Reactionary Political Theory On Contemporary America

Reactionaries attend to political reality, not to political form.

In politics, reactionaries study power, because politics is the struggle for power.

Reactionaries study the structure, composition and nature of political regimes.

Regimes can either be a monarchy/tyranny, an aristocracy/oligarchy, or a democracy/ochlocracy.

The most important distinction in politics is between the rulers and the ruled. Thus, democracy is impossible; for even if the majority “rules”, power is actually in the hands of those who influence, instruct, and direct the minds of the majority. That leaves only two types of government and their shadows left: monarchy/tyranny or aristocracy/oligarchy.

Reactionaries attend less to what is said (form), but to what is done (power).

Form — political formulas, slogans, political speeches, platforms, etc. — is the means by which those with power mask their power and their true intentions.

In short, we practice political science in the Machiavellian tradition as described in James Burnham’s Machiavellians: the Defenders of Freedom.

This was how Mencius Moldbug worked when he studied power in the United States.

Moldbug’s ultimate conclusion was that the political regime of the United States (the Modern Structure) is an oligarchy and was entering a deeply dysfunctional, morbid state. Recent events appear to bear this judgment out; however, he expected Hilary Clinton to become president, not Donald Trump — though Moldbug did see that the kind of kingly authority that Trump advertises appeals to many.

Our question is the following: what is the significance of Trump’s victory? What does it mean for the Modern Structure?

Before answering our questions, let’s define our terms.

Moldbug used different terminology to refer to the same or similar set of structures and institutions. This can be confusing, though I suspect he did it for rhetorical reasons.

We can keep his terminology, but provide some distinctions and clarifications.

To understand the regime in America, I propose that it consists of four sub-divisions which make up the structure: the Modern Structure.

The Modern Structure comprises of four sub-structures:

1: The Polygon. (Physical or management structure.)

2: The Cathedral. (Physical and informational structure.)

3: The Caste Structure. (Social structure.)

4: The Universalist Belief system. (Ideological structure.)


1: Polygon.

The Polygon might be defined as the “extended civil service.” It consists not of those who hold actual formal GS rank, but those whose position demands a sense of civic responsibility – real or fake. The major vertices of the Polygon, by my count, are the press, the universities, the judiciary, the Fed and the banks, the “Hill” (congressional staff), the civil service proper, the NGOs and transnationals, the military, the Beltway bandits (defense and other contractors), and corporate holders of official monopolies (such as “intellectual property”).

2: The Cathedral.

The great power center of 2008 is the Cathedral, which has two parts: the accredited universities and the established press. The universities formulate public policy. The press guides public opinion. In other words, the universities make decisions, for which the press manufactures consent. It’s as simple as a punch in the mouth. The Cathedral operates as the brain of a broader power structure, the Polygon or Apparat – the permanent civil service. The Apparat is the civil service proper (all nonmilitary officials whose positions are immune to partisan politics, also known as “democracy”), plus all those formally outside government whose goal is to influence or implement public policy – ie, NGOs. (There’s a reason NGOs have to remind themselves that they’re “non-governmental.”)

3: The Caste Structure.

Here, we will attend only to rulers — the Brahmins.

In the Brahmin caste, status among both men and women is defined by scholarly achievement, success in an intellectual profession, or position of civic responsibility. The highest-status Brahmins are artists and scientists, but Brahmins can also be doctors or lawyers, although it is much better to be a doctor than a lawyer, and much better to be a lawyer than a dentist (a trade which was perhaps once Brahmin, but is now definitely Vaisya). Ideally, as a Brahmin, if you are a doctor you should be primarily concerned with caring for the poor; if you are a lawyer, your practice should focus on civil liberties and social justice – cardiology and corporate law are slightly de trop. An increasing number of young Brahmins consider themselves “activists” and work for “nonprofits” or “NGOs,” lending some credence to the theory that the Brahmins are our ruling or governing caste. Entry into the Brahmin caste is conferred almost entirely by first-tier university admissions, although getting into Harvard doesn’t mean you don’t still need to make something of yourself.

4: The Universalist Belief System.

The most important distinction in politics, following Burnham, is between rulers and ruled. The Modern Structure is designed and adapted to prevent power from flowing to those outside the ruling caste and structure.

The Modern Structure, like a body, has an immune system; a foreign body, unless camouflaged or concealed, will elicit resistance. The case of President Donald Trump provides a fascinating and deeply instructive example that illustrates Moldbug’s claims about the mainstream media (the Cathedral) acting in a coordinated fashion without any one coordinator. The media’s treatment of Trump is how an immune system reacts to an invader — which is exactly what Trump was.

So, how is Trump a “foreign body”? Why did he activate the “immune system”?

First, despite having a university education, immense wealth, talent and ambition, Trump is no Brahmin. He is not a Brahmin because he values success in success — being a winner. If that is insufficient, then he is a winner in business (wealth, power, success), and if that is not enough, well, he likes to eat American fast food.

More important, of course, is what Trump actually said and the subsequent reaction from the Cathedral.

The claim I will advance here is the following: Trump has repudiated virtually all of the key tenets of America’s triumphant “Super Protestant” progressive Universalist world order.

One caveat. This is what Trump said; it says nothing about what he will do. The reactionary, again, always attends to reality, not form. So, why are we interested in what Trump said?–to observe the reaction from the Cathedral and the Brahmins.

If we were to predict an allergic reaction from the Cathedral regarding Trump, our priors would be the four key Universalist principles:

I’ve defined the four principal Ideals of the creed as Social JusticePeaceEquality and Community. As we’ve already seen, Social Justice means political violence, and Peace means victory. We’ll get to Equality and Community shortly.

Moldbug offers a more detailed description below:

First, ultracalvinists believe in the universal brotherhood of man. As an Ideal (an undefined universal) this might be called Equality. (“All men and women are born equal.”) If we wanted to attach an “ism” to this, we could call it fraternalism.

Second, ultracalvinists believe in the futility of violence. The corresponding ideal is of course Peace. (“Violence only causes more violence.”) This is well-known as pacifism.

Third, ultracalvinists believe in the fair distribution of goods. The ideal is Social Justice, which is a fine name as long as we remember that it has nothing to do with justice in the dictionary sense of the word, that is, the accurate application of the law. (“From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”) To avoid hot-button words, we will ride on a name and call this belief Rawlsianism.

Fourth, ultracalvinists believe in the managed society. The ideal is Community, and a community by definition is led by benevolent experts, or public servants. (“Public servants should be professional and socially responsible.”) After their counterparts east of the Himalaya, we can call this belief mandarism.

Trump has challenged all four principles, Trump (apparently) rejects all four principles, and Trump has (apparently) triumphed over these four principles.

1: Universal Brotherhood was challenged or contradicted in three ways:

A: The “Wall”.

B: The Muslim “Ban.”

C:  “America First.”

How? By advocating for “exclusion” over “inclusion”. Some people and not others. For “particularity” over “universality”. America, and the American people first–then the others.

2: Pacifism, and the rejection of violence as useful and necessary, was challenged by his remarks about ISIS (“bomb the shit out of them”), and his admiration for General Patton and MacArthur.

3: This one is more unclear, perhaps more economically informed readers can clarify. Here, however, is my hypothesis. The formula of globalization, free trade, and immigration is global Rawlsianism.

Specifically, this (to Brahmins) means allowing globalization precisely because it improves the lives of those who are worse off (Chinese, Indians, Mexicans etc). The American middle class of Michigan will lose out — but that is only a relative and not an absolute loss.

The hypothesis is that this explanation is how Brahmins rationalize accelerating globalization; however, out-sourcing and immigration is a strategy that happens to strength them and weakens their enemies, the Vaisya.

More suggestive is that Trump has questioned NATO by asking who benefits. And who pays? Trump’s answer seems to be: we don’t, but we pay. This is national self-interest first, and not fairness, social justice, or liberal idealism first.

4: Mandarinism.

This one is easy. Trump’s success is a complete rejection of the whole idea of the “public servant” (manifested by Hillary Clinton). His pledge to “drain the swamp”; his repeated attacks on politicians (Obama, Kerry, Bush and Clinton) as “stupid” and “all talk and no action” is a direct assault on the entire caste and their values.

More importantly, his cabinet selections are key evidence of the rejection of Mandarinism.

Trump selected Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon-Mobil, Secretary of State — a capitalist, not an insider Brahmin.

Gen. James Mattis for Secretary of Defense. This man argued with Obama, and Trump selecting him is a repudiation of Obama, his caste, and their values.

Lieutenant General, Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor. Flynn reportedly clashed with Obama and other Mandarins (Brahmins) over Islam and Syria, and was “fired” as a result.


The case, however, can be strengthened when we examine Trump in light of “Super Protestantism.”

Moldbug’s key evidence that post-war progressivism is a memetic descendant of Protestantism came from the 1942 Time Magazine article “Religion: American Malvern.”

Trump “challenged” nearly all of the principles:

Principle: Ultimately, “a world government of delegated powers.”

Trump attacked Globalism and called for “America First”.

Principle: Complete abandonment of U.S. isolationism.

“America First.” “Questioned NATO, sees NATO as “obsolete.” Rejects “Regime change.” Trump’s position appears to be “realism.”

Principle: Strong immediate limitations on national sovereignty.

“America First.” Praised “Brexit”; thus, he is against the European Union.

Principle: International control of all armies and navies.

Questioned NATO, suggested that maybe Japan and South Korea may have to provide for their own nuclear defense and/or pay more.

Principle: “A universal system of money … so planned as to prevent inflation and deflation.”

Trump has not spoken on this issue to my knowledge.

Principle: Worldwide freedom of immigration.

The Wall, and the “Muslim ban”. This is key bit of evidence.

Principle: Progressive elimination of all tariff and quota restrictions on world trade.

Trump “questioned” “free trade”, has mentioned the possibility of tariffs. Indeed, he has threatened companies with tariffs.

All in all, Trump’s political formula is a near total rejection of the principles of the post-war progressive world order. We will have to wait and see the reality, however.

The Modern Structure’s Cathedral is the immune system and any contradiction of its principles results in the immune system kicking in. Did this “immune system” kick in with Trump?

I trust readers can answer this question for themselves.

So what is the significance of Trump’s victory? What does it mean for the Modern Structure?

That Trump won —that he literally ran rings round the Cathedral — speaks not only to his remarkable talent as a persuader; but also that many Americans are losing faith in America’s political formula. Crucially, it appears that the American military (the Red Government) has grown exasperated with the “Blue Government”.

The Modern Structure is decaying; it has suffered a major defeat.

In war, there are three stages: the opening battle, the decisive or major victory, and finally the pursuit.

Trump defeated the Cathedral, but not the Polygon, the Brahmin oligarchs, or faith in the principles of Universalism.

Trump needs to follow up his victory over the Cathedral by pursuing them.

My final question is: how can we hounds harry these hares to hell?

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  1. Our question is the following: what is the significance of Trump’s victory? What does it mean for the Modern Structure?

    To answer the first question: a change in national sentiment. To answer the second, not much.

    The stock market keeps making new highs..if Trump is supposed to be a threat to the establishment, the market is not buying it. I think the market is correct and that most of this is just saber rattling , although we’ll see. ‘Challlening’ is the first part, ‘doing’ is much harder. Tariffs are not that a big deal and more symbolic than anything. Trump’s pledges to keep jobs in America seem seems to involve overly generous subsidies and or corporate welfare that may have unintended/perverse consequences. see

  2. @ Grey Enlightenment

    Your premise is that the stock market is doing (so far) ok and your conclusion is that Trump’s victory is insignificant (“not much”).

    That is an non sequitur.

    Pare back the Polygon to Mill’s “power-elite” we have the military and the military industrial complex, the big corporates, the intellectuals and the media. So, then we have Trump carrying a disgruntled Military wing, along with the fundamentalist Christians and middle-Americans to victory.

    Trump’s victory is the military (Moldbug’s “red government”) carrying out a successful semi-insurrection against (some) of the corporate wing, the civil service and the media.

    That itself is, well, highly significant.

    However, above all, I think is an opportunist; he has, however, exposed and driven a wedge in the USG government.

    Your mode of analysis is also somewhat limited.

    Most people focus on behaviours, a few people look at history, while even viewer look at things from a systems perspective.

    Behaviours and events are understood in a historical context, but historical trends and patterns are understood by reference to a system, because system is the source of such behaviour.

    Would you not agree that Trump winning represents a paradigm shift in post-war politics?

    Look at it from a truly global, systematic level: Brexit, the implosion of Labour in the UK; France in a state of national emergency, and the consistent rise of the National Front; the AFD in Germany and on and on and on.

    Even the Islamic restoration in Turkey represents a clear part of the pattern: “liberalism” or the myth of progress is coming undone.

    It is no surprise that the market is doing well at the moment (but that can change in a heartbeat) because Trump obviously wants to succeed and get reelected; so he needs the corporate/financial wing in his corner.

    ” a change in national sentiment”

    Widen your focus, look at the trends and patterns across the Western world.

    Oh, yes, the Cobra effect.

    I think that’s likely. The system is in deep disarray and even if Trump or anyone else tries to restore some kind of sanity to the thing it may well trigger a cascade of calamity.



    (P.S I enjoy your blog, I went through most of the back catalogue the other week.)

    1. Thanks for reading

      It doesn’t help that the courts are roadblocking him, which makes significant change less likely), but I will elaborate in a forthcoming post. I imagine culture-elite are scared, but the finance-elite are probably indifferent. I tend to err more on the side empiricism than idealism, so in response to a statement such as “Trump will greatly change the US economy,” I work back the steps to figure out how or if this is possible. But he’s having a bigger impact in other ways.

  3. I think a distinction is in order.

    We have political history.

    We have political philosophy (sometimes called theory).

    We have political science.

    I think the above is political science, not political theory.

    I think one of the things that must be challenged and defeated is the separation of all three. We need unification.

  4. @Grey Enlightenment

    I think what is significant is that Trump — the outsider — ran with a program that was not only contrary to the orthodoxy but that he won doing so. The Media’s ability to exclude the deplorables has decayed.

    Trump is going to be frustrated, and he will likely fail in most things. However, it is likely he will cause quite a bit of damage to the progressive narrative and social cohesion over the four years. Furthermore, I expect the left to suffer a number of defeats over the next few years across the globe, especially in Europe. Trump will probably be a cheer leader for it.

    The other thing is that if the left escalate their attacks. There is no telling what might happen.

  5. The Emperor Constantine I came to power with the army but ruled by crafting his own rationale for legitimacy and empowering his own constituency. Christian bishops were allowed to act as judges is their own courts, and were given funds to establish social welfare networks, both of which existed outside the traditional pagan power structure. I wonder if something similar might play out here, coming together over time, a parallel system of Brahmins (Trump funds his own schools and media by redirecting money from the Berkeley and the like), followed by those further down the caste structure.

  6. Ouch! and sorry. The selection of Tillerson, Flynn and Mattis represent no such rejection of mandarinism. Please review the actual reason Flynn and Mattis were at odds with Obama and you will find that their outrage was symbolic of the actual core of the national security elite. And as for Tillerson; it is the oil companies (along with the banks) that created the CFR. Trump’s is a re-start of W. Bush’s Second Inaugural address, where the real oligarchs of the deep state take over.

  7. Dark Reformation101 February 11, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    At Stormrung.

    It seems that you are misperceiving the reality of power here.
    The Council of Foreign Relations is a Brahmin, or Mandarin job, from top to bottom.

    Some reading.

    Read Chapter 1 of Dan Smoot’s The Invisible Government where it talks about the origins of CFR.

    Read this About Colonel House, a key progressive, who put the operation together (and much else).

    You might want to read this to get a really good historical
    understanding for the nature and history of progressivism.

    As for his selections, just look at how many generals he has in the top spot – unprecedented. Secondly, he had to get Mathis a special waiver (that has only happened before with George Marshall, I believe.)

    Take Flynn, he committed thought-crime when he started mouthing off against Islam. He then went on to write a thought-criminal book on the subject. Big Big No No from the Brahmins.

    If you have been paying attention to the Cathedral, you will have seen all the hysteria over these selections and the repeated attempt to smear Flynn, to prevent Tillerson and, of course, to discredit Trump.

    America was meant to be a corporate oligarchy anyway, and things would be much better if it was. However, due to FDR’s revolution USG has been progressive since 1932.

    Trump, in ways I don’t think he really understands, has upended it. What he actually does, will, of course, have to be seen. So far, it’s looking real.

  8. I agree that Trump challenges fraternalism, pacifism, and mandarism. However, I think that he supports Rawlsianism – his rhetoric often references an “unfair distribution of goods”. He was elected partly because he applied the idea that “it’s unfair you aren’t earning more money” to a different group (white, low-education Americans) with a different enemy (trade, China) than Democrats.

  9. Polygon: Win through attrition. He’ll need a full 8 years to even begin to dent it though. With that in mind, I suspect that there is a cascade point, a percentage well above optimally low numbers which will then, with proper coaxing, cause a cascade of loss here.

    Betsy Devos and Scott Pruitt are going to be instrumental here; can they kill their respective departments quietly? Can they play the part of assassin?’

    Caste: Strike while the iron of the Cathedral is hot, and you can easily supplant this particular structure. The Caste system is maintained via Cathedral conference of authority, take the academic portion of the Cathedral out at the knees by a combination of righteously inspired defunding and occupation (flood the violent campuses with law enforcement and strictly observe curfews for public safety) and you’ll see them quickly depopulate.

    Universalist belief system: It’s already happening. He just needs to allow the social vectors already at work on this structure continue to move uninhibited. We know it’s happening, because the left has lost comedy, and comedic acumen is the surest sign of a sociologically cohesive repudiation of an existing belief system.

    After all, someone has to understand and agree with your jokes to laugh at them.

  10. Ouestions: How would anyone know that we would be better off if everyone just got along and loved everybody, when if toy were to consider history there would not be an individual who ever lived in a time when it was so?

    1. Well in principle advocates of such a world are not incorrect, but their conception of love is infantile and based on false premises.

      They conflate love with sentimentality, leading to places other than the Church.

  11. I’m riding in late on this, so sorry. Hopefully this is helpful to someone nevertheless.

    I am in a somewhat unique positions culturally with regard to the Red and Blue empires.

    On the one hand, I am attending college at the graduate level, which means I get intimate contact with the faculty, administration, and other thought-shapers of the next generation. True, it’s a consolation university, so they’re not setting any trends.

    On the other, I’m strongly allied with the Red government because my wife is middle management in the Navy (plus a whole lot of familial history – I was raised believing I would also join the Navy, for example).

    Anyway, with my bona fides out of the way, I think the greatest and most dangerous service Trump is performing for reaction is the disillusionment of the military.

    Our military is the source of modern conservatism, and specifically, its hang-ups about getting anything done. This was a masterful stroke by FDR: in creating the Pentagon structure he instilled the philosophy of absolute obedience to civil authority. Our military considers it a virtue to die on its sword defending the Republic, whether or not it agrees with the philosophical or political tenets of the fight. The civil religion of America – starting with taking the Constitution as a sort of sacred scripture, and moving down through, “I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to speak,” runs strong through our military. (The only thing missing from previous installments is that the saints – Washington, Paine, Henry, etc. – have withered away. This is par for the course with Protestantism.)

    One of the strongest but most subtle effects of this is a lack of what I’ll call generalism or general-worship. Throughout history, armies have been loyal to their generals, not to the State. Thus, generals have always been something of a threat to the civil power. (Medieval feudalism partially got around this with the ingenious method of making the head of state also the head of the army, though it still had problems with the aristocracy, who could command the personal loyalty of their retainers, King be damned.)

    General-worship was intentionally stamped out by FDR’s reinvention of the Republic, though it may have been on the decline beforehand. (I’m not sure. Washington definitely commanded personal loyalty from his troops, Teddy Roosevelt may have done the same.) To replace it, the civil religion was installed. In practice, this was done by coopting the generals into the scheme of the religion – Patton was still idolized, but Patton himself would never countenance marching on Washington.

    Over time, even that level of general-worship was extirpated, to the point these days where the strongest example resides in Petraeus. When his character was assassinated, there was wide-spread, low-level grumbling from the military, but only because he was ‘one of us’ and was used unfairly. Not because he was anyone’s general, and damn the State, because the general needs his men.

    Back to Trump. Trump’s greatest and most dangerous triumph so far has been to rock the military’s faith in the civil religion. There has been a sea change because of him (and, in the negative, because of men like SecNav Mabus, who under Obama tried to destroy Navy tradition as much as possible). Men are starting to identify primarily with their commands and their commanders, because the ‘legitimate authority’ of the State has shown itself to be a fraud. Men in uniform are under attack, and they know it.

    We’re coming around to days when (for example) Mattis using the personal loyalty of his troops to occupy Washington and ‘restore order’ with an ‘interim’ government that completely ignores the screeching of the judiciary and civil service are, if not close, at least thinkable.

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