GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

October 16, 2016

The Constraints of Sovereignty: Value and Order

Filed under: GA — adam @ 7:20 pm

Eric Gans, in his reading of the Illiad in The End of Culture, identifies the conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon as one between “value” and social order. “Value” here simply means being more valuable to someone, for some purpose, under specific conditions: Achilles is the best fighter the Achaeans have—you’d want him on your side more than you’d want anyone else, and if he’s on your side you want him out there in the field, as much as possible. Gans argues that war is the first “market” in the sense that it is an overt testing of values. Achilles is certainly a far better fighter than Agamemnon, and his quarrel with the king of the Achaeans is over his not being paid at his market value (Agamemnon takes his fairly won slave girl). It’s probable that Agamemnon is better at what he does than Achilles, who doesn’t seem to have the patience or organizational or diplomatic skills to build and sustain a military coalition, but it’s also possible that others could do what Agamemnon has done as well as or better than Agamemnon himself. Agamemnon is simply the one who has done it—he represents order, even if his value, taken alone, is less than other potential candidates. The poem regards the resolution of that conflict, which is to say the resolution of the resentment of one whose evident value (no one disputes Achilles’s superiority) goes unrecognized in the name of social order.

We can sharpen this antagonism, and thereby make it more interesting and instructive, by further considering Agamemnon’s value. The poem doesn’t focus on him, so it’s hard to tell how good he really is at what he does—the war has dragged on a long time without much progress, but maybe that’s not his fault (still, how, exactly, did he expect to get past that wall?); when the victorious strategy is finally arrived at, it was Odysseus’s idea, but, presumably, Agamemnon saw its value and approved it—and, moreover, was wise enough to trust and seek Odysseus’s judgment and advice; meanwhile, back home Agamemnon is being cuckolded and his murder prepared, but who could have seen that coming? Agamemnon’s value is testified to by the fact that Agamemnon initiated and sustained the project, and, perhaps, was the only one who could have done so, insofar as it was on behalf of his brother Menelaus, making him a highly motivated party while still not necessarily incurring the skepticism Menelaus himself might have as leader—assuming, of course, one sees the project as valuable one, or at least one worth concluding once started, or once a certain threshold of investment has been reached. So, one could say that Agamemnon is just as valuable to this project (if he were to be killed, could the Greek armies have been kept together?) as Achilles, maybe even more so, in which case we would have a clash of two values: skill or excellence in the primary activity, on the one hand, and initiative and organization in a collective project, on the other. The poem provides no internal resolution to this conflict—Achilles returns to battle for his own reasons, that have nothing to do with any reconciliation with Agamemnon (although his determination to avenge Patroclus does suggest ways of manipulating and governing the man of one-sided excellence).

Sometimes Achilles will be more easily replaced, sometimes Agamemnon—and it’s not always possible to know in advance which will be the case. So far, we are dealing with what de Jouvenel called “additive” actions, in which a group is gathered for a specific purpose, upon the accomplishment of which (or its failure) the group disperses. What happens when we speak of what de Jouvenel called “aggregates,” that is, groupings meant to continue in existence over an indefinite period of time, and which therefore develop institutional structures, rules, and inertia—how does the relation between value and order stand there? The existence of the aggregate tends to make sustaining the aggregate the primary value, which means being a team player on the part of the skilled and talented individual and preserving, enhancing and where necessary reforming the institutional structures and rules on the part of the sovereign. But this just resets the entire conflict—an insufficiently cooperative but brilliant individual who gets marginalized by the team, and a more energetic leader impatient with sclerotic institutional structures and cautious, complacent leadership comprise the elements of an insurgency, especially in times of great danger or opportunity.

The implication is that the greatest failure of and danger to the sovereign is the failure to recognize value, and the greatest responsibility is therefore to cultivate and respect value. The difficulty in doing so is illustrated by the fate of the Biblical king Saul, who promoted the extremely valuable David and in doing so unintentionally named his own successor. The market is public: David’s successes were universally acknowledged, his charisma universally experienced. The problem, then, is to identify and elevate but also contain value—something even an over the hill monarch without any of David’s charisma has to be able to manage. In a longstanding political order, with clear guidelines and traditions for succession, this wouldn’t seem like much of a problem—until an especially inept ruler, under particularly trying conditions, and faced with capable challengers emerges and makes the problem far worse than in less established orders that still remember the virtues required for their founding. The problem is to both create and contain markets for value—this problem, grounded in the inevitable differences in value between individuals and groups, is the main, maybe the only, constraint on sovereignty.

Within this market, the sovereign must be both primary “producer” and ultimate “consumer.” The sovereign produces, not simply “order” (which only he can provide, the demand for which is universal, but which is only experienced as a need when it may be already too late to supply it), but central power—and both Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault were right to insist that power doesn’t repress but produces, creates and articulates social relations that did not exist previously. Central power sends forth to the margins the obligation to return to the center the full measure of honor, duty and investment conferred by the center. This power structure represents the accumulated results of past “markets” (honors, duties and properties have always been rewards for some service to the center, i.e., the recognition of some value) and in turn frame the ongoing market—new bearers of value must respect and become literate in the existing forms of “social capital” while showing an ability to innovate where necessary. The sovereign must support both the established terms and guardians of the market and the often vulnerable innovators—perhaps the most difficult part of ruling. He does this by being an active and informed consumer of these values, by compelling the guardians of the disciplines to regularly present candidates for honor and promotion that the sovereign (with the help of advisors) must be sure to be capable of judging for himself. That “must be sure to be”—that is the fundamental constraint on sovereignty.

We can perhaps discern this tension between value and order in the powers spawned by (but also creating) unsecure power—all those billionaires that Reactionary Future has been researching, creating foundations that in turn created disciplines like “political science” and “international relations” undoubtedly thought themselves more qualified to rule than the demagogues and bureaucrats whose only skill was rising the greasy pole of the party machine or gaslighting the populace—after all, these were men who had created the means of transportation, production and energy for the modern world. The values they produced as businessmen certainly had their recognition, but not the value they represented as word creators. Today’s tycoons are far more arrogant and with even greater reasons to consider themselves superior to mere political authority, illustrating the primary challenge of any attempt to restore sovereignty in the forseeable future. Those possessing unrecognized value will seek recognition by doing “privately” what they feel the sovereign should be doing publicly, and they will promote precisely those values they believe they possess: expertise and intelligence, certainly, but also freedom from parochialism, tradition and convention. They will try to produce the people capable of recognizing (“consuming”) their value. In doing so they impose their “market” on all others, which means the work of reaction includes resetting the upset markets, perhaps beginning with the market Chateau Heartiste (leading “producer” in the “manosphere”) asserts is primary: the sexual market. Without power behind you, you can’t resist power, but the protection and restoration of “primary” markets implies a tendency towards central power. By “primary markets,” I mean those to which the application of law can only mean violence and distortion. Law can smooth the exchange of commodities; it can’t smooth the processes of seduction, family formation or the reliance on the more talented and trustworthy members of a group—de Jouvenel’s “additive” acts. At best the law can help clean up the fallout when these activities go very wrong. These spheres depend upon tacit rules that can never be adequately formalized. Ultimately central power will have to mediate the relation between these markets and the powers of the disciplines in the way sketched out above, but central power thrives on tacit dimensions that take for granted a permanent order of things—it is centrifugal power that finds it necessary to keep uprooting them.

October 14, 2016

Saturating Sovereignty

Filed under: GA — adam @ 2:38 pm

Where is Trump’s extra-republican force, asks Reactionary Future. Why not take advantage of the increasingly “interesting” Trump campaign to sketch out a preliminary answer? First of all, it’s the Alt-Right, as I have suggested in recent posts. Still, that’s not nearly as comprehensive as the sovereignty inflating or saturating forces RF has been pointing to over the past few posts—“raw power,” coming from the heights of society, unconcerned with fictional “constitutional limits.” Trump doesn’t have such forces now, of course—virtually all such forces are currently ranged against him, pulling out all stops (no doubt disregarding constitutional limits, or the impropriety of collusion between current administration and a candidate’s campaign, the media, global corporations, etc.) in order to destroy him. He needs to win the election to have any chance of starting to gather such forces. Can he win the election, if all dominant social forces are opposed to him? Is the formality of an “election” still a limit the extra-republican forces determined to defeat Trump will not trangress? Maybe it depends on what counts as an “election” –all those efforts on the part of Democrats to make it impossible to determine who is actually voting may pay their dividends this year. How far will they go to shove Hillary Clinton down our throats—would they actually refuse to let a victorious Trump assume the Presidency? If not, why not—what constitutes the limit on their side? There must be some portion of the divided and distributed power up top that must be respected, and cannot abide an absolute and obvious suspension of the electoral process. (Unless there’s not—but first let’s deal with the more “optimistic” scenario.) Well, there would be a start—what we might call the section of elites essential to maintaining power but unwilling to completely set aside the facades protecting that power. It might be a very small or rather substantial section, and Trump might start to find his extra-Republican forces there, if he chooses to get to work on restoring American sovereignty by turning on the most egregious of his opponents (using more or less legal means to expropriate them), beginning, to fulfill a campaign promise, with the “Clinton machine”—a restoration of the center will then start to pull the peripheral into its orbit. The more Trump makes an example of one or a few, the more others will wish not to be made examples of. Of course we can’t know how likely Trump will be to think along these lines, but his very interesting speeches give cause for hope—he does seem to have raised his addiction to tit-for-tatting to a veritably planetary scale.

Our example suggests two other possible scenarios: one, Trump wins and is prevented from taking power (we can group other possibilities under this category—he takes office and a bi-partisan super-majority immediately initiates impeachment proceedings; the election itself is obviously stolen, etc.); two, he loses undisputedly. First, then, the elite coup against Trump. This would be an extremely risky step, and all the sections of the elite would not be equally supportive; no doubt, some would not be supportive at all. So, you start to gather your extra-republican forces there, among those in the elite who would themselves feel insecure and threatened by their fellow rulers. If in the first scenario, Trump would have legitimate control over the armed forces, who would no doubt obey his commands, in this scenario, the funding of parallel military and governmental forces, drawn largely from those in the national forces appalled by this violation of the Constitution they have sworn to uphold, would be necessary. It’s reasonable to assume Trump himself would take command of these forces, unless he is imprisoned or killed in the coup; it’s hard to imagine an obvious replacement, but no doubt emergent figures will present themselves. In this case, conditions will call for extreme measures, and once you choose one side or the other you will be in no position to refuse to carry out those measures. Obviously, a decisive defeat for Trump creates the least hopeful scenario—it’s hard to see why he wouldn’t be completely abandoned by the elite in its entirety, left to be devoured by all the forces he has offended. Then, it would be question of rebuilding “Trumpism,” no doubt against the Republican party, which will probably not be in very good shape when this is over, no matter the outcome. All of us on the alt-right, neoreaction and absolutism would try to influence that process, and ultimately elites marginalized by the ruling Democrats who now find the GOP useless might take a look at the proceedings. There will be many crises to analyze and intervene in from a “post-Trumpian” perspective.

So, what does this mean for how we talk now, given the unprecedented opening both the turn of Trump’s campaign and some serious rethinking regarding our institutions on the part of some right wing thinkers provides? Sovereignty is the central issue here, more explicitly than it has ever been. This is completely thanks to Trump. All of his speeches now focus on the lack of sovereignty—the global elites rule, the Washington political class rules, the corporations rule, the media rule, other countries making donations to the Clinton Foundation get a seat in the musical chairs version of sovereignty. Of course, Trump thinks the American people should rule, but should he get elected (or have to struggle for legitimacy if he is cheated) it will be his sovereignty he will have to defend against threats. We can translate the sovereignty of the American people into the subordination of all those false sovereigns into elements of a genuine sovereign—if that happens (including the elimination of some false sovereigns that serve no real purpose at all), it will be better than the American people ruling, for the American people themselves, first of all. Look at all the names of those exercising some degree of illegitimate sovereignty Trump mentions in his speeches, and simply ask regarding each one: what would it do if it did nothing more than serve its function in such a way as to serve and preserve sovereignty? Sometimes the answer would be “nothing,” the implications of which are clear enough, but quite often the legitimate aims these institutions advance in an illegitimate manner within a system of divided power can be recouped within a power-based analysis and a restored sovereignty. We can call this the saturation of sovereignty—filling the central power with all social activities, from top to bottom, proposing for them all an “intentionality” within the system. Even Trump’s method of attacking and stigmatizing, and then negotiating, coopting and subordinating, can be instructive here. The ban on Muslims entering the country morphed into “extreme vetting,” he asserted at the second debate—the provocative, polarizing, perhaps unworkable but readily intelligible formulation is made suited for institutional management, without necessarily losing any of its effectivity. The identification of an egregious violation of sovereignty—a constant influx of Muslims, a knowable number of whom are bound to radicalize each other and Muslims already here, approved by no one knows who and no one knows why—is converted into a subordinate part of a proper sovereignty, reduced to rules and a hierarchy of functionaries. So, Trump’s extra-republican forces are out there, but they don’t know it yet.

October 10, 2016

Central Power and the Originary Configuration

Filed under: GA — adam @ 10:37 am

Reactionary Future has been addressing the liberal prioritization of culture and religion over politics, as pursuant to the absolutist rejection of “bottom-up” in favor of “top-down” understandings of order. It is not that new ideas lead to a new consciousness which spreads (because they are good ideas? Because they “reflect” some new social developments that just “happened”?) throughout society, finally leading to adaptations in political institutions. The more economic understanding is that the new ideas are promoted by secessionist powers in their exploitation of unsecure power and as part of their own struggle to resecure power on their own terms. It follows that the very idea of separate spheres of life, like “culture,” “religion,” “art,” “philosophy,” is itself a product of these power struggles—more precisely, the ascendancy of liberalizing power centers that want to eliminate all mediation between the state and the individual. The very ideas of freedom of religion and free speech, while apparently protecting individuals from the state, in fact ensure the domestication of what gets marked as “religion” and “speech”—ultimately, as we can see more clearly now, making it possible for the state to define such terms according to convenience and “weigh” them against other rights and “state interests.” This reification of separate spheres advances the centralizing dynamic of state power that keeps breaking up “middleistic” formation and leaves individuals bare in their confrontation with the state. The replacement of the “thick” articulation of ritual, place of worship, ecclesiastical authority and doctrine by the “thin” gruel of “personal belief” is not just the alienation of homogenized individuals—it is a power play aimed at breaking up solidarities and power centers that interfere with the direct application of state power on each and every individual.

Among these separate spheres, though, would have to be counted “politics” and “the state” themselves. These concepts would themselves be abstractions advancing divided power by treating the institutions concerned with ruling as slots to be filled by whoever can seize power by whatever mechanisms are available. This would further mean that the sacred, the invisible, the ethical, the moral, and the political are all bound up together in more primordial categories. For the originary hypothesis, this more primordial category is the sacred center. Humanity is founded around a sacred center, an object that has inflamed such desire as to require a sign of deferral to prevent the self-immolation of the group. Everything is there: “politics” (the nascent form of authority); “art” (the oscillation between the sign pointing to the object and the desirable object itself); “philosophy,” or at least thought (following the relation between center and margins in one’s fellows); and, of course, “religion” (supplication to the “command” of the central object that prohibits appropriation). The approved myth of modernity is that all of these forms of human life, bundled together in an enslaving mass of irrational rules and authorities, all get separated out and “cleansed” of their irrational and oppressive dross. So, reactionary absolutism must rearticulate them in terms of the sacred center.

One way or another, sooner or later, one member of the community accumulates enough wealth, which also means enough trust and reciprocal obligation, so as to place him beyond the egalitarian customs of the community and (which is to say the same thing) beyond a symmetrical gift exchange with any single member of the community. His relations are now with the community as a whole, as he comes to control distribution. This Big Man now occupies the sacred center, which for the primitive community was occupied (generally) by the animal the community relied upon for food and defied and assumed a relation of mutual obligation with. Now, the sacred center is a central power, and there is not anything, to this day, which can replace or transcend central power, which is therefore a presupposition of civilized life. Everything in the community circulates through this central power which, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean that the occupant of the central position takes it upon himself to manage the daily activities of community members. It just means that everything takes place through more or less direct reference to the central power—everything is allowed or required by that power. So, far, we don’t have the separation of spheres—art, religion, thinking, politics are all bundled up in the community’s relation to the central power, an arrangement that continues even as the Big Man becomes the emperor ruling over vast territories and very different communities.

The ancient empires obviously lasted a long time—several thousand years in some cases. Whether they ever had to fall and be replaced by new civilizational forms is a moot question (we could ask the same question about the primitive communities, which lasted far longer). The very thing that sustained them for so longer is probably what made them so vulnerable to new conditions—the absolute asymmetry between the God Emperor and any other human being. Anything the emperor does that departs from the traditionally derived prescriptions governing relations between center and margin would have to be obeyed unquestioningly; but it would also have to be virtually unintelligible, immediately generating other power centers, the guardians of tradition. No initiative is possible, and no real thinking, other than studying the stars in order to predict and control future events. The two best known breaks with the imperial tradition are the monotheistic revelation in ancient Israel and the discovery of metaphysics in ancient Greece—which are, of course, eventually synthesized in Christianity. (I don’t know enough to say if perhaps a more gradual version of this break occurred with Confucianism in ancient China.)

The best way of understanding this break is as the recovery or remembering of the originary scene or, more precisely, what Eric Gans calls the “moral model” derived from the scene. The only way to renew social order once the limits of the imperial model are grasped is to imagine spaces enabling the possible co-presence of all human beings. Metaphysics imagines a space of inquiry into eternal truths in which any disinterested individual could participate; monotheism imagines the origin of all human beings from a single creator. The moral model, in my view, need mean nothing more than co-presence and reciprocal acknowledgement—we need not and, in my view, had better not, project back to the originary scene any of our own assumptions of “equality.” Once this recovery (which cannot be unrecovered) is made, the moral model is, we might say, mapped onto our model of any particular social order. The relation between the originary moral model and the existent social order poses the problems which later get taken up in terms of the relation between the “city of God” and the city of Man,” and finally, “state” and “religion.” The problem becomes more manageable if we think of it in originary terms.

I don’t know whether the emergence of monotheism and metaphysics involved the interventions of new power centers under conditions of unsecure power, as per the absolutist model. If so, they were the rare interventions that actually provided the means for securing power. Faith and philosophy have certainly caused problems for the state, because they make an a priori claim to loyalty to something higher than the state—the truth transcends the word of the ruler, and the commands of God those of the ruler. But first of all the absoluteness of the truth and the global sovereignty of God provide models for absolute sovereignty. At the same time these absolutes frame absolute sovereignty, and provide it with a mission to spread the truth and imitate God by preserving and elevating the ruled. No ruler could possibly rule in explicit defiance of the truth and God (or, more broadly, the moral model). So, the ruler obligates himself to the moral model and makes himself its guardian. This justifies absolute rule, or the occupancy of central power by the ruler, because only through the singleness of power can the singularity of the moral model become the fundamental social guide, embedded in all social practices. Any critic of the ruler would have to present himself as authorized by the ruler to help ensure the conformity of a given institution to the terms of the moral model constitutive of that institution.

So, all post-imperial institutions are predicated upon the assumption that all institutions provide for co-presence and reciprocal acknowledgement of all participants—and that sometimes this assumption does not coincide with reality, which therefore requires reform. Continual exploration of the forms of co-presence and mutual acknowledgement that transcend the particular social order is necessary if the institutions are to be examined in terms of their conformity to those forms. This exploration embraces all of culture, which thereby has its “function” in relation to the central power. All that matters to the sovereign is that this exploration, these inquiries, be conducted in such a way as to engage vigorously the traditional materials in which forms of the moral model have been inherited, to freely test the implications of those materials for existing institutions, and to suggest reforms (where necessary) of those institutions in a way that recognizes their founding in the moral model. The ultimate test of these inquiries is whether they help enhance the sovereign’s co-presence with and reciprocal acknowledgment of the people. The sovereign will be the ultimate judge of whether that’s the case, but we can assume that he will judge more favorably the more the inquiries have been transparently directed towards the edification of the realm. There may be many different faiths and rites, then, just like there may be many schools of art, types of entertainment, and modes of scientific and technological endeavor, but the tendency will be to bring them all into relation with each other as various explorations of the infinitively generative moral model—there may be an ongoing overlapping of undifferentiation, differentiation and dedifferentiation of “spheres.” And if you don’t like the phrase “moral model,” because “morality” has been one of those concepts carved out of prior unity and privatized, we can call it the “originary configuration.” We keep trying to further approximate the originary configuration, which is to say maximal co-presence and reciprocal acknowledgement, but the only way of doing so by continuing to center the center (derive information, instruction and intentions from the center) and thereby turning it into a source of information regarding how to further approximate.

October 8, 2016

The Prospects of Sovereignty

Filed under: GA — adam @ 1:59 pm

It is worth noting, about a month before the election, that the central issue in this election happens to be sovereignty. All of the issues Trump really cares about—immigration, trade, wars focused on the fortunes of other countries—summed up in his “America First” slogan center on the question, in his words of whether we are going to have a country or not. In other words, will America be a sovereign nation? All of Clinton’s passions, meanwhile, are negative answers to Trump’s question: we will not have a country, because the core of that country is deplorable and needs to be undermined by the global economy, overwhelmed by immigrants, harried by violent minorities, restrained by international law and the international community, and humiliated by “anti-testosterone” sexual politics (I have not heard anyone remark that Clinton’s comments on Trump’s love of beauty pageants in the first debate was essentially a casual demonization of normal male heterosexual desire—how creepy it is to like being around beautiful women! [I can now add a note about the latest video revelation, in which we find further confirmation of Trump’s heterosexuality, and his pleasure in discussing, graphically, with other men, his attempts—in this case, failed—to bed beautiful women. Perhaps Hillary’s health care plan will include free neutering services.]). Trump’s campaign, whatever the outcome of the election, has done us the enormous service of revealing that the vast majority of American elites are inalterably hostile to American sovereignty, and filled with hatred towards anyone who would assert it. The symmetry is striking: Trump is opposed by the entire Republicrat uniparty, precisely what would need to be replaced by an absolutist restoration. Who knows what intriguing measures even the ultimately liberal Trump might be driven to in the struggle to preserve his Presidency?

In that case, Trump’s campaign should provide us with a preliminary template of the rigors, dispositions, and, of course, political decisions, that would be required in restoring sovereignty. Let’s begin with this—the restoration of sovereignty would require heroes, and Trump is a hero. I remember at the beginning of this campaign a lot of people saw his candidacy as some kind of publicity stunt meant, perhaps, to help the ratings of his reality TV show. Nobody says such things anymore because of the obvious fact that he’s far more likely to lose everything as a result of his perhaps quixotic struggle to restore American sovereignty. Does anyone doubt that if Trump loses, he will be ostracized from the business communities he has frequented, boycotted by companies and countries, probed incessantly by Hillary’s IRS, foreclosed upon by banks wishing to remain in the administration’s good graces, and so on? Even if he wins, much of this is likely to happen, along with a rising up of the entire D.C political class and perhaps a bipartisan impeachment. In other words, we have a man risking everything to save his country. When was the last time we could say that about a candidate for high public office in the US?

Most obviously, restoration will involve control over the country’s borders, and rational, accountable decision making regarding who enters and who stays. Not a single decision made about immigration and naturalization in recent decades has been made in a way anyone could actually account for, other than through clichéd gestures toward “diversity” and the supposed economic benefits immigration brings. The post-1965 mass immigration has been one of the most hostile acts by a ruling elite against the people it rules in recent history, and the whole thing will have to be audited. Trump is barely scratching the surface here: if the processes and interests involved in pushing massive legal and illegal immigration on Americans were brought to light it would be necessary to review the entire enterprise, and determine how many citizenships have been obtained fraudulently in recent decades. And, of course, this might embitter relations with countries to whom we might be returning quite a few people (but if we are supposed to want them, shouldn’t those countries be eager to have them back…). The broader point is: restoration would itself be a kind of war against the crimes against the sovereignty of American that led to the summoning of the forces of restoration in the first place.

Restoration implies returning things back to the way they were before, as well as setting things right. The alt-right provides a blueprint for rolling back the victimary—and it must be rolled back all the way for sovereignty to be restored. The alt-right, on one level, is just an aggressive, uncompromising defense of normality—the normality of in-group affiliative preference, of masculinity and sexual difference, of love for country and its traditionally admired accomplishments (monuments of wealth, conquest, association, etc.), of freely observed group differences. The alt-right is what normality would be if pressed, every minute of the day, to defend its right to exist in the face of an obsessively hostile abnormality. Beyond that, just as a king leading a conquering force would have to divvy up the rewards to those who have fought alongside him, the restoration of sovereignty would have to give existing institutions—universities, the media, corporations, and so on—to those who have been marginalized under the liberal order and helped fight back. That means that Trump’s addiction to tit-for-tat responses to all attacks, even the most trivial insults, is both his greatest flaw and the most perfect embodiment of the restorer, who will have to assure all his followers that every blow will be met with a commensurate counter-blow. And that all the victorious blows will be commemorated and institutionalized in the restored state.

America First in relation to the world means the sovereign being a systematic filter between the country and the world. For starters, dual citizenship will have to be eliminated: you’re an American or you’re not. The internal market can be made much freer (no minimum wage, no unions, drastically reduced regulation, no corporate taxation) in exchange for capital repatriation—corporations, too, can be made to choose whether they want to be American or global. Tariffs will slow, but not eliminate international trade; corporations can set up shop within the US by paying for the privilege of accessing the American market, or through bilateral arrangements with peer countries. Since global media corporations like Twitter, Google and Facebook have shown themselves subservient to foreign governments and choose political leftism over fair dealing with their customers at every point, there need be no hesitation in subordinating them directly to centralized political control. Trump’s much derided threat to sue the media for lying about him adumbrates this possibility, and the breathtaking pace of change advanced by the victimocracy allows us to, take a leftist slogan, “imagine the impossible”: just as people can in an instant be expected to accept that they must allow teenage boys in their daughter’s locker room and Syrian refugees in their neighborhood, they will tomorrow accept that, of course, Google must tailor its search parameters, Twitter must undertake to slow the spread of certain tweets, and Facebook must deliver information as requested by the sovereign. The emphasis should be on suppressing lies and broadcasting truth, but questions of public safety and public morality will shape decision making as well. These companies promised so much, and betrayed it all, so few will weep when they are brought to heel.

A restored sovereign will undoubtedly be natalist—it will openly encourage and reward large families, it will promote entertainment presenting such families as the norm, and offer no protection to other “lifestyles.” Sticking to such a policy would probably be enough to neutralize the feminist and sexual diversity agendas. No-fault divorce will be eliminated, and discrimination in favor of married couples (in housing, employment, accommodation, etc.) allowed and encouraged. The implications of a restoration for schooling are obvious enough, but religion seems to me tricky. Absolutism requires transcendental support, but the sovereign can’t simply invent a religion and the existing ones are all completely unsuitable for a restored sovereign order. I think the sovereign would have to immediately make a list of clergy from all religions who are forbidden to preach and minister, because they have been complicit in the crimes of the previous regime. Then some kind of meeting must be convened including the trustworthy and penitent clergy to lay down some ground rules. Input can be encouraged, as the clergy will know best how their beliefs and doctrines can be brought into accordance with the terms of restored sovereignty. There’s also no need to be hostile to all new forms of spirituality—perhaps a renewed sovereignty and social order will release new spiritual energies. All this will be easier as more and more people realize that free speech, freedom of religion and the rule of law have become meaningless concepts, as social media, universities and corporations censor and ban right-wingers, Christianity is increasingly subordinated to various anti-discrimination and sexual deviancy agendas, and courts become shameless enforcers of elite opinion. At some point it will come down to the simple question of who will take care of us?

But all of this means nothing without reactionaries undertaking their own long march through the institutions. Of course, alternative media and social media institutions will need to be built, and schools and (far more difficult) universities and businesses. But all this pales in importance compared to the real institutions of sovereignty: the military and police forces. The tops of these institutions are already highly politicized—Obama has carried out a Stalinesque purge of the top military brass, which now parrots his moronic talking point that climate change is our main national security concern, and we can see how the FBI has been coopted by the Democrats—while the ranks themselves remain right wing. The only way restoration will ever be possible is if a large majority of those charged with defending sovereignty are prepared to do so in defiance of political orders and the orders of their own superiors. Here, we’re obviously beyond anything conceivable to Donald Trump, but addressing directly the following he has inspired, by which, of course, I mean the alt-right. When driving home from work, I switch back and forth between Michael Savage’s and Sean Hannity’s shows, respectively. Hannity is still on the endless true conservative loop, going on about taxes, regulation, smaller government, etc. Savage realizes there is a war against very specific targets—white men, masculinity, patriotism, what blogger Brett Stevens calls the “Amerikaners.” All the small government crap doesn’t matter anymore. “There’s Obama’s army” Savage exclaimed when discussing the Charlotte riots—that’s exactly right. Don’t be surprised if we start to see “necklacing” soon, or some distinctive American equivalent. And don’t be surprised to see an ex-president Obama emoting plaintively on their behalf, even while deploring the lengths this racist society has forced them to go. The only way a resistant force can be built within the armed forces is on the basis of race—the logic is not all that different than that of prison gangs. This is wasteful, because sovereignty can only tacitly acknowledge a preferred racial pattern, it can’t base its legitimacy on it—which means those movements would have to be curtailed, and we can imagine they won’t want to be curtailed. But you won’t recruit cadres ready to restore sovereignty on the basis of lower taxes and less regulation—much less brow-knitting over abortion. You will only be able to do it by drawing on people who are cornered, who understand the war against them in the most pointed way, and can discipline themselves for the long term (and the rapid and aggressive politicization of these institutions currently underway means it will take a great deal of discipline and long-term thinking). Racial thinking can bind people together in an imagined history going back hundreds or even thousands of years, and it will provide ready means of identification and shared experiences—already we can see that the alt-right has an extensive system of symbols and passwords that allow one to signal to others one’s contempt for the pre-approved BS. The truth is that the anti-white dimension of the globalist/leftist juggernaut goes far deeper than any “welfare state,” “regulatory,” or “meritocratic” issues can get at, and requires for its intellectual dismantling a more sophisticated hermeneutics that relies upon in-group tacit agreement. It need not involve enmity towards other groups, even if that’s likely—it’s a question of harvesting high levels of trust. Outsider allies should respect that when it comes to choosing sides. The more invested such high trust groups are in sovereignty, the better, even if that kind of trust cannot in itself guarantee sovereignty. At any rate, any sovereign will want to replicate, to the extent possible, such prior investments in restoration in the restored sovereignty itself. Those who entered early and contributed significantly should only be excluded from the power structure for extremely compelling reasons. A large part of the attraction of a genuine sovereign, as things are falling apart, is the promise that people will be far more likely to get what they deserve—so, the foundational sovereign acts should exemplify that promise by giving those who ensured the restoration their due.

October 6, 2016

Absolutist Sovereignty

Filed under: GA — adam @ 9:25 am

Bertrand de Jouvenel, in his historical account of the rise and metastasization of state power, On Power, finds in the origin of absolutism the very defect of unsecure power that leads to the pathological dynamic of divided power seeking more power that absolutist theory decries. The assertion of absolute power by the earliest kings (in Europe, at least, but de Jouvenel sees the model as universally applicable) resulted from their monarchical projects being stymied by the aristocrats they relied upon, who retained their land and men and therefore power (even if it was land and power nominally owned and actually distributed by the king). The king, then, elevates the subordinates of those aristocrats, makes them subject to his authority alone, and thereby marginalizes the aristocrats. This is the high-low alliance against the middle, repeated over and over again in the career of state power, because then, of course, out of the newly elevated subjects emerges a new middle, which again becomes a threat and so must be undermined by a new levy of the “people.” In the end, you get Black Lives Matter as a battering ram against the police, local governments and the white middle class.

The point, though, is that in de Jouvenel’s account there never seems to have been a time when power was “just right”—the aristocrats were, undoubtedly, short-sighted and egotistical and less capable than the king, at least on some occasions, of understanding the interests of the national community as a whole. It is ridiculous that a single aristocrat can go on strike and thereby make addressing some crisis (e.g., a rebellion or invasion) impossible. The initial appropriation of absolute power, then, was not arbitrary and was probably even justified—and probably more likely to succeed than waging war on recalcitrant aristocrats. But this certainly creates a problem for absolutist theory: where, exactly, are we taking our model of good governance from?

We could pinpoint theoretically and no doubt discover historically moments when the pre-absolutist king called upon his aristocratic loyalists, who in turn called upon their dependents—and all the calls were in fact answered. The earliest absolutisms would themselves have been modeled upon, and attempts to recreate, such events. Whatever made sovereignty reducible to the king’s will is the model for absolutism. We don’t have to assume a single miraculous moment of harmony uniting all wills and strata of society—this would have happened often, perhaps regularly. Aristocratic resistance to, say, 15% of the king’s projects might have been frustrating enough and, indeed, sometimes dangerous enough, for the king to take measures to end his dependence on the aristocrats, but that would still mean he attained 85% compliance. Even if the numbers are lower, the point would stand: unity of will was obtained, repeatedly, so we can figure out how.

It seems obvious that the king would have been most successful in mobilizing his subordinates in their hierarchical order when there was universal acknowledgement regarding the urgency of some shared threat, or potential advantage. Such acknowledgement can never be universally intense, but enthusiasm must be high enough for the skeptical to yield to that pressure rather than risking going it alone in dissent. In retrospect, it might be discovered that unanimity was attained when it was less necessary, and not attained when it was more necessary—this is what would have initiated the career of power, in de Jouvenel’s sense. In other words, if the king takes unanimity when he can get it, rather than obtaining it when he really needs it, he is not preserving the unity of sovereignty. So, we need to pinpoint our model even more precisely: what we are looking for is the king wisely “calling in his debts” when the future of his realm most depends upon it.

Absolutism, then, as political theory and method, aims at having and keeping those debts in place permanently, and acting at each moment as if the future of the realm depends upon every decision. The cost-benefit consequences of obedience or resistance must be present to all at all times—the entire social order must be permeated with signs of these consequences, which will be modulated continually: where more benefits are available, costs can be downplayed, but if benefits become limited, the costs must be highlighted. But costs and benefits must always be framed in terms of the largest cost and benefit of them all: the destruction or preservation and enhancement of the realm itself. It is easy to see why kings would have judges issuing judgments in the name of the king, merchants selling goods in the name of the king, teachers promoting students in the name of the king, and so on. Nor are these formulas any more tedious, or less given to being renewed by fresh commitments, than the clichés we live by in liberal democracies. It’s really just a way of reminding us that we must be doing what we do for the good of society, which is no vague phrase because we know where that good is located.

The idea here is less to “assert” absolute power than to simply assume the absolute power already located at the social center. There is a social center because society is founded on deferral, which assumes some central object of desire; the social center, in a civilized order premised on an upward spiral of discipline, is whatever is taken to guarantee that hierarchy of discipline. The sovereign power, then, embodies that guarantee, and the way to embody that guarantee is to issue tokens of permission and promises of protection to all the disciplines, i.e., all institutions that seek to reward discipline of whatever kind and ensure the return in kind to that form of discipline (which might be money for the merchant, recognition for the soldier, a circle of fellow inquirers and supply of students for the scholar, etc.). And then, of course, review the terms of the permission regularly and honor the promises. This is the way to govern with and through the middle, rather than against it—and this might be much easier now than it was for the original absolutist monarchs because the property and power of the disciplines are now more obviously social in character than was the land and serfs of the lord. Computer operators and doctors can’t really go it alone—they need protection and therefore permission. Of course, as de Jouvenel would also insist, all these conditions of absolute rule operate as constraints on the ruler, who, to that extent, is less than “absolute.” But no one could ever have claimed that an absolute ruler was absolute in any metaphysical sense—a massive earthquake could destroy his rule, just as much as political mistakes can. His rule is absolute in the sense that nothing in the social order is outside of that rule, and if there is something outside of it he’s not really ruling—there is a descriptive, almost axiomatic component of this formulation, but also a prescriptive one: to the sovereign, let nothing assert itself outside of your grant of permission and promise, but also grant nothing you are not prepared to guarantee; to the subject, unless you wish for disorder, assert nothing outside of that rule, but also assert and cloth yourself in the rule.

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