A protracted to-and-fro on Twitter with Michael Anissimov has exposed some deliciously ragged and bleeding faultlines in the Neoreaction on the question of capitalism. There were a number of parties involved, but I’m focusing on Anissimov because his position and mine are so strongly polarized on key issues, and especially this one (the status of market-oriented economism). If we were isolated as a dyad, it’s not easy to see anybody finding a strong common root (pity @klintron). It’s only the linkages of ‘family resemblance’ through Moldbug that binds us together, and we each depart from Unqualified Reservations with comparable infidelity, but in exactly opposite directions. (As a fragmentationist, this fissional syndrome is something I strongly appreciate.)
Moldbug’s Neocameralism is a Janus-faced construction. In one direction, it represents a return to monarchical government, whilst in the other it consummates libertarianism by subsuming government into an economic mechanism. A ‘Moldbuggian’ inspiration, therefore, is not an unambiguous thing. Insofar as ‘Neoreaction’ designates this inspiration, it flees Cathedral teleology in (at least) two very different directions — which quite quickly seem profoundly incompatible. In the absence of a secessionist meta-context, in which such differences can be absorbed as geographically-fragmented socio-political variation, their raw inconsistency is almost certainly insurmountable.
Anissimov can and does speak for himself (at More Right), so I’m not going to undertake a detailed appraisal of his position here. For the purposes of this discussion it can be summarized by a single profoundly anti-capitalist principle: The economy should (and must be) subordinated to something beyond itself. The alternative case now follows, in pieces.
Modernity, in which economics and technology rose to their present status (and, at its height, far beyond), is systematically characterized by means-ends reversal. Those things naturally determined as tools of superior purposes came to dominate the social process, with the maximization of resources folding into itself, as a commanding telos. For social conservatives (or paleo-reactionaries) this development has been consistently abominated. It is the deepest theoretical element involved in every rejection of modernity as such (or in general) for its demonic subversion of traditional values.
In its own terms, this argument is coherent, incisive, and fully convincing, given only the supplementary realistic acknowledgement that intelligence optimization and means-end reversal are the same thing. In a deep historical context — extended to encompass evolutionary history — intelligence is itself a ‘tool’ (as the orthogonalist Friendly AI fraternity are entirely willing to accept). The escape of the tool from super-ordinate purposes, through involution into self-cultivation, is the telic innovation common to capitalism and actual artificial intelligence — which are a single thing. To deplore means-end reversal is — objectively — advocacy for the perpetuation of stupidity.
Economics is the application of intelligence to resource provision, and nothing of this kind can arise from within a tradition without triggering paleo-reactionary response. Of course resources are for something, why else would they ever have been sought? To make the production of resources an end-in-itself is inherently subversion, with an opposition not only expected, but positively presupposed. This is true to such an extent that even the discipline of economics itself overtly subscribes to the traditional position, by determining the end of production as (human) consumption, evaluated in the terms of a governing utilitarian philosophy. If production is not for us, what could it be for? Itself? But that would be … (Yes, it would.)
Anywhere short of the bionic horizon, where human history loses traditional intelligibility, the alternative to business-for-business (or involutionary, intelligenic capitalism) is monkey business — the subordination of the economy / technology to discernible human purposes. Evolutionary psychology teaches us what to expect from this: sex-selected status competition, sublimated into political hierarchies. The emperor’s harem is the ultimate human purpose of pre-capitalist social order, with significant variety in specific form, but extreme generality of basic Darwinian pattern. Since capitalism did not arise from abstract intelligence, but instead from a concrete human social organization, it necessarily disguises itself as better monkey business, until it can take off elsewhere. It has to be the case, therefore, that cynical evo-psych reduction of business activity remains highly plausible, so long as the escape threshold of capitalism has not been reached. No one gets a hormone rush from business-for-business while political history continues. To fixate upon this, however, is to miss everything important (and perhaps to enable the important thing to remain hidden). Our inherited purposes do not provide the decryption key.
There is vastly more to say about all of this — and still more that, due to occult strategic considerations, seeks to remain unsaid — but the fundamental option is clear: ultra-capitalism or a return to monkey business. The latter ‘possibility’ corresponds to a revalorization of deep traditional human purposes, a restoration of original means-to-ends subordination, and an effective authorization of status hierarchies of a kind only modestly renovated from paleolithic anthropology. I shouldn’t laugh at that (because it would be annoying). So I’ll end right here.