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.)
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.
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 Justice, Peace, Equality and Community. As we’ve already seen, Social Justice means political violence, and Peace means victory. We’ll get to Equality and Community shortly.
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.
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.
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?