The Outer-Right, in all its principal strands, has a horrified fascination with decline. Is this basic proposition even slightly controversial? It’s not easy to see how it could be. This is a zone of convergence of such intimidating enormity that even beginning to heap up link support seems futile. Taking the Trichotomy as a rough guide reveals the pattern starkly:
(1) Religious traditionalists see a continuous decline trend from the Reformation to the most recent frenzy of evangelical hyper-secularism.
(2) Ethno-Nationalists see a process of accelerating demographic destruction driven — or at least lucidly articulated — by left-wing race politics.
(3) Techno-Commercialists see the systematic destruction of capital by cancerous Leviathan and macroeconomic high-fraudulence, undermining economic incentives, crushing time-horizons, and garbling price-discovery into fiat noise.
In each case, the online-ecologies (and associated micro-cultures) sharing the respective deep intuitions of progressive ruin are too enormous to conveniently apprehend. What everyone on the Outer-Right shares (and I’m now hardening this up, into a definition) is the adamantine confidence that the basic socio-political process is radically morbid, and is leading inexorably to utter ruin.
No surprise, then, that John Michael Greer finds many attentive readers in our camp. His latest (and still incomplete) series on Dark Age America resonates with particular strength. The most recent installment, which discusses the impending collapse of the market system, through quasi-Marxist crisis, on its way to many centuries of neo-feudalism, is bound to raise some tech-comm eyebrows, but it nevertheless occupies the same broad forecast space. If people are stocking their basements with ammo, silver coins, and dried beans for Greer reasons rather than Stockman ones, they might cut back a little on the coins, but they’re not going to stop stocking the basement. Differences seem to lie in the details.
The differences in the details are actually fairly substantial. Even if Winter is coming, we’re not necessarily talking about the same thing. To begin with, Greer is not a figure of the Outer-Right at all, because his (extremely interesting) cybernetic engine of descent is ecological and resource-based, carried by a deep eco-historical ‘correction’ or dominating (negative) feedback cycle whose proxy is fossil-fuel abundance. Modernity, roughly speaking, simply runs out of gas. His cultural criticism is ultimately anchored in — and limited to — that. When describing (drawn-out, and incremental) civilizational collapse, he forecasts the automatic nemesis of a system doomed by its unsustainable excess. Further engagement with this model belongs elsewhere. It’s an important discussion to have.
The more immediate concern, here, is with the very different components of ‘winter’ — of which three, in particular, stand-out. Each is, in itself, huge. The directions in which they point, however, are not obviously coherent.
(1) Closest to the Greer vision are bad global-systems dynamics. These tend to prevail on the Outer-Right, but they typically lack the theoretical resolution Greer provides. It is understandable that those who strongly identify with specific declining ethnies (or Super-Phyles), whether theologically, racially, or traditionally conceived, are disinclined to distinguish their progressive dilapidation from a generalized global calamity. This is certainly not merely stupid, however much it offends prevailing moral fashion. The extent to which it supplies an adequate preparation for the events to come is questionable, nevertheless. Without an explicit defense of its specificity, it can all too easily confuse its own winter sicknesses with a universal predicament.
(2) What can easily be under-estimated is the localization of the unfolding disaster, in a specifically Occidental collapse. This is, of course, Spengler’s Decline of the West, among other things, and even though this is a work Greer explicitly acknowledges, the inherent globality of his model tends to eclipse its particularism. For Greer, the impending decline of China (for instance) follows upon its complicity in fossil-fueled industrial modernity, even if, for rhetorical effect, it is to be permitted a few decades of comparative ascendancy. The Outer-Right tends to be Greerian in this respect, although without equivalent positive reason. It is not asked, often enough, how much of the deepening winter is — quite narrowly — ours. Greer has an argument for why Western Modernity has consumed the future for everyone. Unless the fundamentals of this theory are accepted, is there any reason to accept its predictive consequences?
(3) The third ‘winter’ is modeled by the rhythmic troughs of the Kondratiev cycle. This tends to localize in time, rather than space, dividing the merely seasonal from the cumulative, secular trend. While a comprehensive attribution of our malaise to such a cycle would constitute an exit from the Outer-Right, passing into a far more complacent diagnosis of the global, or merely Western, calamity, to dismiss it entirely from consideration is to court profound cognitive (and predictive) imbalance. In the opinion of this blog, Greer’s model is grievously afflicted by such imbalance, and — once again — this seems to be a syndrome of far wider prevalence. Scarcely anybody on the Outer-Right is prepared for rhythmic amelioration of significant modern pathologies, through renewal of techno-commercial vitality even under conditions of secular civilizational decline. Yet even glancing attention to the working of the (~ half century) long waves suggests that such neglect is simply unrealistic. Unless the K-wave is now dead — an extraordinarily extreme proposition, which surely merits explicit assertion — some proportion of the present decay is inherently transitional. New industrial structures based on blockchained communications — and thus designed to route around socio-cultural sclerosis — will support an explosion of innovation dwarfing any yet imagined (including synthetic economic agents, quantum computing, neuromorphic chips, large-scale space activity, applied genomics, VR media systems, drone-robotics, commercialized security … maybe Urbit). Even if Greer is absolutely right about the deep historical pattern being played out — and I’m fully confident he isn’t — the next K-wave upswing is going to be vast, dazzling, and, almost incomprehensibly distracting. There’s perhaps a decade remaining in which uncompromising gloom-core will make sense, after which the Outer-Right risks utter eclipse during two decades of upswing euphoria. It would make a lot of sense to pre-adapt to it, beginning with a reminder that the Outer-Right case is not that everything will continually deteriorate.
I’ve run out the clock on myself for now … but I’ll get back to this.