GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

February 19, 2017

States Temporary and Permanent

Filed under: GA — adam @ 8:10 am

It seems to be pretty widely acknowledged (even by neo-cons like Bill Kristol and Matthew Continetti if only, in the case of the former, to applaud it) that elements of the intelligence services are currently seeking to undermine, perhaps overthrow and destroy, certainly weaken and humiliate, the President of the United States. Indeed, the CIA doesn’t seem to bother concealing their intentions—maybe they consider it preferable that they be known. This is a very instructive situation for those of us who think the only serious political question is “who rules”? It has always been fairly evident that the broader institutions of American life, including the intelligence and security agencies cloaked in secrecy but also corporations, NGOs, government bureaucracies, political parties and the media, constrained in informal ways the choices available to American voters (not to mention to those they elect). It’s not quite as obvious as the mullahs in Iran, who simply strike names off a panel of candidates, but the effect is the same—does anyone think, for example, that the ruling class would have allowed Jessie Jackson become president in 1988? (2008 was a different story, of course, but even then the candidate needed to be somewhat less obviously bristling with resentment.) What the election of Donald Trump reveals is that the system is imperfect, and this revelation has generated another one, as the elements of the state that normally leak and subvert behind the scenes are now close enough to the surface to be seen by everyone. Outing the fundamental power relations of the United States is one of the many things we can be grateful to Donald Trump for.

Now, the problem is how to analyze all this. Absolutist theory gets taken out for a comprehensive test drive here. First of all, let’s decide which of the two most common names to work with, or at least start with: “deep state” or “permanent state.” The problem with “deep” is that these agencies are deep until they’re not, and right now they seem to be brushing right up against the surface, perhaps ready to breach at any moment. “Deep state” is more ominous sounding, and perhaps better for a fictional thriller, but “permanent” is both more accurate and more conceptually acute. Why is there a permanent state? The ongoing, centuries long centralization of power. Modernity is a high-low war against the middle, a demolition ball taken to all mediating institutions and traditions time and time again. This we already know from de Jouvenal and de Tocqueville. To insist on rights is to demand a state bureaucracy capable of harming those who interfere with the realization of those rights—rights inflation inevitably follows, since that allows for the continual aggrandizement of the state. The same analysis is less often applied to foreign affairs, but if power blocs within a given (powerful) country aim at increasing their own power by undermining mediations, why wouldn’t the same principle apply internationally—why not agitate for the same rights abroad, fund and support those agencies that can fight for them within that country, form new alliances with government, para-governmental and private agencies in other countries and across regions that make you a leader in rights exportation? If the agents we get behind turn out to be dangerous and antagonistic, the same dice can be rolled again, leading to further destabilization. And when the destabilization lets loose international forces of chaos and mayhem, why not impose vast security controls that further subvert mediations and allow you to play one end off against the other: if you don’t want a flood of Muslim immigrants and refugees you are a racist who needs to be controlled and ostracized; but, now that we have more and more Muslims, we also need extensive surveillance, infiltration of police forces into everyday life and the general fortressification of the society. When you put it this way, it attributes too much coherence and cohesion to the ruling powers, but this is just a shorthand way of describing what goes one through inter and intra-institutional rivalries.

Again, all of this is obvious, and I’m a little embarrassed to be providing this summary of analyses one can easily find in dozens of places these days. The really interesting question is who rules? First of all, let’s point out that the permanent state seems to be comprised of an endless and incalculable series of temporary states. When a judge tells President Trump he can’t do something as routine as prevent migration from some hell holes, and Trump complies, clearly Trump is not sovereign. Is the judge, then, sovereign? Not yet—the administration appealed to the Ninth Circuit appeals court which could have, theoretically, overturned the lower judge’s decision, and reinstalled the travel ban. Is the Ninth District, then, sovereign? In overturning the lower court, would they have restored Trump’s sovereignty? But let’s not forget about the Supreme Court, which has certainly acted sovereignly on a regular basis for decades now. What has allowed them to do so? If a president defies a Supreme Court decision, would he then be sovereign? It would depend, I suppose, upon whether he then gets impeached and removed from power—but, then, would it be the Court or those who remove him that is sovereign? (Let’s go a step further—I just read on a fairly popular blog that the CIA and the Mossad are involved in organizing pedophile rings that are used to blackmail US politicians into doing the bidding of the American and Israeli secret agencies—so, is the guy with the videos of Western politicians in compromising positions sovereign?) Should we determine sovereignty based on public, obviously consequential decisions, or do those decisions depend upon other decisions made less publicly, maybe years ago? What, then, is the temporality of sovereignty—would a decision made, say, in 2000, that still controls decisions made now, confer sovereignty on whoever made that decision? Until when? Does sovereignty run out at a certain point? And let’s keep in mind that absolutism locates sovereignty in a single individual—not just, say, the Supreme Court, or the CIA, but whoever decides within the Court or Agency.

It’s interesting that the popular sense that there’s someone out there who’s really running things seems in agreement with the absolutist position. There is an ongoing competition involving finding the level of conspiracy that’s underneath the level your interlocutor has uncovered. This is inevitable as long as informal power is so at odds with formal power—the disjunction between formal and informal power encourages everyone to find new levers of power they can pull or expose. Obviously, trying to identify who’s pulling each and every lever, and each and every lever behind the other levers, or who is responsible for this decision made here right now, is hopeless. Our outrage at divided power (at someone else really pulling the strings, at no one but ourselves realizing that everything else is just a puppet show) only makes sense on the assumption that undivided power is possible. Our entire moral framework presupposes absolutism. Even if one just says, well, let’s just divide power in a formal and controlled way, between the legislative, judicial and executive, one necessarily concedes competition regarding influence over each of the branches, constant attempts to subvert one branch on behalf of the other, ad infinitum. All the powerful and the powerless they mobilize rush into the gaps between different power centers. What can one really say about a congressman who essentially has donors write the legislation he introduces—that he should have written the entire bill himself, without input, based on his own opinions and knowledge and sense of right and wrong? Or that he should judge the bills introduced by others, each on its own terms, based only on an independent reading of the bill as a good or bad piece of legislation in itself? That’s the implicit model of representative democracy, but it’s absurd, if for no other reason that there is no independent position from which one can think through a piece of legislation on one’s own, or even through free conversation with one’s colleagues in the chamber. It only makes sense on the anarchistic liberal anthropological assumption of naturally free and rational individuals, which means it doesn’t make sense.

We must assume, if we are to put intellectual order in the morass of divided power, that someone is or could be attempting to restore unified power. It’s impossible to imagine pure chaos—somewhere there must be counter-entropic forces. Anywhere someone tries to constitute a bounded space, with a central focus and purpose, and exclude anything that would distract or dilute that focus or purpose, and bring all the available means to bear upon sustaining that focus and achieving that purpose, we have such an anti-entropic force. The “middle” which de Jouvenal sees assailed by the constant pincer movement of the high-low alliance, is comprised of such anti-entropists. Even someone who’s vocation was subverted by the latest round of high-low modernist centralization will seek to reconstitute the space on internally coherent terms—that is, to restore the center. The middle exists in business, in government, in the police and military, education, families, neighborhoods, etc., even on the level of a disciplined self. But the “size” of the middle varies—the proliferation of contrary intentions attributed to the center indicates a shrinking middle, while a burgeoning middle would reward more unified power at the top. Simply pointing out the consequences of divided power in the form of eccentric, hidden and transient sovereign acts is itself an act aimed at growing the middle. But, of course pointing out such consequences can just as easily be a way of multiplying power (it never takes long before someone who says “it’s all really about ________” is rebuked by someone claiming that “that’s what they want us to think so we don’t see that___________”), intentionally or otherwise. We could say that even the most subversive are, in their own way, trying to steer us towards some kind of secure power. Is Trump, on balance, a stabilizing or destabilizing force? Is some destabilization necessary in order to arrive at enduring stability? How much, what kinds, and how do we know?

We can find the answer in the temporality of sovereignty. To borrow from Kant, we should act as though our decisions today would be sovereign for the forseeable future, would build upon a permanent tradition of absolutism that will only increase. I can write this little blog post under the assumption that its way of thinking will enter (no doubt through myriad indirect routes) the decision making process of some sovereign decades from now, and help tilt a particular decision he is agonizing over towards the slightly better one, ensuring the permanence and singularity of his sovereignty. I would, in that case, be sovereign for that moment, would I not? But, since I of course have no way of knowing anything about that sovereign, the conditions he faces, the forms and extent of his responsibilities, the only way I can exercise this sovereignty is by feeding forms of thought that enhance the capacity for deferral, discipline and paradox, and therefore by embedding these capacities in my own thinking. Assume the middle is shrinking at an accelerating pace, to the point of near extinction (give free play in the imagination and actual inquiry to the wildest historical possibilities of constant turnover in sovereignty); assume, further, that this condition can be dramatically and immediately reversed by the right word, here and now (all the historical demons could be dispersed and their forces recouped by the right person in the right place doing the right thing)—try and find that word, and you might be exercising some form of future sovereignty.

Now, contrast this with another hypothetical form of futural sovereignty, drawn from Moldbug’s demonstration that today’s dominant social ideas were the dominant opinions of the Harvard (or maybe he says Stanford) faculty in 1960, implying that the Harvard faculty in 1960 exercised sovereignty that extends to today. Let’s say there is some Harvard professor right now developing a constitutional argument to the effect that only disabled black lesbians should be qualified to be president (do you dare declare this example an absurdity?). And let’s say that 50 years from now, a Supreme Court decision implements this opinion from a Harvard professor in 2017. How would the sovereignty exercised by this professor differ from the one I just proposed from an absolutist standpoint? My thinking, on my hypothesis, enters the thinking of the future sovereign, and my temporary sovereignty enhances his permanent sovereignty—in a sense, in his studies and inquiries, that future sovereign periodically cedes sovereignty, within a controlled space, much like a delegation, but with the capacity to surprise and displace current intellectual habits, to representatives of the intellectual traditions he knows himself to rely upon. The Harvard professor’s sovereignty generates more divided power and confuses sovereignty—who, after all, will be sovereign in that future order? Not whichever disabled black lesbian happens to be president at a given time, because she must be subject to ongoing redefinitions, across various disciplines, of the meaning of “disabled,” “black” and “lesbian”; not the member of the Supreme Court who championed this innovation, because she will herself have simply let loose a stream of arbitrary discussions over whether, for example, degrees of blackness, disability and lesbianism should enter into the qualification of a presidential candidate, making all these concepts even more political, i.e., more attractive to those dividing power, than they already were. And certainly not the Harvard professor of 2017, whose brief moment in the sovereignty sun is immediately sunk in the watershed, contributing to no new order. At any rate, we end with a claim that should prove promising for “sovereignty studies”: in answering the question of “who rules?” one must account for the temporality of sovereignty.

February 16, 2017

Fathers and Sovereigns

Filed under: GA — adam @ 8:40 am

For Robert Filmer, leading figure in the absolutist tradition (and polemical target of John Locke), all rule is monarchical, and all monarchical rule is paternal. The legitimacy of absolute rule derives from God’s gift of the earth to Adam, who had absolute sovereignty over the earth and all who lived in it, including his sons, who had the power conferred upon them by Adam in his lifetime and by inheritance. All rule ultimately descends from Adam, even if we have long since lost track of the relevant genealogies. The first implication of Filmer’s argument is that paternal rule—rule by the master and possessor of a given property/territory over completely helpless and powerless descendants—is the model for all rule. The second implication, it seems to me, is more complicated: insofar as we are obliged to seek out the true sovereign—the actual descendant of Adam who should be ruling—but know that we will only ever uncover inconclusive traces, all power is held in trust against the discovery of the true heir, while being no less absolute for that (indeed, power must be preserved intact so it can ultimately be returned to its real possessor).

Now, there are two problems with this, one more obvious than the other. The obvious problem is that hardly anyone takes the Bible, much less its genealogies, literally anymore, so, we don’t believe there actually was a first man named Adam, who had the sons Cain, Abel, and Seth, etc. Filmer could presuppose the authority of the Biblical account of human history and pre-history, and his republican antagonists did the same—we can no longer do so. The second problem is that patriarchal rule doesn’t correspond to anthropological accounts of the earliest human communities, which were egalitarian, lacking any stable property rights, without any discernable distinction between rulers and ruled, and without families headed by a single, sovereign figure. I think that we can convert both of these problems into supports for a renewed and expanded version of Filmer’s Patriarchal politics.

First of all, Eric Gans pointed out in The End of Culture that “It is of great anthropological interest that the expulsion from paradise is associated with the founding of agricultural society, which is… the origin of social hierarchy, or resentment and of its moral transcendence.” This observation comes after an analysis of the story of the fall as a study in resentment, an experience Gans associates with social differentiation, which is to say the emergence of the Big Man and subsequent hierarchies. Adam is placed in a world and given a single interdiction, which he (through his—more subordinate—wife—and the “outsider,” resentful serpent) must violate in order to acquire the knowledge of good and evil, i.e., resentment towards those who are in “your” place and the need to control it. Filmer’s use of Adam as the origin of authority is justified insofar as Adam really a kind of synthetic version of the first father/king and the first to attain knowledge of the need for father/kings in a resentful world.

Indeed, moving beyond this (unforgivably simplified) analysis of Gans’s, the Bible as a whole can be read (I don’t say can only be read) as an ongoing protest of the pre-agricultural, nomadic communities against the ancient agriculturally based imperial mega-societies, along with the recuperation of this protest as divinely commanded moral constraints on the operations of power. The Israelite patriarchs are shepherds, not farmers, representing an emergent hierarchy that is never referred to as a monarchy. They are surrounded by kings (occasionally waging wars with and against them) with Egypt, of course, always looming in the background: the comparison between the contrasting ways of life and their intersections ultimately highlights the fundamental differences. We can see two different ways of transcending ancestor worship. Ancestor worship goes all the way back to the origins of humanity, with primitive hunter-gather communities mixing their human ancestors with sacred animal ancestors, but we can associate the worship of human ancestors with the tribal communities preceding the founding of monarchies in settled communities—first of all, city-states, which seemed to be the main social form of ancient Canaan. In the Biblical narrative we see veneration of ancestors but not worship—ancestor worship is countered by worship of a “portable” God who belongs to no one but revealed Himself to a wandering tribe. In the ancient city-states, and even more so in the gigantic empires, the king is the father of his people, and his lineage can be traced back to the gods in the city’s foundation myth—the ancestor worship of each family and tribe can be subsumed within this higher identity (which also entails the re-organization of local gods into an imperial/patriarchal hierarchy). Post-ritualistic patriarchal authority is established as a tributary of monarchical authority, which in turn models itself on the former. Filmer’s account requires a little modification, but essentially stands: since the emergence of hierarchy, no one has ever stood outside of patriarchal and monarchical authority, however divided. The memory of the originary scene preserved by the “nomadic” generates a moral model that makes it possible to argue for the goodness of monarchy, rather than simply the brute fact of its existence and the futility of resisting it. (I don’t mean to suggest that the earliest primitive hunter-gather communities were free of power or authority—there is always a sacred center and someone—such as a shaman—always represents that center, receives “communications” and commands from it. But there is no social differentiation and hierarchy, and therefore no established distinction between ruler and ruled, under such conditions.)

The main force of Filmer’s argument, as Reactionary Future has pointed out, is that it demolishes the liberal assumption of free individuals who somehow sprouted full grown ready to start homesteading and adding their labor to the products of nature. This is a critique of liberalism that feminists (like Carole Pateman) have taken up, to different (and never completely clear) ends. We all enter the world helpless and dependent, heirs to traditions, members of families and ethnic groups, subjects of states, with a sex, and so on. How can political theory not account for this? A more sophisticated version of liberal theory might point out that the individualization that Locke projected back into the state of nature is the result of a historical process of civilization, but this just confirms Bertrand de Jouvenal’s analysis of the workings of power: individuals become individuals as a result of the centralization of power which abstracts individuals from their social contexts and makes them directly subject to the sovereign center. Placing the individual at the center of political theory is putting the directly subjected individual at the center, while obscuring the real power constituting that individual. Any rights attributed to this individual are really mystified itemizations of the new forms of power unsecure sovereigns intend to exercise upon them.

The other direction for political theory is to turn our focus to central power, and the recovery of all the traditions pulverized by liberalism, now to be deposited in the central power. The securing of central power and the subordination of all other power centers entails making the sovereign heir to all the traditions inherited by its subjects. The sovereign would address his subjects as bearers of all these traditions, and would confirm their legitimacy in terms of central power—the traditions are legitimate insofar as at one time they has a sovereign stamp of approval. The sovereign would again be father of his people as the inheritor of all the previous sovereigns that made those traditions possible. This would be equivalent to ascertaining paternity. Foreign traditions can in this way be “naturalized,” as the sovereign builds relations with representatives of those traditions (e.g., the Catholic Church) and ensures that they are filtered through the means of confirmation and “certification” established by the sovereign. Even liberal traditions can be included, once they are recognized as traditions (e.g., legal traditions of treating people equally under specified conditions, for specified purposes) and not universal anthropological and political claims. Differences can be maximized in this way, including differences, such as racial, presently considered dangerous and taboo—there would be nothing strange or disturbing about groups organized along ethnic or racial lines and preserving and promoting their own traditions and even touting their own superiority, or, as genetic science advances and reveals differing aptitudes across groups, in finding one group specializing in one vocation, another in another. We would get into the habit of making requests of the sovereign in terms of traditional interests and historical contributions, and therefore in renewing those traditions. We would always be surfacing new and fascinating lineages, both ethnic and intellectual—much will be demystified and much revealed. Traditions would be clarified and made suitable for present habitation by purging them of the residues of divided power and sacralizing a line of founding and preservative events. Traditions would also be held in trust, as inquiries into lineages are made cooperative by a faith in discernable, recoverable, or at least reasonably hypothesized origins. Hostilities unleashed by uncertain power, and nourished by plausible but unverifiable claims of hidden power, will be abolished once power is transparent—and transparent in the languages of all the traditions of the realm. Nor need people be locked in the traditions they were born into, although this will probably remain the case for most—anyone so equipped and inclined will be able to take up intellectual and religious traditions, i.e., discover a new line of “fathers” which might supplement or replace his original ones. Such projects of discovery would represent a kind of disciplinary nomadism. Even ethnic and racial groups have some flexibility when it comes to “adopting” newcomers and even merging with other groups. Absolute sovereignty is not only paternal, but the font and guarantee of paternity, direct and indirect. Absolutism is a perpetual tribute to our collective liberation from resentment—the other can only have usurped my place if his access to sovereign power is arbitrarily and secretly privileged over mine, and clear lines of paternity from the top down means our “family names” directly reflect our specific relation to central power.

February 7, 2017

Power and Paradox

Filed under: GA — adam @ 10:52 am

In his Chronicle of Love & Resentment No. 531 (January 14, 2017), “Paradox and the Sacred,” Eric Gans reminded us of the centrality of paradox to all things human. Mimetic structures are themselves paradoxical: the model becomes the rival. All representational systems, all representations, are paradoxical—we construct the reality we refer to by conferring a significance it wouldn’t have in itself and yet which must precede us. For Gans, the paradoxicality of representation is tied up with representation’s constitutively ethical character—we represent in order to defer violence, which means we must at least allude to, as a possibility, that violence. In speaking about things in the world, we refer, directly or indirectly, to the shared attention that makes it possible for us to think about things in the first place. Even more, Gans takes the further step of identifying culture with the reconciliation of communities to the “paradoxical nature of the human.” In that case, we can proceed, in the interests of conceptual economy, to view all cultural forms as means of embedding the paradox of the human in the materials of specific human traditions, for the purpose of sustaining those traditions as modes of deferral.

Paradox is constitutive of power and sovereignty as well, a point of supreme importance for absolutism. Power is located at the center—whoever occupies the center is powerful. If we attend to some object that is both attractive and repellent (a source of desire and therefore danger), that object exercises power over us (it holds us in place, first of all). The power of the object is exercised by proxy by whoever has brought it to the attention of others in its specifically powerful form; whoever does this has disciplined himself sufficiently to see the object in a way others haven’t—as a novel source of power, rather than an appetitive object. This is what, in my previous post, I called “centered ordinality”—someone “re-presents” the object in a new way and that new way of addressing it is transmitted, shaped and “standardized” as it is appropriated by the group. In a primitive community (this is a way of defining “primitive community”) this power cannot be monopolized or formalized—it is seized and exercised opportunistically and provisionally, e.g., by shamans, or whoever is best or bravest at something in a given situation. Eventually though (and this is a way of defining “civilization,” or at least its precondition), the center is occupied by an individual who has been first enough times or enough ways to embody a more generalized pre-eminence: priest, warrior, elder all in one. Paradox, meanwhile, not only presupposes a center but generates centrality: insofar as, to follow Gans, the founding paradox is the self-inclusion of the representation itself in what it represents, the elaboration of a paradox is something like the continual generation of eccentric circles.

The paradox of power is that it is possessed insofar as others acknowledge that possession as preceding their acknowledgement. Power is both a priori and provisional, a location and its occupant. To imagine overthrowing the occupant is to magnify the location; attacking the location involves criminalizing the occupant and mythologizing the champion who would do the deed. We could all imagine the acts that would cause the possessor of central power to lose that power: he leaves undefended what he has pledged to defend, has transgressed the rituals he is anointed to preside over, he fails the community over and over in times of crisis, etc. We could imagine that none of this would make any difference in a community that maintains faith in the leader: his leaving the community undefended is a long term strategy for routing the enemy, or a way of saving the souls of the community members by sacrificing their bodies; his violation of ritual is a higher form of obedience to divine instructions; his failures are really those of the community, who must “redouble” their faith in their master, and so on. In this case, the community may cease to exist, as they would likely be conquered and enslaved, dispersed or massacred—and yet, they would leave deposits of new forms of paradoxical thinking that might yield fruit in a more complex order: sometimes bodily suffering must be undergone for the sake of the “spirit,” sometimes rituals do need to be renewed, sometimes short term failures need to be seen as necessary for long term success, and sometimes the members must confer the very strength they attribute to the leader. These fairly commonsensical maxims are embodiments of paradox—it’s not too hard to imagine communities for whom “no pain, no gain,” for us a tired cliché, would be astonishing and nonsensical.

We could also imagine that these failures and transgressions of the leader would be viewed more “realistically,” and the leader viewed in comparative terms alongside others who might do the job better—an “assistant,” or rival, or leader of some neighboring tribe or nearby empire. In this case, the group’s “faith” in their leader would be less “perfect” than in our previous example: they would be seeing the leader as occupying a position that transcends him, rather than identifying him with the position. On one level, this seems like the more mature and enlightened approach, and it would certainly prevent the suicidal behavior of the “naïve” community—at the same time, though, this approach implies a kind of ethics of suspicion of any leader, and could easily lead to the attribution of faults where none are to be found, leaving the community vulnerable to unscrupulous rivals of the leader, demagoguery, etc. This more “skeptical” approach to power would leave its residue in now familiar maxims as well, in this case regarding the abuses of power, the perils of ambition, and so on—but also to analyses and fantasies of a deeper form of power that can create a form of surface power radically different than the one we so resent. The more power we see flowing to and from the center, the more we see ourselves as constituents of power, essential and marginal, entitled and unworthy.

A “high” culture is one with a high tolerance for sustained paradoxicality, from which tolerance flows all of the intellectual insights that make moral, esthetic and historical knowledge possible: we are all sinners and yet/therefore we might all be saved; we are nothing and we are the jewel of creation; in terrible, soul-crushing defeats we find the seeds of future victories; in present victories lie the seeds of future defeats; the seemingly insignificant can be of great moment and what consumes us now might be forgotten tomorrow; and so on. Only central power makes this tolerance possible: we might hate, fear and even despise the sovereign, but we will only attain self-mastery by interposing between ourselves and any action predicated upon those feelings an awareness of everything the sovereign must know that we don’t and can’t, of the consequences of others, ultimately everyone, acting upon similar feelings, of the fact that all of us who hate, fear and despise the king do so for what will ultimately be incommensurable reasons, and so on. The more we imagine lapses and defects in sovereign power the more anticipated consequences of seeking to exploit those lapses and defects lead us to self-cancelling efforts aimed at supplementing them by contextualizing and recuperating their consequences within our own spheres of activity. If we do so effectively and properly, they will have turned out not to be lapses and defects after all. We donate our resentment to the center, so to speak. Only such an attitude toward central power allows for the social scene as a whole to be made present before one. As soon as you throw in your lot with those dividing power, who must present sovereign power as limited and parochial, and must therefore project some imaginary mode of sovereignty to be realized in a more perfect future, in which all the partial and scattered views somehow totalize themselves, you initiate a catastrophic lowering of tolerance for paradoxicality and hence of high culture. Insisting that the integrity of your particular position is an essential element of some body of knowledge to be collected impersonally and revealed in the indeterminate future leads you self-sanctify that activity and therefore to cultivate intolerance toward paradox.

To maintain high culture in the midst of a lowering culture, then, is to increase tolerance for paradox. Gentle, absolutist persuasion can consist of injecting little and yet lethal doses of paradox into paradox-intolerant strains of thinking. The liberals, leftists and progressivists, i.e., the anarchists, believe firmly in their own implicit version of an absolutist sovereignty, one that would smite with a flourish of righteousness the representatives, even dimly aware, of right order. That they are so certain about who is inside and who is outside, who is “decent” and who is a “Nazi,” without ever being able to identify the source of this certainty, is the great paradox of totalitarian anarchism. But how do you imagine the tiny particle of your own activity adds up to a future with fewer Nazis and more decent, tolerant people like you? If you can imagine it there must be an order that allows you to predict the outcomes of your activities—what is that order, then, and how is it sustained—how does your activity sustain, rather than erode it? If you can’t imagine it, why do what you do? Is there anything more than the tautology that lots of people doing what I do will lead to a lot more people doing what we do? There’s nothing more here than a virality necessarily oblivious to the paradoxes it produces in abundance—and full of hatred towards those who expose them.

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