This paleo-reactionary outline and critique of Moldbug is superbly done, if (of course) fundamentally unconvincing to those of a Tech-Comm persuasion. In particular, it’s hard to imagine a more incisive series of feature-not-bug points than this one:
That, then, covers the main aspects and positive sides of Moldbug’s thought. But now it is time to point out his many shortcomings. […] All of them ultimately flow from three things: 1) his “reservationist epistemology” which denies a place for sources of knowledge outside of “irreducible and untranscendable reason,” 2) his Bodinian (and ultimately Roman) conception of sovereignty, and 3) his Machiavellianism and frequent resort to raison d’etat.
If the conclusion drawn is that Moldbug — all royalist trolling aside — is in fact a consistent Cold Modernist, clarification is served.
While not quite living up to its (superb) title, this critical leftist exploration of the NRx-AI nexus makes some suggestive connections.
… in the decades since, as the consumer-oriented liberalism of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs gave way to the technological authoritarianism of Elon Musk and Peter Thiel, this strange foundation paved the way for even stranger tendencies. The strangest of these is known as “neoreaction,” or, in a distorted echo of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s vision, the “Dark Enlightenment.” It emerged from the same chaotic process that yielded the anarchic political collective Anonymous, a product of the hivemind generated by the cybernetic assemblages of social media. More than a school of thought, it resembles a meme. The genealogy of this new intellectual current is refracted in the mirror of the most dangerous meme ever created: Roko’s Basilisk.
The further right Silicon Valley shifts, the more dangerous their machines will become.
Running the connection through Roko’s Basilisk is sufficiently non-obvious that Sandifer’s book (which does the same) clearly merited a mention.
(Park MacDougald does it better, though, 1, 2.)
We [neoreactionaries] are born of these intellectuals ourselves. We come from the same social classes, we attended the same institutions for education, and we have many of the same shared cultural touchstones. We’re not so far away; we fit in well to Progressive society. Hence the crippling Progressive paranoia currently cutting free speech out of our culture: make truth your enemy and you never sleep soundly again.
(Much else of interest at the link, despite the sadly typical ‘transcendence’ and ‘community’ silliness.)
ADDED: Cowen comments.
‘Absolutist neoreaction’ seems to think its techno-commercialist enemies (and I think it’s fair to say, XS in particular) will have some kind of fundamental problem with this:
The history of ideas is the history of the resources behind them (which has some overlap with the base superstructure of Marxism) but that this is augmented and overridden by the action of Power, and power centres in both unified, and un-unified political structures.
If there is some determined attempt to separate Power™ from techno-economic capability, then incomprehension is probable. (But no one could possibly be suggesting anything that preposterous, surely?)
To ignore the historical association of power disintegration with the emergence of self-propelling techonomic competences also looks like a serious blindness. Capitalism hatched in Europe because Europe was broken. Keeping the world broken seems similarly indissociable from the survival of capitalistic historical momentum, and breaking it more profoundly is the route to capital intensification. Perhaps that’s the argument we’re having (not that such arguments matter much).
The Idea that unified power is the reliable principle of social competence is ethno-historically French. That is where it has worked its magic since the epoch of the Sun King. Under sufficiently dismal circumstances, the RF analysis might catch on there.
Clippings from this, end-2007 Moldbug Neocameralism essay (with minimal commentary):
It is very hard to show that any new form of government is superior to that practiced now. It is even harder to show that any new form of government is superior to any practiced ever. […] Nonetheless, unless these problems are not just hard but actually unsolvable, innovation in the form of government is possible. … Certainly, the very idea of innovation in government should not frighten you. If it does, there is no point at all in thinking about government. This is conservatism to the point of mental disorder. I simply cannot contend with it, and I refuse to try. If you cannot set yourself outside your own beliefs and prejudices, you are not capable of normal civilized discourse.
Neocameralism is not (simply) reactionary because it has never been fully instantiated up to this time. It is a proposed political-economic innovation.
Let’s start with my ideal world – the world of thousands, preferably even tens of thousands, of neocameralist city-states and ministates, or neostates. The organizations which own and operate these neostates are for-profit sovereign corporations, or sovcorps. For the moment, let’s assume a one-to-one mapping between sovcorp and neostate. […] Let’s pin down the neocameralist dramatis personae by identifying the people who work for a sovcorp as its agents, the people or organizations which collectively own it as its subscribers, and the people who live in its neostate as its residents.
A Neocameral ‘neostate’ is not owned by its residents or its agents. Its ‘monarch’ (or ‘CEO’) is an executive appointment. (90% of all confusion about Neocameralism, and Neoreaction in general, stems from a failure to grasp this elementary point.) Note: ‘subscribers’ (plural). More coming on this immediately.
… a question taken verbatim from a short, but perfect, Foseti post (from 2012).
(XS misses that guy.)
Anyone looking for a primer on how the hyper-liberal right goes dark will find it there. ‘Perfect’ means it can’t be improved upon.
Don’t miss Handle’s comment, which fills out the party-political dimension.
Tyler Cowen’s post on “neo-reaction” is quite weird. It has no usable references, so it’s impossible to know what he’s drawing on. Mix of quirky insights and Moron Bites material throughout. Worth a read, if you’re not busy doing anything else.
This struck me as interesting (if also clearly wrong) though:
… maybe some of you are upset that I am even covering this topic, but neo-reaction, in varying forms, is a (the?) significant ideology in China, India, Russia, and Japan, and it is growing in popularity in Western Europe and of course America, where it has captured the presidential nomination of one of the two major parties.
(Don’t say you weren’t warned.)
Worth a read. The ‘practical’ conclusions are incredibly lame, but the historical narrative isn’t terrible. Crucial to note, however, that ‘fascism’ here is framed by a peculiarly thoughtless Marxoid dogmatism, and means simply: Anything that is seriously anti-communist.