Capitalism vs the Bourgeoisie

John Gray makes some telling observations about the debilitating practical paradoxes of the late-20th century right.

Summing up Thatcher’s outlook, [Charles] Moore writes of her “unusual mindset, which was both conservative and revolutionary.” It is a shrewd observation, but Thatcher’s reactionary nostalgia and revolutionary dynamism had something in common: the sturdy individualism to which she looked back was as much a fantasy as the renewed bourgeois life she projected into the future.

Once ‘sturdy individualism’ is dismissed as a fantasy, a horror story of some kind is the only imaginable outcome. If people are really too pathetic to take responsibility for their lives, what else could we possibly expect?

It has surely to be granted that anybody useless enough to be inadequate to the basics of their own survival, is scarcely going to exhibit the altruistic surplus value required to effectively take care of anybody else. Maybe God will make good the deficit, or — to plunge fully into feel-good superstition — ‘society’? The ultimate implication of Gray’s argument is that humans aren’t fit to live. (Which isn’t to say that he’s wrong.)

The future belongs to frontier people. If no significant fraction of the human species is any longer capable of being that, then it’s time for an evolutionary search for something that is. Don’t expect it to be pretty.

August 24, 2013admin 38 Comments »
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38 Responses to this entry

  • Handle Says:

    Gray is using ‘study individualism’ as a kind of mocking Synedoche for the left’s evil, greedy, callous straw-man version of Rightist thought that they imagine constitutes the irrational mental processes of the opposition to the safety-net-and-nanny welfare state. I’ve heard lines like this a hundred times. If you believe in ‘sturdy individualism’, then you are clearly also are in favor of ‘letting people die in the streets’ (maybe even ‘innocent starving babies’).

    The minute you peel back a single inch of the welfare state lifeline, that’s the instant horror that awaits us – an entire landscape piles of near-corpses of all the leftist identity groups, writhing in unanswered agony, calling for humane aid to deaf ears. They said the same thing before welfare reform too.

    The only way for the left to resolve the contradiction between the state and the cultivation of beneficial virtue (by a now-absent willingness to distribute harsh consequences for unvirtuous behavior) is to deny the validity of the virtue itself – the transvaluation of all values.

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    admin Reply:

    That last paragraph (especially) is a true gem. (Among all the innovative projects people have for neoreactionary webspaces, fora, magazines, etc., I’d like to see a classic quotes archive for brilliant insights like this.)

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    Posted on August 24th, 2013 at 7:06 pm Reply | Quote
  • Doug Says:

    “It has surely to be granted that anybody useless enough to be inadequate to the basics of their own survival, is scarcely going to exhibit the altruistic surplus value required to effectively take care of anybody else. Maybe God will make good the deficit, or — to plunge fully into feel-good superstition — ‘society’? ”

    If it comes down to the sickly, anemic post-modern Cathedral welfare state vs. the resilience of the human spirit, I know which side I’m betting on. Far more robustly destructive and tyrannical regimes have failed to crush the creative impulse. There’s been no shortage of studly individuals who’ve still managed to create plenty of surplus value in the past half century. Men like Steve Jobs, Mitt Romney, Linus Torvalds, Lee Kuan Yew, the Koch brothers, Jamie Dimon, Peter Thiel, and countless others. The pencil-necked, limp-wristed, liberal weenies whine and cry about how unfair they’re being, and push their cult of victimization. The studs pretty much respond by ignoring them and going back to kicking ass and taking names.

    Which isn’t to say that the Cathedral’s impotent. When it directs its energy it has plenty of power to suffocate the life out of its target. There’s no shortage of studs in this world that given the power could turn Detroit into a shining metropolis, yet Detroit still rots. But our modern state is far too weak and undirected to strangle everything in this world, or even most things. At this point we’re dealing with polio, not the black plague. A disease that certainly makes life worse than it needs to be, but is far from civilization-destroying.

    And the modern technology complex has never offered the ability for so few to leverage their talent to produce so much. It ensures that the welfare state, despite its best effort to snuff out all productive activity, will have enough economic surplus to survive indefinitely. The neo-reactionary forecast of the Cathedral parasite killing itself and its host is a pipe dream. Despite its best efforts to the contrary life on Earth in the year of our lord 2013 is better than its ever been before. At this point the Cathedral is too weak to even commit suicide.

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    Posted on August 24th, 2013 at 8:54 pm Reply | Quote
  • Puzzle Pirate (@PuzzlePirate) Says:

    “The neo-reactionary forecast of the Cathedral parasite killing itself and its host is a pipe dream.”

    I completely agree. Which means that the mission of neoreaction needs to be to push the Cathedral off the cliff.

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    Posted on August 24th, 2013 at 9:01 pm Reply | Quote
  • fotrkd Says:

    It has surely to be granted that anybody useless enough to be inadequate to the basics of their own survival, is scarcely going to exhibit the altruistic surplus value required to effectively take care of anybody else.

    ‘Surplus value’ is surely a questionable assumption, implying as it does that altruism is a secondary consideration. To offer a simplistic example: ewes – unfairly derided for their perceived suicidal tendencies (regardless of how good a farmed life they enjoy) – are commonly divided into ‘givers’ and ‘takers’ when it comes to motherhood. Givers rapidly run themselves into the ground but produce fine lambs in the process. They put the good of their progeny (and the wider flock) before themselves. One other thought: Nabokov, it is claimed, didn’t even know how to operate an umbrella (not perhaps a basic, but still..) or drive a car. For these skills he was entirely dependent on his wife Vera. This isn’t atypical of artists, scientists or (most obviously) chess players, but through a variety of co-dependent relationships altruistic results can arise.

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    admin Reply:

    Individualism isn’t Crusoeism (as the marketplace demonstrates).

    I’m still (inefficiently) processing the ewes analogy …

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    fotrkd Reply:

    Fair enough. I think a lot of us have got bogged down in a minor or non-immediate detail – the circumference of individualism. Handle got the significant point with his opening comment. If the left exclude even the possibility of individualism as a value and suffocate any remaining pockets of resistance (observe e.g. peripheral geographical communities softened up by welfare), then yes, the frontier becomes an undesirable destination. Of course the new frontier is not for mountain men, but the required appetite is the same (porridge, naturally). [Back to the bank holiday red wine..]

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    Posted on August 24th, 2013 at 11:21 pm Reply | Quote
  • Psykonomist Says:

    http://www.iasc-culture.org/THR/THR_article_2013_Summer_Cantor.php

    The Apocalyptic Strain in Popular Culture: The American Nightmare Becomes the American Dream

    I think this link might be relevant to this posting. It sometimes amazes me that consciousness on an upper level is in tune the same way that consciousness on a lower level is in tune, eg concern over the goings on in the lives of the Kardashians.

    Given Land’s recent postings on horror, this is even more appropriate. We can see the emergence of the “Mad Max”, “They Live” sort of movie genre in the 1980s, synchronized with our own burgeoning technocapital world. Of course, it’s not the capitalism (in the Austrian sense of the word) angle that is the concern, but the techno portion, techno controlled by the socio and psychopaths that control corporations and governments (distinction is almost pointless).

    Relatively recent pop-culture iterations culminate in shows like Jericho, while the Cathedral strikes back with movies like “The Purge”. FEAR FOR YOUR LIVES, NO STATE! is the message, with the additional subconscious message that *all* your neighbors are plotting to kill you if the warm, cuddly blanket of the state is lifted even for a night, and that of course there is nothing that you could possibly do to protect yourselves. You simply could not amass the requisite resources. You could not band together (because you cannot trust anyone but those in uniform of course, those “sworn to protect”).

    As mundane and imbecile as the average American can appear at first glance, I believe that as the veneer of artificial prosperity and “civilization” erodes, we are going to see a new tri class system emerge based on the ability to actually be civil in the Kantian (categorical imperative) sense, versus a brute, vulgar(misinterpreted) Nietzschean sense. The third class of sort will be those who have profited off of the old system (both bureaucratic/political and corporate) to the point that they can insulate themselves from new and rapid developments for an unpredictable amount of time. How much influence they can buy amongst the other classes is limited to the size of the vulgar Niatzschean class.

    Of course, these classes will not form specifically along these easily demarcated lines. Instead, borrowing again from Neil Stephenson, demarcation will fall along the lines of “phyles”, subsets based on common and individually selected supremely important factors.

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    admin Reply:

    That was fascinating, thanks. It adds an essential ingredient to the theoretical agenda: Abstraction from the State.

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    Posted on August 25th, 2013 at 2:18 am Reply | Quote
  • Perry Says:

    Individualism isn’t Crusoeism (as the marketplace demonstrates).

    The marketplace doesn’t demonstrate individualism. It’s a social entity.

    The “Free Market” is portrayed and marketed as being about individualism, but this is just false marketing designed to appeal to individualism by providing people with an illusion of individualism.

    A mountain man who survives without markets is certainly more individualistic than someone in a market society.

    Individualism is founded on freedom. Freedom is founded on independence. Dependence on the market is of a different order than dependence on Nature as the market is dependent on other people as well as upon Nature. It is very much akin to disintermediating one’s relationship to God by dispensing with a priesthood and even congregation.

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    admin Reply:

    Individualism is entirely consistent with social entities, and the ‘free market’ no more deserves scornful denunciation than ‘sturdy individualism’ does. Without markets, specialization would be impossible, making ‘freedom’ a stunted concept — since no one could make serious choices about where to devote their talents and energies.

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    Posted on August 25th, 2013 at 3:11 am Reply | Quote
  • asdf Says:

    I share no Randian jack off fantasies. Truth is, I should be dead. Like my father before me I was born with lots of health problems. Without really expensive medicine I’d be dead. Since these are pre-existing conditions health insurance as insurance doesn’t solve the problem (nobody sells it to someone already sick, and I was sick since birth).

    My Dad worked hard, paid his bills, paid for his health insurance. And yet the only reason he was able to purchase insurance is because he got it through his employer. And his employer only employed him despite his health conditions because there was a law saying so (otherwise they would try to keep their costs down by denying employment to people with health problems). They tried to get rid of him at one point in an illegal way, but my Dad’s union stuck up for him and he kept his job. So I owe unions in addition to the government for my existence. Note that my Dad was a great employee and his health condition did not interfere with his job, and yet both he and I would be dead if we had to make a go of it as “rugged individuals”.

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    admin Reply:

    It’s not for everyone.

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    asdf Reply:

    Indeed. Though I think the answer is going to be that its not for most people, and those few that would benefit do well enough in the current system that revolution isn’t worth it.

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    admin Reply:

    There was an actual American frontier — it’s not as if this ‘rugged individualism’ business has been invented out of thin air. If you’re saying that, as a species, we’re done with frontiers, then I guess that might be true, if also pathetic (as a fact, not a statement).

    Scharlach Reply:

    I think the larger point is that it has to be for some people. Creating a social and economic environment in which such people are scorned or, worse, kept from doing their thing, the result can only be negative. At the origin even of USG and unions, you will find a lot of rugged individuals. So, yes, you still have rugged individuals to thank.

    GC Reply:

    Being British, I hear all sorts of similar oblivious-of-cause-and-effect “I’d be dead without the NHS” tosh like this all the time and at all levels. Do they seriously think, sans NHS, charities and the private sector would have just sat there twiddling their thumbs? It’s just another form of what Handle described: “The minute you peel back a single inch of the welfare state lifeline, that’s the instant horror that awaits us – an entire landscape piles of near-corpses of all the leftist identity groups, writhing in unanswered agony, calling for humane aid to deaf ears.”

    Strangely though, this mountain of corpses promised to us if we got rid of the NHS didn’t exist prior to its inception.

    But I digress: Leaving aside the likelihood that the medicine was expensive in the first place was thanks to the government’s meddling, you’d have probably been treated by a friendly society, charity or got it through union membership as many did in the pre-big government era. You’d probably be a lot richer than you are now, too.

    I’m not sure what these “Randian jack off fanasies” are, either. It sounds like a Crusoeist straw man, because I don’t recall Rand or any of her followers championing this situation. In fact, Rand claimed social security in her old age and justified others doing the same: (“The recipient of a public scholarship is morally justified only so long as he regards it as restitution and opposes all forms of welfare statism. Those who advocate public scholarships, have no right to them; those who oppose them, have. If this sounds like a paradox, the fault lies in the moral contradictions of welfare statism, not in its victims.”)

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    Posted on August 25th, 2013 at 11:43 am Reply | Quote
  • spandrell Says:

    If you’re saying that, as a species, we’re done with frontiers, then I guess that might be true, if also pathetic

    Well cry me a river. The American frontier wasn’t colonized by rugged individuals. Nor by the market. It was open by very tight knit families, themselves mostly belonging to crazy protestant cults. As was Southern China, where first thing the migrants would do on arriving a new land was set up a ancestor worship cult with people who happened to share their surname.

    Individualism looks cool in movies but it’s a historical falsehood. Never happened, never will. Not to say that welfare is good, but the consequences of self-reliance can be quite unpleasant too.For better or worse we were raised under the comfort of socialist governments, we might not like the Fall.

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    admin Reply:

    If your definition of ‘individualism’ excludes frontier homesteading, I suspect it is too narrow to be anything but a straw man beater. Heading out beyond the horizon of government protection in small, survival-oriented family groups is individualism, if anything ever is. The Left wants us to think there’s a social metaphysics objection to such patterns of frontier-opening ever happening again — that large-scale group solidarity is a necessity by the very nature of cosmic order. That’s total BS propaganda, but sure, we’ve become familiar with nannification, and might not like the fall. Cry me a river. The death of socialism is worth a hell of a lot of pain.

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    Lesser Bull Reply:

    The “individual” in individualism is the paterfamilias, or the young buck out taking risks to make a stake and start his own family. Of the latter there were an inordinate number on the American frontier.

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    Posted on August 25th, 2013 at 4:49 pm Reply | Quote
  • Hypothetical Says:

    If we’re correlating the historical manifestation of “sturdy individualism,” the “resilience of the human spirit,” and “rugged individualism” all with the establishment of the American frontier and westward expansion, then it seems inappropriate to invoke the influence and empowerment of the free market.

    While I believe that the free market had a role in frontier settlements and westward expansion, the propulsion by imperialism, colonialism, and government legitimization cannot be ignored. Appealing to the influence of individualism conveniently elides the influence of political apparatuses.

    I don’t entirely agree that pathological control by government regulation and corporate cronyism is the major portion of the problem, mainly because drawing the distinction between pure capital/free market action and regulatory/government-controlled action will always be an arbitrary demarcation. “Sturdy” individualistic capitalism is already a regulatory apparatus, it already has incorporated regulatory practices; you can’t objectively separate out the coercive practices (although you can, of course, separate them out for practical purposes, which will almost always be prejudiced).

    Finally, I’m not sure if we’re considering the impact that “frontier people” had on indigenous people. Of course, if we’re discussing survival, then ultimately it must come down to them or us… and obviously, the combination of capitalism and imperialism makes choosing “us” an imperative. I’m not sure you can separate the two out and completely blame imperialism while placing humanity’s hopes in the hands of capitalism. The frontier will always introduce us to new forms of life, whether they be biological, technological, cybernetic, based on carbon substrates or some other substrate. If capitalism reduces to an organism’s need to survive, then it appears that it will force its practitioners to view their expanding habitat in crude binary terms (i.e. “us” or “them”).

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    The practical ‘out’ from coercion is exit, which is what the frontier provides.

    [Reply]

    Hypothetical Reply:

    I’m unsure about that. Capitalism always-already incorporates its own frontiers; it must posit them as horizons in order to perpetuate innovation and development, but at the same time it must internalize them to avoid becoming other-than-itself. Invoking the free market as the promoter of frontiers encounters the unique paradox in that its frontiers are, in a way, already bound up within the market itself.

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    Scharlach Reply:

    1. As admin said, Spandrell, you’re being far too narrow with your understanding of ‘individualism.’ Defenders of the concept (as an historical reality AND an important value) don’t imagine completely de-contextualized individuals sallying forth into the unknown without any connections to others, especially family. And, certainly, much of the frontier was set aside qua frontier through political means. There is a backdrop to individualism. But that’s merely stating the obvious. The fact that we need to state it indicates that we are dealing with a strawman understanding of ‘individualism.’

    Being from California, I’ve explored what was once the American frontier my entire life. I’m an avid climber and backpacker, and I meet the ‘rugged individual’ on a frequent basis. As we speak, there are people soloing 4,000 meter peaks in the Sierra Nevada, living out of packs the entire summer. Some of them go in small groups, some go by themselves. Many live in vans or hostels the rest of the year, having quit life in order to be in the mountains as much as possible. They spend weeks or months in areas so remote that a broken ankle might kill them: no cell phone service, no roads, no way to contact the outside world. Some of them grow pot way out there, and sell it when they return to civilization.

    Historically, “mountain men” were responsible for finding the best routes through the new frontier. Their social backdrop was the fur trade. Does that backdrop take away from the lived, day-to-day experience of being alone, or in small groups, in wild territory, so that it might become less wild for those who follow?

    I’ve also toured a lot of the old homesteads, ghost towns, and gold rush towns in the American West. Even today, they’re extremely remote. I can’t imagine moving West to carve out a living from such harsh, hungry country.

    Point is, even putting social/political/familial context back into our picture of ‘rugged individualism,’ the concept still survives very much intact. If you think otherwise, it’s likely due to your own inexperience with life lived ‘off the grid,’ if only for a short time.

    2. @ Hypothetical, who writes:

    While I believe that the free market had a role in frontier settlements and westward expansion, the propulsion by imperialism, colonialism, and government legitimization cannot be ignored. Appealing to the influence of individualism conveniently elides the influence of political apparatuses.

    As noted, returning the rugged individual to his socio-political context does not diminish the concept at all, or take away from its lived historical reality. The men shepherding herds on Sierra slopes, the women tending barely fertile gardens, the white families settling hostile Indian territory had no ideologies of imperialism on their minds. Their Westward movement was driven by quite different discourses and values, and ultimately, it’s the discourses and values of the men and women doing the movement that matters, not the discourses and values of the politicians and intellectual elite.

    You also write:

    “Sturdy” individualistic capitalism is already a regulatory apparatus, it already has incorporated regulatory practices

    Semantics. No, not even semantics. It’s equivocation, using the language of regulation to talk about whatever feedback mechanisms exist outside of willful government control.

    And finally, your concern about the “indigenous peoples” is a non-starter. This a reactionary site, for Christ’s sake. Us/them factionalism has existed since the dawn of hominid consciousness, and capitalism is not the first nor the last system to make choosing between in-groups and out-groups an imperative.

    Posted on August 25th, 2013 at 5:00 pm Reply | Quote
  • Perry Says:

    Individualism is entirely consistent with social entities, and the ‘free market’ no more deserves scornful denunciation than ‘sturdy individualism’ does. Without markets, specialization would be impossible, making ‘freedom’ a stunted concept — since no one could make serious choices about where to devote their talents and energies.

    Specialization in a social entity is not individualism nor is it the fulfillment of freedom. “No one could make serious choices” about specialization outside of social entities like the market precisely because specialization is not individualism. Your liver cells are cells that have specialized as liver cells and that are non-viable outside of the social entity that is your body. To survive and be viable outside your body, it cannot specialize as a liver cell in an environment comprised of other specialized cells, it has to survive as an individual cell.

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    Scharlach Reply:

    Strawman alert.

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    Posted on August 25th, 2013 at 8:11 pm Reply | Quote
  • fotrkd Says:

    When I’m not reading blogs, I wrestle stags (hirsute and naked). Do I win the thread?

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    Posted on August 26th, 2013 at 12:51 am Reply | Quote
  • Perry Says:

    What’s the strawman, Scharlach?

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    Posted on August 26th, 2013 at 1:07 am Reply | Quote
  • Peter A. Taylor Says:

    Putting on my libertarian hat, what individualism means to me:

    Methodological individualism: The individual is my unit of analysis. Individuals have opinions. Groups have decision-making processes, subject to Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem. “Individualism” means avoiding fallacies of composition and division.

    Moral individualism: Morally, my relatives or countrymen do not own me. I may choose to sacrifice for “my” people, but the choice is mine. No matter how much they plead about “society” or the “nation”, they have no moral right to coerce me. Individuals are responsible for their actions. Group punishment is fundamentally unjust.

    There was an old Progressive who used to come to my church’s weekly Men’s Group lunches. One of his favorite rhetorical tricks was to pretend not to understand the difference between libertarians’ opposition to coercion and wanting to be a hermit. It’s like pretending not to understand the difference between consensual sex and rape, and accusing women who object to the latter of being so “ignorant” that they don’t know where babies come from. I exaggerate only slightly. This shtick got old really fast.

    The only thing that is attractive about the life of a hermit from a libertarian perspective is that it demonstrates in a determined way that the hermit is not at the beck and call of his cadre officer.

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    Posted on August 26th, 2013 at 2:43 am Reply | Quote
  • admin Says:

    Isn’t the simplest approach to ‘individualism’ based on the principle that subsidiarity is, for all practical purposes, an organizational imperative to be pursued without limit? When would the (maximally orderly) break-up of political totalities ever not be a good idea?

    Disintegration + catallactic coordination is intelligence optimization in its sociological expression.

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    Posted on August 26th, 2013 at 2:31 pm Reply | Quote
  • Hypothetical Says:

    2.As noted, returning the rugged individual to his socio-political context does not diminish the concept at all, or take away from its lived historical reality. The men shepherding herds on Sierra slopes, the women tending barely fertile gardens, the white families settling hostile Indian territory had no ideologies of imperialism on their minds. Their Westward movement was driven by quite different discourses and values, and ultimately, it’s the discourses and values of the men and women doing the movement that matters, not the discourses and values of the politicians and intellectual elite.

    I’m not defining the individual in a Crusoe-ian manner, nor am I suggesting that by placing individuals within their socio-economic context are we “diminishing the concept.” The concept is strong and steadfast. I’m saying that our conception of it is colored and framed by a modern, contemporary outlook on the past. It’s true that the idea of the rugged individual didn’t develop in a vacuum, but it was also molded and acculturated by those very politicians and intellectuals that you disdain. The concept of the individual, especially as self-contained and atomic, traces back through a long history of “intellectual elite.” This is the inheritance that your frontiersmen came into, and it was a descendant of this much older, European individual that they proclaimed as they trampled across the continent they “discovered.”

    Semantics. No, not even semantics. It’s equivocation, using the language of regulation to talk about whatever feedback mechanisms exist outside of willful government control.
    And finally, your concern about the “indigenous peoples” is a non-starter. This a reactionary site, for Christ’s sake. Us/them factionalism has existed since the dawn of hominid consciousness, and capitalism is not the first nor the last system to make choosing between in-groups and out-groups an imperative.

    I don’t think it’s equivocation, and it seems a bit presumptuous and dismissive to call it such.

    Fredric Jameson writes of Thomas Hobbes and Adam Smith: “Hobbes needs state power to tame and control the violence of human nature and competition; in Adam Smith (and Hegel on some other metaphysical plane) the competitive system, the market, does the taming and controlling all by itself, no longer needing the absolute state […] the market is thus Leviathan in sheep’s clothing: its function is not to encourage and perpetuate freedom (let alone freedom of a political variety) but rather to repress it.”

    The mechanisms that come into play, the deterritorializations that the market might inaugurate, are no more “free” than a wounded gazelle. You’re casting market competition in evolutionary terms. In this sense, it makes no sense to even talk about freedom since it doesn’t exist in any way, shape, or form. There is no concept of it. Glorifying this kind of uncivilized “mountain man” noble savage as the epitome of freedom seems more like equivocation than what I’m doing, in my opinion.

    And as far as your casual dismissal of the us/them dichotomy, I’d suggest that leaving it as is (which you seem to be advocating) is, again, appealing to a vulgar kind of social (or economic) Darwinism.

    [Reply]

    Scharlach Reply:

    I don’t think I ever evoked “freedom” to make any of my points. I’m not equating “individualism” with “freedom.”

    Your Jameson quote is appropriate and, I think, grounds the discussion with a better framework.

    As admin says, reality does plenty of taming by itself. The market does more. The government does even more. It’s not a question of whether or not human-taming mechanisms exist in this world. The questions are: what gets tamed, to what extent is it tamed, who gets tamed, and how possible is it to escape the mechanisms? I suppose my position is that the Western Welfare State tames and controls the wrong things and lets go the reigns on the wrong things. Certainly, it no longer tames human violence: stop-and-frisk, for example, is all about taming violence, but it has been declared illegal. It’s attempts to tame competition are a total cluster-fuck: America lets in millions of low-skill, low-IQ immigrants from Mexico (increasing the competition for low-skill natives, the group least able to survive economic Darwinism) while simultaneously refusing to wield its antitrust law until, e.g., most media outlets are owned by Viacom.

    “You’re gonna have to serve somebody,” as Dylan said. There is no total freedom or total individualism. However, there is some freedom, and there are some outlets for individualism. Reactionary politics recognizes that the Western Welfare State is far, far, far from being the optimal system in terms of the freedoms it allows and the outlets it provides. Indeed, defenders of the welfare state in academia enjoy writing articles and books about how concepts like “individualism” are seriously problematic and don’t reference anything real; and certain politicians are fond of denying that individuals are ever free to do much of anything themselves: “You didn’t build that” were Obama’s exact words, I believe.

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    Posted on August 26th, 2013 at 4:56 pm Reply | Quote
  • admin Says:

    “… the market, does the taming and controlling all by itself …” — He might as well go all the way, and say that reality does the ‘taming and controlling’ (when allowed to by functional feedback arrangements). Then he would be talking about ‘Social Darwinism’– ‘vulgar’ or whatever — and guess what? Darwin, unlike Marx, is realistic, at least in application to trail-and-error learning processes of any kind.

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    Posted on August 27th, 2013 at 12:24 am Reply | Quote
  • Lesser Bull Says:

    I think the argument here is of a piece with the other arguments in this hole in the web about how much Christianity is to blame for the Cathedral, whether we need to go all the way back to monarchy or whether American federal constitutionalism is worth fighting for, and so on. They are all disputes about where the rot set in. Essentially, they are disputes about how much liberalism, if any, is tolerable.

    Individualism is part of the liberal package. Rugged individualism is one of the prior iterations of that package.

    So why would people who are disgusted by liberalism be attracted to some of its prior iterations?

    My guess is that liberalism was a useful innovation in response to the changing conditions starting around in the 16th C.. Like most innovations, it follows an S-curve. Lots and lots of benefits, lots of zoom, and then stagnation. Except that liberalism isn’t just stagnating (i.e., failing to produce any more benefits); its turning malign. It would be as if once the railroads had connected farm and market they had kept grimly laying down track over homes and cropland until the ending of the world. Is liberalism’s failure to stop once the benefits of the innovation have all been squeezed out a defect in liberalism itself or is it a possibility inherent in all supra-market innovations?

    Because its really the ratchet that’s the problem. My guess is that the tipping point from beneficial to harmful probably happened sometime in the mid-century when liberalism started attacking the family, but honestly we could take the fairly malign early 21st century package as it is right now and make if fairly workable with a little muddling through and common sense if the insistence that liberalism keep going and going weren’t in place.

    An aside: there are interesting connections to the notion of liberalism as an innovation that doesn’t know how to stagnate and the discussion yesterday about medicine. Medicine is also an extra-market innovation in a way, both because of widespread regulation and inherent charitable impulses, and because the outputs are hard to predict. As with liberalism, a good way of understanding yesterday’s dispute about medicine is that medicine has accomplished an enormous amount of good but is not content to stay put and is pushing outward into ever more dubious and even destructive territory.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    The analogy introduced in your first paragraph is thought provoking and my guess is that it will precipitate some interesting discussion. If one accepts the Trichotomy as a guide to thinking this through, it’s clear that each strain has a stop-point in the progressive dynamic that they are forced to defend. For techno-commercialist types, this is some kind of primordial (perhaps ‘Manchester’or ‘Hong Kong’) liberalism, associated with the laissez faire unleashing of the capitalist autonomizing economy. For exactly the same reason, no clean break between the TCs and libertarianism is to be expected. We wanted more social disaggregation, micro-economic liberty, and dynamic capitalism, not less.

    [Reply]

    Lesser Bull Reply:

    OK, so for the ethno-nationalist types, nationalism is the clear stop point. Probably multiculturalism too. For the religious types its, what? freedom of conscience and universalism? I think the TC types have another stop point on the idea of progress and the religious types to an extent too.

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 27th, 2013 at 9:14 pm Reply | Quote
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