GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

February 29, 2016

The Androsphere, or the Return of the Big Man (Who Never Really Left)

Filed under: GA — adam @ 8:21 pm

I’ve been meaning to continue my discussion of the hidden infrastructures of civilization that the victimocracy has been seeking to suppress all memory of while in fact facilitating their unrestrained resurgence. There is a region within the alt-right that usually refers to itself as the “manosphere,” i.e., an unabashedly phallocentric online community that repudiates the “feminine imperative” dominating modern life. I prefer the “androsphere,” and I would hope that term would catch on—it’s got more of a social sciency rather than pop/therapeutic culture sound to it. The androsphere actually straddles the social scientific and the pop/therapeutic: it is a discipline aimed at helping men discipline themselves so as to restore proper patriarchal relations between the sexes; a form of discipline, though, that in its own way offers a rigorous study of the fundamental, enduring structural elements of sexual relations. I don’t see many footnotes in these discussions, and their discussions don’t seem to rely upon any of the traditions within philosophy and the social sciences that I am familiar with, so I assume that much of this discipline is the work of genuine autodidacts and original thinkers.

In thinking of how to think through the androsphere in originary terms, I considered Marshall Sahlins’s notion of the “Big Man” whose accumulation of wealth lies at the origin of social inequality, and whom Eric Gans has given a central place in his originary theorization of the succession of social forms from the egalitarian hunter-gathers to the modern market economy (perhaps the most important discussion is in The End of Culture). I’ve been thinking for a while that the tension between the irrepressibility of Big Manness and the declared equality of modern life was a source of many of our crises. The Big Man is the Alpha, a term central to the socio-sexual hierarchy constitutive of androspheric thinking. As I was thinking about this, just this very morning, I came across the following post on Vox Day’s (the author of SJWs Always Lie and Cuckservative) Alpha Game blog:

A Portrait in Alpha

Ironically, both primitive tribesmen in Papua New Guinea and anthropologists appear to understand the true art of Alpha better than most men in the civilized West today. I came across this in book I was reading today:

The New Guinea Big Man, for example, gains his status primarily as an organiser of feasts and dances in which his own group competes with others, and as a public orator on such occasions. He attracts followers by his force of personality and his political skills as an organiser and diplomat in dealings with other groups, and can certainly behave despotically to those at the bottom of society, the ‘rubbish-men’. But while he obviously enjoys his status, he is accepted and regarded as a legitimate leader because he is seen as an essential asset by his group of followers, and in my experience tends to be gracious and polite.
It’s not about being a bully. It’s first and foremost about being an asset to his subordinates and being a man they want to follow. Everything else flows from that.

It is interesting to note that even primitive societies have developed the concept of the Omega as well.

I believe the book Day is quoting from is Do We Need God to be Good?, by C.R Hallpike, about which I know nothing, but from VD’s brief mention on his Vox Populi blog seems to engage the science/faith (non) dialogue in a way that might be interesting to GAniks. At any rate, this clearly confirmed for me the link I was considering. Needless to say, questions of “firstness” are implicated in this discussion as well. My concluding discussion in Gans’s and my recently published book (The First Shall Be the Last: Rethinking Antisemitism), which Eric mentioned in today’s email to the GAList, argues that the resurgence of antisemitism (as resentment of Jewish firstness) derives from a crisis in firstness, which is to say an all out attack on and repudiation of decisiveness, authority, a willingness to take responsibility, even to dominate, which is to say an ongoing attempt to kill whatever remains of the Big Man among us. The Androsphere is an attempt to restore and find a proper place for the Big Man, the Alpha.

Sperm is cheap, eggs are expensive; women are hypergamous, men are polygamous. These seem to be the founding axioms of the Androsphere. I’m sure they’re not new, but on websites like Alpha Game, Return of Kings, Rational Male, Chateau Hartiste and, I am sure, others, the implications of these axioms are explored in great detail, with an inventive, colorful and often profane conceptual vocabulary, and through numerous examples taken from contemporary social life. I’m not going to work through the whole system—instead, I’ll enter it from one particular angle, and suggest its relevance to some of my recent posts. One thing the Androsphere makes clear (and these writers seem to be quite aware of this) is what a difficult and monumental achievement monogamy has been. The natural state of male-female relations involves, roughly, women craving sexual relations with the Alpha males (the top, I suppose, 10% of males in terms of—well, in terms of all the things that characterize the Big Man, referenced by Vox Day above) while maintaining long term relations with Beta Males for the sake of raising their children (which is uninteresting to the Alpha) in security. Here, already, we have the roots of all manner of male-female mistrust, misunderstanding and dissatisfaction, cuckoldry, dysfunctional power games, and so on. (We will leave aside the very interesting categories—employed regularly by Day to discuss politics—the ultra-Alpha status of Donald Trump being a major source of his appeal to this corner of the alt-right—of the Gamma, Delta, Omega and Sigma, familiar to all from high school days and, perhaps, honest introspection.)

Without monogamy (which must therefore be considered a central category of civilization), and all of its discontents, 10% of the men would possess something like 50% of the women, leaving a very large minority of men with no access to sex and family life at all. This would obviously pose a constant threat to any social order organized around the direct rule of the Alphas, while stalling any ethical, cultural or economic progress by letting the talents and effort of those men (who have no incentive to exert themselves) go to waste. The Republican Party founders knew what they were doing when they raised the banner of opposition to the twin barbarous evils of slavery and polygamy. In monogamy, the male sacrifices his polygamous desires, the woman renounces her hypergamous strivings. There are still Alphas, and they are still emulated, followed, and resented, but they must prove themselves to be “legitimate leaders” in the public and economic spheres rather than monopolizing the available women (while, of course, reaping the rewards of possessing the most desirable women). The current fraying of monogamous norms is therefore an event of world historical consequences. The androsphere diagnoses this ongoing event, and tries to teach and train men to resist and, in some cases, it must be said, to exploit it.

Feminism, for the Androsphere, is the attempt to install the “Feminine Imperative” as the dominant social principle. The Feminine Imperative is the repudiation of the woman’s side of the monogamous arrangement, to which men are nevertheless to be held, within even more restrictive terms. The abolition of the sexual division of labor due to the liberating effects of modern technology and civilization is what has made the victory of the Feminine Imperative over Patriarchy possible—but we could add the general advance of victimary logic, on which feminism has hitched a ride and to which it has added an important dimension, that of feminizing men. The writers in the Androsphere can be very insightful and hilarious in analyzing the logic of feminism and its pop/therapeutic spinoffs in these terms. You can really see how commonplace the notion that men should defer to women’s desires and judgment in all manners regarding women’s sexuality has become—what, for example, is the campaign against “slut-shaming” if not the insistence that women should have the right to experiment freely with relationships with a series of Alphas without their future (or, eventually, some suggest, even present) Beta husbands factoring that into their marriage “market value”? What is the entire legal and institutional apparatus for continually expanding and more restrictively applying the rules regarding sexual harassment if not a capitulation to the demand that women should never have to suffer the indignity of having to even entertain so as to reject the advances of a man of lesser market value than herself? As Vox Day put it in a post on a sexual harassment charge that ruined a male scientist’s career, (I paraphrase) nothing—nothing—not science, not sterling personal accomplishment—is more important than that women not be touched by men they find unattractive. (One can also find some startling socio-sexual analyses of the leading role played by European women in welcoming the current wave of “refugees.)

The Androsphere is an outright defender of firstness and enemy of the victimary, both symptom and diagnostician of the crisis in firstness, in particular in the sexual sphere. It serves as yet another example of the actual infrastructures underlying all the bleating about “equality.” For the Androsphere, feminism has never been about “equality,” and it’s easy enough to see their point—has feminism, in any of its forms, ever admitted to having won a single victory, and thereby being able to relax some of its demands and reparative asymmetries appropriate for an earlier stage of sexual relations? In demanding equal employment opportunity and equal pay, have feminists also demanded a reform of divorce laws that were predicated upon a woman’s inability to support herself without a husband? If, instead of taking feminist resentments at face value, we see the feminist wars as attempts by women and men, all specifically placed within the socio-sexual hierarchy, to seize terrain abandoned with each diminution of the territory covered by the monogamous arrangement. Even more, we can add an important dimension to our understanding of the victimary: its effectiveness in the sexual sphere lies in the greater value any community, necessarily and instinctively, places upon (contrary to feminist complaints) its female members. Eggs are expensive, sperm is cheap: a community of, say, 100, that loses 40 men in a war could get itself back up to its previous population within a generation through emergency polygamous arrangements; if 40 women are lost, it would take many generations. Feminism exploits these tacit calculations in constructing a double bind represented as “equality”: men who resist the introduction of protected feminine spaces within male dominated institutions (i.e., the breakdown qua parody of the traditional sexual arrangement) are shamed as, implicitly, failing in their (traditional) role as protectors. Here, therefore, as in issues regarding race, we may find that probing a bit below the surface of discourses of equality we find a very different drama playing itself out. This insight might save us the trouble of trying to figure out how these initially benevolent movements for equality somehow went wrong. And it might aid us in avoiding the debacle of trying to “balance” equality against other “principles,” rather than trying to preserve what is left of the monogamous arrangement and maybe winning back some lost territory. (It would be very interesting, for example, to imagine the possibility of a coalition of beta male and medium sexual value females—probably the majority of the population, and the ones who benefit most from the monogamy deal—for eliminating no-fault divorce.)

The Androsphere presupposes permanent hierarchies, which it wishes to make more explicit—at its best, in order to provide models for self-betterment. As we can see from the description of the Big Man above, there is a kind of ethics and reciprocity built into the socio-sexual hierarchy: the Alpha, in his own way, serves the community. But the Alphas by themselves certainly wouldn’t have promoted the transition to monogamy—that surely came from some kind of, most probably, gradual revolt of the Betas. What the Alphas, and the writers of the Androsphere, who take Alphaness as a model, lack, is what Gans calls the “ethical monotheism” of the Hebrew Scriptures, which forces an awareness of the ways self-interested actions carried out in disregard of an ethical order can generate unanticipated resentments and thereby self- and other-destructive consequences. The Alpha can’t really recognize any source of action other than those set by his own desires and values—he is Nietzsche’s natural aristocrat. So, it’s not surprising that the same kind of casual antisemitism found elsewhere in the alt-right permeates the Androsphere as well. (It should be said, though, that many in the Androsphere are Christians, and my remarks here would not apply equally to all.) After all, if the Jews are resented for their firstness, that firstness is the system of insights that ruins the unself-conscious freedom of the Alpha, i.e., an earlier and equally authentic and durable (and probably co-dependent) form of firstness. And, indeed, modern Jews bear some responsibility for the deconstruction of modes of firstness such as nationality, masculinity, and Western civilization. It might be better if the dialectic between the socio-sexual hierarchy and an ethics attuned to a wider range of possible resentments and that can therefore reach beyond the Alphas and even the Betas were to be internalized within all individuals rather than represented by differing ethnic groups in potential conflict. Maybe that will happen, if firstness is ever restored through a generalized immunity to the victimary. But we don’t get to choose how the dialectics of civilization take shape.

February 23, 2016

Production and Consumption; or, Modernity as Civilizing and De-Civilizing

Filed under: GA — adam @ 9:27 am

The question of whether to “privilege” production or consumption seems to have been definitively laid to rest—it was originally a Marxist inspired debate that became tangled and paradoxical to the point of incoherence when even Marx pushed the terms a bit further: the producer consumes in order to produce, consumption is a kind of production (of “labor power”), etc. While as an economic question, there may not be anywhere to go with production vs. consumption, as a political question interest in the question seemed to have faded because consumption has won the argument: who disputes that we live in a consumer society, that the consumer is king, etc.? But perhaps there are grounds for reopening the argument. I remember a brief debate on a Sunday morning talk show long ago (in the 90s, I suppose) between Patrick Buchanan and George Will, in which Will made the seemingly airtight case for free trade by pointing to the lower prices it made possible. Buchanan interrupted him with the assertion that “we are not just consumers, George,” but, rather, workers and citizens. And “worker” (producer) does seem to be far more conjoined to “citizen” than does “consumer.” Of course, Will’s point was true for the working class as well—perhaps even more importantly true for those who gained access to all kinds of previously unavailable consumer goods from outlet stores like WalMart due to trade with and investment in Third World countries with far cheaper labor. But that doesn’t settle things, if that trade and investment costs at least some of those WalMart shoppers their jobs, and if the independence, self-respect and community participation that comes from having a job are “goods” to be place in the balance against those purchased at Wal-Mart.

If we return to the mapping of American classes by the ArchDruid blog I have now referred to a couple of times, the argument for consumption is an argument for the salaried classes, and the argument for production one for the waged class. Of course, plenty of salaried employees are “productive” (engineers, technicians, etc.) while plenty of the waged are “unproductive” according to more Marxian criteria, while also catering more to “consumerism” (say, baristas at Starbucks). We will never be able to make these terms stay in one place. If we accept a little metaphorical stretching, though, we might be able to say that the salaried classes are comprised of those who differentiate themselves from each other and other classes through their consumption, while the waged classes express class solidarity and resentment towards the higher classes through their consumption. The consumption of the waged, that is, resists the consumerism of the salaried aimed at generating differences, and references a productive identity grounded in physical labor, or physicality and communality more generally. Other than the massive exception of immigration, and the possible exception (of which I am skeptical but willing to be proven wrong) of rejiggering international trade relations, I don’t think there is much that politics can do to support the productivist consumerism of the waged.

But, it is easy to say (it must be, because I see leftists saying it all the time), contrary to these sentimentalizing stereotypes of the working class, the waged are more likely to be obese, more likely to have loose morals and living habits (more divorce, more children out of wedlock, more cohabitation, etc.), to be drug addicted, on welfare and disability, and so on. To the extent that this is true, it seems to me to support an argument regarding the destructive effects of consumerism on the waged in particular. The disciplining of the working class over the past couple of centuries in Western societies has been one of the great subjects of the social sciences, the arts, and entertainment: there is no more familiar pop cultural cliché than the closed-minded and repressed majority group (white) worker who ultimately wreaks some kind of terrible destruction on himself and others. It doesn’t seem to me that too many people have thought to ask what might happen when the disciplining stopped, or stopped working. Even a rearguard action aimed at restoring this discipline along with even a somewhat, or provisionally, improved employment environment is worth the effort—first, because the more pessimistic analyses might be wrong; second, because it might buy us some desperately needed time.

But the sidelining of the “productive” or industrial working class is a side effect of much larger developments—if the workers have been shunted aside by the investors and ignored by the salaried, it must be because they were neither particularly indispensable nor a force to be reckoned with in the first place. The overall trajectory of Western capitalism is towards fewer and fewer people producing for more and more people. I have recently seen the proposal for free education made (by whom, I can’t remember—maybe all the way back to McLuhan?) on the basis of the following calculation: if you send a thousand children to school for free it will pay for itself because at least one of those thousand children will create something that will support the other 999. If that’s not exactly true, it certainly represents the general direction in which we are heading. (Which would mean that the class of “innovators,” too small, apparently, even to rate a mention by ArchDruid, are in a way more important than all the rest.) This means a very high (perhaps very specialized, but the capacity for specialization at a high level itself requires intense disciplining) level of discipline is required for a few but little or none is needed for most. Of course, we can’t know in advance who those few are, so it will make sense to keep up disciplining for most or all, at least until aptitude tests can sort out the probabilities (which is by around first grade already, isn’t it?), but what will be the motivation to sustain the notion of disciplining oneself for a 1/1000 chance of success and usefulness? In this context, all the contemporary conflicts over the American worker are a distraction. Here, in fact, we may have one of Marx’s predictions, the one, in fact, that was the basis of his communist optimism, that has come true: if producing goods, even luxury goods, is so cheap and requires so little labor, the only thing that prevents everyone from having plenty without doing much or any work is the system of private property. Wouldn’t a situation in which, say, cars cost 5 dollars to make, but since it is automation and the elimination of workers which makes them so cheap, there are no jobs, even those which pay 1$ a year, so no one can actually afford the cars, be absolutely ridiculous?

According to Austrian economics, there can never be “real” unemployment (that is, employment not caused by government imposed mechanisms such as the minimum wage)—in other words, there will always be someone who wants something done for which they are willing to pay that 1$ a year. In the long run, that may be true, but there is no guarantee regarding the kind of jobs we’re talking about—if the only work available is brushing the dust off the shoulders of rich men’s coats, we may have a free and even prosperous society, but not one with much dignity. These are extreme examples, of course, but that’s the best way to bring larger trends into focus. We could say that people will get smarter and more will be capable of handling the advanced programming and designing work that will be the genuinely “productive” work in such an order (perhaps it will be considered necessary to employ eugenics), but there’s no reason to assume they’ll be enough of that work even for the highly intelligent. The highly intelligent, though, might at least be expected to find stimulating ways to spend their time—others will have to be provided with ever more stupefying modes of entertainment. Surely many of them will become dangerous—perhaps the tiny productive ruling class would have to live behind high walls.

The more immediate problem is addressing the resentments that result from bad and often malicious policy making, for sure, but ultimately by economic and technological developments that are beyond anyone’s control and yet might well inflate those resentments beyond any conceivable remedy. When you see assertions like “American manufacturing jobs have been cut to 1/3 of their previous level since NAFTA” it’s easy to forget that many of those jobs would have been outmoded by now anyway. Even granting they were “lost” to China et al, if they had stayed here automation would have just been accelerated, perhaps costing lots of other jobs as well. There’s no reason to assume that “manufacturing” and “industry” were anything more than a couple of centuries transition from agriculture to information.

To propose solutions to these problems would be to make oneself look like a ridiculous futurist (by 2050, flying cars will shuttle us from our floating, solar-powered dwellings to…). The solutions will have to be proposed and struggled over (and, mostly, staggered towards) by those confronting them. For now, we can try to observant enough to notice everything (all the norms and institutions) that is likely to be shaken loose as we proceed. But we can also stay focused on defending civilization, always a complicated matter, as civilization is itself intrinsically experimental. In any given practice, association, institution or discipline, we are always on the verge of either adding or subtracting an increment of discipline. We can resist the subtraction and promote the addition, even if we don’t quite know what for or for how many—the “base” or “constituency” here comprises those, certainly a minority, who find self-discipline intrinsically liberating and a source of other liberations (moral, intellectual, economic, cultural). But this approach involves defending the terms upon which such determinations can be made—that is, it involves keeping “social justice” at bay. Aside from all the reasons we can easily bring to mind for resisting the victimary, a more neglected reason is that only by pulverizing the anti-discrimination ideology can differences emerge and flourish—sexual differences, ethnic, national and racial differences, for sure, but also, simply, differences in style, interest, talent, risk aversion, tolerance for novelty, etc. Among the opportunity costs of the victimary are surely all the forms of association and cooperation, and all the ways of designing living and working spaces and communities, including the ways of facilitating the fuller participation of the less intelligent and less talented, that might have been invented if the victimary censorship module had been shut down (and we didn’t have to pretend that differences in intelligence and talent were irrelevant or non-existent). How much energy has been drained by the anxiety over the fear of discovering that one has in fact been (or inadvertently will be) racist or sexist in some hitherto unknown way—and not just over the past 10 years, but over the past 50 or so, because the societal mobilization to hound the “prejudiced” goes back at least that far. (It’s interesting to look back at what the visionaries of the 60s, like Buckminster Fuller, had in mind for us, plans they expected to come to fruition within a couple of decades. Were they just fantasists, or did social priorities get disastrously misaligned? Perhaps a nationalist, alt-right position can get the best of all worlds—support both civilization and the working class here and now, while opening some space for the transformations that will make these problems disappear—to be replaced by other problems, surely.) Which is, again, to say that destroying the victimocracy is the problem of problems—only by solving that one can we even hope to take on all the others.

February 20, 2016

Fighting PC

Filed under: GA — adam @ 6:39 am

David Gelernter, in the course of explaining the appeal of Donald Trump as the anti-PC candidate, offers an excellent diagnosis of what he correctly calls “the biggest issue facing American today.” Gelernter would have us dispense with the euphemistic “political correctness” and refer to the threat as “invasive leftism or thought-police liberalism or metastasized progressivism.” So far, so very good. He goes on to point our the depredations carried out by “invasive leftism” and its devastating effect on our very ability to engage in discourse, and, therefore, ultimately, to think: about the military (because social justice dictate gender equality, regardless of preparedness); about terrorism (because we can’t identify Islam and Muslim as the source); about history (because the past can be seen as nothing more than the depository of today’s hated oppressions, with the few exceptions of those “ahead of their time”). He points out how institutions and policies like the IRS, the EPA and affirmative action are informed by vicious and bizarre stereotypes about whites, Christians and traditional industries—that, again, go unquestioned, in any vigorous way, by anyone, including Republicans. Gelernter says a bit more, and could say much more, in particular about crime (racial disparities in the commission of which lead to campaigns to treat punishment as a form of racism) and the uses of gender equality (Title IX) to impose Stalinist style inquisitions in sexual assault cases at colleges across the country. He could have mentioned the real “elephant in the room,” immigration, which cannot be respectably opposed because that would imply a preference for “types” of people already here over those to come (and would then presumably retroactively privilege the earlier over the later comers among those already here). (Perhaps Gelernter’s own obeisance to PC constrains him?) He even points to the class content of PC, which leaves the “privileged” or salaried and investor classes with plenty of room to maneuver while sharply constraining (and demonizing) the waged, working (especially white working) class.

After all this, though, all Gelernter has to say is that the Republican political candidates should “fight” PC. As for what they would be fighting it in the name of, he only gestures towards “the old-time American mainstream.” As he correctly points out, “even Trump has just barely faced up to it.” But the old-time American mainstream didn’t prevent the emergence of “metastasized progressivism” in the first place, and the reason might be that it shared too much with it—indeed, what else could that progressivism have metastasized from, if not constituent elements of that mainstream? The truth is, you can’t argue about abuses of the civil rights legal and political inheritance without being forced to disentangle what from that inheritance is worthy of preservation. And you will then find—and I suspect conservative politicians and pundits recognize this intuitively—that, aside from simply ensuring every American citizen the right to vote, nothing from that inheritance is worth preserving—not the body of law, and not the anti-prejudice, anti-discrimination, blank slatist ideologies that have come to protect that body of law. Once you say that businesses can’t discriminate on the basis of race, gender, etc., you must then answer the question: since, once it’s illegal, no one will tell us that they are discriminating, how can we tell? You can either sort through the minutiae of each individual case, with all the local and personal idiosyncrasies each case drags along with it, or you can simplify things by just saying that if 20% of the population in a specific area belongs to a specific group, if you have only 10% of that group among your employees, the burden will be upon you to prove that you are not discriminating. The choice will be very easy to make.

All of “PC” follows from this arrangement. The lies, the hysterical denunciations, the atmosphere of terror—everything, because the proportions will never line up according to the non-discriminatory model, so in the end every policy advanced, every word officially uttered, must tend toward an effort to explain that failure, apologize for it, target scapegoats for it, promise to remedy it, prove that it is being remedied, and so on. Who is ready to reject the entire model—in policy terms, to roll back almost all of the “achievements” of the civil rights era? No one anywhere near power today. So, the invasions and metastasizing and thought-policing will continue until more tectonic shifts take place. And they can’t really come from anywhere other than an unlikely alliance between a large, dissident minority with the salaried , professional classes and the white working classes. The working class can fuel the revolt, but only the more “disciplinary” classes can dismantle the legal and ideological apparatus and defend the primacy of the project or the inquiry over social justice.

February 18, 2016

They Must Be Represented

Filed under: GA — adam @ 9:43 am

According to Marx, in his 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, the peasants of France, even though they were the vast majority of the population, “cannot represent themselves; they must be represented.” The peasants were scattered, barely, if at all, literate, mired in prejudice (“rural idiocy”). It seems to me that we could say something similar about the white working class represented by Donald Trump (indeed, the fact that no one has thought of referring to Trump as a “Bonapartist” shows that we have become illiterate in Marx), albeit for some different reasons: the white working class is obviously quite literate and plugged-in, sensitive to the way they are represented in popular culture and thrown bones by politicians whose real interest is in more affluent or boutique constituencies. The problem with the white working class is that their resentments have no clear object, there is no clear way to remedy or defer them; and, at the same time, those resentments are not a particular threat to anyone either—no one needs to be afraid of the white working class. They are pretty well boxed in.

An article on the subject in National Review on the topic (Trump’s success has led the establishment conservatives to take a fresh look at this strange beast) suggests I should revise my estimate of the percentage of the population represented by the “wage earners” from my “Immigration (and then some other things)” post down to 40% from the 45% I had there. That just reinforces my point that, on any question where all the other classes are aligned against the wage earners (even if through indifference), the wage earners will be powerless to impose their preferences. This includes the more symbolic preferences, because the kind of straightforward, unapologetic patriotism and America-firstism that resonates with the working class requires an overwhelming cultural consensus to be sustained, and we simply don’t have that any more.

Most of those preferences are incoherent, anyway—how is any president, even in conjunction with a sympathetic or compliant congress, going to “bring manufacturing jobs back to America”? Any attempt to keep American companies in the US, or to encourage foreign companies to come here will get mired in even deeper layers of cronyism, incompetence and inefficiency (along with further infringements on the rights of small businesses and independent contractors) than is already considered intolerable by those in revolt against the “establishment.” Also, for decades it has been recognized that the line between American and foreign, when it comes to companies and consumer goods, has become irremediably blurred: is it more patriotic to buy a Toyota built in Tennessee or a Ford built in Mexico? Making America a more attractive site for manufacturing means eliminating unions, which, even in their currently shriveled state, are a source of pride and solidarity for millions of American workers. The idea of making more nationalistic trade deals is even more hopeless—I’m fairly certain that the unanticipated consequences will considerably outpace the intended ones. The logical conclusion, which I have seen drawn by one writer on the VDARE site, to the insistence on making preserving American jobs the nation’s primary imperative, is to resist automation altogether, a position I don’t yet find it necessary to refute. In other words, Trump’s promises and bluster in all these areas are pure BS.

But there are two issues where the working class resentments are directly actionable: immigration and Islam. The government certainly can eliminate illegal immigration, cut legal immigration, and forbid entry into the country by Muslims. Or to put it another way, if it can’t do these things, that is, if it is literally incapable of bringing manpower and technology to bear effectively on these purposes, there is absolutely no reason to believe it capable of doing anything else. But these are precisely the issues that place the working class most directly in confrontation with the salaried and investor classes, represented by powerful forces within both major parties. Moreover, the welfare class, while not particularly interested in immigration or Islam, is represented by the Democratic party, which is extremely interested in increasing the welfare class through immigration policies. (Polling regularly shows sizable majorities—65-70%—in favor of ending illegal and restricting legal immigration, which is why the amnesty bills regularly floated so hopefully by bipartisan blowhards are always dead in the water, but politicians sympathetic to or hoping to benefit from this majority probably assume—rightly, I think—that the numbers will go down dramatically once the actions needed to expel illegals are set in motion and exposed relentlessly by the national media. Maybe down to about 40% who have the stomach to see it through. There’s good reason to assume, then, that the expulsion of illegal aliens will be another quagmire, this time played out in our major cities throughout the country.)

But the white working class must continue to be represented, however boisterous, uncouth, vulgar and at times flailing, buffoonish and nasty that representation must be, and not only by Trump, because in the areas of immigration and Islam the vital interests of the working class coincide perfectly with the conditions of survival of the American nation. And this makes perfect sense if, indeed, the white, “Jacksonian,” working class is the core of the American nation. It’s also not surprising that these two issues bear the enormous weight of the central political questions of the day: nationalism vs. globalism and republic vs. empire; freedom vs. statism; the victimocracy vs. the normalization of firstness. Mark Steyn, who often follows these struggles through the prism of the question of free speech, which has been forced upon him over the past decade, has been observing recently how tenuous the default assumption in favor of free speech has become. He chronicles how, time and after time, the once uncontroversial claim that “we all have a right to our opinion” is met with hostility and incomprehension. It has come to seem more obvious that there are all kinds of things people shouldn’t be allowed to say. I think there is even a larger problem behind this capitulation to a regime of speech rules: the absence of credible role models. Parents, however good and caring, are increasingly unable to show children how to navigate a social and moral order that is foreign to them. Politicians, business leaders, sports stars, celebrities and once honored historical figures come virtually pre-debunked. It may be that the current craze for erasing symbols of an unacceptable past is both an attempt to make explicit this state of affairs and establish some set of rules, however bizarre, to replace it. Even apolitical young people seem desperate to have the rules under which they are expected to operate laid out explicitly, as the tacit understandings that once made a looser regime possible have been demolished. The white working class, its belligerence, the constant intrusion of a world of manual labor and intractable necessities and the implacable judgment of physical reality it represents, its unreconstructed gender roles, its untutored, spontaneous opinions regarding violence, still grounded in an older idea of “frontier justice,” its blinding, unbearable whiteness, all make it an irresistible depository of all those fears of a world that cannot be bent to a therapeutically approved homogeneity. Which also means it’s a container of all those differences we need to remember in order to continue thinking in such a world.

February 9, 2016

Nationalism and Biopolitics

Filed under: GA — adam @ 2:07 pm

Feminist critiques of liberalism (like, e.g., Carole Pateman’s) hit on a crucial point: by pointing out that the presumed or iconic liberal subject was the bourgeois male property owner, with no wife and children or, for that matter, no parents or previous childhood, to shape his entry into the marketplace, such critiques revealed liberalism’s horror of biology. Indeed, the feminist critique can easily be taken in directions that would make feminists themselves extremely distraught (thereby revealing their own liberalism): the findings of the “manosphere,” which has undertaken a systematic, auto-didactic (because the history of Western social and political thought offers about zero help here, and contemporary educational institutions offer far less except, perhaps, informally) study of sexual relations and hierarchies, shatter the assumptions of equality and rationality undergirding liberalism and feminism alike. These critiques of liberalism can easily forget that liberalism didn’t address such issues because there was no need to, as such essentially tribal relations were still visible and, in fact, constituted the tacit background out of which liberalism sought to carve a new space. But the critique becomes even more important once we consider that, at a certain point (already in the Enlightenment, but accelerating dramatically from the early 20th century on) liberalism decided not just to erect a free system of exchange over the more primitive quasi-tribalist relations but undertook to extirpate those relations altogether and install the liberal program at all sites, public and private. At that point, liberalism’s distancing of itself from biology becomes an assault on biology.

The acceleration of liberalism’s biophobia is certainly in large part due to the biopolitics of Nazism, and the consequent recoil against all attempts to bring racial differences into politics. Liberalism’s autoimmune response to the catastrophic eruption of biological differences that had been assumed marginalized was to transform itself into a self-enclosed, self-reproducing and viral system of rights that automatically excludes any claim tainted by the biological—and, like any good autoimmune system, attacks the carriers of such claims. The anathematization of nationalism and populism in liberal thinking is an expression of this autoimmune response: nationalism is not quite as deeply seeped in biology as race and sex, but there is always a racial component and sexual politics to nationalisms; while populism, likewise, reaches into that amorphous region where emotions, impulses, mimetic contagion, taunts, unspoken commonalities, and so on cannot be kept from contaminating the approved discourse of “policy,” “principles,” “accountability,” and so on.

Once the biological is let into politics, the liberal (and post/ultra-liberal, e.g., feminist) fears, there is no telling where it will end. The rule of law must be kept free from, while somehow authoritatively regulating, biological matters. The American constitution limits the “executive branch” to certain powers, and only those powers—but what if some surge of nationalism and/or populism demands an override of those limitations? That surge will almost certainly prove stronger than the categorical imperative embedded in the Constitutional provision, and why should nationalism respect such limitations—why should the question, “is it Constitutional” out-rank the question, “what’s good for the American people”? Also, biology has been overriding legality for a century already, as the government has made it its business to manage the care of the elderly, the raising of children, marital relations, food and medicine and now all of health care along with the micro-managing of the most intimate of sexual relations. Constitutionalism has apparently found no way—or shown no desire—to resist those developments. So, maybe the problem is liberalism.

While we can find no self-limiting principle in the victimary (or on the left more generally), though, we certainly can with nationalism. The nation itself, and its relations with and differences from other nations is the first such principle. Even the most horrific form of nationalism imagined by liberals, the physical expulsion of unwanted (less “national”) populations, would confront the plurality of the world as a limitation: let’s say some American nationalist of leftist nightmares decided to expel the Jews, the Mexicans, the blacks, or even the leftists themselves. Where to? Forcing such groups to simply leave and become refugees would create an enormous burden, first of all on neighboring countries, and thereby poison crucial relations. (Of course, expelling Mexican citizens who are in the US illegally would be a different matter—in that case, indeed, it is the Mexican government and nation that has acted unjustly by encouraging illegal migration, even while many Americans are, of course, complicit.) Well, maybe that leaves no choice but genocide, one might say—far easier said than done, though, without the context of a hot civil war or a policy of conquest that makes possible the allotment of faraway territories for carrying out such atrocities.

Furthermore, nationalism transcends while incorporating the tribal. At the very least, nationalism entails the free movement of all nationals through the national territory, and the free adoption of any profession by all. In other words, nationalism presupposes at least a minimal market, and that that market is protected from the imperatives of tribal honor. Insofar as the nation remains, at least to some extent, a nation of tribes, but also of cities, towns and neighborhoods, various forms of local patriotisms will ensure resistance to premature or abusive attempts to establish, preserve or restore national unity from some national center. Of course, such attempts will be made, and sometimes they will succeed, and sometimes to the benefit of the nation as a whole. (I don’t think many Frenchmen and women would prefer [or could even imagine] a France in which French was the language of the educated in the capital, with the rest of the country speaking a few dozen or so different language, even while acknowledging the cultural loss in the “expropriation” of the speakers of those languages.) But the resistance will still ensure that national ‘incorporation” is conducted in such a way as to allow the margins to adopt and inflect in their own ways national imperatives. Anomalies will always remain, though, and it’s good that they do. Nations benefit from a bit of irritation, a touch of idiosyncrasy.

Finally, every nation will have its professions, or its disciplines, and will want to take pride in those disciplines. Every real nation, and, therefore, every real nationalism, is civilized, that is. The nationalism of the nations lawyers, journalists (or bloggers), and academics (or bloggers), doctors, etc., can, of course, allow them to be swept up in pathological nationalist contagions, and lend their expertise and influence to shameful deeds. (One consequence of embracing nationalism is accepting that politics cannot be deployed so as to abolish human sinfulness—there is no ultimate answer to “what about…?” type questions.) But they (as can non-experts proud of the disciplines) can also insist that in this nation, among this people, the rule of law, professional standards, and dissemination of the truth will prevail, even in the face of the mob. And this would include, of course, for Americans, an insistence on Constitutional primacy (and the entire system of legal thinking and institutions it entails), insofar as the Constitution has become far more than a legal code, having worked its norms and its language into American discourse and culture at all levels. But American nationalism cannot wait for a constitutional “restoration” before it addresses, in some necessarily rough ways, the biopolitics of immigration in particular. Indeed, a nationalist restoration (evidence of which would be that more than one presidential candidate would be simply taking for granted in casual utterances that America should be for Americans) is a precondition for a constitutionalism that would be something other than a Trojan Horse for a transnational progressive (“human rights”) legal regime. To take a concept from the cultural left, that restoration would require the “circulation” of nationalist “bodies”: nationalist masculinities and femininities, ethnicized and maybe even racialized nationalisms, popular and elite nationalisms, and so on. The US has some of this—but we had a lot more of it 30 years ago, and even more 60 years ago—and such overt expressions of American pride and uncritical belonging and celebration have been increasingly seen as shameful. It is the attempts to make those expressions shameful that should become shameful.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress