocal and more or less comprehensive demands on the loyalty of subjects, unlike big box stores.

            We’re progressing. Now imagine that Walmart corporation owns the State of Arkansas.

            >Do you want to help the subjects of regimes you don’t like? I don’t see how, without convincing your sovereign to wage war on it. Will a better, non-absolutist, theory help them?

            Have I said anything like that? I don’t think I did. I’m an ardent non-interventionist.

            >My knowledge of Moldbug is not encyclopedic. If his claim is that absolutism guarantees good government, I would disagree. My claim is that absolutism provides the intellectual frame that makes it possible to discuss good government in the first place.

            My is that absolutism guarantees Congo Free State. Most people would consider that bad.

          11. I don’t think Walmart could conquer or hold Arkansas, so I can’t imagine it very richly.

            If you don’t want to intervene, what’s the point of going on about how bad things must be in some other country?

            You don’t like absolutism, so I’m sure you have another theory of sovereignty and power. It hasn’t come up in this discussion.

          12. Michael Rothblatt October 30, 2016 at 5:13 pm

            >I don’t think Walmart could conquer or hold Arkansas, so I can’t imagine it very richly.

            Are you being intentionally obtuse now? Imagine, based on their incentives what would happen.

            >If you don’t want to intervene, what’s the point of going on about how bad things must be in some other country?

            Well, we’re, after all, having a discussion on merits of absolutism. Whether absolutism in practice leads to bad (or good) government, it’s relevant for the discussion.

            >You don’t like absolutism, so I’m sure you have another theory of sovereignty and power. It hasn’t come up in this discussion.

            Absolute property or bust, eh (except in your case it’s not muh NAP, but muh sovereignty)? Yes, I don’t believe in binary sovereignty.

          13. I don’t see corporate sovereignty as a serious model, so I don’t see the value in imagining it–I know that Moldbug was advancing something like that for awhile, but I think we’re past this.

            There’s no doubt that an absolutist sovereign could take power and be a poor or destructive ruler. In the process he would open the door for other powers, internal and external, to intervene, and restore power. But there’s no way of knowing how long that would take. Absolutism sees human decision making as central–we would need virtuous rulers, who model virtue for their subjects, whose virtue in turn supports the sovereign. I suppose we could paraphrase John Adams’s point about the American constitution–it’s only suited to a virtuous people (and ruler). No mechanism can guarantee it will “work.”

            I have some familiarity with neoreaction and alt-right slang, but I can’t make sense of the gesturing in your final paragraph.

          14. Michael Rothblatt October 30, 2016 at 5:55 pm

            I wasn’t pointing toward the structure of the government, but the incentives, and none of their incentives is the good of their subjects.

            So, we’re down to “if only everyone were good and selfless Communism could work” argument, eh?

            There’s bunch of these anti-ancap memes going around that point toward absurd things you get when property is absolute.
            http://2static.fjcdn.com/large/pictures/a2/db/a2db6f_6001700.jpg

          15. There are incentives other than market ones. Some people are more disciplined than others; they tend to get wealth and power; they then have to take on the responsibility for disciplining the less disciplined; and they realize as part of their own discipline that it’s best let the most disciplined have final decision making authority, through whatever mode of consultation with the others he thinks best.

          16. Michael Rothblatt October 31, 2016 at 9:37 am

            >There are incentives other than market ones.

            Oh, don’t worry, it’s already taken into account. The only problem is that it’s a weak system if it depends solely on the virtue of the ruler. And who is sovereign in that case, in your theory, the ruler or his confessor?

          17. It also depends on the virtue of the people.

  23. Michael Rothblatt October 30, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    @The Dissenting Sociologist
    OCTOBER 30, 2016 AT 12:15 PM

    Originally, Neoreaction was supposed to be rationalist advocacy of reactionary positions (which is why all the evolutionary stuff was important back then), and not uncritical worship of Power (which is the central dogma of this new absolutist Church of Mencius Moldbug of Latter-day Pamphlets).

    1. Well, that’s nothing to me–I was never part of all that, even though I find some neo-reactionary thought interesting. Reactionary Future has made clear his break with neoreaction.

      What you call worship of power raises anthropological issues–i.e., what are human beings? Evolutionary theory can’t answer that question.

      1. Michael Rothblatt October 30, 2016 at 2:32 pm

        >Evolutionary theory can’t answer that question.

        And Girard’s nonsense can?

        1. Girard was a very good start, but Gans’s thinking is on a different level altogether.
          http://www.anthropoetics.ucla.edu/gaintro.htm

          1. Good lord. We are back on the North Korea thing. Neoreaction really is just a full spectrum amnesiac attack on Moldbug.

  24. If any of the neo-absolutists posting or reading here would care to provide their definition of absolute political power, it would help those of us who are relatively new to these discussions a lot.

    My understanding of truly absolute Sovereign power is as follows: an entity with a monopoly of legitimate physical violence, by extension legislative, executive, and judicial powers that are indivisible (no Parliament with exclusive and self-sufficient power if a monarchy, and no judicial review, written judicial decisions, or other judge-made law in any case), which powers are boundless (no limits to the jurisdiction of the central power in the form of e.g. States/Provinces in North America, or other inviolable self-sufficient corporate and/or individual rights and privileges of any kind. The will of the absolute Sovereign is enforced by a national militia made up of conscripts and/or mercenaries (the nobility is disarmed and all “private” militia banned, and strict gun control imposed, right out of the box, and as a matter of principle, under absolutism). Since this power is all-encompassing, it cannot help but style itself as a public power that is exercised on behalf of the public or national interest (the private interest of the Sovereign, where mentioned by name, is defined as identical to this public or national interest and vice-versa). Also, since it is all-encompassing, any juridical or theoretical representation of the corporate unity of this power is of an association of individuals (not families, castes or classes, etc.) who either are held to have no inherent powers and rights to begin with, or are deemed to have forfeited their inherent rights to the State in exchange for protection in a founding pact of political association. Although all equally deemed completely helpless and powerless before the Sovereign, those same individuals are at once armed with individual-private rights against one another on a level field of justice. This justice is administered on the basis of a uniform and written legal code which supplants all law deemed “customary”, which is ideologically derided as obsolete, irrational, capricious, and despotic. Finally for the purposes of this definition, the absolutist State either establishes an official Church subordinate to the State or declares religion to be a matter of official indifference. In short, absolute power approximates the totalitarian to the extent that it is truly absolute.

    1. Speaking for myself, I agree with this:

      “My understanding of truly absolute Sovereign power is as follows: an entity with a monopoly of legitimate physical violence, by extension legislative, executive, and judicial powers that are indivisible (no Parliament with exclusive and self-sufficient power if a monarchy, and no judicial review, written judicial decisions, or other judge-made law in any case), which powers are boundless (no limits to the jurisdiction of the central power in the form of e.g. States/Provinces in North America, or other inviolable self-sufficient corporate and/or individual rights and privileges of any kind.”

      I don’t agree with this:

      “The will of the absolute Sovereign is enforced by a national militia made up of conscripts and/or mercenaries (the nobility is disarmed and all “private” militia banned, and strict gun control imposed, right out of the box, and as a matter of principle, under absolutism).”

      I don’t see why an absolutist monarch could not allow for status distinctions and trust the people, or a large part of them, to be armed.

      I agree with this:

      Since this power is all-encompassing, it cannot help but style itself as a public power that is exercised on behalf of the public or national interest (the private interest of the Sovereign, where mentioned by name, is defined as identical to this public or national interest and vice-versa).

      I partly disagree with this:

      “Also, since it is all-encompassing, any juridical or theoretical representation of the corporate unity of this power is of an association of individuals (not families, castes or classes, etc.) who either are held to have no inherent powers and rights to begin with, or are deemed to have forfeited their inherent rights to the State in exchange for protection in a founding pact of political association.”

      Nobody has “inherent rights,” but I think an absolutist ruler can leave a lot of things (families, castes, classes, associations, etc.) as he found them as long as they are loyal and contained.

      I agree with this:

      Although all equally deemed completely helpless and powerless before the Sovereign, those same individuals are at once armed with individual-private rights against one another on a level field of justice.

      I don’t agree with this:

      This justice is administered on the basis of a uniform and written legal code which supplants all law deemed “customary”, which is ideologically derided as obsolete, irrational, capricious, and despotic.

      I think customs and customary interpretations of laws are inevitable and need not constitute a threat to order or sovereign power.

      I don’t completely agree with this:

      Finally for the purposes of this definition, the absolutist State either establishes an official Church subordinate to the State or declares religion to be a matter of official indifference.

      An absolute ruler can do either of these things, but I think he could also distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable forms of worship and religious doctrine.

      So I don’t think absolute power is at all synonymous with totalitarian power. Is there a supreme power that enforces what it proclaims, and proclaims only what it enforces–so that we know that everything that anyone does in the social order is acting in accord with laws and decrees known to all, or is acting in defiance of them, with the appropriate consequences to follow? Is so, then power is absolute–it doesn’t mean the ruler is going to tell you whether you have to use New Times Roman or Helvetica font. Not everything in life needs to be directly decreed–there will be a threshold at which things come to the attention of the public power. The more civilized the order, and the better the ruler, the higher the threshold.

    2. While we’re on the subject of questions for neo-absolutists, I always wondered about something more basic. Is absolute power thought of as a sort of platonic ideal that messy real power aims to approximate but can never reach? Or is it actually considered a feasible and implementable social reality using human beings as raw material?

      1. I see no reason to not consider it a feasible and implementable social reality. The aim is to institute a political system in which no competing power centers are created or allowed. Authority must flow down.

        I personally think it could be done very easily. All of the competing centers we see now were created by authority and they were obviously a mistake. The idea of setting up centers of power to act as advocates for groups to defend against the central authority is a self fulfilling process that creates conflicts and is the equivalent of the sovereign shooting themselves in the foot. The problem is the general delusion of spontaneous order,and the ground up nature of society hides this (as does the bizarreness of the behavior in doing this.)

        Take La Raza for example, and other minority advocacy groups – who brought them into being? it wasn’t “natural” ethnic interests, it was basically created by the Ford Foundation, which was the active arm of the American elite. I have explained why before.

        So what I am saying is this idea of society as a “messy real power” is just the sovereign fucking up, and is not the natural state of affairs at all.

        1. Michael Rothblatt November 1, 2016 at 5:47 am

          >The problem is the general delusion of spontaneous order,and the ground up nature of society hides this (as does the bizarreness of the behavior in doing this.)

          You really are one nasty piece of work, are you? No advocate of Spontaneous Order ever claimed what you claim they claim, i.e. no one would say that La Raza was a natural group and stuff like that. I already told you a number of times that Spontaneous Order means that those groups, that for whatever reason follow maladaptive practices tend to go extinct, while those that, for whatever reason, follow adaptive practices tend to thrive. No more, no less.

        2. Chris B. – I actually was thinking less of democratic systems and more of monarchies. Even when monarchies were supposedly absolute, you still got all sorts of actions that sound like ongoing low-level power disputes between the King and the various Lords – like King John signing Magna Carta, and then the regency of King Henry III reissued it but with some provisions stripped out. The account I read of this (http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=287920802297437;res=IELLCC -no ungated link, I’m afraid) was that these charters were a compromise arrangement by the King in order to raise taxes (which the Lords had to roughly consent to, but could and did push back on to some extent). The amount the King conceded depended on how strong his bargaining position was in relative terms, which is why it got issued in a strong form, them reduced in subsequent versions.

          So in a situation like that, how do you make the King’s power absolute? Just kill all the Lords? If so, presumably the administration of the local areas has to be done by someone, since they’re remote. How do you stop them turning into the same types of Lords in 50 years? Or if you’re keeping the same guys, how do you force them to obey whatever the King says? That’s what I had in mind when I referred to the messy realities of power.

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