Neoreaction (for dummies)
Kill the hyphen, Anomaly UK advised (somewhere) – it lets Google Search dissolve and avoid the subject. Writing ‘neo-reaction’ as ‘neoreaction’ nudges it towards becoming a thing.
Google Search gets to edit our self-definition? That’s the ‘neo’ in ‘neoreaction’, right there. It not only promotes drastic regression, but highly-advanced drastic regression. Like retrofuturism, paleomodernism, and cybergothic, the word ‘neoreaction’ compactly describes a time-twisted vector that spirals forwards into the past, and backwards into the future. It emerges, almost automatically, as the present is torn tidally apart — when the democratic-Keynesian politics of postponement-displacement exhausts itself, and the kicked-can runs out of road.
Expressed with abstruse verbosity, therefore, neoreaction is a time-crisis, manifested through paradox, whose further elaboration can wait (if not for long). Disordering our most basic intuitions, it is, by its very nature, difficult to grasp. Could anything easily be said about it?
Anomaly UK offers a down-to-earth explanation for the reversal of socio-political course:
Ultimately, however, if after all these centuries of trying to improve society based on abstract ideas of justice have only made life worse than it would have been under pre-Enlightenment social systems, the time has come to simply give up the whole project and revert to traditional forms whose basis we might not be able to establish rationally, but which have the evidence of history to support them.
This understanding of neoreaction – undoubtedly capturing its predominant sentiment – equates it with a radicalized Burkean conservatism, designed for an age in which almost everything has been lost. Since the progressive destruction of traditional society has been broadly accomplished, hanging on to what remains is no longer enough. It is necessary to go back, beyond the origin of Enlightenment, because Reason has failed the test of history.
Neoreaction is only a thing if some measure of consensus is achievable. Burke-on-steroids is an excellent candidate for that. Firstly, because all neoreactionaries define themselves through antagonism to the Cathedral, and the Cathedral is the self-proclaimed consummation of Enlightenment rationalism. Secondly, for more complicated, positive reasons …
Spandrell helpfully decomposes neoreaction into two or three principal currents:
There are two lines of [our contemporary] reactionary thought. One is the traditionalist branch, and [the other is] the futurist branch.
Or perhaps there [are] three. There’s the religious/traditionalist branch, the ethnic/nationalist branch, and the capitalist branch.
Futurists and traditionalists are distinguished by distinct, one-sided emphases on ‘neo’ and ‘reaction’, and their disagreements lose identity in the neoreactionary spiral. The triadic differentiation is more resiliently conflictual, yet these ‘branches’ are branches of something, and that thing is an ultra-Burkean trunk.
Reactionary theonomists, ethno-nationalists, and techno-commercialists share a fundamental aversion to rationalistic social reconstruction, because each subordinates reason to history and its tacit norms – to ‘tradition’ (diversely understood). Whether the sovereign lineage is considered to be predominantly religious, bio-cultural, or customary, it originates outside the self-reflective (enlightenment) state, and remains opaque to rational analysis. Faith, liturgy, or scripture is not soluble within criticism; communal identity is not reducible to ideology; and common law, reputational structure, or productive specialism is not amenable to legislative oversight. The deep order of society – whatever that is taken to be – is not open to political meddling, without predictably disastrous consequences.
This Burkean junction, where neoreactionary agreement begins, is also where it ends. Divine revelation, racial continuity, and evolutionary discovery (catallaxy) are sources of ultimate sovereignty, instantiated in tradition, beyond the Cathedral-state, but they are self-evidently different – and only precariously compatible. Awkwardly, but inescapably, it has to be acknowledged that each major branch of the neoreactionary super-family tends to a social outome that its siblings would find even more horrifying than Cathedralist actuality.
Left intellectuals have no difficulty envisaging Theocratic White-Supremacist Hyper-Capitalism®. In fact, most seem to consider this mode of social organization the modern Western norm. For those hunkered-down in the tangled, Cathedral-blasted trenches of neoreaction, on the other hand, the manifold absurdities of this construction are not so easily overlooked. Indeed, each branch of the reaction has dissected the others more incisively – and brutally – than the left has been able to.
When theonomists scrutinize ethno-nationalists and techno-commercialists they see evil heathens.
When ethno-nationalists scrutinize theonomists and techno-commercialists they see deluded race-traitors.
When techno-commercialists scrutinize theonomists and ethno-nationalists they see retarded crypto-communists.
(The details of these diagnoses exceed the present discussion.)
When developed beyond its ultra-Burkean trunk, therefore, the prospects for neoreactionary consensus – for a neoreactionary thing – depend upon disintegration. If we’re compelled to share a post-Cathedral state, we’ll kill each other. (The zapped hyphen was just a foretaste.)